For Immediate Release
January 14, 2009
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"Yet, even as this fog of economic uncertainty lingers over the nation, there is a great light shining on Boston."
– Mayor Thomas M. Menino
In his annual State of the City address Tuesday night at the historic Faneuil Hall, Mayor Thomas M. Menino highlighted the city's many achievements over the past year and presented a message of community and perseverance while announcing plans to move Boston forward in the face of the country's economic downturn.
"We are confronting a great economic crisis. Boston did not create it but Boston must deal with it and together, we will overcome it. The problems are truly global in scale, but they are also very, very real in our city," Mayor Menino said. "Make no mistake: I have a bold vision for Boston, a city of strong community and unlimited opportunity. We have made important gains on that vision by working together, staying focused on our goals and maximizing every resource. The tough economy may slow our advance but we will not be stopped."
Governor Deval Patrick, Secretary William Galvin, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Timothy Cahill, Auditor Joseph DeNucci, Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Sal DiMasi, members of the Boston City Council, his family and other guests were in attendance for Mayor Menino's address.
In his speech, Mayor Menino reflected on the many achievements Boston has accomplished over the past year including a residential property tax reduction for the average single family homes for the second straight year; the city's population growing to more than 600,000 people for the first time in 30 years; the prevention of nearly 450 foreclosures due to city programs; the preservation of $130 million in home values; the renovation of 12 foreclosed units on Hendry Street; an 8 percent reduction in crime; the launching of 100 small businesses with the assistance of city financial and technical aid programs; the construction of two new branch libraries in Grove Hall and Mattapan; and the $40 million Boston Invests loan program to jumpstart additional construction projects around Boston.
However, despite this growth Mayor Menino forecasted a $140 million budget shortfall next year due to state and federal aid reductions as well as increasing costs and declining revenues. In an effort to maintain the city's strong foundation, Mayor Menino asked municipal union leaders to consider a one-year wage freeze to preserve the City's core services in light of the very tough economic climate.
"If we can agree to a one-year wage freeze, then I can protect core services for residents and preserve jobs," Mayor Menino said. "I know this will be hard on working families but the way I see it, a one-year wage freeze beats core service reductions and painful, painful layoffs. We all love our city. We all benefit from a strong Boston. When we work as partners, we weave the fabric of the city together. As we draw this fabric closer, we feel the warmth of human connections that will help us not only weather this storm, but to lead our nation out of it."
Mayor Menino also noted the great strides made in the Boston Public Schools and was extremely proud to announce that the Cloud Foundation is making a $1 million commitment so that 2,000 of the city's most driven students can be paired with leading innovators in arts and sciences.
"We have come a long way from the days when seven of our schools were in danger of losing accreditation," Mayor Menino said. "Today, test scores are up. One in four juniors and seniors takes an Advanced Placement class and eight of our high schools are nationally recognized by U.S. News and World Report. We achieved these gains by being creative and collaborative and we will keep our focus on addressing the achievement gap and pushing the envelope of excellence."
Part of the collaboration with the Cloud Foundation is the first of its kind Boston 100k ArtScience Innovation Prize competition that pairs teams of Boston Public High School teens with professional artists, scientists and entrepreneurs to develop project concepts and present their ideas to a panel of judges. The winning team will be awarded a $100,000 prize and a trip to Paris, France where they will conduct further work on their project at the innovative artscience space Le Laboratoire.
"In our neighborhoods, we have decreased foreclosures and increased safety; decreased property taxes and increased opportunity; in our schools, we have decreased the achievement gap and increased learning," Mayor Menino said. "But I must remind you: unless we work together and take urgent action, our hard-won gains will be lost. In the worst of economic times, we must show the best of Boston. We have to work together to move our city forward. The state of the City is in our hands. And for that reason I know that the state of our City is strong."