In his recent budget address to City Council, Fiorentini proclaimed that city finances are better than at any time during his tenure. He has been credited with revitalizing downtown by promoting the growing restaurant district and pushing the redevelopment of several old and empty factory buildings into large, upscale housing complexes. His budget priorities for next year include making improvements to city parks and playgrounds and adding more police officers.
“Today, there is over $150 million in new development in the downtown area, with new docks, a new parking garage, new boardwalk and over 800 new residents,” the mayor said in his release. “The redevelopment of downtown and the taxes it has generated has been a major factor in the turnaround of Haverhill’s finances.”
Fiorentini said he has also “held the line on spending.” During his tenure, Wall Street bond-rating agencies have twice raised the city’s bond rating, which has resulted in lower borrowing costs, he said.
The mayor’s critics say he has done a poor job maintaining city buildings and property. Concerns have been raised recently about the condition of Trinity Stadium, Veteran’s Memorial Ice Rink, Winnekenni Park, various school buildings and other public assets. Some say he hasn’t done enough to attract and retain industry and high-tech companies here.
His greatest challenge next year, should he win re-election, will almost certainly be winning support from voters to replace the troubled Hunking Middle School with new building in Bradford. The mayor has said there will likely be an election in February or March to ask voters to temporarily increase their property taxes to raise the city’s share of the project.
If he remains in the corner office, Fiorentini is also likely to be judged by the success or failure of two major downtown endeavors — the potential sale and redevelopment of the long-vacant Woolworth Building at the entrance to Merrimack Street and UMass Lowell’s search for a suitable downtown location for a satellite campus.