Annual Mayor’s State of the City Address
Text of Mayor Charles Washington’s Remarks to the City Council, during the 2019 Reorganization Meeting
I would like to thank everyone for coming to share this day with City Council and me as we reorganize for a new year. I want to congratulate Councilman Gage on being re-elected and welcome Tim Gregory to Council. I look forward to continuing working with you both and all of Council to move our city forward. Since 2013 this administration through two terms has focused on creating a sustainable government impacting the housing sector, quality of life and our economy through job creation. Through strategic planning and policy creation lead by vision, passion and inspired by hope we believe today we are closer to a better future for our tomorrow.
The laborious work that this governing body performed in 2017 through the creation of a city led comprehensive Redevelopment Plan shined a spotlight on the potential for Salem to create jobs, stabilize our housing market both impacting quality of life, In 2018, as a result of our work we’ve had investors seeking out Salem to establish their business within the City. Stephen & Natasha Vitale owners of Tadmore Distillery in Salem said “We’re very excited about the future of Salem. Our distillery is located in the Waterfront Redevelopment Zone, so we look forward to seeing all the improvements to the area and hope more businesses join us soon. It’s a great place to start a business” As an administration it’s nothing more gratifying to know that business owners and investors see the plan, understand the vision and want to be a part of it.
The state has also recognized our policies and planning by designating us an Opportunity Zone as well as making Salem City the first city named to participate in its State Resource Network Initiative. The Opportunity Zone designation will give us additional tax credit incentives to attract development in our Manufacturing and Port District. Tax credits are vital to reducing cost associated with investment and expedites investment returns as a result of state or federal guarantees.
The State Resource Network Initiative has provided much needed resources to increase long term financial planning and economic competitiveness. This initiative has provided a tremendous opportunity for networking with other stakeholders to share services and complement city resources resulting in a greater impact on our community. In addition, the state has made investment through increasing transitional aid; to secure the economic stability of the city as our home ownership program (NTI), Commerce Department and employment have time to mature and become the sustaining sources driving our economic recovery. All these stories are testaments of more than wishful thinking or blind hope but the evidence of faith meeting hard work and collaborative effort working within the vision to make Salem a better place to live, work and call home.
Because of our achievements over these two terms we will continue to govern as we have the past six years with vision, policy and unwavering hope for our future. This approach over the years has created the Mayor’s Task Force, The Commerce Department, Waterfront Redevelopment Plan, Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (Home ownership Program) created new revenue streams from housing initiatives, Increased African American Professional and Consultant employment in the city, Increased our police force to highest levels in over a decade, Tripled revenue from South Jersey Port Corp. from $30,000 to almost $100,000, created over 150 employment opportunities in the city and counting. First quarter 2019 we will continue to build on our vision by naming the first Executive Director for our Commerce Department. Our Commerce Department is the economic engine of our city and will now be led by an Executive Director with knowledge in policy, maritime business and development. This role will continue to build on the heavy lifting that has already begun and is credited with recruiting Empire Blended to Salem our first manufacturing employer in over 30 years.
With all these successes we recognize that we still have many challenges that overshadow the tremendous work that we’ve done over these two terms. If there is a looming challenge that has not had policy placed around it it’s because it’s beyond our control. In spite of what we can’t control we still engage ourselves in the problem to positively affect the outcomes.
For a year and a half you’ve heard me speaking about job creation through the recruitment of Empire Blended. While Empire Blended is currently operating in Salem they are not operating at 100% capacity as that is contingent upon the completion of the county owned rail line. As a city we’ve met with the County numerous times to stress the importance of the rail project and the dependence of jobs on the completion of the rail. While we’ve done and continue to do all we can the county rail project is out of our control and dictates the start of more than 100 employment opportunities in the city. The good news is that the project is finally nearing an end and at that time we will be standing with Empire Blended to announce plans for hiring in 2019.
The Commerce Department has worked to foster the sale of the former Anchor Glass site with several controlling interest since its closing. We were successful with our collaborative efforts in finalizing the sale of the most recent owner by outlining our vision for the city and how we could work together to bring jobs to the community and the city would provide a strong work force. While the city has held up its end of the bargain with a ready work force and incentives; unfortunately the current owner has not held true to his commitments to get the site to a usable state where operations can begin. As a result the several hundred jobs that we worked to line up are being stalled until we can once again find another owner for the site. In this situation we are looking to utilize powers in the policy of our redevelopment plan to gain stronger control over the future use of the site. We remain optimistic regarding the Ardagh site as we still have multiple investors still very interested in bringing several hundred employment opportunities to Salem.
