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Mayor's Report for June 2003

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Thanking the Residents of Riverdale Park

By Mayor Michael Herman

On June 2, I will hand over the gavel to Mayor-elect Guy Tiberio. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the residents who participated in our May 5 elections, as well as all those who allowed their names to appear on the ballot. Congratulations to the newly elected officials and the council members who will also be completing their service next month. In particular, I want to thank CM Rebecca Feldberg for her tireless efforts to restore our tree canopy and for our success in being recently designated a Tree City USA. I also want to thank CM Jose Almirez for allowing us to have true bilingual representation within the town government. I would be remiss if I did not also thank CM Wendell Davis for coming back to the council last year due to an unexpected vacancy. I also must thank our excellent department heads and staff for their continued devotion to our community and the nearly 6,500 residents who call Riverdale Park home.

Most of all, I want to thank you, our residents, for having confidence in me two years ago to elect me as your mayor. It has been an honor and privilege to serve. For ten years, the residents of this town have had confidence in me -- for four terms on the council and one as mayor -- and I want you to know that I never took for granted the support from the townspeople. As I have always said, we are stewards of the elected offices we hold, and these positions are more important than any one individual.

In that spirit we will be conducting an orientation for newly elected officials to ensure continuity of the high level of service we have in this town. Our residents deserve the very best.

As many of you know, I chose not to sit for re-election due to my recent appointment as Chief of Staff to County Executive Jack Johnson. It was not without some pain that I made this choice, but I felt I could not give the attention to the town that I have willingly given for the past ten years. This community is my home and I feel very strongly about how we move forward as a community in the future. While I will no longer serve as mayor, I will continue to push and promote new initiatives that allow us to seek a brighter future.

Over the past two years, we have moved the town in some extremely positive ways. The town center is on the verge of new occupancy after nearly two decades of dormancy. Businesses along the Kenilworth Avenue and Route 1 corridors are getting facelifts and extensive improvements to expand retail opportunities. The Route 1/East-West Highway intersection is about to get an infusion of millions of dollars in new development to eradicate the blight on that corner. Local road and sidewalk improvements of well over $1 million were completed, by far the most extensive in any two year period in our town's 83-year history. We had a more than $1 million overhaul on Kenilworth Avenue paid for by the State Highway Administration. We revised antiquated sections of our town code to avoid confusion. We are now conducting apartment unit inspections to ensure that the housing and habitability standards for our most vulnerable are adhered to.

We are now having separate collection of yard waste to save thousands of dollars annually for town residents. We created two trust funds of over $600,000 to perform economic development activities and infrastructure improvements from unusually large one-time grants and the successful negotiation for more than $400,000 from WSSC. We obtained more grants in the two years than at any time in our town's history. We now have two historic districts designated and recognized by the United States Department of the Interior. We have recently been selected as a Tree City USA and recognized by the State of Maryland for our commitment to tree planting and preservation. We annexed commercial property to expand our tax base along Kenilworth Avenue and have begun efforts to bring a new subdivision into our town.

All of these efforts, and more, required extensive cooperation between town officials, employees and residents. More citizen advisory committees were formed during this period than in the past. I hope our newly elected officials continue this trend of seeking public input on matters vital to the town's interest. The once nasty and divisive town meetings were conducted with dignity; though officials disagreed on certain positions of public policy, our government was capable of continued cooperation and respectful disagreement. We disagreed without being disagreeable. It was a pleasant change. We can only hope that this trend continues forever and indeed the paradigm of politics will have been changed for the better.

There is still much to do and many challenges ahead. Due to the current fiscal crisis in the State, our town and many others will be facing difficult economic choices. Unless the town continues to grow its economic and tax base, the financial situation will worsen. Due to strong fiscal management, we have staved off the crises that have befallen many of our sister cities and towns, and, in fact, we have even generated a small surplus in the current fiscal year. But constant vigilance is required to keep the town on track. I have confidence that our newly elected officials, while finding their own way, will not deviate from the path of growing our town's economy, continued fiscal prudence, and proving to residents that their town is second to none.

This has been a busy two years for the town, its government and the people. I hope that it is the harbinger of many goods things to come. Let us work together to make the next two years even more productive, proactive and responsive to the needs of our residents. Again, thank you all for your support and confidence.

- Michael Herman, Mayor

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