Those were words of City Councilman Steven Fulop in a New York Times op-ed piece published last Sunday, Oct. 7.
He was referring to his pursuit of two referendums to be placed on the November 2008 general election ballot. A referendum allows the public to vote on an issue. Previously, Fulop encouraged his fellow council members to vote for his proposals, to no avail.
The first referendum would prevent elected officials or government employees from collecting more than one taxpayer-financed salary. The second referendum would make it illegal for any entity that does business with the city, like a developer or contractor, to make a political contribution to a local candidate for a one-year period.
While there is a version of the second issue already existing in state law, Fulop's version would be much stricter.Needs petitions to place them on ballot
Fulop held a meeting on Oct. 3 at the bar/restaurant LITM on Newark Avenue in Jersey City, where he explained his referendums to a crowd of over 100. After the meeting, attendees were asked to submit their names and addresses for a list Fulop is putting together of volunteers who would eventually go out and collect petitions for the referendums to be placed on the ballot for next year.
Fulop must collect the amount of petitions equal to 15 percent of the total voter turnout in Jersey City from the 2005 November general election. But if he waits and does so after Nov. 6 of this year, it would reflect the turnout of this year's general election.
That number of petitions, which would be around 6,000, would determine whether the initiatives are placed on the ballot. But it is believed he would have to collect double the amount necessary, just in case some are disqualified. Not new for Fulop
Last month, the City Council voted down Fulop's resolution that would have made the city's ethics code the strictest in New Jersey.
The resolution banned holding more than one public office or multiple salaried and appointed public positions within Hudson County - whether elected or appointed. It also would have barred public officials from using a city automobile for personal use, and banned city officials from lobbying the city or city agencies for three years after they left office.
The majority of city council people in Jersey City also have a full-time job with another branch of city or county government.
Fulop was criticized by his City Council colleagues for not discussing the resolution with them before introducing it, and for instead going to the press with his proposal.
Earlier this year, Fulop pushed for passage of a version of the state's "pay-to-play" laws, which ban political contributions from contractors doing business with the city. Fulop's version would have also applied to real estate developers, but it was voted down by the City Council. Addressing the people
It was a Wednesday night in a somewhat unusual place for Fulop to speak to people on his ethics initiatives, as he stood behind the bar of LITM.
"This is my first time being a bartender," Fulop joked. "But I am probably the only politician who has not been behind a bar."
Fulop went on to explain his referendum initiatives to attendees and what he hopes to achieve.
"The fundamental change in Jersey City will have a lasting impact on government here in Jersey City," Fulop said.
He continued, "It's about dysfunctional leadership at the top, where things like multiple jobs and other practices are accepted that take taxpayer monies. It takes away incentive to serve in government for the wrong reasons."
He also said he will be collecting names and addresses to send packets with petitions, information on his referendums, and voter registration paperwork.
His attorney, James Carroll, gave out contact information for him and other attorneys for those with further questions on the referendums.
The public gave their reasons for signing on to Fulop's initiatives.
Michael Heydenburg, a downtown Jersey City resident for 10 years, said Fulop's initiatives represent a "change" for how Jersey City is governed.
"It will force people to make a choice," Heydenburg said. "It wakes up old ways of thinking of the way Jersey City is run." For comments on the story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at email@example.com