PLAINFIELD, NJ - Mayor Adrian Mapp delivered his State of the City address to the residents of Plainfield on Thursday, weaving stories of why he chose public service throughout his speech.
Against a video backdrop, the evening kicked off with an invocation by Rev. Paul Dean of Visions of God Family Worship Church, followed by the presentation of colors. Ronnell Harrison sang the national anthem, and the Visions of God Praise Team performed "Every Praise."
Council President Joylette Mills-Ransome welcomed the attendees which included invited guests, city, county and state officials, board members and residents.
Mapp was then introduced by enthusiastic 9th grader Chelsea Young who had played the role of Town Crier at the city’s 150th kick-off celebrations back in January.
Mapp delivered his address in a TED talk style, rather than behind a podium, interspersed with video footage.
The mayor began his speech by quoting Martin Luther King, asking, “What are you doing for others?” This question, Mapp said, is what drives his vision for the city. For him, he said, he chose public service because he knew he could be a catalyst for change.
Quality of life was one of the administration's key initiatives in 2018, with a vision for all properties in Plainfield to be properly maintained. A multi-agency task force was formed, led by Oren Dabney, Director of Pulbic Works, to create a more efficient way to tackle code violations and, ultimately, to improve quality of life in the city.
According to the mayor, “Partnerships make us smarter and stronger as we work as teams.” This, he said, includes working with non-profit organizations and banks to bring workshops like homeownership seminars to citizens. Through the Community Development Block Program approximately 13 homeowners were assisted with funding for property renovations.
Mapp said the city has maintained its Moody’s MIG1 bond rating, regenerated a surplus of over $6 million and had a 97% tax collection rate as a result of prudent fiscal management.
He talked about the upcoming census in 2020 and the importance of participation, for both documented and undocumented residents, so that Plainfield will get its requisite representation and funding.
He touched on educational programs, summer youth programs, and NAN Plainfield Tech World, the Cisco academy that currently has 34 students enrolled and pursuing certifications.
A desire to create a safer Plainfield has also been a top priority, he said. Good government coupled with firm law enforcement, he stated, is needed to fight crime, and statistics show Plainfield was safer in 2018: violent crime was down by 54%, and the Plainfield Police have achieved accreditation status.
Roads were also made safer, he said, as a result of the implementation of 4-way stops in residential areas. There were 20% more speeding violations issued in 2018.
A standing ovation was given to four school resource officers, acknowledged for their work with the Queen City Mentoring Academy, as the cadets proudly marched into the auditorium, military style. The program is offered during the summer free of charge to middle school students, focusing on self respect, respect for others, team work and developing goals.
The Mayor also mentioned his wellness campaign that kicked off with the 2018 walk-off challenge. Plainfield recently received a "Healthy Town" designation by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute for wellness initiatives like LimeBike, a dockless bike share program.
“A strong community takes care of our most vulnerable – our seniors and veterans,” Mapp said, mentioning John Pritchett, a veteran and former Plainfield High School graduate who attends every city council meeting, with the sole purpose of reminding the administration to honor the veterans and the need for restoring Muhlenberg Hospital.
Mapp proudly mentioned the current Muhlenberg project that includes a medical complex and luxury apartments, and the recently renovated Dudley House, a transitional house for veterans that was completed in October.
Last year saw recreational improvements throughout the city, he mentioned, including a $7 million turf facility with press box and bleachers at Siedler Field, and new patio and walkways, picnic tables and more at Rushmore playground.
Mapp continued passionately, stating, “I chose public service because growth and progress cannot occur without meaningful economic development. Plainfield is rising like a pheonix and we are dusting off the ashes of failure and disappointment. We have earned investor confidence and as a result, investors have put half a billion in our community. The doors are wide open with opportunities not just for developers but also for every resident of Plainfield. Everyone living in Plainfield must benefit from what is happening. No one will be left behind.”
Citing planned improvements for the downtown area, the city has focused on marketing the diverse businesses through expanded advertising in targeted areas and marketing materials, some of which were included in goody bags provided to the attendees.
Mapp stated that his vision for a reimagined downtown area will begin to take shape in the next two years, and the area is expected to be a central hub of food, arts and cultural activity, and other significant redevelopment projects can be expected to be seen across the city.
On the educational front, Mapp referred to the Plainfield Promise as a pivotal tool in providing every Plainfield student an opportunity in achieving high educational opportunities.
Mapp closed by recalling his humble beginnings in his native Barbados, which he said shaped his desire for public service. “As your mayor, I commit to you that I will continue to work for Plainfield and it is in my blood.”