Alex Morse was born and raised in Holyoke and is a proud product of the city's public schools. He is an alumnus of Brown University with a degree in urban studies, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. On January 3, 2012, Alex B. Morse was sworn in as the youngest Mayor in the history of the city of Holyoke at the age 22.
Since taking office, economic development has been his number one priority. In his first year alone, Mayor Morse launched several new initiatives and incentives that have already catalyzed new growth – helping both retain existing businesses and attract new development. In education, the Mayor has made early literacy a major priority. With help from the United Way, he created a Community Literacy office in City Hall and launched a campaign to increase 3rd grade reading scores. Mayor Morse has also made public safety a top priority. He has been a proponent of community policing strategies that have decreased crime statistics to a record low. By putting officers back on foot and bike patrol, launching a mobile community policing unit and new K-9 unit, 2012 was the first year in over 25 years that Holyoke was without a recorded homicide.
Mayor Morse’s success has provided national attention to Holyoke, helping to attract innovative minds that want to be a part of what’s happening in the Paper City. Mayor Morse recently was sworn in to a second term, and will continue to market Holyoke as a great place to live, work, and have fun.
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As the weather begins to change, I can’t help but take note of the passing time. It’s hard to believe yet another fall is approaching. With the shortening days and the increased...
In August of 2015, Celebrate Holyoke is coming back. Last week, I announced a new initiative to revive this weekend-long event. Just two days after launching it, the Celebrate Holyoke 2015 Facebook...
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Just yesterday, I announced a new blight reduction initiative with Roca, an organization whose mission is to help disenfranchised young people move out of lives of poverty and violence. Under a new...
Last week, I kicked off what will be a summer-long series of neighborhood meetings throughout the city. I am calling it my summer tour—because it makes me feel like I’m in a...
In this edition of From Room One, I would like to take an opportunity to bring folks up to date on some of what’s been happening here in Holyoke. All across the...
Amid the discussion of the pending sale and redevelopment of the former Lynch School at the June 5 meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Development and Government Affairs, I introduced a...
When Lynch Middle School closed its doors for good in 2008, many wondered what would become of the property. After the School Committee voted to dispose of the site and give it...
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It’s hard to believe that 100 days have already passed since I was sworn in as Holyoke’s Mayor for a second time. I’m still extremely humbled to have received Holyoke’s support last...
Thank you, members of the City Council, for the opportunity to address you tonight.
I would also like to thank those of you tuning in at home. It because of you – the people of Holyoke – that we get to remake the Paper City together. It is because of you and your energy that Holyoke is becoming an example to a new generation and a new century of American cities.
It has been five years since a Holyoke mayor has provided a State of the City address, and I am proud to reinstitute the practice. Tonight marks an important step forward in governmental transparency. Further, tonight is an opportunity for me to discuss the great strides being made in our city, and to outline some ways to build on our successes.
When I first took office, our city faced many great and complicated challenges. We knew then, as we do now, that none of those challenges would be resolved overnight. But we also knew that we couldn’t let the difficulty of our task exempt us from action. We got to work. And over the past several years, Holyokers from all walks of life have worked toward a brighter future.
Together, we prioritized early literacy for our students and welcomed a new superintendent of schools. Together, we expanded community policing – restoring relationships between our Police Department and our citizens, and making the city the safest it’s been in decades. Together, we attracted new businesses and helped others expand. Together, we ushered in a new era of civic pride and community engagement. And together, we sent the clear message that the City of Holyoke is making a comeback.
Because of the work we have done together, I can proudly say that the state of the city is getting stronger each day. Our city’s rebirth is well underway. And it’s up to each and every one of us to make sure it continues.
Central to achieving the City’s agenda is properly managing the City’s fiscal health, which is why threats to our finances should be faced with utmost diligence and attention. It is widely known that there are a few situations that are fiscally unsustainable, and which I propose we tackle together in the months ahead.
