Good afternoon and a happy new year to you all.

I thank you for joining us here for our annual reorganization of the Governing Body and boards and commissions of our City. 

I want to recognize our Council-- Council President Stegman, Councilwoman Asaro, Councilman Sanders, and Councilwoman Warner.  Their strong voices, good ideas, and active cooperation make the work of governing not only productive, but enjoyable—at least most of the time.

And a special shout out to City Clerk Cindy Ege, who is always responsive and professional, making sure we keep it all together.

Today, I am pleased to be able to say that the State of Our City is strong and by building on this strong foundation together, we will make it even stronger in the coming year.

Let’s take a moment now to consider what a great place Lambertville is to live and celebrate our high quality of life. 

But I believe what truly makes Lambertville a place we are all proud to call home is its sense of community -- the caring and friendliness we extend to each other -- and all who visit our city --- in good times and in times of challenge. In City Government, we draw on this sense of community to enlist so many of you in serving our City, whether that is on a Board or Commission, or in a non-profit organization, or by offering a helping hand to your neighbors. Together, we continue to move forward, making the improvements that enhance our City and enrich our lives. It all begins with fiscal responsibility. We work hard to hold the line on taxes through cost-effective service delivery and sound long-term fiscal planning. We have streamlined city government, demonstrating that with dedicated employees, a well- conceived organizational structure, and new technology, it is possible to do more with less.

The results speak for themselves. As Moody’s says in a report issued just last week, “The financial position of the City is robust”.   The respected bond rating agency goes on to say, “The ability to generate surplus operating margins exhibits strong financial management.” This attention to fiscal detail yields big dividends. We continue to have the lowest municipal property taxes of any full service municipality in Hunterdon County. And our excellent bond ratings mean that when we make investments in our city’s future, we can do so at low interest rates.

We constantly seek new ways to keep costs down for residents and for the city government.   Today, I am pleased to announce that our efforts to make our city more resilient and strengthen our flood protections will bring the added benefit of a 15% discount on annual insurance premiums for those insured by the National Flood Insurance Program.   As many of you know, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recertifies the city every five years, As a result of the improvements we made FEMA lowered our FEMA Community Rating from Class 8 to Class 7 resulting in a 50% boost in the discount available to impacted City residents and businesses.

Beginning May 1st, this increased discount will be applied to all renewed and new policies. We will soon mail out the details to the246 National Flood Insurance Policy holders in our City, who, in aggregate, will save $66,000 this year alone.  Taken together, the discounts City Flood Protection Initiatives have earned from FEMA will add up to more than $500,000 in savings to residents, businesses, and the City itself by 2022.

We also save our residents money on their utility bills through our Community Energy Aggregation Program. Lambertville ratepayers, on average, save $150 annually because the City purchases energy for the entire community. We are one of the few municipalities to do this. These savings are now enhanced through the partnership the City forged this past year with West Amwell Township—a partnership that increased our purchasing power

Our city continues to lead the way on the environment, setting an example for other cities and towns through effective ways to forge a green future.  This starts with protecting our city from threats to its environment.  That is why we are standing up together against the proposed PennEast Pipeline. This ill-advised project threatens our water supply, will trigger more flash flooding, and puts all the progress made in cleaning up the Delaware River at risk.

Lambertville was one of the first municipalities to pass a resolution against the pipeline and we continue to take proactive steps to stop its construction.  We are an official intervener, repeatedly issuing detailed and substantive objections to the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.   We are proactively working with federal agencies, such as US Fish and Wildlife; state agencies; and state and federal elected officials to achieve maximum impact.   I want to commend Councilman Ward Sanders for his outspoken and dedicated leadership on this issue, speaking at anti-pipeline rallies and providing invaluable strategic guidance.

