Sunday, February 20, 2011

State of the City

To a "packed" council chamber and with mostly polite applause Mayor Flanagan delivered his State of the City speech. All such speeches are designed to put our elected leaders in the best possible light and Flanagan's was no different. His speech ambitiously sought to be passionate, unifying, optimistic, and demonstrating of our resilient character. While the speech itself was not bad, the Mayor's delivery was mostly flat and failed to live up to the theme the words were supposed to convey.
It's not the speech I would have wrote for the Mayor. It was a bit too lofty, its attempt at inspiration a little too heavy handed. Personally I would have suggested a speech that offered an honest assessment of some of the successes of the past year, some of the goals for the future and some of the challenges we face.

To be sure, there are things that I applaud. The decrease in our dropout rate while at the same time seeing an increase in our graduation rate is certainly good news. It's also no easy feat considering the school department has been able to do really no better than level fund services over the past several years. A call for parents to place a greater emphasis on education is also something that I whole heartily agree with. The effort to increase our public safety is also hard to take issue with. I think we have clearly noticed the impact that reducing our police and fire has had on our city and clearly we need to do what we can to keep these departments adequately staffed.

There are also things that I would like to applaud but can't. The Mayor's positive spin on Anderson Windows utilizing the closed Silver-Line site sounds good, and certainly it is good news that the city was able to work with Anderson to get them to reoccupy the site. However, the 200,000 square foot facility that once employed over 500 is now employing about 50. Yes, the 50 jobs are important but the Mayor's boasts could have been tempered.

Likewise his spin on the biomanufacturing-facility seems a bit too congratulatory after months of pursuing a casino while claiming we could have both but risking that we could end up with none. If nothing else the Mayor's pursuit delayed a facility that would have already broken ground and would have already been providing jobs for its construction.

The Mayor says he will be introducing a waterfront plan and emphasizes the need for bold swift action but if that's the case why have we waited a year before hearing this?

It's also great that he applauded local companies for their "green" efforts and it's a great idea for the city to move in the same direction but there was no details on what we would be doing, how we would be doing it, or how we are going to pay for it.

And honestly I even have an issue with his boasts about public safety considering so much of rehiring efforts are only possible due to stimulus money that is a short term patch for a very long term problem. There are real concerns about how we are going to foot the bill after the money runs out.

One area where I think the Mayor really could have taken some credit that he failed to mention is with the city audits. It's really good news to hear that we should be all caught up sometime in March. The issue was one this administration inherited not from the previously elected mayor but the one previous to that!

Lefty's View: Filled with rhetoric, striving to be inspirational the State of the City didn't really discuss much about the state of the city. Considering the tough times ahead, an honest assessment would have been appreciated.

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