Fresh on everyone’s mind is the current situation with the Holyoke Geriatric Authority, which my administration has been working hard to resolve. I updated this body recently on steps we are taking to protect the city, the taxpayers, and most importantly, to protect those who have called the authority their home. For years, the Geriatric Authority has struggled with mismanagement, forcing the taxpayers of Holyoke to subsidize the facility upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. As with other obstacles, we have faced this head on. We have been working hand in hand with the Department of Public Health and the Attorney General’s office to ensure a smooth closure. We have worked diligently to transition every resident to another healthcare facility, and upon the request of my office, the state department of labor has sent a rapid response team to help employees find other employment opportunities or career training options here in Western Massachusetts. My office has also facilitated the transfer of the Adult Day Health program, the only one of its kind in Holyoke, to another site in the City, preserving jobs and ensuring that the 54 individuals who rely on the program will continue to receive care. As of today, only 14 residents remain at the Authority, and I look forward to working with all of you in the coming months to officially acquire the Authority’s property and spur a project that generates tax revenue and creates job opportunities for our residents.
My administration has also worked hard over the past two years to aggressively collect back taxes owed to the City. City Treasurer Jon Lumbra announced last year that the City had set a back-taxes collection record for any one fiscal year, over $1.2 million dollars in FY13. I’m pleased to report that we are on track to collect the same this year, if not more. In addition, last year the City hosted its first public property action in over 45 years. By taking properties for nonpayment of taxes, we have succeeded in putting properties back into private hands as taxpaying entities, and watching vacant properties go back into use and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. We are preparing now to have another auction later this year, and expect to see strong interest in the available commercial property throughout the City.
Now as you all know, we are in the midst of crafting our budget for the next fiscal year. I have been meeting with my department heads to review their proposals and have been working diligently to cut costs while improving city services. New this budget season, I have also scheduled community forums where my administration will explain the budget proposal and allow questions and input from the community. I’d like to do the same for all of you – if any councilors have any input as I prepare my budget presentation, I welcome your thoughts and ideas.
There are few who would disagree that the process in which we approach our city budget is not nearly as transparent as it should be. Each year there are millions of dollars in expenses that are not included in the final budget, which end up being paid for through supplemental transfers. The current system of departments requesting free cash transfers for expected budgetary items is extremely inefficient. This is not a new practice, and while there have always been reasons that this has been necessary to do, the time has come for us to confront the budget head on so we don’t have to rely on these kinds of practices.
In about one month, I will be submitting a budget that is an honest reflection of the needs of the City, based on historic trends. The goal behind this is to present a final budget that is truly balanced, from day one.
This will allow us to use our certified free cash to pay off debt, invest in capital expenses, and increase the reserves in our stabilization account. In addition, I’m proud to say that over the last three months we’ve been negotiating a new single source Health Insurance contract, which will guarantee the same level of coverage that city employees enjoy now, but also provide a reduction in costs to both employees and taxpayers. In fact, if the plan on the table now is accepted, there could be millions in savings made to the general fund. While making these strategic adjustments to the budget is a promising start, it will not be enough. In order for us to maintain the current level of city services we provide, new sources of revenue must be sought.
Tonight on the council’s agenda is an order seeking approval for us to assess a local meal tax similar to the hotels tax that the city council adopted early on in my first term. A local meals tax would increase a $100.00 check at a local eatery by just $.75 cents and would generate over $500,000 in revenue annually. This will provide much needed relief to Holyoke’s already strained property taxpayers. I’ve heard the argument that this will scare diners away from our locally owned food establishments but I disagree; in contrast, most of this revenue will come from the fast food restaurants located in and around the Holyoke Mall. The tax would increase a $5 lunch by less than $.04 cents. The adoption of the meals tax has the support of Holyoke’s largest dining and entertainment establishments, not to mention that nearly every neighboring community has already adopted this tax. Our delay to act in the same manner has cost us $2.4 million dollars in revenue, according to the Department of Revenue. That money could have helped prevent the increase we have seen in commercial and residential property taxes. The order to adopt this is on your agenda tonight and must be certified by May 1st so that we can apply this additional revenue to the FY15 budget.