One of our most pressing challenges is bringing a grocery store into our city. This has been a top priority of this administration since Incollingo’s closed in Oct of 2017. Since that time we’ve been able to have a feasibility study done to determine the best grocery store operation for our community. We’ve been able to identify a very successful group in the Brown Group that specializes in operating grocery stores in economically challenged communities and food deserts. We’ve visited several of the Brown Group operated grocery stores and we both believe Salem is an ideal location for future grocery operations.
In most communities that are food deserts the issue takes so long to resolve the city usually ends up with control over the vacated site. This is not the case for Salem; the site remains privately owned and about to be foreclosed on by the bank. This gives us very little control over use of the site other than the mediator role we’ve been playing with the bank and the interested party. The city and the Brown Group both feel that if reasonable price can be negotiated for the sale of the site then we can close the deal immediately. We are focused on bringing a grocery store into our community that will be a partner respecting the community it is serving by providing quality meats and produce at a fair cost. We are confident the Brown Group will bring in an operator that meets the expectations of this administration and needs of our community with a sustaining presence for decades to come.
While we continue to press forward and make progress despite the challenges that are out of our control we continue to have progress minimized due to the perception of our community. Our community has never been and will never be more than the people who reside here and their actions. The narrative that is written and spoken about our community is completely in our control. Despite all the policy we put into place, initiatives and programs we make available to the community if there is not a desire to take advantage of the opportunities to makes ourselves better then we will never be more than we are perceived to be. We know crime is tied to low employment and concentrated poverty. While the jobs in Salem are coming there are already jobs in Pureland that hire individuals with criminal backgrounds. It’s not a lack of opportunity as it is the bad decisions made that tarnish our image.
When we learn to value our own lives then it will not be as easy to take another’s life. When we appreciate hard work and the opportunities it provides then we will not take from others what we have not earned knowing that hard work will yield us the same treasures. When we wake up driven by a dream to be more than what we see around us and to make our communities better than they are then we will uplift and support others as they journey to achieve their dreams of life. This administration has already proven that hope and inspiration can change how government operates now the government needs hope and inspiration to change how our community operates their lives.
I believe that even the impossible is possible with faith; and our faith in the hope of what is not yet seen will lead us on to brighter days and thriving tomorrows! In Romans the 4th chapter Paul gives an account of Abraham and Sarah who were told at an old age they would give birth to a child. Considering both their ages naturally this was an impossible feat as Abraham’s body was considered dead with respect to virility. Abraham known as the father of faith believed that he would birth life out of a dead situation in spite of those who didn’t believe because God had spoken it into existence. While some may have counted Salem out and say that we’re in a dead situation. I believe we have a faith based community and constituents praying for this city daily.
I further believe that the prayers of the righteous availaleth much; so I challenge everyone to speak into existence our future and put hard work behind it then we will give birth to a new Salem. A Salem where the mindset of the community is to overcome despite their circumstances, where we have more homeowners then landlords, where we have jobs flourishing, where life is valued and senseless crimes are detested, where love and hope abounds and is exemplified in our daily lives toward one another. A Salem that reflects the good and decent people that live here. A Salem that will give birth to a change that only those who had faith would have believed possible. We’ve come a long way and we still have a ways to go but I am confident our greatest days lie ahead of us!
Thank you; God Bless you and God Bless Salem City
Mayor Charles Washington, Jr.
07 January, 2019
Text of Mayor Charles Washington’s Remarks to the City Council, during the 2018 Reorganization Meeting
would like to thank everyone for coming to share this day with City Council and me as we reorganize for a new year. I want to congratulate Councilman Groce on being re-elected to Council and welcome Mr. Russel Walker to Council and look forward to working with you to move our city forward.
Ladies and gentlemen we are two years into the execution of a strategic plan to create a sustainable and tangible change in our community. Two years into a plan that was birthed out of necessity, inspired by hope and crafted through a unified vision of Mayor and Council. Already in these two short years this plan has been met with great challenges and in spite of those challenges we as a governing body and as a community remain inspired by hope and are united in making Salem a better place work, play and call home. Last year we focused on three key sectors that are imperative to the success of a thriving community; housing, economic development and quality of life.
