“On Monday evening at Keith Middle School, the City of New Bedford held an Inauguration Ceremony for municipal office holders, which featured an Inaugural Address by Mayor Jon Mitchell as he begins a sixth term. Among state officials attending was Governor Maura Healey, who administered the oath of office to Mitchell.
Reflecting on Progress
In his remarks Mitchell highlighted the progress New Bedford has made since he took office in 2012, saying “Today New Bedford has near record-low unemployment, safer neighborhoods, more stable finances, new parks and walkways, a population back over 100,000, and a stronger reputation beyond its borders.”
Place-Based Citizenship: A Call to Civic Leadership and Collaboration
The Mayor emphasized the need for a strong collaborative approach to effectively address the City’s challenges. Drawing on the concept of “place-based citizenship,” the Mayor pointed to the powerful impact that residents and businesses working together can have in solving collective problems, rather than relying on city government acting in isolation.
The Mayor noted “Citizenship is rooted in the idea that we have obligations to one another. In a city, these obligations are inherently tied to the place itself, to the interaction of residents, neighborhoods, businesses, and institutions around us.”
City of New Bedford photo.
He added, “the responsibilities that come with place-based citizenship require more than simply expressing an opinion about what someone else should do. They entail action [and] everyone has something to offer. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, I want you to know that our City – your City – needs you to get in the game. If you have ideas, bring them forward, but also be prepared to say what you will do to help implement them.”
The Importance of a Local Focus In the Face of National and Global Uncertainties
The Mayor took time to highlight in his remarks the importance of New Bedford staying focused on a local agenda that delivers the tangible benefits to residents, and preventing the divisiveness and uncertainty prevalent at the national and level from trickling down.
Referencing geopolitical tensions, impasses in the nation’s capital, the impending presidential election, climate change, and concerns with artificial intelligence, the Mayor acknowledged that “in an ever-interconnected world, New Bedford is hardly an island. We are not insulated from the divisiveness…[but]as the ride gets bumpier at the national level, our task here in New Bedford is to keep our eyes on the road we are on. Our opinions about national and global events may diverge from one another, but we must never lose sight of the fact that there is a whole lot we can still do, working together to strengthen our City…”
Mitchell’s address also included three significant policy proposals to 1) upgrade local roads, 2) hold irresponsible absentee landlords accountable for their impacts on neighborhoods and tenants, and 3) address the ongoing staffing challenges facing city government.
On Road Improvements
The Mayor said he would increase funding for road improvements as part of an effort to boost the physical condition and appearance of the City. Last year, he prioritized road construction by allocating $3 million in Capital Improvement funds for road repairs. Follow-up road investments are now under development, according to the Mayor.
“I believe that our residents deserve to live in a clean city with well-designed and visually appealing public spaces, and effective infrastructure,” he said.
On Housing Code Enforcement
The Mayor said he would increase fines for irresponsible absentee landlords, holding them accountable for the blight and disorder they bring to neighborhoods and tenants.
“There aren’t many of them, but they are all too willing to pay minor fines as a cost of doing business, rather than managing their properties as they would their own homes, which is not too much to ask,” he said. “I will propose to the City Council that recidivism landlords be subject to fines that are more appropriate for the costs they impose on their neighbors.
“If they haven’t gotten with the program by now, they soon will.”
On City Government’s Staffing Challenges
The Mayor acknowledged the tight regional labor market was having a negative impact on the City’s ability to recruit and retain skilled employees, especially department heads and senior managers. Long-standing vacancies have undermined the operations of several key departments in recent years. In response, the Mayor called for eliminating residency requirements for management positions, which would help enlarge the pool of potential candidates for open positions.
The City’s employee residency requirement has made it extremely difficult to land the best qualified candidates … as much as I’ve long supported the residency requirement as a way of encouraging the hiring of City residents, it has become unworkable,” he said. “Most cities have abolished their residency requirements, and it’s time now for New Bedford to do it, too.
Top Blue Economy City on the East Coast
The Mayor said he feels New Bedford is in a perfect position to develop into a center for marine technology.
“The cluster of maritime businesses, the proximity to marine research institutions, and the emergence of new technologies that can be deployed from here, together make New Bedford the perfect place for marine technology and innovation, especially related to climate and fisheries,” he said. “Our overarching goal, simply stated, is to establish New Bedford as the top blue economy city on the East Coast, and we will do that by making the most of our advantages and out-hustling everybody else.”
Other Local Officials Begin New Terms
Joining the Mayor in beginning new terms of office were members of the City Council, Board of Assessors and School Committee. Council President Linda Morad delivered a brief address, and City Clerk Denis Farias administered the oath to Council members Ryan Pereira, Derek Baptiste, Leo Choquette, Shane Burgo, Joseph P. Lopes, Brian Gomes, Ian Abreu, Linda Morad, Naomi Carney, Maria Giesta and Shawn Oliver; Board of Assessors member Martin Treadup; and School Committee members Christopher Cotter, Joaquim “Jack” Livramento and Bruce J. Oliveira.”