It is also time for the council to act on sewer rates. For far too long the general fund has been raided to help cover the cost of deficits within the sewer fund. While I fully support and understand the council’s effort to go after delinquent sewer customers, it’s simply not enough. Even if we achieved a collection rate of 100%, there still wouldn’t be sufficient funds to cover the fund’s operating budget, requiring taxpayers to foot the bill, some of which don’t even benefit from the sewer fund. As we prepare for FY15, we are anticipating a $1.8 million dollar deficit in the sewer fund. If we do nothing, this debt will once again be passed on to Holyoke taxpayers and limit our ability to invest resources in long over due projects. It is time to either set an appropriate rate, or approve the creation of a Water and Sewer Authority allowed under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40N. Creation of such a board will not only increase aggressive enforcement against delinquents, but will also serve as an independent board that will regularly review and adjust rates in a sustainable and beneficial way, removing the politics from what are often tough decisions.
As we make progress on stabilizing our city’s finances, we become more able to make the necessary investments to move our City forward. The most important investment is in our children. A discussion about Holyoke’s future cannot happen without a discussion about the quality of our public schools and our ability to prepare our young people for the future. I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the palpable frustration that exists around our literacy rates and high school graduation rates. In early January, the Department of Early and Secondary Education released statistics that revealed that while the graduation rate for the state of Massachusetts has overall increased, including Holyoke’s by 3.3%, we are still among the lowest in the state. This is an alarming statistic that simply cannot be ignored.
As a district and a community, we have to hold ourselves accountable for these disparaging numbers. As Mayor, and as Chairman of the School Committee, I have to take ownership for these discouraging statistics. The reality is that the decline in the performance of our school system did not happen overnight, and it simply won’t improve overnight.
Since the state’s takeover of Morgan School last fall, I’ve participated in regular meetings with a local stakeholder group comprised of school officials, union representatives, parents and teachers, and we’re having the difficult and honest conversations about where we go from here.
I’ve heard from educators, parents and community leaders about how disconcerting the state’s takeover of both Morgan and Dean has been, and how many hardworking, talented, and passionate teachers throughout our district are left feeling defeated and concerned about the future of our school system.
I hear the frustration from teachers who are working tirelessly on behalf of all of Holyoke’s students, but are expected to do more with less. Moving forward, we have to consider alternative ways to provide them with the resources they need to adequately educate their students.
I am confident that we are heading in the right direction under the leadership and vision of our new Superintendent Dr. Sergio Paez. I have no doubt that we will see progress swiftly in the coming months and years, and succeed in making the Holyoke Public Schools the number one choice for all of our families.
Dr. Paez joined our district eight months ago, embracing a serious challenge, because, like so many of us, he saw Holyoke’s potential. Since then, he and the innovative new leaders he has surrounded himself with have introduced ideas that are the breath of fresh air our school district has needed. With new directors in the departments of early childhood education, early literacy, and the arts and humanities, we are prepared to reemphasize and restructure our early literacy initiative to better fit the needs of all of Holyoke’s students. Understanding the myriad challenges we have had, together we’ve set more realistic goals for early literacy achievement and aim to have 40% of third graders proficient in reading by the end of this year.
Furthermore, I’m excited to announce tonight that we are launching an effort that will provide universal pre-K at all of our city’s schools, and by this fall, you’ll already see such programs at EN White, Lawrence and Morgan. This expansion of pre-K programs will drastically improve kindergarten readiness of our students and no doubt improve our 3rd grade reading scores for years to come.
Despite all of these efforts, we can’t focus our energy on test scores, academics, and graduation rates without also addressing the underlying problems that occur in the lives of our students outside of school. Holyoke’s students are faced with socioeconomic disparities and challenges that students in other districts across the state are fortunate not to experience. Yet I emphatically believe that our students’ circumstances, their neighborhood, their socioeconomic status, or even their zip code, should not determine their fate. Every young person in this City deserves equal opportunity, and we can no longer continue to point fingers – at our parents, at our teachers or at our kids. All of us need to take collective responsibility to ensure a bright future for our children.
