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February 5, 2014

Rivera promises more cops, a tax freeze, renewed hope

First State of the City address is cautious and brief

(Continued)

Instead, Rivera said the task of improving the city he now governs — which has the highest unemployment rate and lowest per capita income in Massachusetts — will be “arduous,” and he suggested the city will need more help from the outside in its recovery. Already, the state bears the full cost of operating Lawrence’s public schools, and also has run them for two years.

“We have found that Lawrence is a community that people in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth want to help and they want to see us succeed,” Rivera said about his first days as mayor. “And lastly in these short 32 days, what I have found is that since the election in November, the state of our city is hopeful.”

He said his first task will be to hire more rank-and-file cops, which he has earlier he will pay for in part by shrinking the Police Department’s command staff. The proposal has run into resistance from the union representing the department’s superior officers.

He said he will ask the City Council to allow him to restructure the departments of Community Development, Economic Development, Planning and Inspectional Services in an effort to better position Lawrence to attract industry and jobs.

If Rivera’s brief address was narrow on specifics, it was broad on themes. He noted the inspiration he drew from attending President Obama’s State of the City address last week, where he was the guest of U.S. Rep Niki Tsongas.

“What struck me most about my visit to our nation’s capital was that even in this polarized, gridlock atmosphere that has gripped our national politics, everyone that was in the capital that night was full of hope, hope and anticipation of the possibility for greatness, the possibility of bold action, of a challenge to make our nation better,” Rivera said. “We too have that hope, that possibility, those challenges. And I look forward to greeting it all and accomplishing much with you.”

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