translate icon

Mayor's State of the City Address 2022

City of Plainfield Seal

Mayor Adrian Mapp – State of the City Address May 18, 2022

Indira Gandhi said, "Rebels and non-conformists are often the pioneers and designers of change."

We are a city that has seen much change. Our economic landscape was carved by a rebellion borne of frustration and fueled by a desire for equality and equity, and we have seen much hardship. But Plainfield, we are not defined nor confined by that history - today, we are building a re-envisioned city forged by sheer resilience. A city whose foundation is the resourcefulness of its residents. A city rebuilt by determination. Five decades later, through hard work, focus, and vision, and after eight years of hard work by my administration, The Queen City has entered its Renaissance.

In 2022, I began what is a historic third term and my ninth year as Mayor of this great city of Plainfield, New Jersey. I never imagined when I took office in 2014 that I would have to make an address that included a report on how our city coped during a global pandemic. In 2014 I had dreams for the city of Plainfield, which included significant infrastructure improvements, tackling crime aggressively, attracting committed developers, improving our fiscal outlook, and creating a better quality of life for all residents. It gives me immense pleasure to say that eight years later, despite the pandemic, we not only affected significant change in all these areas, but we impacted the lives of our residents positively and improved the quality of life in Plainfield.

As I share this 2022 State of the City Address with you, my friends, and neighbors, I am excited about the future, about our future, because we have experienced the worst during COVID, and I have seen it bring out the best in us. I am proud to report that despite the hardships of the past five decades and the last two years. Despite social distancing, mask-wearing, and a worldwide lockdown, despite our sorrow and grief and illnesses, despite all that COVID threw at us, we survived. It knocked us down, but we got up, and we fought back with all our might, and it's because of that, today I tell you Plainfield, that we are STRONGER than ever! We have journeyed from Rebellion to Renaissance. We have proven that we are not a people who will go gently into that good night. Instead, we resisted; we rejected the expectations set for us and developed our own.

Our Resurgence is no mistake. Nor did it happen by luck. We're here today, living in a Renaissance City because of hard work, dedication, hope, and a vision. I am proud to share this moment with you because this was not a singular effort. It could not have happened without your support, strength, and belief. We stand as a city reborn. I thank you, and I thank those who shared our vision and invested in our city and our future.

Ladies and gentlemen of the great city of Plainfield, Good Evening! I want you to stand and give yourselves a round of applause. I want you to make the rafters ring because you did this! YOU DID THIS!!!

I'd like to acknowledge our Governing Body as introduced by Council President Barry Goode and thank them for their work on behalf of our city every day. It's a pleasure to work with a council that understands the work needed to be done and is committed to building and improving our city. Without their partnership, the progress we've experienced would not be possible.

I'd also like to recognize my cabinet. These are the Directors who deal with the everyday business of running the city and members of the city administration. I cannot do what I do alone, and this team goes above and beyond to make changes and improvements happen for Plainfield every day. They worked hard to bring about this resurgent economy, and I'm proud to work with them.

Family is everything to me, and I must share and thank the people who love me and help keep me grounded. My beautiful wife, the First Lady Amelia Mapp. My daughters Ayisha and Shermona, my son Dennis, and my grandbabies Mawuli and Yayra. Without your unwavering love, strength, and support, I could not do what I do. Thank you, and I love you always.

We welcome our special guests from the State, the county, and other elected officials. To our partners who continue to believe and invest in our city, we thank you.

I have been in public service for almost 25 years, first as a Councilman, then as a Freeholder (now known as County Commissioner), before being elected Mayor in 2014. There were many discouraging moments. There were times when it felt like nothing I did would make a difference. However, I persevered and dedicated these years of my life to serving because creating meaningful change in my community and city mattered to me. I understood the legacy of our city and saw the transitions it had endured. I was passionate about wanting to influence the world that my family now inhabited and trying to make it better.

In 2014 I faced the daunting task of attempting to transform a city that had suffered from decades of neglect, exploitation, and a lack of direction.

