ENGLEWOOD MAYOR MICHAEL WILDES
STATE OF THE CITY
January 2, 2007
I would like to welcome all of you this evening and thank you for being here. As I look around the room, I see many religious and community leaders, city employees and members of our finest and bravest. I want to recognize Ambassador Somduth Soborun from Maurities who is also with us tonight. I appreciate all of you for coming. We all jointly express our loss of our distinguished former Pres. Gerald R. Ford.
I want to thank Rev. Vernon Walton for his service to our City as Councilman-at-Large and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead. I also want to thank RJ Clemor and Anita Sniderman for their continued help and support. And thank you to Derek Boone and his team for their support during these past few months. And to Rabbi Goldin and Rev. Taylor for administering my oath of office and for endearing yourselves to me and my family and your moral guidance.
I want thank my wife, Amy, our four children, Raquel, Josh, Lauren and Jaclyn, my father and law partner, Leon Wildes and my brother, Rabbi Mark Wildes and my in-laws, Susan and Robert Messer and my brother-in-law, Daniel Messer and his wife, Alyssa and my sister-in-law, Leslie and her husband, Seth Fink and my dear friends Sue and David Zedeck for being here tonight and for supporting me throughout my political career and especially during this last election.
The results of the recent election speak for themselves. Messages of hate and division and the lies candidates and their backers spread did not work. Manipulation and press conferences did not make lies true, and I thank all of the people who have come to know me and my family for trusting me and being willing to separate my commitment to public service from falsehoods and desperate efforts to discredit me.
Regardless, congratulations to our new City Council President and I welcome Gordon Johnson to the City Council. Now is the time to move forward, not by forgetting the past election, as some have strongly suggested I do with words like it's “just politics” to justify the tactics used. But it was not “just politics.” What happened is better addressed more thoroughly in a different forum.
At this point, I must express my appreciation to the religious leaders of Englewood for their just and forthright admonition to those who ran for office as to their obligation to avoid untruthful and incendiary allegations in the heat of an election. This Mayor and Council have a job to do this evening and in the year ahead. And tonight, I dedicate my 4 th State of the City Speech, as mandated by the City Charter, to focus on running a more professional government, as opposed to the tactics of those who have made a profession of playing politics.
We need to re-focus on three core principles:
1. Quality schools
2. Limited government spending
3. Controlled growth
First , quality schools are the moral core of a community, especially one like ours where many parents, as I do for religious reasons, send their children to private schools. We have taken the first steps in the passing of the referendum to rebuild the facilities. But, the pace has been too slow and the years wasted aren't just about building delays, they are about potential years lost. Children cannot wait unnecessarily for better schools, for their opportunities only come during the few years they are in school.
I have tried to do my part to support the Englewood Public School District during the past seven years and have been personally engaged. As a friend of all of Englewood 's children, I visit the schools on a frequent basis and attend the annual graduation ceremonies. I was a guest speaker at Interact Club meetings, AVID classes and Circle of Color programs and attended events held by the students this past year. I also support school events, such as athletic events at Dwight Morrow High School and the Academies@Englewood, awards ceremonies and Englewood Idol, and have been a continued participant in the “Read Across America” events at our schools.
This past year, I attended Dwight Morrow High School Parent Teacher Organization meetings and am working with its officers to develop an Intern Program with local businesses for our high school students. I worked diligently with other community leaders to secure funds for the athletic teams in our City so that our children can play sports and be properly outfitted. I have also worked with other organizations throughout our community to ensure that all of our children have activities to participate in. I was able to watch the children participate in and enjoy the Englewood Fire Department Summer Youth Camp and the NFL Junior Player Development Program held at Mackay this past summer.
I will continue my fight for the children of Englewood because they are our future. This includes the Council providing recreation facilities, a point brought home by the murder of Jason Banks this past summer.
2. Limited Government Spending:
Second , being able to afford to spend on important things like education, means not wasting money elsewhere. The taxpayers of Englewood are not a bottomless cash pit to be mined as needed. A conservative fiscal approach is required.