That’s why our schools are introducing innovative programs, like the ones at Kelly Full Service Community School that bring therapeutic dogs into the classroom to sit with students while they read. School officials are hosting home visits to encourage parent involvement and reading within neighborhoods. Zumba instructors are teaching our students fun and different ways to be healthy and active. We’re fortunate to have the collaboration and support of so many agencies in our city like the Boys and Girls Club, the Holyoke YMCA, Girls Inc, and Enchanted Circle Theater, just to name a few. It is not enough to put the responsibility of teaching solely on the shoulders of our teachers; as a community, we are just as responsible for their education.
In order for our City to decrease its poverty rate and attract sustainable economic development, we need to make sure that our children have access to a great education. We need to continue to empower our youth and create job opportunities for them so that when they graduate high school or college, they’ll actually want to come back to work in Holyoke and make our City a better place. While our summer jobs programs are reaching hundreds of young people, there is still more work to do.
And upon completing their education, we want our youth to find prosperity close to home. Which is why we’ve worked together over the past years on reinventing Holyoke’s value proposition to meet the challenges presented by a global, competitive and knowledge-based economy.
Through the recently instituted Urban Renewal Plan and the plan for an Innovation Based Economic Development Strategy, we’ve laid out the framework to accomplish this goal, and can proudly say that we’re making progress.
Over the past years we have secured over $600,000 of external resources for developer assistance, brownfield cleanup grants and technical documentation, all aimed at making sure we have sites that are move-in or development ready so more businesses can produce and hire right here in Holyoke.
We’ve also worked to create valuable partnerships with local, regional and state organizations to leverage resources, link industries and make an ecosystem of innovation and promote job growth into the future. Our efforts and initiatives were recently recognized by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, which seeded Holyoke’s entrepreneurship initiative with $250,000 over the next three years. Called SPARK, the program will be run in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, the Public Library, the Juntos workforce Training Collaborative and the Food and Fitness Policy Council, among other partners.
But no other strategy better embodies our innovative approach to economic development than our efforts to support, grow and showcase creative industries and individuals. The creation of the state’s first full time, municipal Creative Economy Coordinator right here in Holyoke has put us at the forefront of Massachusetts’ own strategy to make this sector a strong economic force. The City has been able to leverage the Coordinator position to obtain its salary many times over for local projects, and assisting dozens of businesses and individuals to connect with mentorship and development opportunities. However, this position is scheduled to sunset by June of this year. I ask the Council to extend it into the future, so that we may ensure the City continues to build the creative economy in the years ahead.
And speaking of building, we’ll be doing a lot of that this year. From the completion of 250 new parking spaces in downtown, to major intersection improvements at Lower Westfield and Homestead Avenues and a major connector road towards HCC, we’re making the City more accessible to incoming and resident traffic.
This spring we will also break ground on the second phase of the CanalWalk, an more than $4 million investment, along with additional improvements along Dwight and Appleton streets. These improvements will also connect to our City’s new passenger rail platform, a $2.5 million investment, to begin construction also later this year. And thanks to the leadership and advocacy of our State delegation, we expect inter-City service to increase in the years ahead, allowing hundreds of travelers to connect with Holyoke every day. In the coming weeks we will need City Council action for the purchase of some land needed to make the project happen – for which we have already identified funds.
Going forward, Holyoke must continue to make key investments in public infrastructure, particularly on infrastructure engineering and design, so that we may be well positioned to secure state and federal construction funding for additional projects.
These types of public infrastructure investments are needed to catalyze private investment. Projects such as the bus transportation center and Veteran’s park improvements have made the possibility of 55 new units of housing at the former Holyoke Catholic school site a viable project, projected to begin construction this year. Likewise, improvements to the Holyoke Public Library have now attracted a developer to its neighboring block, to create another 55 unit, mixed-income housing project. The City’s public investment in the Library can be paid back many times over with the improvement of these vacant, blighted buildings, which increases the value of the entire neighborhood.
