ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WLVT) - Mayor Ray O’Connell addressed community members and leaders on Friday during his State of the City address.
The address was held at the East Side Youth Center in Allentown and Mayor O’Connell addressed the importance of investing in youth programs. Youth basketball programs totaled 1,350 kids, and all four swimming pools were fully staffed, according to the mayor.
Public safety was addressed during the speech, as the city had a summer and fall filled with a lot of violence. Mayor O’Connell said the city is working to put more police officers into neighborhoods, by filling their open positions. The budget calls for 228 officers and the city currently has 210.
In terms of violence, the mayor said he is confident in police chief Glenn Granitz. “They’ve been solving some of the stabbings and homicides within 24 hours, which is incredible,” said Mayor O’Connell. “Our detective bureau is working very hard.”
Childhood hunger is an ongoing issue in many areas, including Allentown. Mayor O’Connell said the city was able to feed 34,000 kids through after-school and summer feeding programs. He explained the importance of continuing these programs to reduce the amount of kids going hungry. “We want to expand it,” said Mayor O’Connell. “A full belly helps you think and concentrate. An empty belly doesn’t do it, you have to have a full belly to learn.”
Economic development was also at the forefront of his speech. The city is working on bringing in more jobs and revitalizing the downtown area altogether. “We need businesses to grow and flourish, and we need a healthy, vibrant Allentown in order to do that,” said Senior Vice President of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce, Miriam Huertas.
The city plans to use grant money to renovate Valania Park, and Allentown also received a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation for a new skate park.
Financially, the mayor said no tax increases are planned for 2020 or 2021, and the city’s credit outlook has been restored from negative to stable.