Plainfield has always been a beautiful city, but that beauty was marred and overshadowed by the specter of crime, administrative mismanagement, an absence of economic growth, and a deteriorating infrastructure. If history had proven anything for Plainfield, it was how rapidly a city could plummet from prosperity and affluence to a failing economy and despair.

One thing was sure; I knew I couldn't do it alone. I assembled a team that would focus on the major areas that needed attention: Financial health, Infrastructure, Economic Development, Social Services, and Communications.

One of our most significant challenges was restoring our city's fiscal health.

There were specific criteria that had to be met for Plainfield to be considered financially healthy. We had to consider our city's ability to meet its financial obligations… its financial obligations over the fiscal year. Its long-term commitments for the future and, most importantly, its ability to fund the essential programs and services that benefit the city's residents. That's you, the people of Plainfield.

Municipal fiscal health is not a story of austerity. Quality of life is defined by the goods and services cities can provide—and you don’t get high quality of life by cutting services. A fiscally healthy city, then, is one with a balanced budget that meets the community's short and long-term needs and is resilient in the face of economic uncertainty.

As the team and I plowed through the financial challenges, we kept your well-being at the forefront of our efforts. Our tenacity was rewarded with outstanding results. The team and I made fiscal health a priority that has remained unchanged for the past eight years.

In 2014, Plainfield collected approximately $930,000 in back taxes, a 96.5% rate. Since then, our collection rate has steadily increased, including a record high of 98.15% in 2021. Similarly, the city has steadily generated a budget surplus since my first term, increasing from $7M to over $12M in the last three years.

We've decreased our audit findings from over 30 in 2013 to zero findings in 2019 – a significant difference. In 2015, Plainfield's Moody's Bond rating was upgraded to an A1, and Bond Anticipation Notes received a MIG 1 rating. This is the highest possible rating for BANs, and we have maintained this rating ever since. It reflects our city's favorable credit profile and ability to secure funding for capital improvements. This means more updates for our city's infrastructure and, in turn, more updates for you, our Plainfield family.

The city's progressive fiscal improvement has allowed us to make citywide improvements that I’ll go into later. In City Hall, we did two website revamps since 2016, implemented a new integrated phone system, and upgraded the 911 system. Most recently, in 2021, energy-saving initiatives were made at City Hall, the municipal court, and police headquarters, reducing future costs for the city.

In 2010, Plainfield was undercounted in the Census, resulting in a loss of funding from the state and federal governments. In 2020, we achieved a self-response rate of 59.2%. Our residents' participation in the 2020 Census turned a page for us. In the words of activist Angela Davis, "It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism." Plainfield, thanks to your efforts – we can secure the additional funding we are entitled to and provide the services you need.

Our financial outlook for the remainder of 2022 is bright. We intend to maintain our excellent Moody's rating, keep the city's tax collection rate above 97%, and preserve a zero-audit finding. Plainfield is fiscally sound today because of good governance, intelligent decisions, sacrifice, and the hard work that propelled us into this Renaissance…

Desire is easy. Wanting something to happen is easy. Making something happen through relentless execution is much harder, and I'm going to get biblical…

because faith without works is dead…

With this in mind, in 2014, I made it a part of my mission to pave every road in Plainfield. Of course, that required money and resources, both scarce commodities. But we were determined... the grit and hope that has sustained us over years of hardship fueled our determination as we pushed toward that goal. By taking advantage of our membership in co-operatives and utilizing our capital funds, we milled and paved 133 roads over the last eight years. Approximately half of the city's streets are now safer and easier for your vehicles to navigate.

During one of my walks around the city, a resident said, "Mayor, you've paved more roads in the past five years than have been paved in the last fifty-five!" The immense gratitude I saw on his face made it all worthwhile.

While making our roads better for drivers, we did not forget our pedestrians. We introduced the "Light up the City Initiative" to deter criminal activity and create safer spaces for residents to walk at night.

Improving half of the city's roads is a huge milestone, but we have no intention of stopping at the halfway mark. We will continue fixing them until every Plainfield street is repaved, safe, and secure for our residents.

