PERTH AMBOY — Mayor Wilda Diaz delivered her annual State of the City address at the Perth Amboy YMCA last Tuesday, emphasizing the need for unity with the town’s residents and the future goals for the city.
Diaz went over the many accomplishments that her team achieved in 2011, but expressed her need for support from Perth Amboy homeowners . She noted that regardless of what everyone thinks, they all want the best for their city.
“Despite our many differences, we all want what’s best for our city,” Diaz said. “We need to work together and continue to build the history and legacy of Perth Amboy.”
Diaz went over the financial issues facing the city, including a $250 million debt that residents have inherited since 2008. However, she noted that her banking knowledge and common sense helped the city shed a large amount of that total.
“Despite our achievements, we have not forgotten the fiscal challenge that the city is facing,” Diaz said. “After working with officials and making bold moves, we were able to reduce that $250 million debt by almost $30 million.”
Diaz also emphasized her responsibility for protecting the residents of Perth Amboy and how she fought the state’s tax increase. Her visit to Trenton and meeting with Governor Chris Christie in 2011 helped keep taxes at a reasonable number.
“The current system we had was bankrupt and needed reform. We can not impose greater taxes on people who can’t afford the current taxes,” Diaz said. “I have an obligation to the residents, the job hunters, the single parents, all of which is for the betterment of the community. It’s the right decision for all, not just a certain group.”
The biggest challenge for Diaz was bringing a positive image back to Perth Amboy, something that has been missing for a long period of time. She explained that the city has reduced its negative rating over the last three years and that alone will increase the chances of new business coming in and lower interest rates for the city.
“We are on the right track and are making positive changes for the financial status and identity of the city,” Diaz said. “I will not compromise the well being of our city. I never choose to look the other way on certain problems, and I won’t start now.”
Business has always been at the top of Diaz’s concerns since she took office in 2008, and she explained that the potential for financial growth has never been higher. The process began in 2011 with the addition of Volpak and Bunzl to the Perth Amboy family, and will continue to grow behind the addition of those two major corporations.
“In Perth Amboy, we must think globally but act locally. We’ve always had a master plan, but never had a business plan,” Diaz said. “There is still room to grow, and we have been involved in conversations with other businesses interested in coming here. We are becoming an asset to many.”
Education and after-school programs have also taken a hit in the past, including a fire that completely destroyed the center on Brighton Avenue for after school programs and the deterioration of the Public Library roof. Diaz went over the plans for each building and the exciting changes residents should expect in 2012.
“We are set to begin step one of a $10 million dollar project on the Perth Amboy Public Library, which will first get a new roof followed by ceilings and windows,” Diaz said. “We have also started construction on a new, 3200 square foot Brighton Avenue building that will be multi-functional for after school programs. We need to educate our residents and need a well designed building for education.”
Diaz also urged both the residents of Perth Amboy and her staff to continue the transparency and honesty that has gone on since becoming Mayor. She noted that there will be more one on one meetings with her staff and residents in 2012, and there will be more places to go for information about the city.
“With few, we have achieved much. I appreciate the transparency and honesty I have gotten in my term so far,” Diaz said. “There will be more availability with myself and my staff with one on one meetings starting in February, and there is now an official Mayor Diaz Facebook page with information about Perth Amboy. I’m here to listen to you.”
Diaz finished her address by thanking the residents and everyone who contributed to her staff in 2011. She urged everyone to continue to work together and do the best job possible to support the city of Perth Amboy.
“Doing what’s best is unpopular, but my heart still works for Perth Amboy,” Diaz said. “We have to do what’s best for our city, and work together for the future.”
By Jospeh L. Kuchie