The City Council voted to raise the wages of its underpaid staff, who have not received an increase in pay in two decades, and the mayor has threatened to block our action as long as his high-paid political appointees aren’t afforded salary hikes as well. Well, I’ve been stewing on this for a few weeks and I don’t know how to put it any more delicately so I’ll just say it bluntly: Our. Mayor. Is. A. Bully.
By definition, a bully is a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable. All year long, each month as if on some sort of perverse schedule, he’s been bullying people and it’s just got to stop.
He tried to bully the local news media by removing newspaper distribution boxes citywide. The news media refused to back down and the boxes are back on the street just as they always were. He tried to bully Jersey City old-timers by threatening to relocate a memorial off of the waterfront. The Jersey City community rose up and the memorial remains where it has been for decades. Then there was the crazy notion to open up the Boonton Reservoir which supplies our drinking water to the people of Morris County without any benefit to the people of Jersey City. Environmentalists and local park advocates bristled at the idea and wouldn’t be bullied and that measure was tabled. And now this.
It is common for a bully, once caught, to distort the truth. The mayor says that he needs to raise the salaries of his inner circle in order to hire the best and the brightest, but doesn’t he trumpet his current team as being just that? If his concern is hiring the best and brightest, shouldn’t he wait to raise the wage for the next holder of these positions instead of bestowing a higher salary to those already making more than $100k who only weeks ago received a salary bump?
Then he cites comparisons to Newark? Since when does Jersey City want to be more like Newark? When was the last time Jersey City lost talent to Newark? Never! Newark council members have a staff five times the size of their Jersey City counterparts.
And please, don’t get me started on the mayor’s declaring himself to be New Jersey’s next great progressive hope. Not while he threatens to hold hostage the lives of council staffers – women and minority members all – to wages below the poverty line until his favorite few receive bumps that will place them at almost three times the median income. One such manager was making $80k six months ago, is now making $120k. Should taxpayers raise his salary to $150k? The mayor isn’t a progressive, he’s a bully.
The mayor needs to be honest with people and that is where my council partners have a role to play. If we are going to be respected as a separate branch of our local government this is where a line must be drawn in the sand. We must demand the respect of the municipal executive. The people we work with every day, so-called part-timers who are by our sides at meetings, fielding calls from residents and representing us at block associations - evenings, weekends doing the same job that Newark pays five full-time staffers to perform. If this isn’t a battle worth fighting, what is?
Councilman Michael Yun