Our roadways weren't the only part of Plainfield's Infrastructure that needed attention. As Mayor, I wanted residents to have access to quality recreational facilities and activities. We completed the reconstruction of Seidler Field and the Rushmore Recreational Complex at the cost of almost $5 million. This encompassed installing two new turf fields for Plainfield with scoreboards, press boxes, bleachers, fencing, and stadium lighting. Basketball courts at these two complexes were resurfaced in addition to the court at Hannah Atkins. And we also found resources to resurface the tennis courts at Milt Campbell Park.

Our ultimate goal is to improve the recreational spaces in all four wards and create additional ones. It will not happen overnight, but I ask you to view the renovations completed thus far as a sign of good faith in what is yet to come. You don't change a city overnight; a renaissance doesn't happen by luck; it requires a vision, implementation, resources, and hard work. That's what we are doing day by day, week by week, and month by month. We've achieved a great deal in only eight short years, and I promise you, we're just getting started.

Our primary infrastructure goal for the remainder of 2022 is to replace all outdated parking meters. We'll add new pay stations, which will provide residents with more convenient options to pay by coins, credit cards, or phone. Our newly created Parking Utility will ensure that our parking infrastructure meets the needs of our residents and visitors.

As we grow and improve, we're keeping your welfare and that of the environment uppermost in our minds. That's why we'll be replacing our current fleet of vehicles with Electric vehicles and installing charging stations at city hall and other locations around the city.

We'll also make plans for Phase two of the improvements at Rushmore Recreational Complex. Plans include a spray park, a competition-size pool, a large deck, and a new building with restrooms and locker rooms. How does that sound? Plainfield, I don't know about you, but it sure sounds good to me, and quite frankly, I'm excited for the things to come. I am thrilled to be your Mayor at this time when our Queen City is experiencing a life-changing renaissance.

As we talk about infrastructure, we must acknowledge our First Responders who help secure that infrastructure.

Fighting crime effectively requires cooperation through a united effort from the police, community, and administration. I can confidently say our law enforcement officers are some of the country's very best public safety professionals. We have always ensured that they have the resources needed to do their job effectively. My administration understands that public safety must go hand-in-hand with the progress and growth of our Queen City.

It's not an accident that Plainfield's overall crime rate has dropped by 31% since 2014. We took deliberate and focused action that yielded tangible results. Using a purposeful and aggressive approach, we tackled crime through community policing, modern technology, and concentrated engagement over several years.

In 2021, we welcomed ten new officers to the Plainfield Police Department through assistance from the COPS grant. Equally as necessary to our city's infrastructure are our Fire Fighters. Last year, we hired fourteen new firefighters, updating firehouse facilities and video security systems.

Our Law Enforcement officers swear to protect and serve. Their oath and professionalism were tested in 2020, following a national outcry of protests in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis… As our Queen City publicly expressed its deep outrage and frustration through several peaceful marches. Local law enforcement ensured that the protests occurred without incident, thus allowing the spirit of community and police collaboration to remain intact. They understood the deep need for expression and remained respectful while vigilant in their duties.

Compelled to answer a call to action, I formed the George Floyd Police Reform Commission. The Commission comprised of a diverse group of Plainfield residents. Their goal was to review current policing policies and procedures of the Plainfield Police Department, make recommendations to be submitted in a public report, and have that report presented at several private and public sessions. The Commission submitted the report to my office, the Governor's office, the Union County prosecutor's office, and the State Attorney General's office.

My administration and I have great faith in our police department. We hold our officers in the highest esteem. However, we need the new and progressive City of Plainfield to value proactive approaches above reactive responses in times of turmoil. We trust our police department to continue to serve Plainfield residents without prejudice and minimize the probability of fatal encounters between police and civilians.

The City of Plainfield rose to the occasion in response to the George Floyd tragedy. Likewise, in 2021, we again rose to the occasion when faced with Hurricane Ida. Categorized as a Category 4 Atlantic Hurricane, it was one of New Jersey's deadliest storms. We knew cleanup wouldn't be an easy task with extensive damage done throughout the State. We opened a temporary debris management area to assist the PMUA. Using Milt Campbell Field as a disposal site, residents could have their bulky water-damaged waste picked up curbside, helping to make cleanup more efficient and convenient during a time of devastation.

