His Inaugural address highlighted a decade of accomplishments while outlining a plan for the next two years.
Dumas provided Patch with a transcript of his speech:
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen:
Welcome to 2014, and the Home of Attleboro Blue Pride! Let me first begin by recognizing those honored guests and friends of Attleboro who have graciously agreed to participate in this inaugural program. I personally extend a sincere THANK YOU to Sheriff Tom Hodgson, Senator Richard Ross, Senator James Timilty, Representative Betty Poirier, Representative Paul Heroux, and Father Dave Costa.
I promise this Inaugural Celebration will be very special, thanks in large part to the students from our five (5) Elementary Schools, Hill-Roberts, Hyman Fine, Studley, Peter Thacher and Wilett; our three (3) Middle Schools, Brennan, Coelho and Wamsutta; and our flagship, Attleboro High School. I also thank the Saint John the Evangelist Choir, and the members of the Veteran’s Honor Guard and the Police & Fire Honor Guards. I want to especially thank tonight’s Master of Ceremonies, Superintendent of Schools Ken Sheehan, and the many members of our staff who aided in planning this event. Thank you all so very much.
I also want to take this opportunity to once again thank the voters of the City of Attleboro for participating in choosing your City Leaders. It is YOU who took the time to exercise that most precious of civic duties and Constitutional rights; THE RIGHT TO VOTE!
And I am humbled that by exercising that right, you have given me the opportunity to serve you for a sixth term as YOUR MAYOR. I promise I will not let you down!
As we welcome those being sworn in for the first time, I would also like to recognize those elected officials who will not be returning to office. Two years ago, you stood on this very stage and took an oath that you would faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties of your office, according to the best of your abilities. Your fulfillment of that oath, and your service to the citizens of Attleboro, is gratefully appreciated, and we are indebted to you for your generosity. We thank you all for your time and dedication to our city.
Ten years ago, I raised my right hand and took that same oath, for the very first time. I’ll never forget that night. I specifically remember a constituent who gave me a beautiful desk plate that contained a simple, yet powerful message: “Rebuild The Image of the City”. With my oath of office, and that message, we began our journey.
Far too often, a community allows itself to be defined by circumstances and events outside of its control. Cuts in state aid are typically followed by closings of recreation facilities and libraries, those so-called non-essential services that help define the image of a community. Next come layoffs, closings of Fire Stations, schools…and the list goes on. Before you know it, neighborhoods begin falling into disrepair, and you’ve lost all pride in your community.
But here in Attleboro, WE refused to allow our community to be defined by such circumstances. We took matters into our own hands. The journey has been long and difficult. But tonight, I proudly stand before you and announce that together we are truly rebuilding the image of our City!
We do this, guided by a love of this community, and by following three (3) principles; that we live within our means, that we do more with less, and that we continually think outside of the box.
So while other communities cut services and remained economically stagnate, we found ways to keep our public safety departments staffed, and our Fire Stations opened; we found ways to revitalize our downtown and to create new economic opportunities throughout our City; we found ways to repair our schools and to restore our “Blue Pride”; we found ways to keep our Council on Aging, Library, Zoo, parks and recreation facilities opened; and we found ways to rebuild our streets, and to connect neighborhoods with new sidewalks.
And along the way, we grew our Stabilization Fund from next to nothing in 2004, to an all time high of $2.7 million dollars today. This fund, set aside for emergencies, has also allowed us to complete a record number of capital projects without the high costs of borrowing. Our commitment to growing our Stabilization Fund has also shown our bond rating agency that we are serious about the City’s financial position. In fact, just recently, the City’s bond rating was increased, two grades, from an A+ to a solid AA; the second bond rating increase during my administration. That means when the City does borrow, we will enjoy the benefits of lower interest rates.
And we did all this while keeping Attleboro one of the most affordable places to live of all of the surrounding communities. Attleboro now has the lowest average single family tax bill of Seekonk, Norton, Mansfield, North Attleborough and Rehoboth!