Indeed, one of the largest challenges to new development, increasing property values and broadening the tax base is the perception and existence of blight in many parts of the City. Blight comes in many forms – whether it’s a building that’s been boarded up and vacant for years, gang graffiti plastered on a wall, a littered yard or unshoveled sidewalk, or even an abandoned shopping carts. Left unattended, small things cumulatively can create an environment that feels abandoned and neglected. Over the last few years the council has established many common sense ordinances that have made code enforcement possible, but more needs to be done to make it easier. In the coming weeks I will assemble an Ordinance Enforcement Task Force that will consist of department heads, enforcement officials, and community members that can improve the City’s protocols for code enforcement. It is my hope that the council will work with this group, where appropriate, to make sure that our laws are written to be enforced, and that our departments have the resources they need to ensure a great quality of life for all Holyoke residents and future generations to come.
Our governance infrastructure will also need improvements starting in the months ahead. City Hall must adapt in order to meet the demands of the 21st century, which call for an easier and enhanced interaction with government.
Our constituents deserve initiatives that allow us to act swiftly, and at a lower cost. As a next step in this evolution, I will be proposing a reorganization of City Hall offices, including the movement of various personnel. This plan is being carefully crafted with the input and support of both past and current department heads, City Councilors and community leaders. Once this reorganization is completed, not only will our staff benefit from this improved and efficient workspace, but more importantly, I’m confident that constituents will find that their visits to City Hall will be centered around the customer service experience.
Recent efforts to improve citizen interaction with City government have already proven to be successful. In my first term, we launched a completely new city website that won an award from the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and we introduced a new citizen notification system to communicate with residents and businesses about weather related events and other important announcements. Furthermore, we recently launched Holyoke’s first smartphone app, which allows citizens to report a wide array of quality of life issues via their smartphone or on the city website. These are just a few examples of our successful efforts to bring Holyoke’s government into the 21st century and engage our residents in new and innovative ways.
As we continue to invest in our city’s public infrastructure, it is equally as important that we address our city’s communications, which many would agree is in grave need of repair and directly affects our provision of public services, safety and quality of life. There are areas in the city where police and fire are unable to communicate with one another by using their radios. Often times, our DPW trucks are unable to coordinate and communicate with one another during a snowstorm. Replacing a phone headset for an employee at City Hall is near impossible, and our city email server is nearing the end of its useful life.
For far too long we have been managing this piecemeal, resulting in a collection of incompatible equipment and networks. It is time for us to build a new system, from the ground up, which will allow for clear communications throughout every corner of the city. By utilizing cloud-based solutions we can have a state-of-the-art system, which will complement and evolve well with changes in municipal communications, ultimately delivering a lower overall cost to the taxpayer. All of these necessary upgrades will require us to work together to fund these vital improvements.
As I near the conclusion of my remarks, I also want to acknowledge our Chiefs of both the Police and Fire Departments. These men work tirelessly on behalf of the City of Holyoke, as do their men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line each and every day. We thank you Chiefs, as it has been a complete honor and a privilege for me to work by your side to protect all of Holyoke’s residents.
And to our department heads, from the DPW to Conservation, and everyone in between. Many of you are here tonight, I thank you. We all thank you. You are the unsung heroes of our city government and you don’t get the credit you rightly deserve for the impact you are making on this City. For you, as for many of your staff members, your position with the City of Holyoke isn’t just a job; it’s a much larger and meaningful effort to make Holyoke the place we know it can be. To the staff in my office, I thank you for working so tirelessly on behalf of the people of this great City, and I look forward to continuing our work together in the coming months and years. Accomplishing the goals I have outlined tonight would be impossible without having such great people working with me in Room One.
And thank you again Councilors for the invitation to be here tonight, and for your commitment and dedication to the City and the people you represent. It continues to be an honor to work with all of you, as each councilor brings with them a unique skill set and perspective, which has proven to be an extremely valuable asset for our City. Now, I don’t expect that we’ll agree on every proposal I’ve made tonight, and frankly, I don’t have all the answers, nor do I pretend to. Passionate debates are to be expected. But we should always remember that far more unites us than divides us — that many shared hopes lie beneath even the fiercest debates.
