The Mayor's Desk
It was so great to get away from the city with my family during this past school vacation week.
We haven't been in the habit of getting away for any length of time over the past few years — mainly because, if the mayor leaves for more than three business days, then the reigns of power have to be handed over to an acting mayor.
By city charter, acting mayor responsibility falls to the City Council president. Surrendering authority does not come easy, but it helps to know that there is a good relationship in place for a smooth transition — even if only for a few days.
In this case, City Council President Jackie Hardy stepped in and served as acting mayor. It was such a relief to me to know that the city was in able hands, and that I could turn the phone off and just relax with my family.
The first order of business I undertook upon my return was to order an "after-action" report on the Patriots Day weekend debacle that took place in the city.
Weather anomalies are occurring more and more, and the city needs to establish firm policies about handling off-season demands.
The Public Works director, public health director, and police and fire chiefs have been directed to assess what worked, what didn't work, and what recommendations they have for better handling the traffic problems, and public health and public safety hazards that occurred during the long hot weekend.
Also on Monday, a balanced budget for fiscal 2013 landed on my desk, and I have begun my review of the budget that has been prepared by the leadership team. The fiscal 2013 budget will be presented to City Council on May 8, so we are in a sprint to bring it to conclusion in the coming days. While the budget is balanced today, in my estimation, it falls short in its support of the School Department.
The School Department has asked for what amounts to more than a 6 percent increase over last year's appropriation, and it is assured that the city will not be able to meet that request.
Revenues are growing at a far lesser pace. But the budget as balanced today doesn't provide the resources that our new superintendent needs to keep the district moving forward. As we have done for the past four years, we will disassemble and reassemble the budget until we have achieved an acceptable balance between all of the competing demands for municipal funds.
I managed to carve out time this past week to attend the monthly Massachusetts Mayors' Association meeting, and all of my colleagues across the state are wrestling with their budgets now.
Staff meetings, constituent follow-up, School Committee, checking in on all the construction projects going on in the city, and generally getting caught up after a week away dominated the remainder of a hectic week. The weekend shows no signs of letting up either. Friday night's Berklee College of Music concert at the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, Saturday scavenger hunt on behalf of the Gloucester High School Docksiders, and Sunday Pride Stride are all on the docket.
It's good to step back and regain perspective once in a while and that is what my short time away did for me. There is much positive energy in the city, and a cooperative spirit among the elected officials for working together to improve our quality of life and address the challenges we face.
It was good to get away, but it's great to be back to the awesome city of Gloucester we call home.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.