This is text of Mayor Harold Perrin’s speech:
Thank you for joining us today.
As we begin, I want to say how proud I am of our community response over the past couple of months.
This is a trying time for our city. People are hurting. And as your mayor, your neighbor, and your friend, that’s a very hard thing for me to accept.
It’s hard to see local businesses struggle at the mercy of current events through no fault of their own. It’s difficult to know friends and family members who are living on edge because they have underlying conditions that make this COVID virus very frightening.
But at the same time, I am encouraged and I am optimistic. During these days, I have continued to see what I have always seen in Jonesboro: a resilient, caring and faith-filled community of neighbors willing to go that extra mile for those around them.
I have seen enough to know that we are going to be okay. We are going to be better than OK, because we are Jonesboro Strong!
The March 28 tornado ripped through our community just as we were trying to get a handle on social distancing and the beginnings of dealing with COVID-19.
But even with all the uncertainty of the situation, the local search and rescue and cleanup efforts that started immediately included many neighborhood volunteers, as well as first responders from the city, the county and surrounding communities.
Over my 30 years of public service, I have never witnessed such cooperation across all levels of government, or more help from the business community and private citizens working alongside their hurting neighbors. I have never been prouder to be the mayor of this community than I am right now.
This coronavirus has affected the world, the country and our home in serious ways both medically and economically.
We are continuing to face unique challenges daily. We are fighting an enemy that we cannot see and that we know very little about, and we seem to learn something new every day.
This is a moving target with deadly consequences, and I want to thank our state officials, our medical community, and our local community leadership for all their encouragement, support and expertise.
Our city has a rich history of pulling together. I am confident that we will once again show our resolve, and that we will emerge from these current events in the coming weeks stronger than we have ever been.
So today, as we turn our attention to our future, I am putting into motion our NEXT STEPS INITIATIVE. This is the beginning of our local plan as the governor prepares to reopen our economy.
Step One: HELP LEAD OUR LOCAL ECONOMY BACK TO VIBRANCY
There is no question that people are anxious to get back to work.
The economic uncertainty and financial pressure this is putting on local families is something we need to address quickly.
As our local business community opens back up, I want to make sure that we, as a city, are doing everything we can to help make sure that the transition is as safe, quick and profitable as possible.
My Chief of Staff Mike Downing has a long and successful background in economic development. Having led these efforts on both a statewide and local level, Mike is the perfect choice to take the reins of this assignment.
Additionally, Mark Young, Executive Director of our Chamber of Commerce, has recently been appointed by Gov. AsaHutchinson to serve on his Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force, where he also serves on the Commerce Committee.
Effective today, I have directed Mike to refocus the majority of his time and energy to work alongside Mark, as well as other city and county leaders, to create appropriate, safe action steps to formulate a far-reaching, thorough plan toward our economic recovery and redevelopment.
We will assemble focus groups of local leaders in retail, hospitality, real estate, banking, and construction, among others.
These groups will help us have a better understanding of the specific challenges faced by their market segments, and give us direction as to what we can be doing to try and help facilitate any needs or assistance that may be available moving forward.
We will then use our network of state and federal agencies, as well as our relationships with government leaders at all levels to make sure our local community knows where they can go for help.
The economic strategies and action steps will be re-assessed and adjusted as the future conditions change. Initially these steps will include:
Rapid and thorough assessment of the economic challenges facing our local retail and service businesses.
Individual needs assessment for key businesses prioritized to those that will have the most significant immediate impact.
Building a common vision for our recovery.
Identify small businesses that will need targeted assistance
I am excited about the commitment and leadership Mike and Mark will bring in leading this important step.
Step Two: LIFT OUR EXISTING NIGHTTIME CURFEW
In dealing with this pandemic, multiple factors went into the decision to implement our current overnight curfew. The recommendation was made after consultation with our healthcare agencies, as well as our own public safety departments.
As a practical matter, for example, a combination of the recent tornado and COVID-19 left our police officers and other first responders burdened with a shortage of protective gear.
We have been working diligently during this time to make sure that we were protecting our officers on the front line and have been aggressively working to replenish inventories of Personal Protective Equipment so they can safely function at maximum levels.
Because of the success of these and other efforts, I am lifting the curfew as of this Friday, May 1.
On behalf of the men and women on the front lines fighting this virus, I would like to thank the citizens of Jonesboro for their patience, understanding and cooperation during the curfew.
By working together, we have managed to keep our active cases at or below where they were when it was first implemented, and I consider that a victory for our entire community.
As a word of caution, experts in healthcare still believe that we have not reached our COVID peak locally. We still have a strong probability that cases could rise, and I am asking everyone who lives in or visits our city to continue to use best practices for social distancing and other recommended strategies to limit potential exposures.
Moving forward, I am confident that our citizens will use their best judgment in keeping themselves and those around them as safe as possible.
Step Three: ONGOING ASSESSMENT OF CITY FINANCES
City Finance Director Steve Purtee has done an excellent job of working with state and local economists to forecast the impact of this crisis on our sales tax revenues. Steve recently gave an excellent presentation on our current financial status and the potential impact this could have on existing reserves.
I am directing Steve to continue to be aggressively proactive on this matter, and to provide consistent feedback to our administration, the City Council and our department heads and directors as to best practices for managing any forecasted budget changes.
I want to ensure the citizens of Jonesboro that we are and will continue to manage through this crisis in a financially responsible manner.
We are going to emerge from this period in our history stronger than ever, and I am looking forward to that day with great anticipation.
Thank you and God bless Jonesboro.