Elected Officials Reacted Positively to State of the City Address
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell's fourth State of the City Address was well received by fellow elected officials Thursday afternoon.
One highlight from the speech, delivered in the Z. Walter Janiak at Greater New Bedford Voc Tech High School, was the praise of Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III for establishing a unit of special prosecutors tasked with handling cases based in New Bedford.
Quinn and the mayor agreed that there need to be "more serious" cases against violent and repeat offenders in order to keep city streets and residents safe.
"As the mayor indicated, pretrial detention of the appropriate defendants has always been an issue for me," said Quinn. "I think, at times, there are individuals released that shouldn't be released. That's a fact."
Also on the topic of public safety, Mitchell made note that the next chief of police, who is expected to be selected within the next month, should take a proactive approach to preparations for crisis.
Another topic receiving support was Mitchell's commitment to adjusting the pay scale for city employees, with the "long term goal of paying a living wage to employees at the bottom of the pay scale."
City Council President Linda Morad said she hopes to work with the administration to get municipal wages on an even playing field.
"I'm happy to hear that door is now open and I plan on making sure that we go through that door and closing the door," Morad said. "There are many people that work for us in the City of New Bedford that don't make a living wage."
The mayor's address noted the city also needs to offer competitive wages in order to attract the best talent to fill key leadership roles within city government.
The remarks closed on the topic of the city's youth.
Mitchell acknowledged the troubling discipline issues rising out of Keith Middle School, and other New Bedford Public Schools.
"The news of disruptive behavior, or worse, at Keith Middle School, is very troubling," Mitchell said. "The problem is real, and it reflects poorly not just on Keith, but on the entire school district."
School Committee member Bruce Oliveira said the committee is working toward a solution to the issues, but they're also looking at current discipline guidelines before taking any further action.
"We don't want to drag this out, we want to get it done as quickly as we can, but we're going to be somewhat deliberate with that," Oliveira said.
The School Committee and City Council plan to hold a joint session April 13 to further discuss discipline issues and create an inclusive plan to address them.