Plainfield, we are steadily improving, and our critical infrastructure will not be an afterthought. For the remainder of 2022, we'll continue to reduce the crime rate and increase traffic enforcement to deliver the message that my administration, aided by the Plainfield Police Department, is serious about making our city a safe place to live, work, and play.

We intend to aid our first responders in any way we can. With this in mind, we'll replace suppression vehicles and turnout gear for our firefighters and develop a new in-house training facility at Engine 3 Station. In keeping with our proactive approach, we have plans to build a mobile restroom equipped with shower units for times of unforeseen disasters that affect the city.

This year, we'll build a broadband network to facilitate wi-fi access in public areas, provide increased camera surveillance citywide and facilitate predictive crowd monitoring, among other things. We are building a technology infrastructure for Plainfield that prepares us to deal with changing technology for the next 50 years.

A city with a strong economy is built to last and positioned to grow. Eight years ago, there were zero prospects for economic development. Our beloved Queen City's reputation was tarnished, branded as a difficult place to do business. One of our early priorities was to reverse that perception by creating a process that facilitated investment rather than impeding it. We embarked on an aggressive rebranding and marketing campaign to change common misconceptions about Plainfield. We streamlined the application process, making it easier to do business with the city and spreading the word that Plainfield was open for business.

Since I became Mayor, my administration has been dogged in its efforts to revitalize Plainfield. The former Thul's Auto was converted as part of the UCC campus expansion. In 2020, we saw the completion of the Quinn Sleepy Hollow development, which is now fully leased. We also saw the completion of The Randolph, a state of the art residential gem in the third ward with 120 units at the former Muhlenberg campus. This too is fully leased and stands as a monument to what investor confidence in our city is all about

Other projects underway include a five-story residential apartment complex located on 1000 North Avenue, the first significant development near the Netherwood Train Station. This development will transform the area from a vacant, underused industrial zone to a vibrant, mixed-use section in the North Transit Oriented Development area. Several residential projects are under construction on South Avenue, the largest being The Centurion Plainfield. We welcomed a new CVS, and a Wawa opened its doors in 2021.

Ninety workforce housing units grace a market-rate luxury apartment building known as the Station at Grant Avenue.

We understand that economic equity starts by supporting our local businesses, which are the backbone of our local economy. 

Our downtown business district comprises small businesses, and we’re committed to providing resources and tools for them to grow and thrive. That’s why we recently installed the “Size up” tool on our website. It gives our local businesses insight to help them make sound business decisions. Our commitment to growing local businesses is authentic, and we consider them our partners in economic development.

Additionally, Plainfield launched its first Food Truck Festival downtown last year – this will be an annual feature moving forward.

Today, over a billion dollars are invested in the City of Plainfield, represented by almost 5,000 residential units and over 500,000 square feet of retail. With a transit-oriented designation, we can now build around our transit centers and create new hubs of activity. We'll drive more business and opportunity into the downtown and surrounding areas, and we can attract transit-dependent residents by creating an urban, pedestrian-supportive environment.

Significant changes are happening in our city! This year, we plan to complete the pedestrian mall and launch Restaurant Row, an entertainment complex that provides an event center, an anchor restaurant, and other eateries. With new marijuana laws in place, you can expect to see cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers opening shops in our city. This new booming industry will stimulate our economy, serving as a substantial equity component for vendors that incorporate local hiring and sourcing. New construction and new businesses coming to our city mean more job opportunities for our residents.

Although we are reimagining to rebuild a more robust Plainfield, we have not forgotten our industrial roots. The city is reimagining its industrial corridors. In conjunction with the New Jersey Innovative Institute, NJIT, and industrial partnerships in the West End Industrial Corridor, our administration is initiating innovative growth strategies to accelerate the digital transformation of the NJ industrial base. In other words, we are keeping pace with changing technology.