In June of last year we rolled out our Neighborhood Transformation Initiative the NTI. This initiative brought the support of the Federal Government through the office of the United States Department of Agriculture; promoting home ownership in the city and wealth building for families and individuals taking advantage of the initiative. While we have been very thorough in our efforts to establish policy associated with this initiative we are continuously working to improve the procedures in conjunction with the Salem City Commerce Department.
This year we will continue to build on the foundation of NTI and the work the commerce department has done in hopes of attracting additional support from state agencies and non-profits to ensure proper procedure creation and establish additional funding sources for applicants. While we’ve had several unsuccessful attempts at program qualification it’s our goal to get at least one qualified applicant moved into a home through this program and inspire others to home ownership.
Last year we took a strategic approach to our economic development by working with the state’s Local Planning Services department to craft a Redevelopment Plan for our city focusing on our Port District. In addition; as a result of following through on one of our Port plans presented here last year we were able to secure an additional $23,000 from our Shared Revenue Agreement with South Jersey Port Corp. This agreement provides us 50% of all revenue associated with the use of our FTZ. Already this year we’ve been able to negotiate an additional $15,000 from South Jersey Port Corp. to market our port. With these additional funds we have more than doubled the $30,000 we had previously received from South Jersey Port Corp. for almost 30 years.
We’ve also seen the opening of our new manufacturing company Empire Blended; implementing Phase I of its operational plan currently employing a dozen people. Through our Commerce Department we were able to assist Empire Blended in securing a long term lease to increase their foot print for a sand drying operation which will yield an additional 20 jobs.
First quarter 2018 we will officially adopt our Redevelopment Plan; a plan that will be used as a guide to all potential investors outlining how we the people want to see our community developed for future growth. Second quarter 2018 we anticipate the completion of the county rail line and bulkhead to allow for Empire Blended to move into Phase II of their operations plan of ordering equipment; Third quarter Phase III a collaborative hiring event with the city to identify local hires and finally offering employment in the final phase of the plan in 4th quarter 2018 making 150 jobs available to local residents first.
Directly across the street from Empire Blended is the former Anchor Glass site. This site has been vacant for more than 2 years and this year our Council and Commerce Dept will put even more emphasis on coalescing all our state, county and local resources around finding an investor to make the site operational once again. It’s the goal of this Council as well as our Commerce Dept to secure the sale of this site and attract at least one new manufacturing company to Salem by the end of 2018 offering 100’s of additional jobs for local residence. It is our expectation to see structural and capital improvements to the building in the months ahead such as painting, demolition of furnaces and roof work in preparation of future use and job creation this year.
With the infusion of expected investment in our City it is imperative that we make investment in our law enforcement to protect all stakeholders; investors and homeowners to provide for a safer and more productive quality of life in our community. Since 2012; this administration has hired 5 officers to a department that had been depleted through attrition. Those 5 hirings make up almost 30% of our patrolmen. This year we have allocated funding to hire 3 more officers to increase our Police department to 22 men; the highest staffing levels since 2008. While beefing up our police force helps our residents feel safe the best way to improve quality of life is for our residents to assist our law enforcement with cooperation. We as a community can’t wait until someone is shot or killed before we assist our police. We need to be outraged that anyone would choose to use a gun in the city we live and raise our families.
We have to be furious enough to do more than post or tweet about a shooting in our city but to call and give an anonymous tip to remove all societal menaces off of our streets. The most effective police force is one that is supported and assisted by the community they police. It’s the responsibility of all our residents to use their voices to collectively inform those that would break the law that their actions are not acceptable and will not be tolerated in our community. If we as a community; concerned citizens, churches, elected officials and police stand together we will be able to take back our community, raise our families in a safer environment and we will produce a community that more closely resembles the kind, hardworking and loving people that make Salem City great.
With all that we have accomplished in 2017 and all we anticipate accomplishing in 2018 we know that there are areas of concern we need to address. Economically challenged communities have become havens for offering poor quality food or grocery store closures creating food deserts in communities who residence don’t have the means to travel to other locations or have multiple shopping options within the city limits. As a result residents are forced to buy over priced goods and poor quality produce from alternative sources like Dollar Stores.
