Mayor Eddie Moran's First 100 Days In Office Summary
Dear Reading Neighbor,
I hope when you read this report you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.
My Administration’s first 100 days in office have been a rollercoaster of emotions, to say the least. We were off to a good start – accomplishing some of our initial goals of putting our team in place, working with City Council to rebuild our broken relationship and articulating a vision for the future. We set out to create a strategic plan to build a better Reading together. A Reading that would serve as a model municipality for others to follow. These accomplishments alone would be remarkable in "normal" times. However, life is not normal at present as so many of you so painfully know. As a community we are facing one of the biggest challenges in our lifetime.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed our plans, and the plans of all the residents of our City, Commonwealth and Nation. While I can assure you the City is in good hands, I stay up at night thinking about the devastating impact COVID-19 is unleashing in all aspects of our society. The priority now is to find ways for the City to mitigate the hardships everyday citizens are experiencing because of this historic worldwide public health crisis.
One of my objectives as your Mayor has been to make positive strides in updating the City’s daily administrative functions. Often the work we do is behind the scenes. The average resident does not always know what workflows have been modified or improved. It is not flashy work, but critical to ensure that our local government is responsive and committed to those who live, learn, work and play in Reading. We are constantly looking for efficiencies to improve our service delivery in support of good government.
I know that the days and weeks ahead will be challenging. Yet, I also know one important characteristic about our City… we are resilient. With everyone’s input, Reading will come out the current emergency stronger than ever before. Our City has faced its fare of tragedies, whether the loss of an industry giant or the economic crisis of 2008. Time and time again, we have shown our capacity to unite and persevere. The current COVID-19 pandemic will be no different.
This report highlights the work of my Administration during our first 100 days in office. In fact, more like the first 60 days given that we have been responding to COVID-19 for the last six weeks. As always, I am working in our City's best interest to build a Reading we can all be proud of.
Lastly, I want to thank all of you for placing your trust in me. I do not take this responsibility lightly. I consider it the honor of my life to serve as your Mayor. Please know I will discharge the duties of the office with fidelity.
Mayor Eddie Moran
Rewriting Recent History
A sad theme of Reading's past was the isolation within all areas of our government. I came to office with a clear mission to build bridges and turn City Hall into a government of the people, for the people and by the people. An Administration committed to working collaboratively with anyone seeking to improve the present and future of Reading. I have invested countless hours rebuilding relationships that had been fractured years ago. I believe we are now on the road to new and improved collaborative relationships.
Foundational Pillars and (Re)Building Relationships
During the State of the City Address on January 31st, I shared my vision for building a better future for our residents and visitors based upon four foundational pillars: Safe Streets and Safe Neighborhoods; Education and Workforce Development; Community and Economic Development; and Responsible Leadership.
Since then, and within my first 60 days in office, my Administration and I have met with, among others:
- U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.
- U.S. Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan.
- PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
- PA Secretary of Aging Robert Torres.
- PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Executive Deputy Secretary Neil Weaver.
- PA DCED Governor's Center for Local Government Services Executive Director, Kim Bracey. Ms. Bracey is a former Mayor of York. The Center is the Commonwealth's overseer of the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act program, better known as Act 47 of 1987.
- PA State Senator Judy Schwank.
- PA State Representative Tom Caltagirone.
- PA State Representative Mark Rozzi.
- Berks County Commissioners Christian Leinbach, Michael Rivera and Kevin Barnhardt.
- Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht.
- Berks County Area Agency on Aging Executive Director, Dr. Edward Michalik. Dr. Michalik is also the Berks County Administrator of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.
- Reading City Council President Jeffrey Waltman and Council Members Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz, Stratton Marmarou, Donna Reed, Lucine Sihelnik and Melissa Ventura.
Every person with whom I have met expressed optimism and appreciation for the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with my Administration. Sadly, some of those conversations had not taken place in years. The dialogue has been productive and will continue to focus on how we turn Reading into a place everyone can be proud to live, learn, work and play. To achieve that goal, we need all stakeholders at the table.
In just 60 days, we have hired a competent core administrative team:
- Managing Director Pedro Cortes. Twice PA Secretary of State (10 years) and former Executive Director of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs.
- Acting Chief of Police Richard Tornielli and Acting Deputy Chief of Police Javier Ruiz. Chief Tornielli is a former captain and 19-year veteran of the RPD. Ruiz is the longest-serving member of the RPD.
- Department of Community Development Director Jamal Abodalo. 30 years of community and economic development experience, most of it in Berks County. Holds a Master's Degree in Planning & City Sustainability from Harvard University and a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering & Business Administration from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
- Capital Projects Manager Stan Rugis. Former Director of Public Works for Northampton County. Ample experience managing projects and seeing them to fruition. This position is critical for Reading to exit Act 47 status successfully.
- Acting City Solicitor Elizabeth Kraft. A talented attorney who has served in previous administrations and is well regarded by City Council.
