JoyceCraig

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE PHOTO

MANCHESTER — Mayor Joyce Craig will deliver a “State of the City” address this morning that highlights her first year in office while unveiling new initiatives like a homelessness task force and free rides for students to and from Manchester high schools on city buses for students beginning next fall, according to an advance copy of the speech obtained by the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“In my first year as Mayor, I’ve worked to engage and empower our community to think big, confront our challenges, and imagine what Manchester can be,” read Craig’s prepared remarks. “The state of our city is stronger when we work together.”

Craig is scheduled to give the second “State of the City” address of her term in office this morning at 8 a.m., before a sold-out breakfast meeting of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce at Fratello’s Italian Grille on Dow St. The speech will be carried live on Craig’s official Facebook page, @MayorJoyceCraig.

According to staff, the mayor’s speech should begin at 8 a.m., but could be delayed by 15 minutes or so to give people more time to get to the venue following inclement weather Tuesday night.

Craig’s speech touches upon several highlights of her first year in office, including improvements in city schools and efforts to address the opioid epidemic and homelessness in the Queen City.

Craig highlights a partnership with the group Manchester Proud to develop a “community-based, strategic plan to ensure the highest quality education for all of our students.”

“One of the many things I love about Manchester is that our residents and businesses want to participate to make our city better,” reads the speech. “A great example of this is Manchester Proud. They’ve committed to raise over half a million dollars to develop the first-ever, community based strategic plan, to ensure the highest quality education for all of our students.”

Craig also touches upon the impending departure of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas, who announced his resignation last month.

“We’re at a pivotal time to impact the direction of our schools,” the prepared remarks state. “The selection of a new superintendent will be key to the educational success of our students, and it’s critical we engage our community in the process.”

Other education highlights include Velcro University, a project at West High helping Manchester students become college and career ready.

“In this workforce development program, students are learning soft skills, as well as technical training, to better equip them for post-graduation success,” says Craig in her prepared remarks. “This program has been well received by students at West, which is why I’m excited to announce that beginning next fall, Eversource will establish a similar program at Central High School.”

Economic highlights include working with the state to bring BAE Systems to Manchester.

“To build upon the thriving development we’re seeing in our downtown, now is the right time to bring rail into Manchester,” Craig’s speech states. “Expanded commuter rail will allow our city to experience new economic development and increase accessibility to employment in the Greater Manchester Area.” Expanding upon her office’s recommendations to address homelessness in Manchester, Craig will announce today the formation of a Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness.

“By engaging members of our community, this task force will address panhandling, homeless services, capacity and relationships with sending towns. Despite our challenges, we all know Manchester has boundless potential. And today, our city is working because we’re working together.”

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com