Salem unfortunately has become part of the statistics in this category when we lost our only grocery store in October. Since the closure we have met once every week devising a plan to attract sole proprietors or independent grocers to the vacated site. We’ve sent emails to all major food chains and independent grocers then followed all emails up with an official letter from the city soliciting interest in the site. We’ve reached out for assistance at the state level and I’ve spoken and have been assisted by other Mayors who have experienced food deserts in their community. We’ve researched state and federal funding sources to address this need and have met with non-profits to discuss Co-op programs. Since that time we continue to meet on a regular bi-weekly basis to strategize on a plan to bring a grocery store to our community. Until we can fill the void left by the closure of Incollingo’s we have sent out information to all residents about Charity programs within the city limits that can act as a stop gap measure to ensure residents can put food on the table for their families.
We have devised a plan to bring quality meats and produce into our community and we will continue to work that plan until our desired outcome is met. There will not be a quick fix to this crisis but we will continue to make this our main priority because our residents deserve quality meats and produce at a fair price from a grocery store or co-opt program within their hometown.
Although we face challenges and will continue to face challenges in the future; today we have more reason than ever to be hopeful. Today we are closer to having infrastructure improved to support job creation; that’s something to be hopeful for. Today we are closer to bringing jobs back into our city; that’s something to be hopeful for. Today we are closer to seeing our City revived because our residents have remained faithful, prayerful and stayed to uplift her and that is something to be proud of. The scriptures remind us in Romans 12:12 to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Over the years Salem has endured its’ fair share of tribulation be it economically or socially. But our residents have believed in Salem and have been patiently waiting a brighter tomorrow. Those who’ve been patient have done so in constant prayer for city leadership and improved quality of life for all that call Salem City home. Because of those effectual fervent prayers, today we begin to rejoice in hope; we rejoice in hope because we’ve endured our valley now it’s time to embrace the peaks of success. We rejoice in hope because hope has brought us to today and hope will carry us through tomorrow. We rejoice in hope for I am persuaded Salem’s greatest days are not behind her by but lie still ahead.
Thank you; God Bless you and God Bless Salem City.
Text of Mayor Charles Washington’s Remarks to the City Council, during the 2017 Reorganization Meeting
I would like to thank everyone for coming to share this day with City Council and me as we reorganize for a new year.
As we move forward into this year we have great reason to be optimistic concerning the state of our city. City Council and I have worked diligently to address several areas of need that will lend to the sustained recovery of our community in key sectors such as housing, economic development and quality of life. For several years we have spoken of hope that lay in the vision of this leadership and inspired by the committed constituents deserving of a brighter tomorrow. Today we can speak of hope that is tangible enough to be seen in our city, felt in our homes and inspired by a pride to be recognized as a community of prominence for current residents as well residents to come.
Last year we entered into agreement with Future Systems, an agency that specializes in tallying vacant properties, database formation and code enforcement modernization. In phase one of this partnership the city has been able to tag all vacant properties, create a database for those properties and fine absentee property owners for negatively impacting the quality of life due to their property condition, ultimately creating a new revenue stream for the city. This newly found revenue will be reinvested into phase II where we will utilize the database to identify sections of our city for homeownership, low and moderate income housing.
The goal is to take vacant properties in highly populated owner occupied sections and scatter low and moderate income housing in those areas with the thought that homeowners will display the neighborhood pride that is to be role modeled by tenant and landlord. The pockets of our community that have high tenant occupancy; we will offer homes owned by the city to qualified buyers at below market value to increase homeownership and put those homes back on the tax rolls increasing revenue for the city. Through this housing initiative we intend to strategically balance the disproportionate levels of tenant occupied housing within the city. In addition; Phase II is estimated to more than double the revenue gained in Phase I with projections ranging from $80,000 to $100,000.
Douglas H Everett said “There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” For the past two years Council and I have talked and strategized on a pathway forward for our City related to economic development. A pathway that would take the dream we have to see our city thriving economically and turn it into reality. On this journey forward we all agree it’s imperative that the City leads and informs stakeholders along the way encouraging them to follow. We have carved out our pathway with the creation of our Commerce Department and a plan of redevelopment for our Port District. The Commerce Department is a federally recognized Economic Development Office with authority through Council to shape the future of our community.
