2013 State of the City of Oswego Address
By Mayor Tom Gillen
First, allow me to thank you, the people of the city of Oswego for the honor and the
privilege of representing you as your Mayor.
I also want to thank the Common Council for their support, contributions and dedication
to responsible government over the past year.
They are in fact, an “Uncommon Council” in that they have set aside the political actions
that have historically divided our community. They have instead focused on how we
can best work together to serve all the people of Oswego. Our common goal will
continue to be how best to make our city a better place for us all to live in, work in and a
safer place in which to raise our families.
When I think about the state of the city of Oswego, I think about where we have been
and what we have faced. Our city has weathered the recent recession. Some of our
local companies went under, along with small businesses, promising startups, and
beloved neighborhood shops. We watched our family, our friends and our neighbors
struggle, while our home values dropped and our retirement savings dwindled.
In moments like these, you can learn something about yourself and the people you
share a community with. We learned we are resilient, we are determined, we are
innovative, and we are passionate about this city we love.
The hard times aren’t over. But we have been making progress. And it is with this in
mind that I offer this State of the City Address.
Today I want to talk to you about how we are addressing these challenges. Doing so
will require us to take a focused approach going forward. We are facing real budget
challenges here at City Hall. We know that the best way to help improve our budget is
by growing our economy and bring new investment to the city of Oswego.
Cutting payroll and community services will only lead our city into a spiral of diminishing
returns on the overall quality of life and will surely send our city into a deeper
economical downturn. This is a fate that we simply will not allow!
I want to be clear – we are working hard to build a culture of responsiveness in city
government. Responsiveness is not only about maintaining the quality of life that we
hear so much about. It is also about supporting economic activities that will lead to
strong economic growth. This administration is focused on attracting knowledge-based
industry and companies that embrace innovation, technology and commerce. These
are the economic drivers of the 21st Century. We are fortunate in that we have the
necessary resources that will attract these investors.
Although we still have a long road of growth ahead of us, I want you to look around at
In our efforts to become a destination city, we now have the Lake Ontario Event and
Conference Center, a state of the art facility that will attract countless visitors to our
city. We will also see the new Holiday Inn Express constructed this year and the new
Hampton Inn will follow that. There is an excitement with all of the activity that is taking
place – and we are just getting started!
Our downtown is experiencing dramatic growth with new shops, restaurants, offices
and market rate apartments. Our city is coming alive with people looking to enjoy the
vibrancy and esthetics of our historic downtown as well as the beauty of our spectacular
At the beginning of this administration, I established a mission statement that we
were dedicated to building a safe, environmentally clean and economically thriving
community that is both family and business friendly. I will outline in more detail our
accomplishments and the unique challenges we will face as we go forward.
One of the common themes in our neighborhood plan is that people want the sense
of community that comes from being able to walk around and getting to know our
neighbors. Everyone who lives here, who works here, who shops here, and who comes
here to enjoy what Oswego has to offer deserves to feel safe and secure. That goes for
every neighborhood in our city.
The Oswego Police Department needs more officers that can be deployed to address
quality of community issues and focus on the specific problems in our neighborhoods.
For several years, we have been operating without the full complement of Police
Officers that a city of our size requires. Through our proposed new contract with the
Oswego Police Department, we are committed to retaining our professional force as
well as recruiting new “best in class” police officers.
Also this year, we are excited to be rolling out our new K-9 unit which will offer even more benefits to the community.
We have also negotiated a new contract with our Fire Department so that they can
better dedicate their efforts to our city residents by continuing to provide the finest
in both fire protection, ambulance service and all the many unrecognized services
and benefits that they provide to our community. We are truly fortunate to have such
dedicated firefighter/EMTs in our Oswego Fire Department.
Our DPW continues to provide the finest in service by maintaining and repairing our
city’s aging physical infrastructure as well as providing safe and attractive parks and
recreational facilities. Also, their professional management of the City’s marina will
have a significant positive impact on our city’s revenue stream.
Our Engineering, Code and Zoning departments are playing major roles in restoring
our city and making our neighborhoods safer and more attractive. The city now has a
Zoning Code Enforcement Officer. This position has been vacant for years and we are
seeing significant improvements in our housing stock.
Our Community Development team will continue its successful Downtown Revitalization
and Restoration projects as well as working with the many investors and contractors
that we will need to build the new housing, office and shopping facilities that will make
our city prosper. The development of Midtown Plaza, the Cahill Building and other
locations like the Stevedore Lofts, the Woodruff Building, the Seaway Building and
future construction will showcase our city as a modern community that will attract new
residents to our city.
In fact, all our City Departments will continue to focus on how to best serve the needs
of our people and make our city safe and secure. It is a pleasure to work with all of
Another principle that we are addressing is the commitment to provide a clean
environment. We are willingly committed to a Consent Decree with the Environmental
Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
I am happy to report that we are on schedule to meet all the timelines established by
this Consent Order. In fact, we are ahead of schedule and this has not gone unnoticed
by the governing bodies that are administering this Decree. I fully understand the
economic hardship that our residents must face.