To better coordinate all the efforts in this area, the City formed the PennEast Pipeline Committee. Chaired by Filomena Hengst of our Environmental Commission, it’s comprised of Environmental Commission members Gina Fischetti and Lauren Rosenthal McManus; public members Sue Begent, Kelly Kappler, Kim Nagy, and Jeff Tittel; Councilman Sanders; and myself.  The Committee is ensuring that our efforts remain focused, effective, and cover all the bases.

But advancing a green future means more than just saying “No” to harmful proposals.  We continue to devise, implement, and expand innovative programs that fulfill our vision of Lambertville as a “Green City”.

Let me give you one example. In 2016, our Third Can Recycling Program, targeted at food waste and organic material, emerged as a big success with area restaurants and Lambertville public schools joining pioneering residents in participating. The result-- a 454% increase in the amount of food waste recycled.  

This initiative was put forward by our Environmental Commission because they recognized that food waste comprises 15% of the city’s waste stream.  Combined with our successful single-stream recycling program, which removes more than a 1,000 tons each year from the waste stream, tackling food waste through the Third Can Program is saving substantial money and protecting our environment.   We look forward to expanding participation further in the coming year.

We continue to make protecting open space and upgrading and maintaining our parks a high priority.  This year we unveiled the new and improved Cavallo Park with the soil contamination that forced its closing completely cleaned-up.  I thank Geoffrey Cook for his generous funding of the new playground equipment and other park improvements.  This is a park that Lambertville families will be enjoying in 2017 and for many years to come.

This year, we made parking downtown a little more convenient for residents and visitors.  Instead of feeding the meter, people can now use their phone to pay for parking.  Through an arrangement the City has made with Parkmobile, a free smart phone app is available for this purpose.

And the Lambertville Police, under the inspired leadership of Police Director Bruce Cocuzza, continues to do an excellent job of protecting public safety and working to ensure constructive relations with the community. Toward that end, this year all uniformed patrol officers began wearing body cameras. The cameras are activated on all motor vehicle stops, arrests, accidents, routine services, and police investigations. I believe the use of these cameras is already enhancing police-community relations by providing increased transparency.

The cameras and associated equipment were partially funded through the NJ State Body Worn Camera Assistance Program utilizing state forfeiture funds. And we are seeking available federal funds from the U.S. Department of Justice to defray the remainder of the costs.

So as you can see, Lambertville enters 2017 well positioned to build on a strong foundation of accomplishment. Let me share a few of my top priorities.  

This year, we will continue to work to hold the line on taxes and seek other ways to leverage city spending and resources to save residents money.   This means continuing community aggregation for lower utility bills and searching for new ways to make Lambertville affordable for all its residents.   I know how important this is to our financially squeezed families and to our older residents living on fixed incomes.

We will continue our fight against the PennEast Pipeline.  We can see that our work, along with the efforts of other river communities and environmentalists, is having an impact, forcing route changes and delays.  But this is no time to rest on our laurels. The environmental agencies in the new Trump Administration are not likely to be as friendly to our cause. We must dedicate ourselves, as a city government and as a community, to this important fight.

We will also work to expand our New Third Can Program and continue to move Lambertville in a green direction.

I will continue to make upgrading and maintaining our infrastructure a high priority with the reconstruction of Clinton Street and Upper Ferry Street, among the projects planned for this year.  These reconstructions will include significant drainage improvements in order to boost flood protection.

To further enhance our flood protection efforts, we are launching an all-out effort to secure state funds for the essential Swan Creek Flood Control Project.

And we will continue to establish new parks and maintain and upgrade existing ones. This year, we hope to move forward with the creation of the North Union Street Park at the northern end of the City.

To relieve congestion downtown caused by a shortage of available parking, we plan to add 150 parking spots at the D & R Canal.

Finally, we will launch our new city web site this year in order to facilitate better and more convenient communication between City government and residents.

Working together, I know we can make 2017 Lambertville’s best year ever.  Thanks to everyone present here today and to all of our residents, I am confident we will continue to ensure Lambertville is a place we are all proud to call home.

Happy New Year!