Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.
While the city has added 2,000 jobs in the last decade, Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson, says it must do better attracting businesses and he unveiled a plan to do so.
In his inaugural speech Monday at city hall auditorium, he explained taxes from an expanded tax base help “Reduce crime and drugs especially the opiate epidemic, continue to improve public education, properly maintain our public buildings—Whittier Middle School and Tilton School are on my watch list, finally complete capping of the old landfill (and) fulfill traffic and safety improvements across the city.” He agreed with Fiorentini that “sidewalks are a major need.”
To achieve this goal, Michitson said, the city must hire additional help to support efforts by city Economic and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr.
Michitson also warned, absent new businesses, residents face wastewater rate increases of 50 percent or more because of the cost of implementing mandated combined sewer overflows, storm water runoff and tackling the “odor problem in the Bradford neighborhood surrounding Haverhill’s wastewater treatment plant.”
Attracting new businesses requires a number of steps, he said. These could include creating a “ScaleUp” contest to attract startup industries, invest more in “hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” in public schools and promore creation of “co-working spaces.” He explained these are “community workspaces populated by freelancers, small businesses and corporate telecommuters that form networks.”
“What if we captured a small fraction of Haverhill’s 20,000 daily commuters heading to corporate offices in Boston/Cambridge, Route 128 and elsewhere, at co-working space in Haverhill? Corporations are seeking ways to infuse a startup culture in their currently static office environment. What better way for non-competing corporations to adopt a startup culture, than co-working with startups? Corporations are also having trouble retaining and attracting millennials. Improving the quality of life with less commuting time is attractive. Couple that with Haverhill’s cool downtown versus boring office space in a business park and we may have a winning value proposition for millennials.”
About 200 people gathered in Haverhill City Hall auditorium for swearing-in ceremonies for Mayor James J. Fiorentini, city councilors and school committee members elected last November.
In his address, Fiorentini highlighted “slow and steady growth” over the past 12 years to continue toward a so-called walkable city. He called it, in a way, “back to the future.”
“Didn’t we all walk when we were growing up? We walked to the playground. We walked to the neighborhood stores and we walked downtown to shop at places like Mitchells, and Geros and Barretts, and my grandfather’s store, Gus’s Market. We walked to church. We even walked to school,” Fiorentini said. “Now, we cannot make Haverhill a more walkable city overnight. The first step is to make certain that in every neighborhood, every resident is safe and feels safe.”
He also said over12 years, the city has gone from the brink of receivership to “the brink of greatness and ready to build the city of tomorrow.”
“Today, a dozen short years later, our bond rating has been raised seven times and today is the highest in our 375-year history. Our fire stations are open, our library has expanded hours, our newly renovated high school is fully accredited. Today for the first time in our history, five of our schools are ‘level one’ schools,” Fiorentini said.
Fiorentini also welcomed home, to a standing ovation, veteran U.S. Marine Sergeant Matt Wray, a “wounded warrior” who, according to the mayor’s office, was serving in 2007.
“We’re joined today by a wounded veteran who has come back to his city and I want to welcome him back. A wounded warrior and now one of our heroes, Matt Wray, welcome home to the city.” Fiorentini said.