Our plan is to continue working with these organizations to address the terms of the Consent Order and hopefully have the opportunity to revisit and renegotiate the timelines with its overall economic stress that has been placed on our residents.
Our city’s geographic location on Lake Ontario and the Oswego River is our greatest
physical asset as well as our greatest responsibility. With a modern “state of the art”
water and sewage infrastructure, we will honor our role and duty as both protector and
benefactor of this incredible resource.
A clean environment is one of the criteria when people decide where they want to
live, invest and raise their families. We see this as an opportunity to define our city
for generations to come as a center of modern environmental design and community
I have referenced “Quality of Life” several times and I want to elaborate on this further
because it is the very essence of why we live here and what forms our social dialogue.
I was fortunate to be born and raised in Oswego. I was educated in our schools from
kindergarten through college. I left this city to build a career but returned to Oswego
with my wife to raise our family. I still live in the house that my great-grandfather built
over 110 years ago. My wife and I have raised our three children here. All three moved
away but one did come back to raise a family here. Like all of you, I know what makes
Oswego the special place that it is!
We are a city of neighborhoods. We are a community. And it is imperative that we
develop a “Quality of Community.” It is so much more than the physical “look” of a
neighborhood – whether we mow our lawns, shovel our sidewalks or where we park
our cars. It is about community and respect for all of our residents. We need to ask
ourselves, do we feel connected as a city? Do we respect our neighbors? Do we believe
that the best is yet to be?
It is a fact that we need to address the physical needs of a neighborhood. But we
cannot ignore the real fact that there is something else that is needed if we are to
continue to be a caring and growing city. It is true that many of our traditional Oswego
families are now gone and most will likely not be coming back. However, now is the
time to build a city that welcomes new families! The city of Oswego has always been
and will continue to be about families – just like every great city!
And what will bring new families to our neighborhoods will be economic growth. We
need to grow our economy by embracing the character of our city which makes Oswego
the wonderful place that it is. We need to focus on attracting new investors to our city
and we need to support and reward our existing businesses.
It is critical that we support our local businesses. These businesses also happen to be
our friends, our neighbors and our family members. With this in mind, I am challenging
every resident to shop locally and help our community grow and become financially
thriving again. It is the people of Oswego who are the real building blocks that will define
Our city is poised for dramatic growth. Just look at the all positive signs of growth and
prosperity. The 104East construction expansion is finished. The Super Walmart Center
is open and new businesses are populating the area. We have seen new construction
and renovation at the SUNY Oswego campus with even more new construction
planned. We watch the dynamic growth of the Port of Oswego with its impact on the
entire region. Manufacturing centers such as Novellis’ expansion project that will
benefit our community.
We are witnessing the ongoing revitalization and renovation of our Downtown. The newly completed Premier Living Suites has set a new standard for student housing in our city. These and many other projects are having a positive impact that will contribute to the restoration of our neighborhoods. And we need to recognize and celebrate the positive gains and improvement that our community is experiencing.
However, this growth will also put new stress on our community. Our infrastructure will
be tested and change can be unsettling. Housing solutions need to be addressed. Our
Community Development team will face new challenges.
City Hall, as well as every department and committee will be dedicated to thinking
“outside the box.” We will develop bold new initiatives that will define us a progressive
modern city without sacrificing our unique identity and character. We will be dedicated
to rewarding and encouraging those positive behaviors that will preserve our city and
help it grow to new prosperity.
We are a city of people and, if we are to make this city the kind of place we know it can
be, then we, the people, need to work together with a unified strategy of growth and
Oswego has played a vibrant part in the growth of our nation for over three centuries.
And we will continue playing our part, with a focus on what makes our city so attractive
to families and investors. We are a center of education and learning; of advanced
manufacturing; of cultural and historical treasures; of world class energy production
– and home to the greatest people on earth.
Our rich history of social progressivism has defined our city over the years – the Underground Railroad, our historic City Public Library, Fort Ontario, Safe Haven, the H.Lee White Maritime Museum, the Richardson-Bates House, The Oswego Players, the Music Hall and all our other museums and community groups and arts organizations.
We offer so very much – the beauty of our waterfront, our vibrant history and culture and
the strength and ingenuity of our people. We are truly fortunate to live here.
Oswego offers the location and resources that will play a major role in the economic
development of Central New York as well as the entire region. Our future is bright and it
will bring many new and bold challenges to our people.
William Shakespeare wrote in his play “Coriolanus:” “What is the city but the people?”
And I can’t think of any other city or any other people better prepared to deal with these
challenges than the decent, hardworking, generous and creative people of Oswego.