LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera on Monday claimed much of the credit for balancing a budget without raising taxes, improving professionalism at City Hall by imposing a dress code and presiding over a year of rising property values and dropping crime rates.
But all that got buried in the 30-minute State of the City address he delivered to the City Council by – what else? – snow.
As public works crews spent another night hauling away the frozen 7-foot-high heaps of snow along city streets while the temperature dipped into single digits, Rivera began his address by declaring victory over what he called “a winter of historic proportion” that he said helped fortify the resolve of a city on the rebound.
“I stand before you tonight a bit battle worn, if not from the end of my first year in office (then) definitely from shoveling snow and fighting a winter season that has … damaged roofs, burst gutters, destroyed roads and sidewalks, closed schools and businesses, shut down highways, crippled public transit and trapped people in their homes,” Rivera told the councilors and the 80 or so people, most of them city employees, who came out in the latest blast from Siberia to fill the council chambers to crowded but not overflowing.
“With all our snow removal obstacles, we are fortunate to have a community that has both supported our efforts in snow removal and has the stamina to withstand these harsh winter conditions,” Rivera said. “Having survived this alone makes us a strong community.”
The succession of snowfalls has cost the city about $2 million to push aside and remove – more than 13 times the $150,000 that was budgeted for the year – which will pose another problem of historic proportion when Rivera attempts to balance the city’s books as the fiscal year ends on June 30. Mayors typically cover budget overruns caused by the weather with surpluses left over from earlier years, which now total $9.5 million.
Monday’s address may have been most notable for the single word Rivera used to describe the state of the city. When he delivered his first address to the council last year after 32 days in office, he said the state of the city was “hopeful.” The word was a departure from the one chief executives from mayors to presidents typically use in similar speeches in all but the worst years. Last night, Rivera used the more traditional word, although tentatively.
“The state of our city is strong,” he said, “but with much to do to ensure long-term strength.”