NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Jon Mitchell addressed the state of the city in front of a full house filled with city business leaders, politicians, and residents during a luncheon organized by the South Coast Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Mitchell, elected to his fourth term in office last fall, reviewed the accomplishments of his administration and detailed his 2018 agenda across multiple areas of the city. The Mayor opened his speech talking about the importance of improving the quality of life in the city, and tied things like public safety, education, and the city's economy into that quality.

“First and foremost, we must continue to focus relentlessly on making New Bedford, quite simply, a really nice place to live,” said Mayor Mitchell. “Enhancing the city's quality of life should be seen not simply as an end in itself, but also as a means of sustaining the city in the long run.”

The Mayor first discussed the importance of public safety in the city, saying, “Successful cities protect the well-being of their residents, and we've made real strides on that front.” He says the crime rate has been down significantly over a stretch of a few years, and that “a disproportionate amount of crime is committed by an extremely small amount of people.”

“Despite a spike in homicides last year that didn't fit any particular pattern, the crime rate in New Bedford is down significantly over the last few years,” Mitchell explained. “The reality is that the crime rate in New Bedford compares very favorably with that of other cities nationwide. That's a tribute to our officers, and the leadership of Chief Joe Cordeiro.”

Among other crime related topics, Mitchell announced an upcoming review of the New Bedford Police Department as well, it's first in over 20 years, as well as plans with Chief Cordeiro to hire a crime analyst and upgrade the department's mapping software to better predict where crimes will take place.

Mitchell also took time to highlight the improvements made by the school system since it was under monitoring by the state in 2011. While overall test scores and graduation rates have been on the rise, Mitchell still recognized the need for improvement in the teacher and student retention rates within the district.

“Our schools have come a long way these past few years, because we refused to sit idly by while our kids were losing out on the education they deserved,” touted Mitchell. “We now have a school system that is clear in its academic goals, manages taxpayer dollars reliably, and has raised the standards for academic instruction.”

Another important topic discussed by the Mayor is the economic competiveness of the city. Mitchell says a focus needs to be on the competitive advantages of New Bedford's landscape and natural resources to strengthen the regional economy, or in a nutshell, the maritime industry.

“The Port is the primary driver of the region because it offers competitive advantages to the various industries that call it home, including commercial fishing, recreational boating, ferry services, certain lines of international cargo, and soon, offshore wind,” Mitchell explained. “Growing our regional economy and the jobs that come with it requires us to focus on our competitive advantages-that is to say-we need to double down on the things we're already really good at. In New Bedford, more than anything else, that means our maritime economy.”

Mitchell also touted the New Bedford Regional Airport as another economic driver for the Whaling City. Now that the airport offers commercial air service, Mitchell says that the potential to build business and connections is soon approaching. He also argues that since the city isn't operating a conventional airport, as it provides service to smaller commercial jetliners up to about 90 passengers, the city needs to “plan it well.”

“I am announcing today that I have asked former Precix CEO, David Slutz, to head up a review panel that will advise the city and the airport commission on how our airport can reach its full potential,” Mitchell declared. “The panel will work directly with a consultant to establish a long term strategic plan, which will shape the airport's operations and investments in the years ahead. It's a major undertaking, but given the potential of our airport, it's a high time to take it on.”

The Mayor closed his address by speaking on the imperatives of citizenship. Calling for action from responsible citizens over simply voicing a concern, he says that “the notion of citizenship is rooted in the idea that we have obligations to others. It requires more than simply expressing an opinion about what someone else should do.”

“I emphasize that in building a city, municipal government has role to play. Government cannot do it all, and maybe not even most of it,” said Mitchell. “City Hall should not be seen as the default source of the solution to every problem, however minor.”

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