State of the City: Mitchell sets aesthetic standards for New Bedford to last after he's gone
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell gave his annual State of the City address yesterday amid uncertainty about whether he will run for reelection in the fall.
In his remarks, he unveiled a new set of policies aimed at setting a “standard of appearance” for the city. It addresses a variety of aesthetic issues, from basic cleanliness to design principles for public landscapes and buildings.
“I believe our residents deserve to live in a clean city, with well-designed and visually appealing public spaces and effective infrastructure,” he said.
The policy booklet, called “Standard of Appearance for the Public Realm,” cites more than a dozen types of “eyesores” to address, including weeds, litter, and what it calls “shabby” signage that detracts from coastal views. It says graffiti should be removed within 48 hours.
The document also gives photographic examples of what it calls high-quality design of planting beds and public walkways, including locations at City Hall, Wings Court, the Covewalk, and Custom House Square.
And it suggests that the city should aspire to make John F. Kennedy Boulevard — Route 18 along the waterfront — look more like George Washington Memorial Parkway in the Washington, D.C. area: “spotless, free of excessive sign clutter and chain link fencing, and planted abundantly with striking specimen trees.”
Mitchell said the city has raised design standards, “so what gets built looks great.” He mentioned the South End Public Safety Center, the Jacobs School, and a soon-to-be-built pedestrian bridge by the Whale’s Tooth parking lot.
The mayor called upon residents and businesses to uphold their end of a “covenant” in which they are responsible for the upkeep of their properties.
He said the idea is to codify the standards, so they last beyond his administration.
“A city that looks great is one that proclaims for everyone that it cares about itself,” he said. “Because our residents deserve a sustained commitment to a high level of appearance, we need to institutionalize our approach. It just can't come and go with mayoral administrations.”
In an interview afterward, he said he hopes that setting these standards will lead residents to expect them to continue after he leaves office.
First elected in 2011, Mitchell served two-year terms until 2020, when the city changed to a four-year mayoral term. He is up for reelection this fall, and he has not made a public announcement about his plans.
In his remarks, the mayor also highlighted his administration’s work on economic development and other topics, with emphasis on offshore wind.
Local leaders in government, education, nonprofits and business — more than 500 people, according to the city — gathered at New Bedford High School for the luncheon, greeted by music from the New Bedford High School jazz combo and choir.