It's no surprise that Plainfield was ranked by Business Insider as number nine out of the top twenty-five suburbs across the US, where home values are growing the fastest.

Friends, this is the Plainfield we dreamed of when we emerged on the other side of the rebellion almost 50 years ago. This is the reimagined city we envisioned eight short years ago when I first took office. This is how we transform our dreams into reality.

I'm excited about the growth and progress of our Queen City, and you should be too!

Our resurgent economy consists of more than just new buildings and businesses. The art and culture of a people help shape the community as well. When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort, he simply replied, "Then what are we fighting for?" Art holds an enduring power that ignites hope within us when we need it most. Its impact on creating vital communities, inspiring curiosity and innovation, sharing diverse perspectives, creating jobs, and promoting equality and inclusion is of great value.

After opening its doors in 2019, the Plainfield Performing Arts Center (P-PAC) received close to 6,000 visitors in just the first nine months. Patrons attended arts events and classes, worked, painted murals, applied for jobs, and danced. This big boom of interest potentially positioned the arts center as an essential hub for residents, non-profit organizations, and artists to have a creative outlet for their voices. They can now display their work in their community.

Also, in 2019, the center hosted 16 events to celebrate Plainfield's 150th anniversary. This created another shift in public perception and marked the city as a new cultural destination. In that same year, we hosted The Queen City Film Festival. It became designated as an international film festival – securing the city's identity within the film community.

We are happy to see our community's dedication to equity, diversity, and inclusion fulfilled by P-PAC. In 2021, "La Casita Feliz" was performed at the center to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. It was the first play produced by the city entirely in Spanish. Additionally, we've hosted numerous Pride events and are quickly becoming known as an authentic and welcoming community.

Reclaiming our old charm history, it was an honor to have P-PAC's exterior listed on the National Register of Historic Places after restoring its stained-glass windows in 2019.

In 2021, residents and visitors alike were excited for the return of the long-awaited House Music Festival for Prostate Cancer Awareness, an intersection of culture and health to spread cancer awareness and information. Over 6,000 people from more than six different states attended the event to dance in the name of health.

Plainfield is expanding its connections and developing cultural tourism, using the arts as an economic generator while building an arts infrastructure. For the first time, cultural planning is a part of the city's master plan.

We have several innovative artist residency programs at P-PAC to support the Plainfield creative industry.   

P-PAC will be the cornerstone of interactive arts and community experiences that encourage and build community participation, health and well-being initiatives, and inclusive workforce development. It's our goal to continue to maintain the P-PAC facility to keep a welcoming, safe, healthy, and culturally rich community.

For the first time in a long time, Plainfield's artistic progression directly aligns with its economic progression. We have a growing population of successful independent filmmakers, screenwriters, and film professionals. As downtown evolves into a pedestrian-forward environment, we'll allow local talent the opportunity to contribute to the city's aesthetic by creating original art on structures in our public spaces. We want to see and feel you, the people of Plainfield, embedded in the fiber of our city.

Our ongoing economic evolution speaks to the strength of our Queen City and demonstrates actionable hope at work; it translates into redevelopment in every ward across Plainfield. It proves our resourcefulness in attracting committed partners who want to invest in our city. In this city, no growth and development had taken place for over forty years. It displays our resilience after the rebellion of the 1960s, resilience to weather a collective disinterest from investors. Resilience after being abandoned and passed over as other municipalities around us grew and thrived, resilience to endure Plainfield's stagnation under successive administrations ...

Plainfield, it's our turn to grow and flourish! May the resilience that sustained us during our darkest hour catapult us forward as a community. Friends, share my excitement and understand what it means; we are a Renaissance City!

Earlier, I mentioned the importance of the city's ability to finance essential programs and services that benefit you, our residents. You are Plainfield. You are the foundation of our community. Plato once said, "This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are." The city is just a desolate destination without the people, absent of warmth, inspiration, and culture. You are the heartbeat of Plainfield. When I took office eight years ago, you became the reason behind everything I strive to obtain for this great city. My administration and I take the health and well-being of every resident personally. We have made every effort to provide the services and resources needed.