More importantly; it allows all local agencies and investors to use the EDO as a conduit for building with and in the City of Salem. The Commerce Department will provide a platform for all community stakeholders having projects that will create a footprint in the city to speak to the synergy between their project and the City’s vision. Through the Commerce Department we can ensure that no agency is wasting their resources moving projects along that do not have support of the governing body because their projects fail to create confunction with City vision. Furthermore; it will permit all agencies to work across their respective sectors to jointly move infrastructural projects forward allowing for optimal funding opportunities.
The second piece to our economic recovery is the Port Redevelopment Plan which has two components to generate revenue as the plan itself lays out desired port development. I believe if you don’t want something to be forgotten it’s your responsibility to speak of that matter and to do it often. For the past 23 years our port has been the forgotten resource not only of Salem City but Salem County. Under this administration we have spoken loudly, often and clearly about our port; attracting the attention of both county and state legislatures willing to support our efforts.
The first component to our plan is a proposal currently awaiting approval with the state that will finally generate revenue from our port. This proposal is a shared revenue agreement where the City will receive revenue through the use of our Foreign Trade Zone. This is significant because our Foreign Trade Zone allows for products to be stored and manufactured tax free until it is transported from the site. There have been ports and manufacturing centers over the years that have benefited from our FTZ status and for 23 years the city has never asked for or received a dime. Under this administration that has changed; we’ve asked for half of every dollar collected for use of our FTZ because our status entitles us to it, it’s owed to us and it’s the right thing to do.
Our second component is a proposal lobbying the state to give our city a comparable pilot in relation to Paulsboro and Camden ports. Our city through the current pilot of the port has been receiving only $30,000 for 23 years and no administration prior to this one has petitioned SJPC to increase the Pilot. While our port is not as active as the aforementioned ports, the slightest consideration of our proposal could bring in at minimum a quarter of a million dollars.
Finally; the redevelopment plan at large simply identifies assets in the area of our port district and speaks to the type of manufacturing and investment we want in that area. The primary goal is to inform investors of what we want to see in our Port District sequentially creating livable wage jobs and increasing our tax base in the city.
Through the hard work of our Commerce Department, collaborative efforts from Council and County leadership; I am proud to announce the addition of Empire Blended, the first industrial business in our port district in several decades. This manufacturer mixes dye into cement base and is currently operating in Phase I of its plan employing about a dozen workers. By 3rd quarter 2017 the factory will be operating at full capacity employing 130 people with livable wage earning jobs. Empire Blended is a testament to how unwavering faith, strategy, vision and collaborations can materialize into quality earning jobs right here in our city. We also negotiated with Empire Blended to work with them during their hiring process to ensure that Salem City residents get first preference when staffing their facility.
It’s always exciting news to hear that people and organizations believe in the vision and community enough to invest; giving our residents opportunities to provide for their families and be productive citizens. But no organization or individual will make an investment without knowing that their investment will be protected. In order to encourage outside investment we have to first invest in ourselves. City Council and I have been consistently increasing the number of officers in our City since my first term in office. Since 2012, this administration has hired 5 officers to a department that has been depleted through attrition. In 2017 we still have one more vacancy in our police department that will not be filled until we can fill it with a minority candidate.
We believe that we should have a diverse police department that accurately reflects the community it serves.
While we are doing our part we acknowledge that there is still more left to do until we can provide every resident on every street a safe and drug free place to live in our city. If we’re going to be honest it’s going to take more than just council and me to bring to fruition the change we want to see. It’s going to take this governing body as well as the community. There is an African proverb that says many hands make light work. While our community is facing the same challenges as many others across this country I’m optimistic that if we work together we can turn our community around. Tragedy has a way of bringing people out to start much needed dialog and working together for common causes that unite us.
Council and I are once again taking advantage of the opportunity to have the community play a more active role in the resolve they seek. We have created a neighborhood watch program that will work with law enforcement to be the eyes and ears of the community and voice of those who have been too fearful to speak. We encourage everyone who is serious about changing our city to do less finger pointing and more participating. Programs like these success is dependent upon community involvement; changing a community is not a spectator sport and change doesn’t happen from the side line but by active participation and working together.
We’ve seen what can happen when we come together to help one another. This year Council and I hosted the first circus in Salem in over 30 years. The circus was sponsored by a number a local businesses and supported by many throughout the community. All the proceeds from that event went to support recreational programs and our kids. We’ve worked together with the state to secure a $500,000 grant (free money) to stabilize our water system preventing future taste and odor issues. There are positive things that happen when governments, agencies and people work together.
