A message from the Mayor...
I ran for re-election as Mayor of Cumberland in 2014, because there is still work to be done in the city. I am honored to have received such overwhelming support and I look forward to serving the citizens of Cumberland for a second term with a mandate of fulfilling promises made to invest in city infrastructure, encourage economic development and focus on improving city neighborhoods.
It hasn’t been easy.
The City of Cumberland has been financially challenged for many years, but despite tough times, we’re bouncing back, paving more streets in the past five years than in the previous decade, taking down blighted houses and investing in critical infrastructure.
When I became Mayor, the word "bankruptcy" was being whispered in City Hall. The city was on the brink of financial disaster. Immediately, a plan to end the use of tax anticipation notes, reduce spending, and get control of city government took place. Within two years of having taken office, the city had a budget surplus. Within three years, the city was "operating in the black" with a positive balance in the city's general fund. By the fourth year, the city's bond rating was upgraded to an "A," with a positive financial outlook by bond rating agencies. This was the first time in nearly a decade that the city has been "in the black."
We've accomplished a great deal since 2010.
I am proud of the top-notch Cumberland Police Department, that’s sweeping up criminals to make our city safer. We have a Safe Streets initiative that’s making no bones about it; we are targeting the top bad guys.
We have a fire department that knows the age and dangers of buildings in the city, yet when there’s an emergency, they rush into danger to protect and save lives.
We have a street department and engineering department that has overseen more major paving in five years than I ever remember in my lifetime.
We have community development and code enforcement staff that are on the streets, enforcing the code every day to make living in Cumberland better and safer.
There's more to do. Let's work together.
Despite all of those fantastic efforts, it’s not enough to just look to government for every solution. Government is not always the answer. People have a responsibility to invest in our communities by more than just paying the taxes that support the new street paving, fire protection, police, and code enforcement.
Residents need to get to know their neighbors, organize, band together, and start to look at challenges in neighborhoods and instead of just saying “government should fix this,” they need to ask, “what role can I play in fixing things?” Efforts like neighborhood cleanups, mowing an abandoned lot or that of an elderly neighbor, painting your house, or just making sure that your neighbors only set trash out on appropriate days is a big deal.
Residents need to organize to be part of the solution. Yes, that means reporting problems to the police and City Hall, but it also means getting your hands dirty by trying to solve the problems that you can manage. Don’t let litter blow around your neighborhood. Don’t let your neighbor set a tire or chair on the curb without arranging for a pickup. Don’t ignore the weeds growing up between the sidewalk. Do something about it! Get your hands dirty! Government is not the answer to all of our problems; we can solve many of the ones that impact us the most on a daily basis, by just taking a role.
Let's look ahead.
I am optimistic about what is ahead and the promise of new opportunities in our community.
The city has implemented a single stream curbside recycling program in the city at no additional cost to citizens.
I have continued to wage "war" against blight in our city and supported a minimum of $250,000.00 of budgeted funds, annually, for blight eradication and neighborhood improvements.
I have supported efforts to continue to keep the city "in the black," and financially secure, without tax rate increases.
I will continue to support public safety efforts and initiatives to make our streets safe.
I will vote to pave more city streets and continue the street repaving work that our city needs.
I will encourage economic development efforts to increase retail and dining opportunities in the city as well as increase job opportunities.
And I will continue to be accessible to residents and listen to your thoughts, ideas and concerns.
I believe we must focus our energy on what we have and allow Cumberland’s charm and spirit to be the engines that promote our community.
Cumberland can only change and grow once again if we all work together. Government is not always the answer. Higher tax rates are not the answer. The only way to bring about the change we need is to be that change. We must all be a part of the revitalization of our community through community involvement and activism.
I am prepared to take the heat for always being honest with you, even when what I have to say isn't what you want to hear. The label "politician" doesn't fit me, because I don't believe in telling citizens what they want to hear and skirting the truth when the topic is difficult.
Over the next three years, I am prepared to encourage growth in the city and fulfill the demands that citizens often make to pave more streets, produce more jobs, and bring about economic development.
Realistically, if we expect the City of Cumberland to grow again, we must be prepared to make significant investments. With the city's financial position much improved over what I inherited, now is the time to invest in Cumberland's future, build our tax base, and grow our population through job creation and business investment. To fulfill these needs demands private and public investment into current structures and replacement of structures to make room for growth. Available flat, developable land has been exhausted in this community, as evidenced by recent projects that included demolitions to build the Cumberland Rite Aid, LaVale's Holiday Inn and the upcoming LaVale Cracker Barrel. Flat, developable land near the Interstate is at a premium and if as a community we truly wish to grow, we must embrace plans to invest and clear land.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, the City of Cumberland engaged in an exhaustive more than year-long public process of citizen engagement to develop a new economic development plan with many stated goals, including new opportunity sites in the City of Cumberland, where there is potential for growth. The City adopted that plan, in public, having taken public input into consideration and utilizing an outside economic development specialist. Nothing was implemented without a dozen public opportunities and meetings, all publicized through local broadcast and print media, as well as online. The City then adopted the plan, including creation and funding of a new non-profit organization to better oversee economic development in partnership with local business leaders and with private investment. The City has since begun direct investment into the stated opportunity sites. Because this Administration does not believe in paying for plans that simply sit on a shelf to get dusty and never be utilized, it was only after public input, a thorougly transparent process, and public engagement that the Administration implemented a professional plan paid for by taxpayer funds. The times of paying for studies that are never used are over!
Now, we are taking the bold steps to transform our city with the resources we have available, including fairly negotiating with citizens to purchase property for future development, as well as courting and encouraging new businesses in Cumberland. The City Council and I have unanimously voted to support an application that would bring a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility to Cumberland, producing medical grade marijuana in an indoor, controlled, and safe facility that would create jobs. The City is poised to attract a new hotel to the city, as well as already working with a developer to redevelop the Rolling Mill Neighborhood. And the City lobbied to make sure that state funding for deferred maintenance of the Footer Dye Works Building was provided so that a $10 million private investment could take place to transform an eyesore at a key entranceway into the city into a functioning building again, creating additional jobs and economic growth.
Cumberland is well positioned to grow. It's not because I've done the work myself, though. A great group of City Council leaders, an exceptional City Administrator, and a phenomenal city staff have all done the work to grow and improve our city. And moving forward, I intend to be bold, to fulfill the demands of citizens, and invest in Cumberland's future.
I'm asking you to join me. Be bold. Engage in your neighborhood today, not tomorrow or next week. Do something and get your hands dirty. Speak up. If you support initiatives to grow Cumberland and improve our city, say it. Drown out the negativity and pessimistic attitude that seems pervasive. Don't let the anti-change crowd have the loudest voices. Act.
I am accessible to you.
As I have been over the past seven years of elected service, I continue to be accessible to hear your thoughts, ideas and concerns. Please email me and don't hesitate to contact me via Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks again for your support!