December – Year in Review

As I write this article, it is hard to believe that more than a year has passed since I was elected Mayor. As end of 2020 approaches, it’s a good time to take a look in the rearview mirror and highlight some of our accomplishments together over a very difficult time period. Despite the ravages caused by the pandemic, we have set the foundation for continued improvement for the City of Methuen.

No retrospective would be complete without first noting the pandemic itself. Now in month nine, who could have guessed one year ago that this would occur? Together we witnessed families across our city impacted: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors. Lives were lost, businesses affected, and yet, we witnessed the resiliency and generosity of our entire community. COVID brought the worst, but Methuen showed its best. I thank you for your strength and commitment to doing your part.

We have accomplished some significant things this year, including but not limited to:
Improved Communication:

We increased direct, two-way resident communication, beginning with daily MCTV “Mayor’s Minutes” shows (airing live on Facebook), enabling us to directly address resident questions and concerns and ensure transparency. Quite frankly, I love getting your questions on the live show which now airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 5pm.

I appear monthly on the Valley Patriot Podcast to provide news and answer questions.

We issued monthly newsletters (CARES funded) to every member of our community to keep everyone informed.

I attended every City Council meeting, and reported issues and areas of focus and concern in my Mayor’s Report.

Improved Financials:

Immediately upon taking office, I tightened the belt and placed a hold on all but necessary procurements, resulting in:

FY’20 Free Cash bottom-line increase to some $3.1M.

Financial rating improvement from Negative to Stable, as rated by Standard and Poor’s.
Significant cuts to our budget to account for predicted losses of revenue from state aid.
Lowered tax rates, both residential and commercial (below FY’20 rates) based upon prudent financial decision making, including applying ~$850k in excess capacity to offset tax increase.
Good standing for the city when state revenues for FY’21 were announced.

Improved Outreach

We established the Methuen Cares Center in March of this year, as an emergency response to the most urgent needs of our residents resulting from the health crisis. The Methuen Cares Center operates as a neighbors-helping-neighbors effort and we are grateful for the generosity of residents in contributing to our effort. In addition to delivering both dry goods and perishables to families in need across Methuen, we:
Established an outreach checkup program.
Enabled delivery to quarantined families.

We partnered with veterans’ groups to provide enhanced services for veterans and their families, and drafted a job description for a new VSO to grow that position.

We made improvements to the infrastructure at city hall, including establishing a customer service station at the ground level to make it easier for citizens to gain information and service.

We completely overhauled the IT infrastructure throughout our city government, taking it from an aging, vulnerable Windows 7 environment to best in class.

We initiated programs to provide small business grants and rental assistance ($200k) for our citizens impacted by COVID

We partnered with our schools to use CARES funds to provide COVID testing for all our hybrid students, staff, and administration in Methuen Public Schools (~$650k)

We partnered with our state delegation to completely revamp and rebuild the outside track facility at Nicholson Stadium, providing our students with a wonderful venue of which we can all be proud.
Despite COVID limitations, we still found innovative ways to celebrate the very best of our community with a drive-through Methuen Day event, an enormously successful drive-thru Trick-or-Treat event, and now in December the city’s first Historical Holiday Lights Tour. Most significantly, we began the process of restoring accountability and transparency in city government. I make each decision solely with the best interests of Methuen in mind. To this end:

We initiated an audit of the Methuen Police Department; field work is completed with draft report due by the holidays.

We partnered with our City Council to rescind 1945 Acts 201 which created intermittent officers.

We installed SeeClickFix; initially to report COVID-19 concerns and will be expanded to DPW issues (ex. plowing complaints or issues)

We installed the ClearGov platform to allow residents to examine and compare the financials, revenues and expenses more easily (launches this week on the city website).

We redesigned the city website to simplify the user experience, and are in the process of transferring data to allow the changeover to happen early in 2021.

We have plans to grow these improvements to additional departments in 2021.

The year has flown by, and to be sure this has not been exactly as I expected. While we have made accomplishments, there is still a long way to go – and as such I have announced my candidacy for re-election. Trust is earned; not given. I am doing my utmost to gain your trust in local government. I want to finish the job I started, including several initiatives delayed by COVID. Please know that I love my job, I love being your mayor, and I am fully committed to the job at hand: moving our community forward together.

In difficult times such as these, you see the true character of a community. I have seen ours, and I know firsthand how great it can be. Join me as we move our community forward, together.
I once again ask you to pause during the holiday season and reflect on those who have less. Let us all think about how we can give something back to the less fortunate, and share our gratitude for the bounties we have. And as always, please be kind to one another.
To our diverse Methuen community, I say:

Happy Hanukkah!
Merry Christmas!
Happy Kwanza!
And a Happy, Health New Year to you and yours! God Bless. ◊