Over the course of this term, we have the opportunity to do great things — things for which this era of Holyoke’s history will be long remembered. The people who call Holyoke home can feel the sense of possibility in the air. They aren’t waiting for us to act; they’re taking Holyoke’s future in their own hands. Where the city government can further empower our citizens, and bolster this homegrown renewal, it should; where the city government now impedes that renewal, it should get out of the way.
We should let Holyoke make Holyoke again.
That is what we are called to do. That is what we have been sent here to do. People all across our city are prepared to shape Holyoke’s future. And they are counting on us to do our jobs — to put aside the pettiness that too often afflicts our politics, and to embrace the tasks to which we’ve been charged.
To let Holyoke make Holyoke again, our city government must be worthy of our city’s people. Our politics must be worthy of their proud, compassionate, resilient spirit.
So as we take up the many issues I have outlined tonight, I ask you to consider the long view. I ask you to consider how our decisions will affect Holyokers in fifty to a hundred years from now. These future generations of Holyokers won’t remember our feuds, or our clashes of personality. What they’ll remember — indeed, what they’ll be able to observe all around them — is the work we accomplish together. We must not, in the words of President Kennedy, be rivals for power, but partners for progress.
I know we are up to the task. At this unprecedented moment in our city’s history, let us summon what is best in us. If we do, I have no doubt that Holyoke will forever remain a city that people are proud to call home.
Mayor Alex B. Morse is proud of the initiatives he has launched and sponsored during his first term as mayor. From the skateboard park to the Buy Holyoke Now program, these initiatives focus on making the city a better place to work, live and participate in the community. By forming strategic partnerships, issuing proclamations and directing policy, the mayor hopes to build off the successes of previous mayors and to help improve the city for all of its residents.
The initiatives listed here provide a snapshot into the everyday efforts of Holyoke City Hall. Some were launched by Mayor Morse, while others were started by Mayor Pluta and Mayor Sullivan. Leading the city is a cooperative effort, and Mayor Morse is proud to continue the efforts of his predecessors.
|Buy Holyoke Now||Civic Pride|
|Holyoke at Work||Pride Events/Month|
|Senior Visits||Skateboard Park|
Mayor Alex B. Morse is proud of the Buy Holyoke Now initiative, a coalition of realtors, attorneys, lenders and other housing professionals along with local nonprofits focused on the promotion of Holyoke as a place to live and work. With municipal support, the group offers incentives to prospective buyers and coordinates advertising campaigns for city properties.
“The goal of Buy Holyoke Now is to not only encourage home ownership in the city of Holyoke, but also to help stimulate local business in the process,” said Mayor Morse. New homeowners receive special deals and coupons at over forty local business, restaurants and museums as well as improved rates at local lending and banking institutions.
The program began over a year ago on June 7th after a kickoff event at the Heritage State Park. It is chaired by Erin Brunelle, a local realtor, and Mayor Morse. Through the program, many new Holyoke residents have found homes with more affordable financing plans, more enticing deals, and more support from community organizations, making Holyoke a more welcoming place to live, work and raise a family.
To find out more about the program, visit buyholyokenow.com or like them on Facebook!
Mayor Alex B. Morse restarted the monthly Civic Pride Award this August, recognizing those who have made unique and remarkable contributions to the Holyoke community. Award-winners must have meaningfully impacted Holyoke, improving the lives of residents, raising the public image of the city or showing extraordinary commitment to the community and the environment.
The Mayor selects a winner at the end of every month and presents the award in the first week of the next month. He recommends that people take an active role in nominating and advocating for winners, as he will take the hopes of his constituents seriously.
The Civic Pride Award began in Mayor Sullivan’s administration, and Mayor Morse is proud to continue the tradition. The winner will be announced on Facebook and Holyoke.org. He or she will receive a letter of commendation from the Mayor and an engraved plaque. Winners do not need to live in Holyoke, only to change the city for the better in some clear and exceptional way.