- Department of Administrative Services Jamar Kelly. Former Local Government Policy Specialist with the PA DCED's Governor's Center for Local Government Services. At my request, Mr. Kelly also served as the City's Acting Managing Director for three weeks until Mr. Cortes assumed his new role.
Since day one, I have spoken about bringing the best and brightest to City Hall to help advise me on the big-picture issues. I feel confident that I have done that. We have made many excellent hires within the last three months. Of course, every member of my team is essential, but we would not have accomplished so much thus far without the most qualified managing director Reading has ever had. Since day one, Pedro has exceeded my expectations. Our City is better for it because of his leadership.
The mere fact that we have been able to fill these positions so quickly when in previous administrations it took months to do so is a testament to my working-relationship with City Council. I thank all the councilors for their assistance and support of my appointees.
The Administration has also been working closely with other City governmental entities like:
- Reading School District. Having served for six years as an RSD Board Member, I have an excellent relationship with Superintendent Dr. Khalid Mumin and the Board. The City and RSD are constantly looking for ways to collaborate in support of our youth and those who educate them. Supporting our students is one of my top priorities, especially when it comes to my foundational pillar of Education and Workforce Development.
- Reading Parking Authority. Within the first hour after I was sworn into office, we established a new Board of Directors and have been working with them to help our citizens, especially by opening City garages for free and suspending some parking enforcement during COVID-19.
- Reading Area Water Authority. The authority has provided free water for thousands of residents and reconnected service for those facing hardship.
- Reading Recreation Commission. The Commission has been a valuable partner in the distribution of meals for students and others in response to COVID-19. RRC has also collaborated with the City to reduce public gatherings in recreational areas that violate the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) social distancing guidelines and the Governor’s Stay at Home order.
- Reading Housing Authority. The Authority runs one of the best public housing programs in the Commonwealth. The Administration supports RHA by ensuring they have qualified Board Commissioners to carry out their mission.
- Berks Arts Council. The Council’s multiple programs highlight local talent and bring to Berks programs that rival those in larger metropolitan settings. COVID-19 forced the rescheduling of the Boscov’s JazzFest until 2021. Still, many other programs will continue on schedule, with some modifications. They include Fast Lane Art – Art in our Communities, which showcase students in all mediums. The City supports Fast Lane Art and looks forward to other events later in the year.
- My Administration is also committed to diversity within Reading’s boards, authorities and commissions (BACs). It is important to me and Council that our BACs become more reflective of our population.
Community and Economic Development
For Reading to achieve its full potential it must have a vibrant civic life and business sector. My Administration is committed to seeing that the City regains its rightful place as a municipal leader. To that end, we actively engaged members of the academic, artistic, corporate, faith-based, legal, non-profit and social justice communities. A few examples of those engagements were:
- The celebration of Three Kings Day.
- Black History Month Roundtable Discussion.
- DS Smith Recycling Plant Dedication. The plant in Reading is DS Smith’s first in North America. It will bring over 100 good-paying jobs to our City and its residents.
- Naming Joyce Ortiz an Honorary Police Officer of the Reading Police Department. Joyce’s promising life was cut short at 18 by Ewing Sarcoma, a form of cancer that afflicts mostly young people. She is the loving daughter of RPD Officer Ervin Gonzalez.
- Multiple proclamations and citations have been presented to local businesses and leaders making a positive difference in our community.
- Along with Councilwoman Donna Reed, led a community meeting following back-to-back FBI and Fire incidents in District 5.
- Hosted numerous visits, meetings and related conversations. Made myself available on nights and weekends.
I am making it a point to bring as many caring and influential people to the decision-making table. My ultimate goal is to foster a culture of inclusion and collaboration with messaging that clearly reflects our values. As I have said from day one, we are each other's neighbors, and we all must play our part to Build a Better Reading Together Because We Are Each Other’s Neighbors.
After this COVID-19 crisis is over, I plan to hold more town-halls across our City so that I can hear directly from the community about their needs, dreams and aspirations. In the meantime, I will look for ways to keep our community informed and engaged.
It is easy to govern when things are going well. Not so much when you are confronted with a historic international pandemic, like no other our world has experienced in at least 100 years.
I believe that real leadership is demonstrated when you are thrown a colossal curveball that changes everything you had planned. COVID-19 is an unprecedented global challenge. Here I share with you what we have done to protect our residents and the workers of City Hall. These decisions were not made in a vacuum but with collaboration with many partners at all levels of our government – along with the medical advice of health professionals from the CDC, the PA Department of Health and local experts such as Dr. Charles Barbera, VP of Tower Health.
To demonstrate unity, collaboration, and preparedness.
- On Friday, March 13th, I hosted a press conference with our state, county and local elected officials, along with RSD Superintendent Dr. Khalid Mumin, Dr. Charles Barbera and Berks County Emergency Management Services Director Brian Gottschall. The purpose of this historic press conference was to talk about our plans and response to the developing COVID-19 threat.
