Mayor Sam Teresi called 2012 "an excellent year" for Jamestown, while setting a clear path for what needs be done in 2013 during his State of the City address Monday.
According to Teresi, despite the difficult economy, 2012 was still great for Jamestown. Progress was made in regards to the proposed merger of the Jamestown Police Department and the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, $4 million in tax exempt municipal bonds were secured in order to allow the completion of several necessary capital equipment and real estate projects, and the city saw a record number of downtown and neighborhood improvement projects completed, among many other milestones. Teresi also applauded the ability of the City Council to work together in reaching an agreement even on the most difficult decisions.
"I think it was an optimistic speech and it was a good idea that the mayor used this opportunity to stop to remind us of everything that we've done," said Greg Rabb, D-President-At-Large. "The mayor stressed the point that there was cooperation on the City Council and we all put the interests of the city first. If you look at what we've done it's an amazing set of accomplishments, both in making the city better and saving money, plus creating new opportunities for development. I think 2013 is going to be another good year for us, but the mayor is right when he points out that there are some things that we can't do because the state simply won't allow us. We don't have complete control, unfortunately, and the state needs to give us more. It's kind of like they're the parents and we're the children, but at this point we're teenagers and we're ready for some more responsibilities."
City of Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi delivers his State of the City address Monday while Chief of Police Harry Snellings listens intently.
P-J photo by Ryan Atkins
Tony Dolce, R-Ward 2, also felt that Teresi's speech hit the appropriate tone for the coming year.
"I think it was a very aggressive speech," said Dolce. "He outlined some of our major accomplishments and some of the things that we're looking forward to in 2013. The police consolidation with the county is going to be a big issue coming up, and we'll be looking at the feasibility of that. I know that the committee has been working very hard for quite some time, and now it's coming to fruition. I appreciate the words about how we have worked together in difficult times with difficult budgets and difficult decisions that we've had to make. I think we try to do what's best for the city and the residents and Jamestown."
When looking forward to 2013, Teresi stressed that although the city must remain focused on fixing the things that are under the direct control of the local lawmakers, they must also remain vocal and keep the voice of Jamestown heard in Albany.
"We, at the local level, realize that it is no fun to have to raise property taxes or to lay off hard-working public employees and cut services that our fellow residents need and rely upon," said Teresi. "We also understand that the only way to cut these punitively high taxes and preserve the quality of our essential public services, in a real, meaningful and lasting fashion, is to reduce our cost structure. Once we are empowered to do that, not only will people at the local level benefit, but the state government will benefit."
The idea of restructuring local governments is something that Teresi has spoken about at length in the past and something that he sees as a necessity in order to make local government continue to work for its constituents. Another topic that Teresi holds a very strong opinion on is binding arbitration. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address, Teresi was critical of his unwillingness to not let the legislation for binding arbitration sunset.
"I strongly believe that binding arbitration may be the most destructive fiscal force for city governments today and definitely needs to be sunset this year," said Teresi. "The traditional argument for the periodic renewal of binding arbitration by its advocates is that it is the best, if not the only, reasonable tool to ward off and prevent strikes by public safety officials strikes that would threaten the peace and security of our streets and neighborhoods. The truth of the matter, however, is that all public-sector strikes were outlawed by the original Taylor Law in 1968 and that there was virtually no history of wide-scale, public-sector employee unrest between 1968 and 1974. The binding arbitration amendment, circa 1974, was a solution in search of a problem and has had no rationale and impact on the labor peace and public safety front since its inception."
Over the next year, Teresi plans to target development initiatives, with the goals of promoting private investment, creating and retaining job opportunities for residents, and building a city tax base through collaborative efforts with the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, area foundations, private lenders and commercial developers, among other sources. These development initiatives include work on the waterfront development, conversion of the power plant to run on natural gas and investments in the city's street lighting system.
"A very wise man used to tell me that it's easy to find fault, complain and criticize," said Teresi. "It's hard and takes a lot of determination and character to get things done, especially with limited resources and in the face of constant criticism and adversity. This sentiment seems to best capture the story of 2012 and describes both the challenges and opportunities before us during the coming year. Every year when I undertake this charter-required initiative, I never cease to be amazed and am actually in awe of what happens here on a daily basis. On behalf of an entire community, I again say, 'Thank you.'"
A full transcript of the State of the City address can be found with this article at www.post-journal.com