Mayor Fung’s 2017 Inaugural Address

 Mayor Fung’s 2017 Inaugural Address

Mayor Allan W. Fung’s 2017 Inauguration Address

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an incredible honor for me to be standing here tonight
for my final inauguration as mayor of the great city of Cranston. Being mayor for
the past eight years has been a remarkable journey and a true blessing. It’s a
journey that fills me with pride when I look back on what we’ve accomplished, and
fills me with hope and optimism when I look forward to the city’s future.

To say I had my work cut out for me eight years ago would be an understatement. The
city’s finances were, frankly, in dire straits. Spending was out of control and our
revenues were dramatically cut from the state. And finances weren’t just bad on a
year-to-year basis—we had the weight of a looming pension crisis and other serious
structural issues continuing to crush us. Many people expected Cranston to sink
into bankruptcy.

Let’s not forget that the city was also hit during my first term with the historic
floods. This city wasn’t just rhetorically under water financially, we were now
quite literally UNDER WATER. Sure, during that time I was on every national news
program…But I had giant Dumpster floating behind me on Elmwood Avenue and the bridge
between Cranston and Warwick literally disappeared from sight under the cresting
waters. Some days I woke up and said “What did I get myself into?”

A lot has happened over the past eight years. I asked a lot from our city employees
and my department heads. I asked for residents to stick with me as we got through
those tough times. I successfully negotiated concessions with our labor unions and
was able to chip away at our structural deficits and political stalemates hardened
by years of acrimony.

Thankfully, new businesses now line our streets, new playgrounds and renovated
schools reach every corner of the city, and our finances have made a 180 degree turn
around. We are now one of the premiere cities in the entire nation! And the
national media have taken notice: 24/7 Wall Street has named us one of the top 50
cities in America for three straight years. You might ask what they see…well let me
tell you.

Our business development is booming! Our official scissors are getting dull from so
many ribbon cuts! Companies large and small are looking at Cranston as THE place to
do business. I get plenty of phone calls from early in the morning to late at night
from prospective CEOs & developers calling me about what it would take to relocate
their businesses or start their projects here.

And we don’t give the house away. We don’t make this an attractive place by PAYING
every business to come here. We do this by making the whole business environment
better. We have special liaisons at City Hall who walk the business owners through
the permitting process, ensure that our inspections teams respond quickly so that
there are not construction delays, and when problems arise, our team gets involved
personally. You don’t have to “know a guy” here. Business owners flock to us
because of our different mindset and shift away from the past.

I am lucky to come to work every day with some of the smartest and hardest-working
public servants in Rhode Island. I could go on for hours about every one of them.
All you need to know is that we have some of the most dedicated staff you’ll ever
meet who want to do what is right for all residents. We might be on a strong
financial footing, but that doesn’t mean the job of finding savings and efficiencies
ever stops. When the animal shelter needed better air conditioning for animal
safety, the team went out and found an affordable way to get the job done in two
days. And when the city’s bond ratings began to tick up, our finance team quickly
locked in lower rates to cut our long term debts.

Our accomplishment list really could fill up an entire novel, but there are certain
things I am very proud of:

* We’ve restored the rainy day Fund to more than $20 million – the highest of
any city or town in Rhode Island.
* We’ve helped to create over 2,200 new jobs in our city.
* We’ve overseen more than $66 million dollars in new business development.
* Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P have all upgraded our credit ratings to the highest in
two decades.
* Watching our spending like a hawk, and my office knows how fiscally
conservative I can be, has led to four straight years of cumulative surpluses.
This includes helping the school systems get out of debt, and I’d like to
recognize the work that the Superintendent and her team as well as the School
Committee have done to not only right their ship financially, but also improve the
quality of education for our students.
* Cranston now has the top library system in the state and has won a national
award for community outreach.
* Although there are limited opportunities for local government to take the lead
in conserving our environment, I’m extremely proud of several of green
initiatives: First, we’re switching all city streetlights to energy-efficient
LEDs that will achieve significant savings on our electricity bill and light our
streets better. Second, open space preservation, like Stillhouse Cove in Edgewood
as well as Moreau Farm in western Cranston, and floodplain restoration in various
parts of the city have become a priority for us. Lastly, we are poised to become
a leader in solar energy for our state. We have three large scale solar projects
in the works and one of them will be the largest solar power generating facility
in RI. With these three new solar farms, we will be able to create more renewable
energy than the wind turbines of Deepwater Wind.
* We tackled pension reform by bringing everyone to the table and working
together with our public sector unions and retirees. This collaboration is
bringing $6 million in annual savings and dramatically reduced our total unfunded
liability by over $30 million.
* We were the first city to successfully move union employees out of the costly
state pension system and into a 401(k) type defined contribution plan.
* And we’ve done all of this without having to raise taxes four out of the last
five years!
While I have many accomplishments to be proud of, our path to success hasn’t been
without a few detours. Mistakes have been made, but when they are – we learn from
them and the City gets back on track. And when the seas have been a little rocky, I
have always been so grateful for your continued support and your faith in me as we
right the ship.

As I look ahead to my new term, I envision the financial and business success that
has defined the city center to really take off in far reaching corners of our city.
I know everyone is looking forward to Dave’s Marketplace being an anchor to the
Rolfe Square area. We have potential in every ward, and with our safer streets,
great schools, beautiful parks and playgrounds, and strong team in place at City
Hall, we want to see this expand. We will continue to work day and night on
attracting businesses of all sizes to Cranston, to create even more jobs, and grow
our commercial tax base even further to take the pressure off our residents.

Because of our recent bond passage, and great rates due to our high credit rating,
we are going to be repaving these roads that have been an eyesore for years,
doubling our prior $10 million efforts.

More athletic fields are being renovated, more playgrounds rebuilt, and more
investments will be made to ensure that Cranston is at the top of everyone’s list to
come to and live in.

It’s impossible to describe just how proud I am to be Mayor and to see our efforts
truly come to fruition. If someone told me when I was standing on a milk crate
washing dishes in mom and dad’s restaurant that today I’d be leading one of the top
cities in this country, I’d probably have laughed at you. But the values that my
mother and now 88-year-old father instilled in me back then—working twice as hard as
anyone else, being honest and focusing on what’s right, and when you make a
mistake—admit to it and fix it—are all practices I’ve brought to the table as mayor.
And by those simple values, we’ve done great things, and will continue to do so.

Cranston in some ways is like my child. Eight years ago, I was new and green and
like a new parent, I had so much to learn. But I knew that I loved this city, which
had been so good to me and my family, which offered us a home and a place to run a
small business. I look forward to working collaboratively with the City Council,
School Committee and all of you to continue building upon the foundation we’ve laid.
I am so proud to be at the helm on this journey leading one of the top 50 cities in