Mayor: ‘Our strength as a community shows in everything we do’
It was an “old school” approach with a present-day vibe on Wednesday night when Mayor Gary Christenson “premiered” the 2023 “State of the City” address. Delivered virtually on the city’s YouTube channel and simulcast on Urban Media Arts (UMA) television stations, the 63-minute livestream event detailed achievements and provided updates for all of the city’s many departments, using a takeoff of the iconic “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) format. In between were some entertaining skits and vignettes, including several references to Mayor Christenson’s attempt to banish winter early in February, capped by a scene with the Mayor standing in a recent snowfall atop City Hall. “Can’t win ’em all,” he says with a shrug.
“Live from UMA! It’s “Malden Night Live” the livestream began, with Malden High School ninth grader Henry Fan dressed identically, posing as the Mayor and then standing alongside him for the traditional SNL kickoff greeting.
The 2023 State of the City address can be viewed in its entirety online at https://www.youtube.com/user/cityofmalden
The Mayor, in his initial remarks on the “Malden Night Live” stage at UMA, as the “guest,” said, “The message is clear: The state of the city is strong.”
“Last year’s State of the City address focused on resiliency and the aftermath of the pandemic. But 2023 will show that we are forging ahead with impactful and transformative results in Malden’s 02148,” Mayor Christenson added.
In addition to the updates on the various city departments, from the Clerk’s Office to the public safety sector of Police, Fire and Health, along with the Malden Public Schools, there was also a detailed report on the $45 million-plus received by the city from the federal government from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Mayor explained how committees were formed in concert with the Malden City Council to decide how to spend the funds to impact specific issues and situations in the city, including housing, food security, qualified improvements and other expenditures that fit the federal guidelines. Included in this ARPA report, among other items, was a recollection the city awarded a $1,000 scholarship to every graduating senior in the Malden High School Class of 2022 and Malden residents at other high schools who are furthering their education in college.
In one of the subtle reveals of the evening, Mayor Christenson also reported that the City of Malden’s generous assistance would continue this year – as all seniors from the Class of 2023 will also receive the $1,000 municipal scholarship.
The ARPA monies are also going toward the upgrades of Devir Park, Kierstead Park, a new fitness court at Callahan Park and funding for the popular Malden summer and winter festivals, as well as funding for the food distribution program at the Mystic Valley YMCA in Malden and Malden’s Bread of Life, among others.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, transformational opportunity,” Mayor Christenson said of the ARPA funds.
In other reports and updates:
- Like the City Clerk’s Office, which saw a changing of the guard from Greg Lucey to Carol Ann Desiderio, right at the start of this year, with the Mayor praising Lucey for a major changeover to biliteral voting to benefit Malden’s large Chinese-speaking population, the city also welcomed new Police Chief Glenn Cronin in 2022. It was the conclusion of an impressive, 42-year career in Malden law enforcement for outgoing Chief Kevin Molis.
- Malden was the first community in Massachusetts to convert to the use of Axon 1 body cameras. Malden Police also had a number of promotions and new officers. In a major statement, Malden Police reported a substantial drop in violent crime.
- The Malden Fire Department responded to over 10,000 emergency calls in total in 2022 and battled five major fires, including a recent one late last year where five firefighters were treated at the Mass. General Hospital Burn Center.
- Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ligia Noriega-Murphy also appeared in the presentation, in a simulated talk show format with “host” Nester Dudley (played by UMA Director of Operations Terlonzo Amos). “Our schools and our students are thriving,” Supt. Noriega-Murphy said, noting the “continued hard work of our amazing staff and the support of our students’ families.”
- In 2022, the Mayor noted, Malden Public Schools saw a substantial rise in student population – now close to 6,500 citywide; a successful streamlining of the student registration process at the MPS Welcome Center, including a new online registration portal; a new and successful curriculum introduction into the K-8 schools; a positive upward trend in MCAS scores districtwide; and a resurgence in student participation in extracurricular activities, such as athletics and family recreational and social events within the school district framework.
- Over 600 Malden High School students achieved Honor Roll status on their First Quarter Report Cards, all grades 80% (B) or better. Of those MHS students, 210 had High Honors (All 90% or better, All As).
- Some 286 lead water service lines were replaced in the past two years, and in 2022 38 Malden streets were repaved
- Through the work and attention to battle substance abuse disorder through Addiction Recovery Resource Specialist Paul Hammersley and the coaches and staff at the Bridge Recovery Center and other resources like Malden Cares, the Mayor reported, Malden in 2022 experienced a 30% decline in overdoses and a 50% decrease in overdose deaths from 2021.
- The Malden Recreation Department, which also oversees the management of Malden’s many parks and playgrounds, reported a 41% rise in programming for the city’s residents. It now offers programs for those in Pre-K to adults and on to senior citizens
- The city’s Career Connection Center continues to help Malden residents find employment, and the Mayor shared a story about how a CCC employee met an individual while volunteering at the Warming Center in Malden and ended up placing that person with a new job and a permanent home.
- In another welcome reveal for the evening, Mayor Christenson said this September will mark the return of the very popular Mayor’s Cookout for Malden senior citizens after a three-year absence, since 2019.
- More reveals: To celebrate the 200th Birthday of Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Central Park in N.Y., the Boston Common, Malden’s Fellsmere Park and dozens of other celebrated park projects, Malden this year is reviving and reestablishing the Converse Gardens behind the Malden Public Library.
- Malden this year also intends on putting into place the Malden Transit Plan, which includes the introduction of raised speed reduction tables at selected intersections, as well as the adoption of various ways to acquire speed data around the city.
- In related moves, the city has acquired a $127,000 Mass. Dept. of Transportation Shared Streets grant to institute new school zone flashing beacons: two at Beebe K-8 and five at Ferryway K-8.
- Building Inspector Nelson Miller of the Inspectional Services Dept., which handles over 4,000 building permits annually, streamlined the process, putting it all online, making it more efficient and a lot easier access. The Department also closely inspected 50 older buildings in Malden to test the strength and durability of their upper facades following the close call when a major part of building’s top facade fell off the sidewalk below from an apartment building at the corner of Salem and Mount Vernon Streets in 2021.
- The introduction of a new Malden Community Electricity was praised, and a rundown of Malden’s mostly new, extensive climate action groups like Green Malden was also delivered. Since 2017, Malden has received over $500,000 in green community grants.
“While many things are changing and transforming, one thing that remains constant in Malden is that we continue to be a place that is welcoming, engaged, connected and where people care for another,” Mayor Christenson said. “Our future is strong and our strength as a community shows in everything we do.”