Despite the fact that I do not have a vote on the municipal budget, I have worked to ensure that the budget remains fiscally responsible. I have consistently advocated that the budget should provide essential services to the residents of Englewood as we face a revaluation. Since I have been in office, I have looked to other sources to ensure that the residents of Englewood enjoy both vital and non-essential resources. I have raised funds to provide services and recreational events to residents without having to use their tax dollars. Last year, I raised money for a new ambulance for the Englewood Volunteer Ambulance Corps; a 4 th of July fireworks celebration; and support for youth-oriented programs.
I raised funds and chose the Englewood Public Library to erect a monument to honor the eight citizens who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Since 2004, I have organized a Memorial at the monument to continue the legacy of those eight citizens. I also organized a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and, in a joint effort with The Bergen County Ad Hoc Committee of Black Women's Organizations, acquired a bust of King, which was created by artist and sculptor Inge Ruth Hardison, and held a dedication ceremony at the Englewood Public Library to honor the late revered leader.
I plan to look at every dollar spent this year to ensure that money is being spent properly and that our tax dollars are not wasted. I will look at the way the city spends money and try to do so with social integrity knowing that we live in a time of financial challenge from the state level down. I will ensure that Englewood lives up to its end of the bargain and demonstrates that sacrifices can be made to hold the line on spending.
3. Controlled Growth:
Third , during this past election it was made clear that those who wanted to halt growth completely should vote against me. Clearly, that is not an agenda the people of this City support. I have never been a cheerleader for uncontrolled development. I am like the vast majority of people in this city, a supporter of growth that fuels an economic engine that brings more in revenue to stabilize taxes than it takes out in services.
As the appointing member of the Planning Board, I look forward to working with Board members to maintain the integrity of our City and attract development that will enhance Englewood . This year I am empanelling a formal Sign and Facade Commission and have appointed a full committee of members to assure the aesthetics of our City's development.
In my effort to protect Englewood residents from an onslaught of uncontrolled development in our residential corridors, I introduced community forums and an eventual ordinance to the Planning Board members, which upon my initiative was forwarded to the City Council and approved. The ordinance reduced the number of town houses permitted per acre.
I have encouraged the rural integrity in our neighborhoods to ensure that the landscape of Englewood has remained the same and can be enjoyed by all who live, work and visit the City. I reconstituted the Environmental Commission to measure the effects of development and to ensure that our city and streets would continue to be lined with trees and filled with greenery.
Protecting the residential sections of our City is of paramount importance, and I have insisted that projects throughout the city add continued character and generate revenues to alleviate our tax burden. I have also listened carefully to and addressed safety concerns raised by residents who were concerned about scores of Code and Housing violations.
Throughout the year I was literally a fixture at numerous community events – block association parties, events organized by the Bergen Family Center and the Women's Club and participated in the Community Thanksgiving Interfaith Services. I participated in the Memorial Day and Veterans' Day celebrations and hosted Residents Day, 4 th of July Fireworks Celebration, Englewood Day and many other programs to bring all of our residents together to celebrate our diversity. I issued 126 certificates and 20 proclamations and awarded seven keys to the City to celebrities like Billy Joel and Tony Bennett.
I also represented the City as a participant/moderator in two seminars at this past November's New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference.
Finally, I have worn out several pairs of shoes walking the streets of Englewood , attending countless events and visiting people at home and in the hospital. I have loved every minute of it. I thank my family for the sacrifices they make so that I can be a part of all of your families.
In 2007, I will continue to participate in our community and I look forward to sharing many occasions with you.
My Dad held two Bibles as I was sworn in. They were used by my late grandfathers - one who fled Nazi Germany and the other who established himself in our country nearly one century ago. Both were citizens by choice, not by chance. It is their legacy and commitment that I honor today.
I know that Englewood 's future is bright and am ready to work with other community leaders to ensure that our City is headed in the right direction.
Thank you for entrusting me again to speak for our magnificent City.
May God bless You; our City; and our Nation.
Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes, Assemblyman Arnold Brown, Treasurer