Good Evening everyone and welcome to the City of Cranston’s 54th Inauguration.
I would like to begin by thanking some people:
1. The Inaugural committee, city employees, and sponsors for putting this event together and to all the participants in our time honored tradition;
2. The distinguished members of the judiciary;
3. My colleagues in government from our local state representatives and senators, particularly for their work on our behalf, to our state-wide and federal officials who have joined us tonight;
4. The distinguished Chief Executives (Mayors and Town Administrators), all with whom I’ve worked closely to help our respective communities and the state. I’ve been privileged to develop wonderful friendships with each of them;
5. The taxpayers of our great city who have made great sacrifices during these difficult economic times;
6. Our city employees, who have done more work with less resources, and have helped our city financially; and
7. Finally, my family…my sisters, Arlene and Anna and my brother in law Rich…my mom and dad. They have been there all throughout my career in public service and I appreciate their support. In particular, I want to thank my mom and dad because if it wasn’t for them taking their courageous first steps to leave the country where they were born, leave their family and friends, I would not be where I am today. I love you.
It’s been a wonderful journey in public service for me and I’ve been honored to be a servant leader for the residents of our great city.
Ten years ago, I stood on this stage and took my oath to serve the City as a City Councilor. For four years, I worked hard for the people of Cranston from the legislative side of the house.
In that role, we tackled many problems, but we knew that there was much more work to do before we could declare that we had stabilized our City. I knew that if I really wanted to affect major change, I needed to do so from the Executive branch, where I could work to make my vision for Cranston’s stable future a reality.
So I ran for Mayor and in 2008, the people of Cranston put their trust in me to lead our great city.
When I became Mayor, I did so knowing that the Charter would allow me eight years – if the voters chose – to try to ensure that Cranston was put on a stable track so that the problems that have plagued us for decades would not plague the future generations of our City. I knew that the task would be a challenge. My goal then as it still is today is to leave our city in a better place than when I first took office.
Tonight I stand here because you, the people of Cranston, have trusted me once again to continue that work. This has not been an easy road. There have been a lot of ups and downs. But I have loved the ride and learned a lot from this experience.
Let me take a moment to share some of the successes that we have realized over these past four years and let me also say that we achieved these goals because of a tremendous team of people I have around me in my staff and employees and as a result of many bi-partisan efforts with our City Council and also our schools.
My first goal to stabilize the city was to make sure that our residents had confidence in our government. To that end, my first Executive Order was an ETHICS mandate that established processes and named a chief ethics officer in our city so that employees could have a place to go if they had questions. We also brought in the staff from the state Ethics Commission to train not only our directors but also employees in certain departments that deal a lot with the public.
Next, we put a priority on COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT to ensure that our residents know what is going on. We have held town hall meetings. We are out meeting with community groups. We make sure all important news is on our city website. You see me out at many events working with and supporting our youth, whether it is in our schools, in our city or even in other parts of our state. Not surprisingly, Facebook and Twitter are dynamic and engaging communications tools. And yes, for those of you who have hit me up, you know that is me on the other side personally answering your questions.
These past four years, we’ve weathered a lot of storms, both figuratively and literally. As you may remember, within days of my taking office in January, 2009, we were informed that state aid would be cut by millions of dollars – within the middle of that current budget – which already had structural holes. As you all know, we made significant cuts. But we did so in the right way, by walking the walk. I did not ask of any city employee to make any sacrifices that my staff and I would not make.
We have successfully managed to weather that loss and other more permanent and drastic cuts in aid from the state in subsequent years through IMPLEMENTING SOUND FISCAL PRACTICES.
· Cut staff in all departments including the Mayor’s office
· Instituted multi-year pay freezes
· Invoked higher health care co-pays for all employees and revised plan designs to better control costs
· Negotiated millions in concessions from labor unions who came to the table immediately when we faced the state funding cuts
· Refinanced our debt to save $700,000 in interest costs
· Joined health care collaborative to reduce administration costs
· Curtailed the use of outside vendors and brought more work back in-house
· Reduced energy costs
· Immediately eliminated vehicles for the Mayor and the Director of Administration
· Innovatively leased out the Peter Pastore Complex to the YMCA
· Negotiating the first ever PILOT agreement with Johnson and Wales University
All of those practices we have carried forward whenever possible to maintain a tight line on the City’s budget.
I am also extremely pleased of the ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS that we have achieved despite the nation and state’s struggling economy.
· We’ve added over one thousand jobs to our city over the past four years
· TACO had completed a $20 Million expansion
· We made sure Alex and Ani’s worldwide headquarters would be right here in our city
· Cadence moved into our city and is expanding and we are expecting an additional 150 jobs
· First Comp and GoGo Cast moved into our city
· Went into Superior Court and help saved Scott Brass
· Garden City and Chapel View expansions are ongoing
And there will be more to come. Economic development will continue to be a priority. I want the next generation of students to have jobs so that they can stay in RI if they so desire.
And perhaps one of the things of which I’m most proud is the agreement that we negotiated with the Teamsters Union that all new city hall employees become part of a 401K TYPE DEFINED CONTRIBUTION RETIREMENT PLAN rather than part of the State’s defined benefits pension that we all know presents a burden to all taxpayers.
I pushed hard for this change because as we all know, pension costs throughout our State are destroying our communities.
But it’s not enough. And that is why, despite the fact that I am proud of the things we have done, I know that there is more to do…..and perhaps it is most notably in the area of pensions.
I have rolled up my sleeves and am ready to work with all interested parties to resolve the looming problem we have with the City’s unfunded police and fire pension system. All three rating agencies cited that pension as a concern for our City…and we intuitively know that any organization or household facing that kind of debt, no matter how efficiently it is running, will face problems. This will and must be solved for our city’s long term fiscal health.
As you can see, we’ve come a long way these past few years. To continue down this road, the process is going to require continued COOPERATION. You elected us to get things done in this City – and that only happens when the administration, City Council and schools can work together. To you, our newly sworn in City Council and school committee, I look forward to working with you on the many challenges that we will face…those we know of and those that may pop up unexpectedly. We owe it to the constituents to work in a bi-partisan effort for the greater good of our community.
In conclusion, I believe that tonight, Cranston is in better shape than we found it when I took the oath of Mayor in January, 2009. As I said earlier, when I took that oath, I did so hoping that the voters would give me time so that I might not only fix the immediate problems but also could ensure that on my last day in that office across the way I will leave, whenever that may be, knowing that Cranston is in a better place than when I first took office, i.e., stable and that decisions of the past would not haunt the next generation.
So tonight, we celebrate.
We celebrate our great community and its tremendous constituency that has entrusted us with this great City.
We celebrate the fact that we are well on a path to stability.
God Bless America, our state and the City of Cranston.