Moak takes the oath
Friday, January 6, 2006

On Monday, Jan. 2, John Moak was sworn in at City Hall. The new mayor who attended six inaugurations as city clerk before it was finally his turn to move into the corner office, then gave his inaugural address before hundreds of residents, friends and family. Moak outlined his strategy "Resolution through balance" and touched on each issue that was debated during the mayoral run.

Following is his complete address:

Good morning.

Members of the City Council, members of the School Committee, city department heads and staff, local and state officials, my friends and especially my family ... thank you all for being here this morning. This is the sixth inauguration I have attended here in City Hall. However, this marks the first opportunity I have had to speak from this platform as an elected official and I am honored by the trust you have placed in me. In preparing these remarks, I thought it appropriate to incorporate a theme that characterizes how I intend to pursue my agenda during my first term in this office. Simply stated, that theme is "Resolution Through Balance."

Increasing prominence

Over especially the past four decades, Newburyport has experienced a transformation from a city without direction and identity to one of a success and prominence. Change, while uncomfortable to some, is for me the catalyst permitting growth that serves the common good. Furthermore, it is the diversity of our community that fuels the exciting possibilities before us.

It has in the past, and will be in the future, the obligation of our citizens to voice their need and concerns through participation in the process and on the part of the administration to execute those wishes with wisdom and prudence. That Newburyport will continue to grow is inevitable and our challenge is to manage that growth in a responsible and balanced manner. To those of you who advocate both for and against change, I urge you to continue to do so. However, I also urge you to do so with respect for the opinions and for the rights of others.

Moving forward

The word "resolution" has several meanings. In the context of my agenda for the City of Newburyport, I define it as representing my commitment to forge a consensus on issues that, for far too long, have been mired in endless debate. I intend to pursue that commitment by affecting a balance between opposing points of view. I will do so with the certain knowledge that, when comprise represents the only path to resolving our differences, compromise we must. I cannot promise that, in two short years, my administration will bring all of the significant issues we face to a successful or to a universally popular resolution. I do promise, however, that those issues will be addressed in a forthright, open and positive manner.

Open space preservation

One critical aspect of managing our growth is preservation of open space. In recent months, the city has been involved in preserving four significant parcels of land and we and those who will follow us are the beneficiaries of these important initiatives. At the same time, we must all recognize the need for making accommodations for continued growth in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors and we must embrace the economic benefits such growth represents.

Senior Center

Over the past several years there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the proposed Senior Center. This is a concept I fully support. However, the dialogue has been focused on where this facility might or should be located. Relatively little discussion has been devoted to the question of how we are to finance the construction and ongoing maintenance of this facility. I ask those of you who are championing this cause to address these important considerations.

Central waterfront: parks and parking

With regard to the central waterfront, there are, as you are well aware, diverse opinions on two interrelated issues. In brief, those issues are parks and parking. Once again for the record, I do not believe a central parking facility within our downtown retail district is necessary nor do I believe such a structure is compatible with the character of that area. I do believe that it is possible and highly desirable to make accommodations for both parks and parking on the waterfront parcel.

In the near future, I will initiate further deliberations among the NRA, The Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and other interest parties with the goal of negotiating a balanced resolution of this issue. That resolution will include, as it must, provisions for financing the project as well as its ongoing maintenance.

West side waterfront parcel

Over the coming months, we will begin to engage in an earnest dialogue with the developers of the "west side" waterfront parcel. Development of that under utilized resource holds great promise for enhancing not only our built environment but also the economic vitality of this city. I am confident that this project will serve as a catalyst for positive change. It is my expectation that the development will include a hotel and conference facilities. It is also my expectation that the plans will include a parking structure to meet the demand for proximate parking and that the structure will be designed to compliment the architectural elements of the surrounding buildings. As with the hotel and all other aspects of this development project, the parking structure will be built and maintained at no expense to local taxpayers.

Our schools

Of all the challenges we face, none are perhaps more critical than those relating to educating our children. Primary among these challenges is determining how we are going to accommodate existing and future facility needs of our elementary school students. This issue has been the subject of numerous studies and considerable debate over the past decade. It is time to bring that debate to a close and to work together to develop a sensible, fiscally prudent solution. Regardless of how it evolves, if we fail to prepare a formal proposal to the commonwealth by not later than the end of this calendar year, we will not the reach the priority level to secure state funds to defray the cost of this project.

If we fail to meet that deadline, it may be years before the opportunity presents itself again. That prospect is unacceptable to this administration and I pledge to you that I will engage the school committee and its constituents in frank and open deliberations in order to bring this issue to a timely resolution. I further pledge that, as a member of the school committee, I will be actively involved in addressing the complex business of preparing our children to become productive and responsible adults within the world community. The ultimate objective is to affect a balance between educational excellence and the funding required to meet that objective. Importantly, we must do so without adding further financial burdens to the parents of those whose children we are responsible for educating.

Our infrastructure and fiscal responsibility

Although we have made much progress in improving our infrastructure in recent years, much remains to be done. The impact of deferred maintenance is evident throughout the city. The condition of this historic city hall, our roads, our sidewalks and many of our parks all exemplify our failure to make provisions for the funding that is essential to addressing our ongoing capital requirements. In too many past instances, we have made the mistake of diverting money from our operating budget in order to fund capital projects. I intend to aggressively seek ways in which to save money within our operating budget so we can begin to pay for capital expenditures in cash and, importantly, in today’s dollars.

Furthermore, we can no longer afford to expend city funds and to solicit contributions from the private sector without benefit of a fiscal policy designed to protect the investments we have made and must continue to make in our infrastructure. One of my first initiatives upon being elected to office was to appoint a finance advisory committee, the volunteer members of which represent years of experience in various financial areas. I have asked these individuals to examine our current procedures, including but not limited to our budgetary process, and to make recommendations on how we can begin to meet current and long term capital demands without continuing to mortgage our future. Those recommendations will serve as the foundation for creating a fiscal policy that will enable us to make informed and prudent decisions in the future.

Implementing this policy will be top priority of my administration. All of the issues which I have reviewed with you today and others that we will face together in the coming days represent the future of our democratic process we so much enjoy. Therefore before I close I would ask all of us to observe a moment of silence as we reflect on the sacrifices that many of our young men and women have made presently and throughout our history to make events like this possible, events that celebrate the democratic process we so cherish.

Conclusion

In closing, you have my assurance that I will discharge the duties of this office with absolute integrity and that my respect for the citizens of this great city will be reflected in every decision I make. I am confident that with your support and participation in the process we can make Newburyport an even better place to live than it is today. Again, I am honored by the trust you have placed in me and thank you.

 
(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Current.)
 
 
 
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