Since 2014, we have tended to the immediate physical needs of our residents, assisting hundreds to secure housing and prevent pending evictions. Through our Department of Health and Social Services, we've provided meals where necessary for families and those dealing with homelessness and food insecurity.

Knowing that our children are the leaders of tomorrow, we treat investing in our tomorrow as a top priority. Almost a thousand young people received employment services and on-the-job skills development to assist with career development. We've also equipped over 4000 of our children with school supplies.

The visionary Dr. Martin Luther King jr. said, “As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.”

We are only as strong as the weakest among us and proving once again that we are stronger with public and private partnerships, the "Plainfield Emergency Food Providers Initiative," a collaborative organization of over ten faith-based congregations with local individuals, businesses, and civic organizations provided much-needed additional contributions. Between 2019 and 2020, our WIC office served over 36,000 clients and issued approximately $3.2M in healthy nutrition food vouchers to eligible residents.

The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and New Jersey State League of Municipalities designated Plainfield a Healthy Town for four consecutive years in recognition of The Mayor's Wellness Campaign.

Under this Campaign, we continued to address the needs of the uninsured and underinsured residents of Plainfield. In partnership with the NJ Department of Health, we administered hundreds of different vaccines. Not to be confused with the over 3000 covid vaccines given during the "Plainfield Wins" vaccine lottery, where 24 lucky winners received $5000 each along with their vaccines. In 2021 alone, we tested over 11,000 residents for covid during our free community testing campaign.

We are constantly seeking ways to improve. For your convenience, we launched Vitalcheck, which allows residents to apply online to order vital records.

Keeping pace with our rapidly growing economy, 50 Plainfield residents completed the Cannabis Certification Training through the city's unique workforce program in partnership with Union County College.

As we approach the second half of 2022, we're improving access to street outreach services across the entire service area. We'll focus on people who need mental health support and homeless youth populations. We collaborate with two transitional housing programs that address chronic and episodic homelessness, helping people transition through the housing system, particularly families and victims of violence against women.

We also have a goal to complete the "Human Trafficking Initiative," which includes efforts to eliminate child abuse and undervalued and unpaid domestic workers. It also seeks to implement policies that promote gender equality at all levels of society.

So far, I've talked about four of the major areas that my administration and I have addressed over the past eight years: financial health, infrastructure, economic development, and social services. However, I cannot wrap up the State of the City Address without addressing the elephant in the room. We haven't had a live State of the City Address in the past two years, and there's a reason.

During the first quarter of 2020, the world received a devastating blow from an invisible enemy, COVID-19. To reflect on our last significant area of focus, communication, we have to look at how we weathered the global pandemic.

The COVID-19 virus forced us to physically distance ourselves from each other, even as we struggled to maintain a semblance of normalcy. Within the administration, the mandate was clear; we had to find a way to keep city workers safe without disrupting services to our residents.

Friends, that is precisely what we did.

We mobilized virtual workstations, giving employees the means to work remotely. We implemented critical safety measures for essential workers whose presence was crucial at City Hall. Offices began working on staggered schedules, and we arranged testing for employees. I am proud to say that City Hall remained open every single day. We had to change a few things, but we adapted and remained open.

With everyone remaining in their homes and operating under executive orders to close public gathering places, we knew that our local businesses and residents employed in the service industry would soon feel the sting. We established a COVID-19 Relief Fund to help individuals struggling to pay their bills, and we set up a UEZ COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund to support our local businesses that were losing much-needed revenue.

Utilizing the Sign & Façade Grant Program, we helped businesses set up outdoor dining with tents and dining furniture.

We actively sought partners who could provide COVID testing at little or no cost to our residents, and we offered testing in Plainfield from the very early days of the pandemic until this very day. We distributed hundreds of thousands of masks to residents, including our homeless population, providing sanitary kits with soap, hand sanitizer, gloves, and toothbrushes. We provided daily updates on the COVID numbers in Plainfield and live-streamed information sessions to our social media pages.

