Reading mayor delivers State of the City

Posted: 7:00 PM EST Jan 31, 2013   Updated: 10:26 AM EST Feb 01, 2013

Reading's mayor said things in the city are improving, but there's still more work to be done.

"The state of our city depends heavily on the state of our finances," said Mayor Vaughn Spencer, a Democrat, in his second State of the City address at City Hall on Thursday.

Spencer said the city broke even last year, which is movement in the right direction when compared to operating deficits in other years.

Prior to his speech, Spencer explained that the city has a structural deficit of $7 million. The city, he said, needs to generate revenues in other ways besides taxation. Spencer also said he has made City Hall more business friendly.

Jonathan Cifredo, who owns Cifredo'z Barber Salon, received a micro-loan from the city.

"They have helped us move our business to a new location," said Cifredo.

Looking around, it's hard to notice progress in the city, but the mayor's address was informative, Cifredo said.

"When you hear the numbers, it's a lot of work," said Cifredo.

Some of the numbers the mayor gave were about the police department. The force, he said, lost 80 officers. Thirty-one were hired in 2011, 38 in 2012, and five now in 2013.

He also gave numbers about crime.

"Homicides have increased from 12 to 15, with arrests already made in 13 of the cases," said Spencer. "Although gun violence remains a top concern of mine, the number of people shot dropped from 65 to 57."

Safety and quality of life issues will continue to be a focus. The mayor said he had a slow start to his first year due to conflicts with City Council, but they pledged to work together in 2013.

"There's a lot of people working hard to progress the city and make our city a better place," said Cifredo. "You don't know it until you are here."

Toward the end of Spencer's address, he said, "It's been a challenging first year, no doubt, but my resolve has never been stronger to keep my word to the people and turn this city around."