Haverhill Inaugural Address
Our best days lie ahead
James J. Fiorentini
Elected officials, Judge Albany, Reverend clergy, members of
the public: -- thank you, all of you for coming here today.
Thank you to our clerk, Peggy Toomey, thank you Judge Albany
for swearing me in, and thank you to our inaugural committee.
To our knowledge, this is the first time in our history when
the entire inauguration was done without spending one dime in
government money, all the inauguration was paid for privately.
I thank our committee and I would like all of you to come by
this evening for the citizen’s reception at the Public
I would like to take a moment to introduce some folks who took
the time to come.
My family: my wife Martha, my daughter Christina, my mother,
sisters Anne and Susan, aunts uncles and cousins, thank you
for being here today.
There are family members who went before me—particularly my
Dad, -- and I pause to remember that without my Dad’s help,
encouragement and advice over the years, I would never be
standing here today.
I wish my grandparents could be here today to see what a great
country this is, where the grandson of impoverished immigrants
is sworn in to be the Mayor of this great city.
We are honored to have our Congresswoman, Nikki Tsongas, here
A number of our State legislative delegation are here today,
and I thank them for their hard work for our city: State
Representative Brian Dempsey, State Senator Steven Baddour and
State Representative Barbara L’Italien.
I thank the city council and the school committee for their
service to the city and I look forward to serving with you to
solve Haverhill’s problems.
We have a number of former Mayors, who are here, and I would
like to recognize and thank them for their service to the
We have a number of people here from the trade unions, the
carpenters, the plumbers, the pipefitters, laborers and other
trade unions, thank you for being here today and thank you for
your unwavering support.
We are honored to have with us one of our returning servicemen
from Afghanistan, Richard Poore.
Sadly, three Haverhill servicemen have paid the ultimate price
for our freedom—Nicholas Schiavoni, Dimitrious Gavriel and
Evan O’Neil. We are very honored today to with us the gold
star parents of our fallen heroes and I would like to welcome
and ask you to join me in honoring the Gold Star families:
Chris Gavriel, Barbara O'Neill, Michael O’Neil, Suzanne
Swartz, Stephanie Kern and Cheryl Chalmers. The city will
never forget the sacrifice of Nicholas, Dimitrious and Evan.
We are much honored to have you here today.
And to all of you who took the time to come on this cold snowy
Monday, thank you.
GREAT PROGRESS IN PAST SIX YEARS
As I stand here today, I am deeply grateful for the
opportunity to for 2 more years – and I understand – that this
awesome opportunity comes with special responsibilities. I am
reminded of the words of President Kennedy: “from those to
whom much is given, much is required.” My obligation, and
obligation that comes with the responsibility of being Mayor,
is to listen to all and to lead. I will try my best.
When I was first handed that responsibility six years ago, the
city of Haverhill stood on the brink of financial disaster
because of the collapse of the last municipally owned hospital
in the State that served an entire region.
Six years ago, I offered you a vision and a plan where factory
buildings could be remade into upscale housing and restore
areas of the city that had been forgotten for decades and turn
them back onto the tax rolls. I called it the Haverhill
Today, we have $100 million in new investment in our downtown,
a new boardwalk, with new jobs and new business, with a
parking garage ready to break ground in the spring. We can say
with confidence the Haverhill Renaissance is alive and well
and we will not allow the recession to kill the Haverhill
OUR GREATEST DAYS LIE AHEAD
But, for all of our progress, our best days lie ahead.
WHAT I SEE AHEAD—MY VISION FOR A GREATER HAVERHILL
Ahead, I see a great city, with more and better jobs, improved
schools and better parks and playgrounds: a great place to
live, and a great place to work.
But none of this will happen by itself. Building the future
for great city will require hard work and short term
sacrifices. Building the future will require us to be bold and
innovative and to take chances as we strive to bring new
business to our city. The safest way is surely to do nothing,
but we do not want to be like the person described by the
Ancient Roman Poet Horace: “He who feared he would not succeed
sat still.” This term, we will not sit still. We will work
hard and we will make jobs for Haverhill a key focus in this
NEW TOOLS FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH
Every day, I am reminded of the need to bring new jobs to our
I am reminded when I meet the woman who used to work at
Lucent, who now works for minimum wage with no benefits.
I am reminded when I meet the couple who both lost their jobs
and lost their house as a result.
I am reminded every day, when I meet the young person who has
to put their future dreams on hold, or the old person who has
to decide between rent and medicine: jobs have to be our top
Bringing in jobs is never easy. It is particularly difficult
in a recession—it is hard to go up when the escalator is going
down. But even in a recession, we need to put the tools in
place so that when the recession ends and business is ready to
expand again, Haverhill is ready and is first in line to
recruit these new businesses.
To be ready, we will need some new tools and new ideas and we
will need some new uses of our old tools.
Tomorrow, I will issue an executive order today consolidating
several downtown and zoning committees into a new downtown
planning committee. I ask them to examine the zoning laws for
downtown, to eliminate red tape and regulatory barriers, and
establish design standards for downtown so that when business
is ready to reinvest in our downtown, Haverhill is ready to
make it easy for them.
Later this spring I will ask the city council to join me in
establishing an economic development corporation, similar to
the ones used successfully in New Bedford and Providence with
the powers to raise and lend money as well as other powers to
help bring jobs to the city.
I’ll establish a new business ambassador program, and ask the
CEO’s of businesses we brought to the city to join me in
telling new businesses that Haverhill is the place to expand.
Downtown, we’ll use our Federal grant to improve downtown, and
starting this summer, you’ll see a fresh new look and new
appearance to your downtown.