It’s been said that a dark cloud looms over our city; our city is the reason for its own condition. I will submit to you that our city has never been; nor will it ever be anything more that the people that reside here. If we want our city to respected then the people must first respect themselves, if we want our city to be prosperous then the people must take advantage of every opportunity to create wealth for themselves and their families, If we ever want to be more than the negative press coverage in the newspaper then we must raise the standard of acceptable living and value life in our community.
There is a story I read about a couple that wanted to bear children found in the 1st chapter of Luke. The woman (Elizabeth) was barren and she and her husband (Zacharias) had sorrow and we can imagine anger due to their desire to give birth to something that had been denied them. Through consistent prayer and unwavering faith their petition was heard; a miracle happened in their life and they gave birth to a child that they named John and with the birthing came joy and gladness.
Ladies and gentleman I would submit to you that Salem may have seen some barren days but I am persuaded that we are embarking on our miracle and in 2017 Salem is going to give birth to change that is going to bring joy and gladness with it. We will see restoration to our housing sector, new development in our commercial & industrial sector, job creation, irreproachable community pride and a beacon oflight shining brightly upon our city. Salem’s best and brightest days are not behind her but yet still ahead of her. We will see our city rise and the joy and gladness we desire will no longer be denied us so long as we keep our sleeves rolled up and stay faithful in our petition.
Text of Mayor Charles Washington’s Remarks to the City Council, during the 2016 Reorganization Meeting.
I would like to thank everyone for coming to share this day with City Council and me as we reorganize for a new year.
Every year on this day we are given new opportunity to inform, inspire and give hope, founded on a core belief that Salem’s greatest days are yet ahead of her. Fully persuaded that we as a community will be fulfilled when our quality of life is enhanced and economic disparities are met with job creation, residential, commercial and industrial development. The question asked amongst this governing body is what do we want to be when we grow up or simply how do we shape the future of our great city? In turn the greater questions are posed; what does our future look like to us and how do we get there? The answers lie in our ability to create a holistic plan, an effective policy to support the plan and garner support from our residents, businesses and faith based community.
As Mayor, my primary focus for the first phase of this new term is to develop a comprehensive plan to grow our city’s economy and create jobs, improve housing and public safety, and build stronger relationships with local businesses, agencies, faith organizations, and nonprofits. While we have many plans available that address individual pockets of need for our city, it is imperative that we clearly map out the core goals for our community and create a clear pathway forward. There are existing plans that support various subsections of our community. However, the plan I speak of is one that is comprehensive; inclusive of all key stakeholders within our city, needed to effect a substantive and sustainable change.
This plan will address the issues with our port; provide direction for commercial expansion and industrial business; and improve neighborhoods while showcasing our historic character. More importantly this Master Plan will allow for the input of various community stakeholders in their respective sectors. In order for this plan to be comprehensive, it must be an inclusive and collaborative effort. But, it’s imperative that the City leads with its vision in all areas of commercial, residential, economic, and industrial development when supporting those who have a plan to help rejuvenate our city. Partnerships with other agencies will need to be clearly defined and expectation plainly stated – with the understanding that outside plans must conform and fit into the overall vision and plan our elected officials outline.
For far too long we’ve not been leading as a governing body but following those who have already crafted their plans and we’ve been validating other’s plans without having a plan of our own to consult.
It is important that our comprehensive plan be one that can easily be communicated to our constituents and those who intend to invest in the vision. It’s imperative that the comprehensive plan be comprised of strategic and palatable segments, an action plan – simplifying short-term and long-term community goals and objectives. This action plan is the plan that needs to be used when engaging community stakeholders for their buy in. The action plan should be a condensed document that can be given to any investor who asks what our vision is for our city. Our action plan should be given to our community planners who are continually looking for ways to meet their mission and make Salem a better place to work and call home. More importantly it should be used as an aid to help bolster funding applications and identify funding poos that state expected outcomes.
It’s time to give voice to the vision we have for our city; a city rich in history, strong blue collar work force, agency, volunteerism and limitless opp01iunity. Opportunity with an underutilized port that has been designated a port of entry and foreign trade zone. We believe it’s going to be our port that spearheads our economic rebound. We envision small ships and barges docking at out port loading and unloading containers and good that come from and are destined to not just our country but the world. We’ve committed to investing in the vision for our port by hiring GS! a think tank to utilize their experience in the maritime business, creating policy and networking connections with p01is in the region, country and world.