But no City can succeed without the support, vision and confidence of its Legislative Body. So I want to thank the members of the Municipal Council, both past and present, for helping us get to where we are today. When it came time for the City to adopt a cash reserve policy and to make annual contributions to the Stabilization Fund, the Municipal Council said yes; when it came time to invest in our school building and technology, the Municipal Council said yes; when it came time to support the revitalization visions of the ARA, the Municipal Council said yes; and when it came time to invest in a new Attleboro Track and Field Stadium and a new Animal Shelter, the Municipal Council said yes. So to my new colleagues on the stage tonight, I say let’s keep the ball moving forward. Let’s work together over the next two years to make Attleboro an even better community than it is today.
Our efforts and successes here have also been recognized by those outside of Attleboro. I mentioned, the City recently met with Standard and Poors to review the City’s bond rating. As part of that process, we could have just sent them our financial statements and hoped for the best. But the success of a city, as in life itself, is not all about dollars and cents. It’s also about the people, the neighborhoods, community pride and the other intangibles that help define who we are and where we are going as a community.
So we thought outside the box. We walked the team from Standard and Poors all around the City, beginning with the downtown. We showed them the economic progress in the downtown; we showed them where the new six story Renaissance Station is being built, a building that will house commercial activity on the first floor and 80 units of housing on the upper floors; we showed them how our Streetscape Program continues to revamp our downtown; and we showed them where the new GATRA Bus Terminal sits, and where Riverfront Drive and Riverfront Park are going to be built. We proved to Standard and Poors that the City has chosen to define itself as a City that believes in its downtown.
Next, we took them to Attleboro High School, the flagship of our School System. There, we held an impromptu meeting in the home bleachers of our new $4.1 million dollar Track and Field Stadium. There, amongst the gigantic “A” in the middle of the new turf field, and the numerous banners that now adorn the entire stadium, the team from Standard and Poors witnessed first hand our “Blue Pride”; and the commitment we have toward the future of our schools. We proved to them that we live within our means, that we do more with less, and that we continually think outside of the box. These achievements were accomplished just over the past two years.
During the last term, there were also noteworthy developments in our public safety departments. Our crime analyst in the Police Department under Chief Heagney has helped guide us towards being proactive and solving repetitive crimes. This has allowed our police force to do their job even better. The introduction of Comstat is an accountability tool that has also gained large results this year. Medical expertise and oversight in the Fire Department under the direction of Chief Lachance has been crucial in bringing our Paramedic Service to the next level. Captain Moore has worked hand in hand with staff to improve administering this service that has led to amazing recognition by regional hospitals. It is a team approach within the both of our public safety departments that make a difference.
2013 was also a dynamic year for the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority; led by Chairperson Judy Robbins, and members Benny Keene, Jackie Romaniecki and Rick Correia. This volunteer board made great strides by working with the City, GATRA, and the Brownfield’s Support Team towards implementing the first phase of the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan. Their efforts resulted in the clean-up and sale of a once undevelopable parcel of land on the north side of Wall Street; clearing the way for a new building for commercial and residential use. The new GATRA bus terminal, realigned Wall and South Main Streets and Streetscape Improvements were also completed in 2013, thanks in large part to the efforts of the ARA.
In September 2013, the ARA announced a $2.3 million dollar Purchase and Sale Agreement with a development team for a state of the art sports complex, along with a hotel, to be built in the Attleboro Industrial Business Park. The 210,000 square foot facility will be the only one of its kind in this region and will house hockey rinks, basketball courts, and an indoor turf soccer field. The second phase of design will also include four outdoor turf fields. A closing is expected this year, after the development team finalizes its due diligence and permitting.
Speaking of the IBP, the City, ARA and the Army are in the process of finalizing a land exchange agreement that will, in essence, allow the City to acquire the Army Reserve Center on John Williams Street for its new DPW facility. In exchange, the Army will construct a new, state-of-art Reserve Center on the remaining 28.5 acres in the IBP.
