Yesterday, I was honored to be sworn in for the second time as the Mayor of the City of Worcester. The past two years were filled with many successes and much progress. I know the next two years will be filled with a continued focus on building partnerships and relationships that will make Worcester the best it can be.
I want to thank U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, Congressman James P. McGovern, Representative Dan Donahue, Representative Mary Keefe, Representative Hank Naughton and District Attorney Joseph
Early for attending and all of the great people of the City of Worcester for the faith and trust they have placed in me. I know in the next two years we have a lot of work ahead of us and we will do it together.
Mayor Petty’s Inaugural Address
January 2, 2014
A new vision, a new partnership, a new city
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge and thank my family. First, My Mother & Father, my mother-in law, my wife Gayle and my children, Nicole, Joseph & Andrew. Without their encouragement, support and help I would not be here.
I want to acknowledge my colleagues on both the City Council and the School Committee, and Supt. Melinda Boone. I look forward to working with both groups making Worcester a better and more livable city.
I want at the outset to acknowledge and thank Mike O’Brien for his dedication and hard work for the City of Worcester. We are a better city because of Mike O’Brian’s tireless efforts.
One of Worcester’s marketing slogans was Right Time. Right Place. It will be said of Mike O’Brien Right Man. Right job.
So thank you Mike O’Brien.
Two short years ago I stood before you newly elected and full of hope. I laid out an aggressive agenda of change. Today a great deal of that agenda has met with success. I did not do this alone, and I want to thank those that helped.
The City Square project is progressing and soon we will have a new vibrant downtown. The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science has had a major impact on downtown and soon we will have a new campus of Quinsigamond Community College.
JetBlue has started flights and the airport is poised for success.
We are proceeding with the project for sewers along route 20. This will spur economic development in the eastern part of Worcester.
Cities are not just streets and airports. They are also Parks and neighborhoods. I am happy to say that we have spent $4 million refurbishing Elm Park, one of the oldest parks in America. Now we must establish a Trust Fund and work with the private sector on its upkeep.
I called upon the school committee to establish an exam school and today the process to do that is proceeding. Renovations have begun at several of our elementary schools and the Nelson Place School is in the process of being replaced.
But our city and all great cities need something more than buildings and streets.
We need to be connected as a city; all of us need to be connected together. Whether it is Union Hill where we stand today or our cities’ other great neighborhoods, we are all connected by common bonds and a sense of community.
Much progress has been made but much is left to be done.
We must continue to be connected as one city, but we must also be connected to the rest of the state, the rest of the country and the rest of the world.
As the center of our state, we are at the crossroads of the highway system, which gives us a great advantage when it comes to the expansion of economic activity. With the expansion of the MBTA, we will be at the crossroads of an expanded population base. This all connects us to the rest of the Commonwealth.
As a center of Bio- technology, medicine and education we are connected to the rest of the world in ways that few cities can boast.
Worcester has shed its old image and its old jobs for 21st century jobs that require a 21st century workforce. Where once stood the factories of American Steel & Wire and Heald Machine and the Crompton Knowles Loom Works, now stand new industries.
We have a bio technology industry that has been a leader in the world. We are leading the way in video gaming with Mass Digi housed at Becker College. WPI is one of the country’s leaders in Robotics and World Energy Solutions a Worcester based company is one of the country’s leaders in the energy field. We have a new Hollywood sound stage being built at the Summit. Several movies were filmed here last year, including the acclaimed American Hustle.
We must continue to improve public education in our city.
Earlier you heard the Burcoat High School String quartet and as you entered you saw artwork from our public school students.
Art and music are just as important as science and math. We have all heard of STEM-Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But we need to hear more about Steam-Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
Today Worcester is at a crossroad. On Monday Edward Augustus will take over as City Manager. We will work with him to carry on where Mike O’Brien has left off. A seamless transition that will keep Worcester moving forward.
We will conduct a search for a new City Manager that will have input from the community.
We are here at Worcester Academy in the heart of Union and Vernon Hill, because I am sending a message that this neighborhood is just as important as any of our neighborhoods.
I am here, you are here, Ed Augustus is here and our city Department heads are here to send a loud and clear message. We are here to take back this neighborhood. We will work with Worcester Academy, with the Oak Hill CDC, with the Senior Center, with Girls Inc. and with the local churches to make this neighborhood an example of what we can do by working together.
We need to look at future uses of some of the buildings and spaces here. The old nurses quarters at the corner of Providence Street could become an assisted living facility tied into the senior center. But this is just one example in one neighborhood. This new vision for Worcester, creating new partnerships helps create a new city.
But this vision, these partnerships exist in every neighborhood of our city.
We need to continue to forge alliances between neighborhood groups and neighborhood business associations. One such example where this partnership works is Shrewsbury Street. This is a neighborhood that is rich in tradition, but that is undergoing an economic renaissance. As with every growth spurt conflicts arise between homeowners and business owners. On Shrewsbury Street, they have figured out how to minimize disruptions to the neighborhood, while creating jobs for the residents.
We need to forge a partnership between organized labor and the business community, so that both benefit. As Worcester grows, there is a need for qualified carpenters, plumbers, iron workers and electrians to build the new Worcester.
We need to work with the public high schools and our colleges to train a workforce for the 21st Century. We may no longer need people to build diners, but we do need them to build robots. We no longer need people to make corsets, but we do need people to make medical devices. We no longer need people to weave cloth but we do need people to work in medical drug manufacturing.
