Mayoral Inauguration Speech, December 7,2009 Michael S. Rohde, Mayor Good evening and thank you for attending tonight's inauguration ceremonies. Reverend clergy, Honorable judges, elected officials, dignitaries, and guests. I stand here tonight thankful for the opportunity to continue to serve as Mayor of Meriden and I'm grateful to the Meriden voters who have made this possible. I am truly blessed for the support and the confidence placed in me to be the Mayor of this great city for the next two years. I'm excited, energized, and fired up to continue our forward progress and meet the challenges as we work together for a better Meriden. There are so many people to thank who have provided support, encouragement, guidance and inspiration to me. I can't possibly list all of you but you know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. However, there are a few individuals who must be acknowledged and recognized for their extraordinary support of my campaign. First, my wife Nancy who has supported me and endured 20 years of my public service and sacrificed countless hours of our time together. You are my rock and I could not do this without you. I thank, appreciate, and value the friendship and support of Senator Tom Gaffey, my longtime friend, Attorney Tom luby who got me into local politics twenty years ago; Attorney E. Jack Shorr who has been the best campaign treasurer on the planet; linda Owsianik, Deputy Treasurer, a dear friend; and my "Wingman" Eddie Siebert his brother Jimmy and the entire Siebert Family who have been steadfast supporters. Tomorrow, Eddie Siebert will start his duties in the Mayor's Office providing constituent casework services and community outreach. Welcome aboard. To Deputy Mayor Matt Dominello, my right hand man, thanks for everything you do for our community to help so many, it's good to have you back as Deputy Mayor. I also thank my fellow city councilors who stood by me and supported me throughout the campaigns. In addition, Craig Hanson has been a courageous and loyal friend; Jim Frederick always lends a helping hand; Rhudean Raye is a constant source of encouragement; and Oscar and Doris Rosado have always been there for me. And my East side friends linda Mesite, Fred Cavallo, Ralph Collazo and their friends and neighbors - it has been a joy to work with you. And finally to all my friends and colleagues with whom I have worked for these past 20 years, thank you sincerely for your friendship and all your efforts for our community. To be the Mayor of this city is an awesome honor and privilege. We have an outstanding community with bountiful assets, rich traditions, unrealized potential, and many citizens committed to making a better Meriden. I pledge to do my very best to work with all our elected officials and all citizens of Meriden to take bold, positive, and decisive action as we take on the challenges facing our community. Tonight we stand at a crossroads. We have come to a time when the vexing, longstanding problems of our city can finally be addressed and resolved. Strong, effective leadership will be required to accomplish these solutions. Tomorrow, a new dawn gives birth to new opportunities for the City of Meriden. At this time in our history, we are most fortunate to possess remarkable community leadership on our city council and board of education. We have a very capable city manager who effectively guides our municipal departments. A dedicated superintendent of schools leading our improving school system. A state delegation and our congressional representative who will continue the fight to bring back home to Meriden badly needed
state and federal funds for schools, infrastructure projects and most importantly, funding that will provide jobs and put people back to work. Now is the time that we join together with our local business sector, faith communities, our neighborhood associations, our active civic groups, and non profit agencies with the mutual goal of improving our city. During the past several months, I have gone out to meet face to face with 18 Meriden business leaders and company owners. Our dialogue during those meetings has been dynamic and extremely valuable. These are the leaders of Meriden's most valuable businesses. I will continue to meet with our business leaders and use their feedback to help chart our course for promoting economic development. Collectively, we have in place the community leadership with the talent and commitment to transform Meriden by resolving the problems of the past. As I have thought about the most important priorities for Meriden, I have come to realize that Meriden has been facing some intractable problems for years that have stifled and impeded our ability to move ahead. These include: • • • • • •
our center city shortcomings;
outdated, isolated downtown housing project;
two high schools badly in need of renovation a lack of commercial/industrial space for business expansion; And a tax base that is burdensome to Meriden home owners and businesses.