We’ll work with the MVRTA so that the promise of a new parking
garage downtown becomes a reality.
But we recognize that the main ingredient in any downtown
isn’t government, it is private business. To help them we’ll
create a new façade improvement program, and use some of our
Federal block grant money to lend money to downtown businesses
willing to improve the facades of their business.
LOOKING AT ZONING
Downtown is important symbolically to our city, but the heart
of job creation is in our industrial parks. This year, I will
propose that we rename our industrial parks as business parks,
and examine the zoning laws in these industrial parks to
remove red tape and regulatory barriers that might discourage
businesses from locating there.
A FRESH NEW LOOK AT OUR ZONING LAWS
To help keep our city competitive I will establish a zoning
task force to take a fresh new look at the zoning laws of this
city. We will ask them to take advantage of the new
technologies for low impact development, and to develop rules
that encourage development that has a minimal impact on our
environment and discourage development that takes away what we
love best, the beauty of Haverhill.
THE RAIL TRAILl
Our plans for a new and better Haverhill start with zoning,
but that is only the beginning.
Two years ago, I announced plans to reorient Haverhill towards
the Merrimack River.
Today, our new boardwalk behind Washington Street is open, and
the boardwalk on Merrimack Street has been rebuilt.
We used a State grant, and purchased portions of an abandoned
rail line in Bradford—the first steps towards creating a
walkway and series of parks along the river in Bradford.
This spring, we’ll take the next step. We’ll ask for
volunteers, led by the Friends of the Bradford Rail Trail
committee, to start clearing the trail so that people can
start to walk along it. We’ll begin working on a grant
application to build a new set of trails and parks along the
river. Someday, our children and our grandchildren will be
able to walk along our own string of parks and walkways along
the river. When they do, they will know we kept our promise to
them, to keep the river – our greatest asset-- for everyone,
not just for those fortunate enough to own land next to it.
THE SCHOOLS OF TOMORROW
Building the Haverhill of tomorrow means building first class
In the past six years, we’ve made great progress in our
schools but there is more to be done. We’ve improved MCAS
scores; our children attend some of the top colleges and
universities in the world. Our Classical Academy is the envy
of communities throughout the State.
At the high school, our $32 million renovation project is
nearing completion. We should be proud indeed that while other
communities spend up to $200 million on new high schools, our
high school will get a complete makeover for far less. We will
complete that project this term.
THE CHALLENGES OF TODAY
The Haverhill of tomorrow, the city I see ahead with jobs and
economic opportunity, walkways along the river and top quality
schools, will take time, and lots of hard work.
But as we consider the bright promise of our future, we cannot
ignore the hard times that exist all around us today.
GETTING BY THIS YEAR
MAKE CUTS AND REINVENT GOVERNMENT
This year, we face enormous challenges. Our unfunded mandates
will cause us to spend millions we do not have on projects we
do not want to spend them on. Pension costs are rising. The
Hale debt is still with us and we remain the one community
required to pay for a hospital that served the entire region.
But the greatest immediate challenge is that the global
recession has caused revenues to plummet downward at the same
time that health care costs are spiking upward.
To meet the challenge of providing good services with less
money, we will need to continue to continue to reinvent
government, and we will need the continued help of our State
and Federal partners.
We’ll need to make use of new tools and new technology to make
government more efficient.
We’ll also use some old tools, and go into your neighborhoods,
meet regularly with citizens. We will remember always that the
heart of Haverhill isn’t here at city hall, and it isn’t
downtown. The heart of Haverhill is its neighborhoods and its
people, and we will be in your neighborhoods to serve you
To meet those challenges, we will have to start by reforming
our health care system. The sad truth is, we can no longer
afford the employee health care system we have.
The stark truth is this: If we do not change our municipal
health care system, then we will have to make cutbacks in
every other area of government to pay for an outmoded health
Cutbacks and health care reforms have to be our first step,
but they cannot be our only step. Our challenges this year are
so great that we will also have to look for other sources of
revenue other than the property tax.
Our citizens demand and deserve good service from their city.
If we are going to deliver to our citizens what they need and
deserve, we need to use of the tools at our disposal.
DAWN ON THE HORIZON
In this recession, it is easy to fear tomorrow. When I start
to feel that way, I am reminded of the words of President
Roosevelt at the start of the depression: “we have nothing to
fear but fear itself.” No one can say when the recession will
end, but we can certainly say that following this long dark
night of a recession there will be the new dawn of a recovery.
Today, we see signs of that dawn on the horizon. We see that
our unemployment rate has gone down two months in a row. State
tax revenues have begun to go back up. We see a few jobs
starting to come back, and we see hope starting to return. No
one can say for certain when dawn will come, but we can say
for certain that it will.
When dawn finally arrives, and it will, I see a city with jobs
and hope for tomorrow. I see a city with cleaner streets,
safer streets and better schools. I see a city that is
oriented towards the river, a city we are proud to live in,
proud to work in and proud to send our children to school in.
We can make that happen if we work together for the common
But this is not just about government, this is about you. To
make this great new city work and work better, we need your
help. We need citizens to work with us, to be on volunteer
boards, to help our schools as tutors and mentors, to help our
newly revitalized Brightside program. Working together, there
is nothing we can’t accomplish. Working together, our best
days lie ahead.
A few moments ago, I raised my right hand, and was sworn in
for a fourth time, and I made a solemn pledge uphold the law
of the land.
I now make a separate pledge, to you and to every person in
the city, no matter who you are, no matter where you live, and
no matter who you voted for in the last election: I will work
night and day on your behalf to make this city better. Thank