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Mayor Diaz Delivers State of the City

Asm. Craig Coughlin Does Intro Rocky Start turns into Admiration

PERTH AMBOY — Before Mayor Diaz stepped to the podium to deliver her State of the City Speech on 3/19/13, Assemblyman Craig Coughlin reminisced about his and the Mayor’s rocky start.

Mayor Diaz, who began her first Mayoral term in 2008 was at the Forge Hotel around January 2009. Coughlin was one of three candidates which included Judge Mathias Rodriguez of Perth Amboy who was hoping to win the Democratic Party’s Nomination to run for the Assembly for the 19th District.

Coughlin said, “Diaz was not a supporter of mine at first. She stuck up for another candidate for the Assembly. But Diaz answered the City’s call when she ran. There was a debt of $250 million and low morale when she came in. She reduced the debt by $54 million. Diaz worked with the State, Legislatures and NJ Transit to bring more businesses to the City. She also brought $600 million in projects into the town.” Road paving, revitalization of the Tennis Courts and 1000 volunteers for beach cleanup were other items mentioned by Coughlin.

He concluded, “She still has much work to be done but I’m glad she is on my side.”

When Mayor Diaz came up to speak, she told Coughlin how much she appreciated the hard work that he’s done. She also thanked Freeholder Ron Rios, Senator Joe Vitale, her family, staff, the City Council and City employees. She also welcomed Frank Pallone, Jr. to the City (who now has a satellite office in Olive Street). Diaz paid tribute to the recent passing of former Councilman and former City Historian Jack M. Dudas. (flags were flown at half-staff in his memory.) She also mentioned the passing of Bobby Carter who was a well known Detective and Tennis Instructor in the City.

In the heart of her speech, Mayor Diaz talked about the Goals she has set forth which includes openness, honesty and dialogue to unify the City. She continued with, “We have rebounded from a failing economy and have reduced the budget for the second year in a row. The budget has been cut by over $4 million since 2010. “The City was denied transitional aid because the City is on the right financial track. But we still have a long way to go for financial stability. S & P (Standard and Poor) gave a positive financial outlook to the City. We are creating surpluses. We have a real rebuilding plan and transparency with our lenders. There are government services available to our residences and businesses. We have capitol improvement programs. We just received a new fire engine. The Jefferson Parking Deck improvements and automated garbage pickups with the new garbage truck.”

She mentioned redevelopment sites, the City Business Plan and a reassessment of business plans and the creation of a new business handbook.

There have been cleanup grants for the brownfields and $4.5 million in funds for street improvements and environmental cleanups such as the Goldberg Property. “It is important to support new and existing businesses. We closed on the Veridian Property in January of this year. Perth Amboy has a lot of assets. We look forward to an economic turnaround that will stimulate growth and help with taxes.”

Diaz welcomed several new businesses who came into town and established businesses who opened up branches in Perth Amboy. She also made reference to the Waterfront Comeback, specifically the Barge Restaurant which reopened in January and the Armory which is expected to reopen in May.

To those affected by Hurricane Sandy, the SBA (Small Business Association) and FEMA deadlines to sign up for assistance is April 1, 2013.

She reiterated what Assemblyman Coughlin said about the 1000 volunteers for the beach cleanup due to Hurricane Sandy which caused $10 million in damage to the City.

Funds of $1.7 million from a coastal repair grant will be used for repairing walkways, piers and the beach front.

She gave an update on some of the historic areas in town such as the Surveyor General’s Office which is undergoing renovations and the Public Library repairs which is in Phase 1 with improvements of the interior on the main floor. The Mayor also gave kudos to the volunteers of the library. Diaz also thanked the nonprofit organizations such as the Jewish Renaissance, Catholic Charities and PRAHD (Puerto Rican Association for Human Development). The First Time Home Buyers Program was also mentioned as she thanked the staff who assisted the residents in this program.

The Recreation Department added new water events such as kayaking. “There were over 40 new events for seniors besides events for youth and families (swimming programs and family day).”

Diaz thanked those who supported Celebrate the Amboys Fireworks, “We hope to do it again this year.”

The Fire Department was mentioned for the great job they did during the fires we had last year. “The Fire Department has programs for the visually and hearing impaired.” She wished to thank Larry Cattano and his team for the great job they did during the recent storms. Also the YMCA, the school staff and American Red Cross were thanked for their assistance during the storm. She wished to thank her staff and entire workforce for the job they did.

At the end of her speech, Diaz said, “We’ve had visionaries and leaders of the past 300 years.”

At the end of her speech, she quoted President John F. Kennedy. The quote was, “For I can assure you, that we love our country, not for what it was, though it has always been great – not for what it is, though of this we are deeply proud – but for it someday can, and through the efforts of us all, someday will be.”

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