- On Monday, March 16th, with U.S. Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan and Reading City Council Members we issued the City's Declaration of Disaster Emergency and discussed the closing to the public of City Hall and other city facilities to mitigate further spread of COVID-19. This was done to protect the public and City employees.
- On Friday, March 20th, I held a press conference to announce the closure of City Hall to non-essential employees and the decision to transition to telework for essential employees that could work from home.
- At the same time embarked on a coordinated campaign to inform our residents of the rapidly changing news and centered on Governor Wolf's message to Stay Calm, Stay Safe and Stay Home.
- Worked with the Reading Parking Authority to open all garages and to become sensitive to the parking needs of our residents by not enforcing some parking regulations such as parking meters. However, the City is still enforcing parking restrictions related to fire hydrants, double parking, curbs, and disabled spaces which protect the safety of our neighbors.
- Closed or taped off playgrounds and removed the rims on basketball courts to further reduce the possibility of gatherings counter to social distancing. We were one of the first municipalities in Central Pennsylvania to do so. We are making every effort to encourage families to stay home with their children.
- Further collaborated with the Recreation Commission in their distribution of snacks and dinners for our children and their families by having a police presence at the food sites to ensure orderly conduct.
- We have focused on a strong bilingual educational campaign with almost daily postings on social media. The City has an ever-growing list of information and resources listed on its website. The resources on the website come from the CDC, the Commonwealth and the County. We continue to direct the public to BerksDES.com for the latest details related to COVID-19.
- As of March 16th, we have been pleased to have the Reading Area Water Authority provide free water to our residents. Additionally, on March 31st, the Administration partnered with RAWA to send robocalls, text and emails reminding the public about the State’s Stay at Home order using RAWA’s Swift Reach tool. The message was in English and Spanish:
This is a public service announcement from the City of Reading Officials.
Dear Neighbor, all residents are required to obey Governor Wolf's order to "Stay at Home" to protect the public from the spread of Coronavirus.
Everyone is directed to stay at home or at their place of residence except as needed to access, support, or provide life-sustaining business, emergency, or government services.
As Mayor Moran often says, "We are each other's Neighbors."
These unprecedented times require extraordinary measures. Remember the Governor's words, " Stay Calm, Stay Safe, and Stay Home.
- To this day, we remain in daily contact with all our partners at the local, state and federal levels.
In addition to the above efforts, the City is dedicating time and energy to increase awareness about the 2020 Census. In fact, it is one of my Administration’s top priorities. Our goal is to ensure that every person who lives in Reading is counted. Doing so is vital to the economic, social and political future of our communities.
Each resident counted represents approximately $2,100 a year for the next 10 years. That is federal funding Reading is legally entitled to and needs to finance education, infrastructure and social programs that benefit our residents. We need everyone's participation if we are to have an accurate count. The City will continue to work with the Berks County Complete Count Committee, many caring organizations and volunteers, and Norman Bristol Colon, the Executive Director of Governor Wolf's Census 2020 Complete Count Commission.
Our Plans Moving Forward
Who could have predicted that an international health and economic disaster would come to our doors just months into my Administration? In the first 100 days we have accomplished a great deal. We would be further along if not for COVID-19.
As we move beyond the first 100 days, I restate my resolve to work tirelessly and build coalitions to achieve the following:
- Get through COVID-19, and with everyone's help, set out on a path of progress with renewed unity, energy and purpose.
- Carry out our previously scheduled street paving and infrastructure projects. We will invest millions of dollars to beautify our City and make it more inviting and enjoyable.
- Successfully exit Act 47 and make Reading a model city for others to follow. We will turn our City into a vibrant community to LIVE, LEARN, WORK, and PLAY.
- Build a Better Reading Together Because We Are Each Other's Neighbors.
- All of this consistent with our four foundational pillars, which have at their core: Accountability, Dedication, Integrity, Professionalism, Transparency, and Fiscal Responsibility.
I take this opportunity to give a big THANK YOU to all City employees, including our uniformed first responders, for their commitment to our neighbors during these unprecedented, times. I am also grateful to all medical personnel in the front lines for keeping us healthy. I want to especially thank all the non-profits that continue to provide life-sustaining services to the most vulnerable, whether our children, elders, or the homeless. Of course, our small businesses, the lifeblood of our City, have made significant sacrifices during the Stay at Home order. Everyone is hurting, and entrepreneurs are certainly feeling it. The City will continue to share information regarding financial assistance from the federal and state governments. The City is also working on its own programs to provide additional support. We care deeply about all our neighbors. I cannot say thank you enough.
I am proud of what we have accomplished thus far. However, there is much more to be done. In the days and weeks ahead, I look forward to promoting additional strategies for the benefit of the people of Reading.
Please take care of one another. Respect the guidelines and mandates from the government. They are designed to keep us safe and healthy. We will overcome the current challenges and come out of this extraordinary situation stronger than ever.
God bless you, and God bless our beloved City of Reading.