Worcester is changing and as old industries are replaced by these new jobs, we must change.
And we are.
We have reopened Front Street connecting Downtown to Shrewsbury Street, expanding the footprint of downtown while rebuilding the old traditional city center. Today City Square is a reality which will include a new full service hotel. We have renovated the DCU Center; the old Telegram & Gazette building is being converted into a Downtown campus for Quinsigamond Community College. The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences continue to expand, now stretching from Mechanics Street to Lincoln Square.
We are creating a theater district at the south end of Main Street, anchored by the Hanover Theatre. Soon there will be more restaurants and artist spaces and a new Black Box theater.
We have a world class, Blue Ribbon High School at Worcester Tech, with a nationally recognized principal Sheila Harrity.
We have begun to connect our city. A medical corridor now exists from The University of Massachusetts Medical School and the UMASS/ Memorial Medical Center at Lake Ave up Belmont Street to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Downtown. That corridor is filled with medical facilities, offices and allied health care that will soon rival Longwood Ave in Boston.
We are connecting Downtown to Union Station and to the Canal District, which has become the center of the cities nightlife.
We are also connecting Worcester to the World. Two short months ago JetBlue began flying out of Worcester airport, connecting our city to Florida and beyond.
This new vision for our city has happened because we have been willing to create new partnerships. That vision and those partnerships are creating a new city.
Although much has occurred, there is still much to do.
If we want a new city, we must address the problems of the past. There is no single issue more important than the health of our fellow citizens.
One of the primary goals of the next two years is to focus more effort in the area of public health.
Worcester has launched the first ever Community Health Improvement Plan whose goal is to make Worcester the healthiest city in New England by 2020.
Today, Public Health is more than fighting epidemics. It involves the whole person, whether it is obesity or addiction or access to affordable healthcare. Worcester is a diverse city, with countless ethic groups, with their own languages and cultures. We must bridge these barriers.
We have been lucky in Worcester; we have an innovative and forward looking Department of Public Health. We not only want to be the healthiest city in New England by 2020, but we will be the first accredited Department of Public Health in Massachusetts by 2015.
But it can’t stop there. We are working with John O’Brien and Clark University to integrate and create an Academic Health Department. This joint venture with Clark will eventually lead to new jobs in the public health field, while giving university based assistance to the DPH.
The greatest health threat to young people is violence. We need to continue to take guns off our streets and gangs out of our neighborhoods. A new Police recruit class will be graduating shortly. We are going to put those police on our streets and in our neighborhoods. Under Chief Gemme, we will continue to innovate.
We will not tolerate gang violence or graffiti in our city.
Graffiti and empty store fronts are a sign of urban decay and neglect. It will not be tolerated.
In order to stabilize our city we need new economic development. I will work with Senators Warren and Markey and Congressman McGovern and the appropriate agencies for implementation of the category 3 instrument landing system at the Worcester airport, which will help JetBlue, become more successful and allow us to land another airline. One of my primary economic development goals is for our city to bring a second airline to Worcester, creating more jobs and more opportunity while linking Worcester to the rest of our country.
But it doesn’t stop there. Congressman McGovern has been great, but he needs help. We need to work with our entire Congressional delegation to ensure that we reach an equitable settlement with the EPA, regarding our water and sewer problems, so that we are not hit with a confiscatory sewer rate increase.
We must address the north end of Main Street in a comprehensive way. The city owns the Memorial Auditorium. This architectural gem must be saved and repurposed. To that end, I will be working with stakeholders to create a new use for the building, while preserving the Memorial Hall, built to honor our Veterans. So I will call upon our friends in Washington to secure Federal funding to preserve this portion of the building while we work with others, including WPI and the Worcester Art Museum to create new uses for an old beauty.
We are about to take over ownership of the old courthouse building, whose origins go back to the founding of this nation. This too, must find a new life.
I will be creating a task force which will explore the revitalization of the Lincoln Square area, with partners including the Worcester Art Museum, WPI, Winn Development, The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science and the Worcester Veterans Shelter, among others.
Redevelopment without job creation just doesn’t work. We need to bring new jobs to our city and we will. We have an educated workforce-that is one of our strengths, but we can’t sit by and let other cities and towns move ahead of us.
We need to keep our focus on the Worcester Public schools. We have embarked, with the state’s help on an ambitious school building program. But we must do more. We need to start today and talk about renovating Doherty, Burncoat and South High Schools.
The last part of rebuilding our city is stabilizing our neighborhoods. We can have all the police patrols we want and all the code enforcement we need, but at the end of the day, there is only one real solution to the problem. That is home ownership in our older neighborhoods. I will establish a group to work first with city employees to get them to come home. We will create incentives for them to move back into our inner city. We will then work with the Chamber of Commerce and the not for profit community to do the same.
We all know that the future does not belong to us, but to those young people who come after. I will ask the City Council to establish a Youth Commission. We have long had an Elder Affairs Commission; it is time that we have a Youth Commission to address the needs and problems of our younger citizens. This Commission will be multi- generational, so that it will encompass the vision of youth and the experience of the more seasoned.
I have laid out a vision for the city I was born in, grew up in, live in and now lead. It is an ambitious agenda. But it can be done.
As Helen Keller, who faced more adversity than most, once said:
No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.
I ask you to join me in this new vision. I ask that you become a partner and together we will create this new city