The Lunch Partnership Program provided bagged lunches at three different locations throughout the City of Plainfield, five days a week for twelve weeks, serving over 16,000 residents. We partnered with Union County and several local houses of worship to host food and grocery distribution events. We ensured that almost one thousand senior residents received turkeys and chickens during the holidays. 2020 was a year for Plainfielders to lean on each other for support.

One of the most significant things I felt we could do for our residents in a pandemic year was alleviating expenses. So in 2020, I tasked our leadership team with bringing in a no-tax-increase budget, and they accomplished that – for the first time in decades. Instead, not only did we not increase taxes, we actually decreased taxes for two consecutive years in 2020 and 2021. Let me repeat; we reduced taxes for two straight years. This was a tangible win for our taxpayers during a very dark period. We dug even deeper and found a way to hold the line on taxes year over year while reinstating recreational services that were cut due to a preponderance of caution for the safety of residents...

Hope translated into action and made it happen twice—two historic firsts for the resilient Queen City. 

Although 2020 and 2021 were arguably the most challenging years of our lives, some ordinary people emerged as heroes and heroines, facing this virus head-on every day. First Responders worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Plainfield's bravest and finest led the distribution efforts to hand out masks and safety hygiene products. They responded to calls for help – endangering their lives to assist those struggling with COVID.

However, the COVID response efforts didn't stop them from doing what they do best, responding to the scene of fires, 911 calls, and managing rescue efforts. Our first responders, medical professionals, and others who worked on the frontline in all capacities, putting themselves and their families at risk, are owed a debt of gratitude. Let us take a moment to say thank you.

Effective communication is essential in maintaining strong, lasting working relationships. This is particularly true when operating remotely and navigating uncertain times. Communication was vital to our survival at the onset of COVID, but the way we communicated changed forever.

We were one of the first municipalities to successfully host a virtual council meeting after the COVID-19 virus began to spread rapidly. The global pandemic brought communication into sharper focus. As a result, many teams now operate entirely remotely. We rely on technology such as email, video conferencing, and virtual workstations. It's also vital for maintaining contact and getting information out to our residents.

Effective communication meant providing our residents with daily updates on the COVID situation in our city, and that's what we did. Sending out daily written updates to an email distribution group, posting daily numbers on our social media, utilizing robocalls to remind residents of important events, and updating our website daily with the most current figures. And guess what? Over two years later, we are still doing regular updates.

To provide an avenue for residents to ask crucial questions, we produced numerous live programs streamed through our social media pages and brought experts to the table to respond to your concerns. Understanding the importance of our residents to feel spiritually connected during isolation, we also hosted faith leaders on the live streams.

We added an E-Newsletter in addition to the two that already went out each week. The newsletter contained all the information and resources on COVID-19; that's three newsletters each week, 12 newsletters each month, 156 each year, and 312 for two years. That's a lot of information. We added a dedicated page on the website that contains helpful links, resources, and the most current information on the pandemic.

In 2020, we added another tool to our communications utility belt, the REPORT IT App, an app that gives you a direct line to City Hall. It even allows you to report your concerns anonymously. You can take pictures of abandoned vehicles, potholes, fallen trees, or anything else that requires attention through the app. These pictures are sent directly to the appropriate department for attention. If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to download the app today, to shorten the distance between you and City Hall.

Last year we launched an initiative called Love Plainfield. The Love Plainfield campaign is an initiative focused on fostering a spirit of love, pride, and unity in the City of Plainfield. It encourages residents to work together to celebrate and promote Queen City's rich history and vibrant culture. Through this initiative, we support our small businesses, help residents in need, restore pride in our community, and commit to keeping our city clean and green. What defines a place is its people, and our people are diverse and unique.

We've had many Love Plainfield programs throughout the year, and the movement is growing. Our residents have all become ambassadors helping to build "Brand Plainfield."

LOVE PLAINFIELD – the concept is so simple yet so powerful.

