State of the City 2012

In what could be called dueling State of the City addresses, Mayor Rick Proctor and City Council President Samson Steinman both delivered remarks at tonight’s annual reorganization meeting, assessing the city’s position as it enters a new year.

After being elected council president for 2012 by his peers, Steinman delivered remarks for about five minutes from his seat on the dais, touching on several aspects of redevelopment, among other things, including:

* City Council members have met with private investors interested in bringing some type of grocery store or supermarket downtown. In an interview after the meeting, Steinman declined to go into details, only to say that discussions started within the past two months and there has been talk of up to a 20,000-square-foot facility.

* A Los Angeles-based production company is looking to build two sound stages within the city, which could mean an investment of up to $40 million.

* A national arts-based franchise is interested in establishing a franchise within the city’s Arts District.

* Negotiations with the Union County Utilities Authority (UCUA) yielded a $3-million settlement for previously owed fees that the city was entitled to under the original community host fee agreement. The plan is to use more than half of that lump sum to stabilize the city budget and earmark the remainder to the city’s financial reserves.

Asked why he chose to deliver remarks at the reorganization meeting, which in recent years has only seen the mayor make prepared statements, Steinman said it shows he will not be a typical City Council president.

Proctor followed with a 15-minute speech from the podium, touching on a variety of challenges and accomplishments in 2011 and urging the city to strive to do better in 2012. No longer can renovations to the train station be called new, now that it’s been 13 years since they were completed, he said, but other enhancements are needed downtown. It’s not good enough to say the library and recreation center are new as they were established for years now, he said, promising to focus on programming.

Proctor pledged to discontinue a “business as usual approach,” particularly when it comes to the city budget, which will face a 2-percent state-mandated cap this year, and also will be affected by a 72-percent increase in tax appeals that reduced revenues by $2 million, including $1.6 million from Merck.

Both Steinman and Proctor alluded to contentious relations between the legislative branch and the administration during the past year. The mayor celebrated the initiation of weekly mayoral office hours, which he said was used by residents and business owners but “barely utilized” by City Council members despite claims that he does not communicate with them. Proctor said he refuses to let personal motives stand in the way of his ability to lead the city. Steinman was more veiled, warning “those who act in detrimental ways toward Rahway” that the City Council would protect the city’s and taxpayers’ interests.

Also Monday night, the City Council unanimously overrode another mayoral veto, this time of the salary ordinance which reduced his pay. Proctor vetoed Ordinance 38-11 on Dec. 22.

Here’s a word cloud based on the full text of the mayor’s speech (click it for a larger version):
Wordle: State of City 2012
For those interested, here’s a Google doc of the mayor’s remarks in full, and another of the council president’s remarks. And here’s a word cloud based on the text of the council president’s speech:
Wordle: Council president's remarks 2012
For some historical perspective on State of the City updates, check out previous blog posts going back to 2008 (the older links, 2003 and 2005, link to old city press releases):
2011 State of the City
2010 State of the City
2009 State of the City
2008 State of the City
2005 State of the City
2003 State of the City

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