Mayor Alex Morse announced the renewal of the City of Holyoke’s ten year license with cable television provider Comcast Communications. The agreement includes several new provisions, including senior discounts, a substantial increase in percentage of Gross Annual Revenue received to fund the annual operations of public, educational and government (“PEG”) Access programming, a new community public access station, and an increase in the amount of funding allocated for PEG access purposes.
The previous ten year license term expired on October 27, 2013 and in anticipation of this deadline Mayor Morse hosted several federally-required public hearings to allow residents to provide testimony on future cable-related needs. Using the community input gathered, the City forwarded the results to Comcast in the form of a Request for Proposal, or RFP. The RFP informed Comcast of the kinds of services and facilities that the City expected to be provided during the renewal term. The City hired Epstein & August LLP, a firm specializing in cable TV contracts, to negotiate on behalf of Holyoke. In addition, the process established the Cable Advisory Committee, to which Mayor Morse appointed Al Williams, Jennifer Myszkowski, Mark Wotton, Michael Hines, Rob Deza, Denis Luzuriaga, and James Bickford. Under the renewed license, this Committee will serve as the Board of Directors to oversee the new community PEG Access Station.
“I’m extremely pleased with the results of these negotiations and what it means for the City of Holyoke,” Mayor Alex Morse said. “The community was clear about wanting the same kinds of benefits that other communities have received, and I have negotiated a license that will benefit Holyoke cable subscribers for years to come. Under these conditions, Holyoke will finally have a true PEG Access station that will allow residents to create their own shows and programming which will, in turn, increase civic engagement.”
Under the renewed license, Comcast has agreed to provide the following:
1. Senior discounts:
- All seniors currently receiving a discount will continue to be grandfathered for the existing discount;
- Newly qualified seniors will be eligible for a $2.00 discount off the Digital Starter Tier based on the following criteria:
* Age 65 or older;
* Eligible for Medicaid and/or SSI
2. Quarterly payments to the City for PEG Access/Cable-Related funding as follows:
- 4% of its Gross Annual Revenues (“GAR”) (plus fees) for Years 1 & 2; (approximately $400,000)
- 4.5% of its GAR for Years, 3, 4 & 5; (approximately $450,000)
- 5% of its GAR for Years 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 (approximately $500,000)
- Under the 2003 Renewal license, the City received 1.5% of its GAR which totaled to approximately $126,000 per year. In contrast, annual funding in the new license will increase the City’s revenue to approximately $400,000 in the first year alone.
- This funding will enable the Holyoke PEG Access non-profit entity to produce more local programming for Holyoke cable subscribers, train more citizens to use the PEG Access equipment, work with the Holyoke schools and students to produce educational programming, etc.
3. Comcast will provide a total of $603,000.00 for PEG Access capital purposes, an increase from the 2003 license, which provided $25,000 for capital purposes
4. A third downstream PEG Access Channel that will be available for community use
- Comcast will provide an upstream digital connection from the new PEG access studio to a Comcast hub or headend site
- Holyoke residents will have increased opportunities to create their own programming that will be cablecast on the new public access station
- Create five new job opportunities
With the help of the Portland, Maine based Art at Work program, the City of Holyoke introduced an initiative focusing on fostering community engagement through the arts called “Holyoke at Work.”
Started in 2007 in Portland, Maine, Art At Work is a national initiative bringing the power of creative engagement to city governments and the communities they serve and demonstrating art as a powerful and cost-effective method of bringing about change.
This initiative was quickly adopted by the mayor as a part of his to improve communications among elected officials, city employees and others in the community by means of direct engagement.
Holyoke citizens and leaders meet in workshops to create art and and to have discussions on important topics facing Holyoke. This process is shown to dramatically increase participants’ ability to actively engage, function as a team, envision a positive outcome, remember connections and take inspired risks that lead to innovative solutions.
“Holyoke at Work is a great collaboration between city officials, residents and community activists,” said Mayor Alex B. Morse. “In these workshops, there are no titles, and we get beyond the typical barriers that too often divide us as people.”
