Executive Office of the Mayor
Vaughn D. Spencer
October 13. 2014
- Authority Board and Commission interview updates – We have interviewed 11 candidates for the Reading Housing Authority, Animal Control Board, the Human Relations Commission, the Stadium Commission, the Blighted Property Review Board, the Planning Commission. I have made nominations based on these interviews and has made recommendations to council. We are still looking for candidates for Human Relations and Planning Commissions. If you are interested or have a recommendation, please call my office at 610.655.6234.
- PML Executive Committee Meeting – This Executive Session, led by Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter, focused on membership issues including dues discounts, convention changes and legislative strategies.
- Dr Carole and I met with Dr. Mumin last week to discuss future collaborative initiatives.
- Clean City Initiative Events – There have been four cleanups throughout the City in the past two weeks utilizing volunteers from six different organizations.
- Albright Men’s Basketball Team in 6th Ward
- Olivet’s Boys and Girls Club DREAM program – 300 block Walnut Street
- City Lights Ministries – vacant lot at 240 Cedar Street
- Fall Cleanup – ROTC students from Reading High, and volunteers from St. Peter’s Church and the Office of Juvenile Probation
Community Events Attended
- Citizens Committee on Crime – monthly meeting at Executive Office boardroom at the Reading Eagle.
- Rodale Institute Press Event – I walked through our City with Rodale Executive Director, Coach Mark Smallwood, as passed through Reading on his walk to Washington, DC. Our tour brought attention to our city-wide endeavor to be part of a local food system.
- Tourism Summit – The Visitors Bureau unveiled a new imitative to enhance inclusiveness throughout Greater Reading. A partnership that includes Go Greater Reading, Reading Pride, the City of Reading and Berks County Community Foundation has been formed to ensure all visitors to Greater Reading are welcome. The partnership proposes to identify and celebrate the businesses and community organizations which serve all consumers with dignity and respect, including the LGBT community.
- The Ninth Annual Berks Justice Hall of Fame Awards Breakfast honored leaders and volunteers in the community and justice system.
Upcoming Community Events
- Olivet Alumni Oral History Project - the Olivet Boys & Girls Club has a long history and is a key organization serving youth today in Reading, Pennsylvania. The oral histories that this class will write are part of an increasingly popular educational movement called
- community-based research (CBR) in which members of academic institutions work collaboratively with community members to produce research that helps to address community issues, and even (usually in small ways) to effect social change. One of the assignments each student will write is a brief oral history essay about someone who has participated in the Olivet Club. They plan to publish these essays in a booklet.
- Center for Excellence 20th Year Center for Excellence in Local Government Event is taking place Tuesday evening and will start with a cocktail hour at 5:30, a presentation will begin at 6:30 with comments from leadership about the mission and important current projects, and will wrap up with a taping of Paul Janssen’s BCTV Local Government in Berks program.
- Harrisburg Development Tour with the Berks County Community Foundation
- NE Springboard Coalition to have Town Hall Meeting on October 30 to address K2’s prevalence in Reading. The time and location have not yet been determined.
- Signature Closeout Art Celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month will be this Wednesday at 5PM at GAPS.
- Berks County Convention Center Board Meeting – October 16
- The Albright College Board of Trustees and President Lex O. McMillan III will host a celebratory dedication of the new John K. Roessner III ’61 Hall: The Center for Business and Civic Leadership at Albright College, on Friday, Oct. 17, at 4:30 p.m.
- CD will lead efforts to prepare and submit an application for Promise Zone designation. The application is due on November 21st. Receiving the designation will allow Reading the ability to receive primary consideration for available federal grant and technical assistance opportunities that further Promise Zone goals and strategies.
- Consistent with the Organization Committee’s funding strategy led by the Community Development Department, the Berks County Community Foundation (BCCF) has awarded $150,000 to the Downtown Improvement District (DID) to buy equipment so that recurring outdoor Main Street events can be held in the future. Funding will also go toward an event being planned for January.
- The BCCF has also awarded funding to the DID to hire a Main Street Development Coordinator, who will be focused on identifying vacant spaces within downtown, determining the best uses for them, and using available programs and resources to help attract businesses to the spaces. These actions are consistent with the Economic Restructuring strategy and 5 year plan being executed by our Community Development Department.