Plainfield, we've faced significant challenges before -- rebellion, periods of stagnation, upticks in criminal activity, competing to attract investors, overcoming the stigma of a bad reputation. We faced each challenge with courage and hope – letting that hope propel us to dig deeper and climb higher. Allowing our hope to be the inspiration for ideas, dreams, and action. Some want to put the brakes on change, they want to slow down the progress that we've made, and they are the ones who live in the shadow of past glory and dream of the restoration of the "good ole days." But we are looking towards better days.

In the words of Lincoln, we did not adhere to the "dogmas of the quiet past." Instead, we thought anew and acted anew. We made hope and change work for us, embracing the concept of a new, diverse, changing Queen City as we welcomed new residents. And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only danger -- we emerged more robust and resilient than before.

We cannot return to the good ole days, but we still cherish the values that made Plainfield such a great place to live back then. We have unique strengths as a city. We have proven that we are willing to work for what we want. Our history demonstrates that we are optimistic and we are culturally vibrant. What was true then can still be true today. We have everything we need right here in Plainfield to ensure prosperity and security for generations of Plainfielders to come.

Our plan is working. The progress of the last eight years was made possible because of this spirit of hope. That's how we attracted over a billion dollars of investment to our city, found the resources to pave half the roads, moved our fiscal outlook from bleak to outstanding, and transformed recreational spaces into oases of athletic gems across the city's landscape.

But, this progress was not inevitable. It was spawned by our collective conviction and belief in change and our unwillingness to back down from that conviction. There will always be challenges that beg us to question whether we’ll respond to change with fear, turn against each other as a city, or face the future with confidence in what we've done, who we are, and what we stand for.

Our focus has been on growing an economy that works for everyone for the past eight years. We've made significant progress. But we need to make more, and we are poised to make more. Now is not the time to lose heart. Now is not the time to lose hope. Now is not the time to change directions. Now is not the time to slow the impetus that drove us to this city's most significant economic development period in over fifty years. No!

Now is the time to sustain this Renaissance as a legacy for the next generations. Now is when we ride the wave of development to greater prosperity for every resident. Now is when we will see the fulfillment of our vision for the Queen City. Now is when we cross the invisible line from dream to reality. Now is when we stand and roar our Plainfield pride because we will no longer be ignored, overlooked, or overshadowed. Now is when we rise and seize our destiny because we will no longer be denied.

If you've ever believed in your city, my friends, neighbors, and community, now is the time to stand for progress. We can see the fruition of our hard work, and we will not divert from this path. We could not envision a day like today when we faced the bitter fruit of abandonment at the end of our rebellion. We could not visualize a moment when our collective fortunes and diligence would result in this moment of vindication and triumph.

We stand arms locked, holding the line to support each other because that is how we overcame past challenges. That is how we face the future, not a city divided but a community united by our disparate and unique cultures. Not a people separated by wards and zip codes but joined in purpose and intent. Not a destiny decided by the flight of deserters but a future shaped by passion and determination.

Like Dr. King, I climbed that mountain and saw the promised land of The Queen City, and she was beautiful, welcoming, culturally vibrant, and all the people prospered. That was the dream I had eight short years ago, and it’s the dream that’s being fulfilled today by hard work and dedication.

If you have ever loved Plainfield, if you have ever cried for Plainfield, if you have ever craved to see Plainfield transcend the limitations set on her as I have, then you share this moment of intense emotion and gratification with me. This city we call home is more than the bricks and mortars that make her. It is the pulse of the people who call her home… it reflects multiple cultures that have planted roots here… it is the heartbeat that resonates outward into countries in South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Asia, and beyond. This is the Plainfield we have evolved into, and it's the Plainfield that will be remembered for its diversity, inclusion, resilience, and its Renaissance for generations to come.

Today we see where the veins of strength and hope intertwine with hard work, vision, tenacity, determination, and Plainfield; today, we win. Today is our day because we have survived the treacherous journey that has brought us on the road from Rebellion to Renaissance. And today, the State of the City is strong, and our best days as the Queen City are ahead of us.

May God continue to bless you and your families, bless Plainfield and bless the United States of America. Thank you!