We believe our p01i will give bitih to employment opportunities and attract commerce that utilizes our foreign trade zone creating additional jobs for Salem City and county residents. We envision storage lay down areas, distribution and assembly centers to complement our port moving foods throughout the world. The maritime business is a multi-billion dollar industry: trade is opening all around the world and it’s time for our port to expand and take advantage of the opportunity.
When industry comes it gives way for commercial opportunities as well. While we have our local mom and pop shops there is a younger generation that welcomes commercial retail such as franchises. We have to create a plan that continues to support our local business district but gives way for the future and a more recognizable retail that our college graduates returning home can relate to. As we create a community that is attractive to a younger demographic we believe this will create a need for mixed housing in our city. Diverse housing that respects and preserves the rich history of our City but also housing that showcases a more modern home design that attracts a young working class of home owners.
While planning to reinvent our city we have to plan not just for the population that is to come but for the residents who currently reside. We will write policy to ensure that as we are building up our community we are not pushing our faithful residents out. We want to write policy that doesn’t alienate our current residents but gives many of them an opportiunity to make investments through homeownership or be the first to be employed by the new industries that will be making Salem their home. I will work to make sure that our current residents have opportiunities to attain employment and a livable wage in order to be able to afford homes in the historic district, Washington Hall or any of the new developments to come.
The City’s Master Plan must have those agencies, businesses, churches and residents at the table so we can collectively shape the future of our city together. Town hall meetings will give the forum for our residents to hear our plans and to give input. Round tables will be used for our businesses and faith based partners to share and receive information to cover our community in prayer. It is often said that one who fails to plan; plans to fail. It is our purpose to devise a plan that will navigate our city into a new age.
A new age where we are not talking about what was but what is to come. A new age where we are looked to for niche market port operations. A new age where all age groups can embrace Salem City and all she has to offer. A new age that continuously gives birth to pathways toward prosperity and opportunity. A new age where we are defined not by misperception but by the realization of vision, dreams and hope come to fruition.
In the book of Ezekiel in the 37 chapter the question was asked cornering a land that was deemed to be dry and desolate. Can there bones live? And instruction was given concerning that land to Prophesy upon these bones, and unto them, 0 ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
I’ve heard the question asked of Salem, can she become vibrant and thriving once again? I would reiterate the words spoken to Ezekiel; I say to you prophesy to our city: speak life to her; speak stable economy; speak homeownership, speak acceptable quality of life; speak job creation, speak community involvement; speak unity and speak pride. And know that if we prophesy over our city it will come to pass! Because Salem’s best days are truly yet ahead of us.
Thank you, God Bless You and God Bless Salem City.
Text of Mayor Charles Washington’s Remarks to the City Council, during the 2015 Reorganization Meeting
I would like to thank everyone for coming to share this day with City Council and me as we reorganize for a new year.
Every reorganization gives way to creation of new partnerships and strengthening of ties between our City Council and those whom we have been elected to govern. Ties that grows stronger when we are unified to face the challenges of being a productive and thriving community. It has been the ties of this Council and the community at large that has brought us through 2014 still inspired to be the greatest city to call home.
During the course of the past year we as a community have faced some difficult times. We’ve endured senseless acts of violence, a blow to our economic stability and attempts to negatively define our community and the good people who reside here. Although there were sporadic, but significant challenges that we faced, the one thing that has remained constant through our crisis was the community’s unified effort to overcome the challenges that threatened the success of our City and the pride of our residents.
Today we have more agencies and concerned citizens working together with this governing body to move our City forward then I can ever recall. The goals we have set for our community continue to be met. The goal to remove structural eyesores and breeding grounds for crime continues to be met by Salem’s Main Street program through the use of NRTC funding. We have been able to work together to remove properties that should have been demolished years ago. In the same distressed areas that have seen homes fall we are now working to build the area with investors to redevelop the salvageable properties with the intent of homeownership. This is vital as it shows we not only have a focus on downtown but on our side streets creating opportunity to increase our tax base.
Henry Ford said coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. We have had success working together to combat our challenges by uniting some of the most skilled agencies in their profession to offer hope and opportunity to the residents of our community. The Mayor’s Taskforce has united agencies such as United Way of Salem County, Salem County Prosecutors Office, Salem City Police Dept, Salem Ministerium Mid-Atlantic, Salem City Chapter of NAACP and Salem County Health Department.