In my inaugural address two years ago, I spoke of the need for a new animal shelter and the Attleboro High School Track and Field project. As you know, we made great strides on both fronts. The Municipal Council allowed us the funding to proceed with these two important projects, and I thank them for their continued support. I have to admit, I underestimated the amount of enthusiasm that these two projects would bring to the city. We saw a friends group of the animal shelter raise significant dollars and hundreds showing their dedicated and undying support. We saw a citywide community, again hundreds of individuals, come together to aid the city on embarking on the Attleboro High School Stadium project. We raised $600,000 in private funds to complete this $4.1 million dollar project. It has pleased me greatly to see such support, camaraderie, and pride that has been shared and instilled in others during the last year. I am thankful for all of the help that has been given to us.
We began and finished the design of our new animal shelter in 2013, and we will enter the construction phase of the new animal shelter in 2014. I expect this project to be finished and be in “move in” condition by winter of 2014.
The face of our schools has changed greatly in ten years. We are now under the stewardship of Superintendent Ken Sheehan, and I am looking forward to his results that he will bring to the district. I charge the staff and he to administer the best education possible and reach every student in order for them to excel. Superintendent Sheehan has proven leadership in other districts and I know that he will properly identify the needs of the system and continue our journey forward. I have enjoyed working with him since July and I can assure you that we are working on plans together. As with other departments, if we expect to make good on our promise to continue to rehabilitate and inject new life into our city, the schools are an extremely important piece to this puzzle. All school faculty and staff should be commended for their diligence on reaching our kids. It is not and easy job, and I respect your continued work to reaching our goals.
We will continue our tremendous improvements in education. Over the last two years we integrated full day kindergarten citywide. This was a tremendous achievement considering the economic climate. Also during the last two years, we had a record number of students enrolling in the advanced placement program, and the district-wide improvement in our levels of achievement. In fact, our own Attleboro High School was named to the Washington Post’s 2012 List of "America's Most Challenging High Schools." A variety of metrics go into this calculation that includes the number of college level tests divided by the number of seniors graduating. What is extremely noteworthy is that Attleboro High School is among only 9% of the 22,000 public high schools in the country to reach the set standard - and one of only 49 of nearly 350 high schools in the Commonwealth (only 14%). The report also reflected "Equity and Excellence" ratings notably recognizing the number of students who never took an AP course and who scored at least a 3 or above on at least one AP test during their high school years. The average Equity and Excellence Rate was 18.1% and Attleboro High School scored 22.6%.
The City also saw its gem of Capron Park Zoo gain our full accreditation as promised during my last inaugural address.
We have been able to achieve these accomplishments despite a recovering economy. I think it is important for all of you to know that there are many city employees who put in countless hours and tireless effort to help make these accomplishments possible for you. I want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU as these things would not be possible without their persistence and determination.
Moving forward, once again next fiscal year will present more challenges but we will still push forward. I will work with all departments to meet our goals while doing everything I can to provide the same level of services to you. All of us are forced to do more with less while costs continue to rise. I remain committed to providing the citizens of Attleboro with outstanding Police & Fire protection, education, recreational venues and other city services. I look forward to working with the Municipal Council this upcoming budget season. I will continue to examine areas for cost saving measures as I consider the city’s funds collected just as important as my own.
Looking forward, as stated in the beginning of this speech, the most important goal is financial stability. In order for us to continue to provide services to you, we must continue to be financially prudent. I will continue the same scrutiny of our revenue and expenses that has enabled us to be successful.
Likewise, the Downtown Intermodal Transportation Project will see further progress in 2014 and 2015. We have secured $3.96 million dollars for Phase 2 Construction. This will be for the construction of Riverfront Drive and Riverfront Park along the ten mile river. In 2014, The DPW – Highway Division will be relocated to a newly created Materials and Fueling Depot at Lamb Street, as well as the John Williams Street Army Reserve Center which will serve as our Equipment, Storage and Maintenance Facility to allow for this construction.
Also, Crugnale Properties will complete their construction of Renaissance Station and begin plans for a second project in front of the bus terminal at the Intermodal Transportation Center. This new development area will continue the rebirth and transformation of our downtown.
I have high goals for our downtown over the next two years. I will be embarking on a new phase of the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan in this new term that will identify the property across from the Sun Chronicle on South Main Street as well as properties on Union Street near the center of the City for redevelopment. We will, of course, continue to invite downtown property owners to work along with us; with the implementation of the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan as our guiding document. These are properties that are ripe for redevelopment and will allow the city to continue its rebirth.