The good news is that the solutions to ALL of these problems are within our reach. We have plans in place to once and for all address and fix each of these challenges. This will not be easy, but with the concerted efforts of all those who have a stake in the resolution of these problems, we can be successful. So toward this end, we will continue our flood control efforts to completion and once and for all end the longstanding, downtown flooding problem that has persisted for over a century. We will aggressively proceed with our downtown development plan that will establish a downtown green space with a water course and linear trail bounded by businesses and new housing. We will develop the intermodal transportation hub that will spur economic activity and housing within a half mile radius. We will resolve the public housing issues by providing scattered site, mixed use housing alternatives and develop a new neighborhood in the remediated Hanover/Cook Avenue Quadrant to accommodate downtown residents who need access to public transportation and local amenities. We will continue to move ahead on plans to modernize our two high schools. We will move forward on the new land use Plan for Conservation and Development and encourage highest and best use BUSINESS INVESTMENT in targeted areas. We will open new areas for business tax base expansion and aggressively market these opportunities to developers. We will also be far more proactive and aggressive in promoting our city and polishing the image of Meriden. This will include stepped-up efforts to control blight and litter by engaging business owners, neighborhood associations, community policing and code enforcement personnel in a "Pride in Meriden Campaign" to keep our streets and sidewalks clean. Finally, we will continue to work cooperatively with Police Chief Cossette and Fire Chief Trainer to keep the public safe. 2
3 Under my watch as your Mayor together with our city council, we will be ever vigilant to make certain that are streets are both Safe and Clean! In addition to the forgoing initiatives, we will step up efforts to engage our minority community in a positive and productive partnership to promote cultural awareness and respect of Meriden's diverse community through events and communication. We will continue our efforts to provide quality services to our elderly and encourage their participation in the rich array of opportunities available to them. We have also suffered from an image problem - the perception of Meriden is less positive than the reality of Meriden. let me spend a few moments highlighting the positive reality of Meriden. The reality of Meriden lies with ou r four nationally-recognized Blue Ribbon Schools - the latest being Thomas Hooker The reality of Meriden is being at Platt High two weeks ago and seeing James Flynn win the Milliken Award --足 one of only Fifty teachers across our nation recognized for outstanding teaching. Our reality is seeing children's eyes OPEN WIDE when a number of our local students have their essays honored at our annual Martin luther King/Albert Owens Breakfast. Our reality is on exhibit every night during the Holidays as people from all over the state drive through Hubbard Park to view the best Holiday light Presentation in the Connecticut or spend the afternoon at "Christmas in the Village" in South Meriden Our reality is evident every fall weekend at the new Falcon Field athletic complex hosting sporting events that out-of-town visitors rave about; and a dedicated group of "Friends" watch over and care for Our reality is alive every day with all our sports and recreation facilities From our highly-rated Hunter Golf Course, to our beautiful linear Trail, to our spectacular "Adventure Hollow" boundless playscape, to our top notch girl's softball complex; and to Beat the Street, the best boxing and dance competition club around Our reality is personified at the greatest Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA in the whole State of Connecticut. Our reality is having the newest and finest mid sized hospital in all of New England - MidState Medical Center - recently enhanced with an enlarged emergency room and a new MediQuick East side presence Our reality is admiring the volunteers at the Jack Barry little league who never gave up despite flooded fields and dire need for resources, and made spring baseball possible for the children by getting the job done. Our reality is our dedicated veterans' organizations that are omnipresent at military funerals, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and every day when we honor their service at every opportunity Our reality is crowned by the beautiful Hanging Hills that surround our City, and the Hubbard and Giuffrida city parks system that boundary Meriden on the East and West. And a special thank you to the small group of volunteers who worked tirelessly to refurbish the Halfway House below the Castle Craig. The reality of Meriden is POSITIVE and it going to get even better because we will work tirelessly to promote our reality throughout Connecticut. In conclusion, Meriden voters have entrusted their elected leaders with the awesome responsibility of making a better Meriden. I congratulate each newly elected member who joins our other elected incumbents. I ask each of you, and every citizen whom you represent, to join with us and rise to the challenges we face.
4 We have a unique window of opportunity; the planets are lined up for us to make SIGNIFICANT, POSITIVE, TRANSFORMATIONAL changes for Meriden. The key to success is having every Meriden citizen join with us to pitch in and do your part, I LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH YOU TO BRING THIS TO REALITY. Thank you.