These agencies have come together to address Economic Development Education & Youth Development, Public Safety and create positive community action. This collaboration has given a platform to have open and transparent dialogue with the residents of this community to address our concerns publicly. Together we have been able to provide 56 jobs to residents of the City from August Through December by way of this partnership. We have been able to take our unemployed citizens and provide transportation for them to work at multiple sites in Pureland. These are residents who went from receiving a very small income or none at all, to being able to provide for their families – residents who are now less likely to commit a crime, and more likely to support local business.
We have advanced access to resources and recreation for residents of the City with new programs through the United Way/Campbell Center merger. We have added more outside agency resources to secure the safety of our streets and residents well-being through our partnership with the Prosecutors office and our Police dept. We have had continued support from the NAACP, Health Dept and prayers from our local clergy through the ministerium.
While we have grown in the area of collaborative efforts we have felt the growing pains of a re-emerging economy on our nation, state, county, and city. We have seen local businesses close, and the biggest ratable in the city terminate operations. I am still encouraged because crisis gives way to opportunity. AND – I encourage you, as Mayor of this great city, to believe that we will persevere through these storms. It is my goal, along with City Council to find solutions that will allow us to not only clean up our community – but build up our community. One of my major concerns is finding a way to maintain a reasonable tax rate for the citizens of this community with a shrinking tax base and declining residency. I’m confident this Council and I will continue to meet this challenge as we have for the past three years. We have adopted budgets comparable to those passed by previous administrations with the assistance of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state to support their budgets.
This Council hasn’t received State Aid in three years but still produces a fiscally sound budget and continues to maintain operations that are needed for this community. Another concern is having the resources to provide public safety to our residents and ensure a productive quality of life for our citizens. Economic decline has a direct correlation with crime. Under this administration we hired an officer in 2011& 2013; through fiscal responsibility we will hire two new officers in 2015 to enhance our Police Department and to protect and serve our community.
Despite the challenges we face opportunity always avails its self for the chance to recreate and redefine. The greatest strength of any man or community is the acknowledgement of days past and the acceptance that a new day must begin. Our new day and path forward starts with a unified Council along with the assistance of the Department of Community Affairs Local Planning Services. This State Agency will help us redefine who we want to be as a community. If the bottling industry is a dying market we need to have an understanding of how we want our community to be utilized by the new millennium industries that are seeking a home.
We already know we have a hard working blue collar community that desires to provide a respectable way of life for their families. Now we need to identify what the emerging industries are that we have the infrastructure to support. We have vacant manufacturing buildings, we have a functioning railway and access to water way and we certainly have the workforce. The Department of Community Affairs has the resources to help us identify these new markets and industries seeking to make homes in hard working communities like Salem City.
In the book of Romans in the 5th Chapter it tells us that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed.
The trials we face today will take a patient but persistent approach to overcome; knowing that it took time for us to get here and it will take even more time for us to be removed. Through the patience we’ve displayed during this past year we’ve gained experience in banding together, lifting one another up, beating back negative perceptions and creating positive stories that really speak to who we are as a community.
The experience we’ve gained through unity has created a sense of hope for our community. A hope that at times seems difficult to see but at all times is believed in our hearts. A hope that keeps us moving forward in the face of our odds. A hope that keeps us working toward the goals of seeing our beloved city reemerge as one of the best places to live in the County and state. A hope that inspires our children to come back to Salem after receiving a higher education to buy homes, raise their families and continue to build our community through the spirit of volunteerism. A hope that can’t be extinguished because a few people try to tarnish our image and destroy the community pride so many have given countless hours, days and years to build.
We are here today because the hope I speak of continues to unite us beyond our differences, beyond our race and beyond social status. Because of this hope we should not be ashamed to say we live in Salem, do business in Salem and still believe Salem has not reached the pinnacle of her Greatness. This coming year I challenge us to remain united and let our hope be the guide for the decisions we make and not let the perception of what we see prevent us from thinking bigger than our current state. For hope that is seen is not hope at all. In 2015 Let us conduct business and ourselves with the vison of where we want to be; and with the hope that a unified movement will build the momentum to bring us beyond merely hoping into the fruition of reality.
Thank you; God Bless you & God Bless the City of Salem.