- The Main Street Public Art Initiative is also underway. A team of filmmakers, playwrights, directors, and other artists were in Reading last week to conduct interviews with myself and several other members of the community and to begin planning for an interactive downtown installation. This installation will tell stories of Reading and while complementing a play about Reading written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage.
- The City was awarded $75,000 in funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for an overall Downtown Creative Placemaking project which includes the installation, entitled “THIS IS READING,” as well as a general Public Arts Initiative that will engage Main Street Committees and the entire community in the selection of public artwork for downtown.
- The GoggleWorks is a partner in the initiative, and RiverPlace Development Corporation has agreed to provide match funding specifically toward the Main Street Public Art Initiative. Lynn Nottage and her team will raise private matching funds for the “THIS IS READING” installation.
- River Road Project Status
- The River Road extension project received proposals from three firms as part of a two-step process for procurement of professional services. The three firms were interviewed with the selection committee having made a tentative selection. The City is working closely with PennDOT in the procurement process and anticipates being among the first municipalities in the District and State to use a different delivery method whereby PennDOT takes on a more involved role in the project management and administration for both design and construction. We hope to have the award recommendation to Council shortly for this project which is important to both redevelopment and safety improvements in the neighborhood.
- Wyomissing Park Street Lights Project
- A major milestone has been accomplished regarding the Wyomissing Park Street Light project. A contract was signed with Pagoda Electric Company of Reading and a kickoff meeting was held in the City on September 28th. The contractor has suggested and the City has accepted an alternative to use directional boring techniques in certain areas (street crossings, driveways and sidewalks) to reduce costs to the City and minimize damage in the work areas. Also, a kickoff meeting was held on Thursday, October 9 at Met Ed to coordinate the work with Pagoda and Met Ed. The initial work is scheduled to start in late October and a target date for completion in January 15th, 2015.
- There have been a total of 11 of incendiary fires throughout the city in the past two weeks, between Sept. 29th and Oct. 13th. The Office of the Fire Marshall along with The Police Department are investigating, it does appear that they may be related. Addresses have been in the 900 Cotton, 700 and 800 Blks. of Chestnut, 200 and 300 North 6th, 900 Buttonwood, 1100 North 12th, and one of the Habitat for Humanity properties at 304 North 4th. While there has been no significant fire damage to any of the properties as of yet, there has been one minor injury to a firefighter.
- As it is in the agenda for the 10/13 Council meeting, we have moved to promote 2nd Deputy Chief Thomas Kemery to the vacant 1st Deputy Chief’s position, Lt. Scot Landis to the 2nd Deputy Chief’s position created by Chief Kemery’s promotion, and Firefighter Michael Glore to the Lieutenant’s position created by Lt. Landis’ promotion.
- All department members have already or will be attending a 6 hour Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support Refresher Training session that started with the first training group on September 16th and will be completed by the last of the 8 training groups on October 16th.
- As a reminder to Council, the police assist the property maintenance and fire departments by identifying high risk properties that they come across while fulfilling their police duties. These include vacant properties in disrepair or not secured, missing utility meters, and evidence of houses being used for drug purposes or otherwise illegally occupied. The police department completes and forwards from 80-115 of these reports annually.
- The City is still experiencing a downward crime trend. In particular, burglaries and car thefts are down significantly so far this year, cut by 24% and 27% respectively. We are on our way to having the lowest crime rate in decades. This is a tribute to our police officers and our community, as there are a lot of folks working in their neighborhoods to make things better. They are participating in faith based initiatives, clean-ups, and events on the block designed to bring people together. We all know that when citizens demonstrate that they care about their neighborhood by such initiatives that criminals are not as likely to be active in that area.
- Counting the two new officers we are hiring this evening, we have hired 14 officers this year to replace those who retired or left the department. Five of these new officers are Hispanic. This is about 36%, the highest percentage we've been able to bring on board in a year. The extra points in the civil service testing for being fluent in Spanish is helping our efforts to diversify the police force. However, we also need more black officers, and I want to make a point that the City and the police department encourage minorities to apply to the department. The City will be holding an examination for police recruits in January. Details can be found on the City's website soon.