Mayor Alex B. Morse issued a proclamation declaring June to be LGBT Pride Month in early June of 2012. The initiative was in support of President Barack Obama’s June 1st proclamation that supported creating a national Pride Month. As part of the celebration of LGBT culture and history, the city raised a rainbow flag outside of City Hall, a tradition that is now in its second year.
The Rainbow Flag Raising celebrates diversity, acceptance and inclusiveness in the City of Holyoke and takes place in mid-June. It occurred on June 18th the first year and June 11th the second year. The annual ceremony includes speeches from community leaders, music, poetry and prayer, as well as the raising of the rainbow flag.
The goal of the event was “to send a message to residents that people who live in their community are in safe places for all people, the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender communities,” said Mayor Morse. “No matter who you are, what you look like, the language you speak or the neighborhood you live in, that you feel respected and appreciated by your community.”
Mayor Alex Morse allocated $250,000 to the development of a skateboard facility in Pulaski Park in the Spring of 2012 to ensure that Holyoke youth had a dedicated place to safely ride their skateboards.
Funded with money from a Federal Community Development Block Grant (FCDBG), the park is being designed with input from skaters who hope for a place to practice “legally and not get arrested,” said the park architect. “It’s gonna be an open barrier, free, inclusive park, so it’s not really designated just skate board only.” At a January meeting, about forty skateboarders gave feedback on the design.
Without a skate park, says Mayor Morse, “Young people are forced to skateboard in public parking facilities and other locations that aren’t designed for skateboarders, which puts both the young people and the city at risk.”
This initiative is a part of Mayor Morse’s goal to provide Holyoke youth with options for legal recreation to lower crime rates and to empower teens in leadership roles. “It’s important to support our city’s young people,” says the Mayor. “This has been a project on the Youth Vision Map for over a decade.”
In this manner, the skateboard park would serve as a safe space for students to spend time together in a constructive environment. In addition to the quarter million dollars allocated to this project, the FCDBG funded $200,000 in sidewalk repairs, $213,000 for Office of Community Development salaries, $200,000 in housing repairs, and several smaller projects.
Mayor Alex Morse began the senior residence touring initiative to ensure that the voices of Holyoke seniors were clearly heard and taken into consideration. The Mayor, along with Police Chief Neiswanger, began these tours on April 20th, 2012 hoping to receive feedback from seniors who might not normally be able to drive to City Hall to voice their concerns.
“During my campaign for Mayor, many of the residents living in these facilities voiced their desire to remain connected to the Mayor’s Office and other important city officials,” said Mayor Morse. “Residents deserve to know about the various public safety efforts of the Holyoke Police Department and the progress that my administration has made throughout Holyoke thus far. This is a campaign promise that I intend to fulfill during my time in office, and I appreciate Chief Neiswanger making time in his busy schedule to accompany me on these visits.”
Major topics in the tour were public safety and crime prevention. Concerns from seniors allowed the Mayor and Chief Neiswanger to plan for a safer Holyoke based on the feedback given. “Coming out here is really part of community policing,” Neiswanger said. “Because the police department cannot solve everything, we need to work with the community and I need to hear what the community’s concerns are.”
The Mayor visited Prospect Heights first, along with Elmwood Towers, Pulaski Heights, Loomis House and Loomis Village, among other locations. The Mayor valued the input the senior citizens provided and looks forward to future meetings with them.
Request Process – Please read prior to submitting request.
Requests are to be submitted to the Mayor’s Office at least two weeks prior to the event but Individuals/Organizations are encouraged to submit their requests as early as possible.
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Please keep in mind:
1. Proclamations must be picked up from the Mayor’s Office and will not be mailed.
2. Proclamation may be picked up only after you have been notified it is ready at City Hall.
3. The Mayor’s Office reserves the right to deny any request.
A Mayoral Proclamation is an official announcement and/or public declaration issued from the Mayor’s Office. Proclamations are ceremonial and do not carry any legislative or legal value. The issuance of any proclamation or letter from the Mayor’s Office is the complete discretion of the Mayor’s Office.
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Posted on November 29, 2012 by cityadmin