February 24, 2022
Contact: Lindsi Mailler
Mayor LaChapelle Delivers 2022 State of the City Address
EASTHAMPTON, MA – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic with public meeting spaces closed until April 1, 2022, under orders of the Governor, Mayor LaChapelle collaborated with Easthampton Media to pre-record her annual State of the City address. The Easthampton 2022 State of the City address can be viewed on Easthampton Media’s YouTube and the City of Easthampton Website & Facebook accounts.
In her speech, Mayor LaChapelle acknowledges the deep struggles and losses over the past two years while maintaining core city services during the pandemic. She also highlights the City’s strong financial position and major projects running on time.
Despite many challenges ahead, Mayor LaChapelle details growth and hope for the City’s future, “Community has been the saving grace during the pandemic. In Easthampton, we have an even greater appreciation for what makes ours unique. Easthampton has seen growth and stability in the face of challenge, driven by a shared commitment to lifting the most disenfranchised.
The full text of the speech is posted at www.easthamptonma.gov, as well as below:
“Racing – or trudging – forward, we left 2021 behind, hoping we could also move beyond the stifling challenges of the years before. Winter arrived with another COVID-19 infection surge, but spring is near with expanded services throughout our municipal government.
Our Health Department hosts regional drive-through COVID-19 testing, distributing high-quality masks and home tests. We have expanded the Department to address overall community health with a public health nurse and community social worker. Our police department is piloting a co-response model with a trauma-informed clinician. The City has expanded online services, and community notices through email and text services. We consolidate all city IT operations into one department to build technical infrastructure and protect against cyber threats. Though better positioned for whatever is next, the impact of the last 23 months is real and compounding.
I have to pause and recognize the uncommon efforts of City of Easthampton employees - especially those working in City Hall. Our government operations have not stalled, and our financial position remains strong. Working long hours and filling in for others as needed, Easthampton is standing firm on its feet. Thank you.
Community has been the saving grace during the pandemic. In Easthampton, we have an even greater appreciation for what makes ours unique. Easthampton has seen growth and stability in the face of challenge, driven by a shared commitment to lifting the most disenfranchised. Using CPA funds, the City proactively created a rent relief program before state programs were widely available. We welcomed middle - schoolers to the brand-new Mountain View School, a project running on time, on budget. Over 100 new quality jobs were created, saw exciting development come online, and established programs specifically to help our local economy.
As part of the City Innovation Ecosystem program sponsored by the National League of Cities, Easthampton continues in 2022. Philip Berkaw, Program Director for the Center for City Solutions, praised the effort. We have seen it blossom: “If you are a small entrepreneurial or a small business owner in Easthampton or wanting to move to Easthampton, you know where you can find resources to get access to capital, to develop a network, to find mentorship all in one place. It’s one more city access [point] that will make Easthampton a really attractive place to start a business.” Continuing with this program, in 2022, we are creating a procurement path that is more inclusive and better shared with the valley.
Working closely with our business community in the wake of COVID-19 has been eye-opening and informative. As a city, we can provide programming, support, and capital, but they are most effective when informed by the business community directly. With obstacles unlike any we have faced before, it is also clear that no single tool or strategy will be enough to help Easthampton entrepreneurs and businesses.
Through our Blueprint Easthampton initiative, the City launched the Business Blueprint Easthampton program specifically designed to support entrepreneurs professionally and personally. Unlike other programs, we combined granting of capital with coaching to teach the human side of entrepreneurship – another critical investment in our community. Our second cohort begins this summer.
Fueled by a Community Empowerment Grant, the City joined a coalition of local and statewide organizations to grow our local businesses and lift innovators outside the box we once operated. We are proud to work with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Black and Pink, Lawyers for Civil Rights, and the Hampshire County Sherriff Department to build authentic connections and trust. As promised, this coalition has opened an office in Easthampton’s Pleasant Street Mill District.
This coalition realizes a much-needed 413 to 617 collaboration along Route 90 instead of Boston - centric Route 128 loop. Tele work and health opens our city and Western Mass for housing, transportation, jobs, and economic investment in ways not known before the pandemic. Mass Pike corridor has never seemed more within reach, particularly as innovators seek communities defined less by geography and more by like-minded missions.
In 2022, Easthampton sees long-term projects come to fruition: full opening of Mountain View School, the physical transformation of Union St, cutting edge green infrastructure projects on Cherry St, request for proposals on our three elementary schools, the physical mapping of municipal broadband, the release of the Mayor’s Pledge implementation plan, a new IT data center and police incident command software to meet public expectations.
Employing a continuous “plan-prepare-execute” strategy, city departments work together, with public input, to create ready-to-go projects. These “shovel-ready” projects put us one step ahead when considering infrastructure, housing, and recovery action grants. Our grant-funded, Rapid Recovery Plan is nimble with 15 projects ready to go as state and federal money become available.
Social, infrastructure, and economic challenges abound, but Easthampton has and is working to our municipal toolbox. We have built networks in our City and across the state, leveraging resources and expertise for our community. COVID-19 and its continued impacts have taken so much away from us, but we refuse to let it stop growth in Easthampton. We have a lot to be proud of and look forward to - together”.