We will also continue working with the ARA on the Industrial Business Park on its further progress with the construction of the new Army Reserve Center as well as the Sports Complex that will begin construction in 2014.
During the next two years, I will continue my commitment towards rehabilitating Attleboro High School. We have submitted our statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the next phase of the high school renovations that will include the new heating system and replacement of all the windows in the facility. Also, we just began our first technology improvements district wide, but be rest assured that I will continue to work with Superintendent Sheehan on our future phases of technology improvements during this new term.
We will also continue the city’s roadway and sidewalk rehabilitation program, implementing the next phase of the downtown streetscape initiative, adding additional public safety personnel and equipment, providing quality community events such as the Expo for the Senses and Winter Night Festival and to continue to provide all of those services that you have come to expect.
In Attleboro, we are also very proud to provide those extra special quality of life services that make us stand out amongst our surrounding communities. Our Public Library has hosted many community events and continues to be the best Library in our area. Our own Capron Park Zoo has continued its improvements with the addition of new animals and new exhibits annually. Our Recreation Summer program is second to none. We had another successful summer with all of our pools open with many extra programs provided for our youth. This year brought a new location to the Attleboro Farmers Market and it turned out to be a huge success. Many local businesses had the opportunity to sell their produce and products over the summer months that brought people together downtown. Thank you to those who made it possible and we look excitedly forward to next season. This year, over 10,000 people attended our community event called the “Annual EXPO for the Senses”. This family friendly event featured area artists & crafters, jewelry merchants and area restaurants providing large varieties of food along with performers and musicians. Also this past year, we hosted our seasonal community event called the “Winter Night Festival” that drew thousands to the downtown with entertainment and festivities enjoyed by all. Our annual Winter Night Festival is just around the corner and is scheduled for February 22nd. We have a few more surprise exhibits up our sleeves so please don’t miss it.
As your leader I want you to know how strongly I believe that the status quo is not sufficient in my eyes. It is evident in the results that we produce for you. Today, I have no less confidence than I did ten years ago that we will continue to move forward. It continues to be my ambition to be the BEST community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and I will never stop striving towards achieving that goal.
I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for all the assistance the City of Attleboro has received from our Federal and State delegation. Governor Patrick and his entire administration, Congressman Kennedy, Senators Ross & Timilty, and Representatives Poirier & Heroux have all been active supporters of all our projects. They have brought millions of dollars to our community in the form of grants and I cannot express enough my gratitude for their support. Their efforts will continue to make their mark on our City for generations to come. I will diligently continue to foster these trustworthy and strong relationships.
To those returning to office for another term, I wish you the best of luck with your continued commitment and your service. It is never an easy task to be a public servant. You should be commended for your willingness to return and the confidence that you have instilled in the voters.
To those of you who are newcomers, I wish you the best in your new role. Always be true to yourself, the people you serve, and make decisions that will allow you to hold your head up high but also to sleep at night. Do your diligence and ask plenty of questions. Explore and even challenge the processes of your new position. I hope that you will find your service as rewarding as I have during these past ten years.
To all elected officials, thank you for the time you spend away from your personal lives. To our families, friends and loved ones, you deserve a special thank you too. If not for you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Often, the public does not see the countless hours that we pour into these positions. But I can’t help but think that this is how it should be. We do this because it is a privilege and a duty. Not because it is ours to keep. We are here because of the will of the people who put us here. We are here to better our community and to make a difference. Let us not forget that. I hope that we can all search deep inside ourselves and find the courage to make the positive change we should over these next two years but also to show restraint when change is not for the better. I leave us all with the challenge to do our utmost research; Debate well; Let us challenge each other but be fair and treat each other respectfully.
As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither."
– Theodore Roosevelt, March 4, 1905.
In conclusion, a sincere congratulation to our newly sworn Municipal Council, School Committee, Treasurer, Collector and Clerk. Let us all work together as partners in order to make a wholehearted difference in this great City of Attleboro.
Thank you and God bless you all.