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Fulop to propose referendum on timing of school board elections
City Councilman Steven Fulop wants a referendum placed on the upcoming November ballot that will give voters the option to keep Board of Education elections in April or move them to November.
Until this year, school board elections throughout New Jersey have been held in April, while legislative, congressional, and presidential elections have taken place in November. The timing of municipal elections varies. In Jersey City municipal elections are held every four years in May.
Earlier this month Gov. Chris Christie signed a law that allows municipalities to move school board elections from April to November, when voter turnout is likely to be higher. Already, more than 100 New Jersey municipalities have decided to move their board of education elections to November as a result of this law.
However, those who oppose such a move argue that school board races will become more political if they are lumped with other November races and could force school trustee candidates to run on slates with politicians.
“I am personally a proponent of changing the date to November elections because it will increase turnout and cut costs. But I understand both sides of the argument,” Fulop said in a statement issued last week.
The switch from April to November can be enacted by the local Board of Education, City Council, or by voters through a public referendum.
Fulop said he is planning to work with the Board of Education and City Council to draft a fair ballot question for the November 2012 election.
“I think the residents deciding themselves, rather than the politicians making this decision, is the best approach,” Fulop added.
The Jersey City Board of Education has weighed the advantages and disadvantages of moving the school board elections to November, although no decision has been made.
“I have been one [who] thinks April elections are better,” said school board trustee Marvin Adames, who supports Fulop’s plan for a referendum. “This is a positive approach to working through a tough decision. Empowering residents to decide the direction of the city is always best.”
Jersey City parks advocate Audrey Zapp dies
Parks activist Audrey Zapp, who was instrumental in the creation of Liberty State Park, has passed away. She was 86.
Zapp – along with former City Councilman Morris Pesin and her husband, Warren Zapp – spent years fighting for the creation and preservation of what is now Liberty State Park. Thanks to the efforts of Pesin and the Zapps, what was once a run-down Central Railroad site is now a beautiful 1,100-acre urban oasis on the New York Harbor.
In the late 1970s she joined the Liberty State Park Study and Planning Commission and became co-founder Friends of Liberty State Park after the park was created in 1976. She would later be known as the park’s “godmother.”
For her dedication to the park, a street that runs through it was named in her honor.
As an advocate of open green space throughout New Jersey, Zapp’s interests extended beyond Liberty State Park. She fought against the privatization of public lands and lobbied for Green Acres funding for Jersey City.
After her husband’s death in 2001, Zapp moved to Colorado, where her son lived, according to Jersey City’s municipal web site. Despite the move, Zapp’s heart was still in Jersey City, and Liberty State Park. In 2006, Zapp wrote an open letter to the Friends of Liberty State Park that read, in part: “If we keep the ‘public’ in public land use, then Liberty State Park and other public lands have a great future. An open government working with its citizens is democracy. A closed government, pretending to include citizens, is a dictatorship. Although I cannot be with you today, you are all in my heart and thoughts. I am there in spirit. I am blessed to have known and worked with all of you these many years.”
Jersey City receives $1M federal grant for Fire Department
Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and Fire Department officials announced that Jersey City was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S Department of Homeland Security to purchase vital equipment for the city’s first responders.
Officials said the money will go directly to purchase “turnout gear,” or protective firefighting safety gear, as well as life-saving thermal imaging cameras that are designed to track hidden heat sources that could be victims buried beneath rubble or smoldering flames hidden in walls.
Jersey City applied for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, which was conceived in 2001 by Congressman Bill Pascrell to help fire departments fund costly equipment replacement and training. Of New Jersey cities, Jersey City received the largest amount, nearly half of the $2 million statewide allocation.
“We are always applying for grants from the federal and the state government that can defray the cost of equipment and resources to improve the quality of life for our residents,” said Mayor Healy, who acknowledged Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ), along with Congressmen Albio Sires and Bill Pascrell for their support in receiving the grant. “This type of equipment is vital to the work our firefighters do every day, and with this grant the cost will not fall on the backs of the taxpayers.”
“When you see firefighters out there in their gear, it has the appearance of being indestructible, but it’s not,” said Fire Director Armando Roman. “Heat from flames or tears in the material compromises the safety of the gear for our firefighters, so it has to be replaced immediately. Also, pathogens, blood, and chemicals often get on the clothing, which then must be immediately replaced. That’s why a grant like this is vital.”
City gets $79,500 grant from PetSmart Charities for program to end euthanasia, shelter overcrowding
The city announced recently that it is the recipient of a $79,500 grant from PetSMART Charities to help end the overwhelming surrendering of unwanted animals with a targeted spay/neuter program. The grant will allow the city to help pet owners spay or neuter 400 dogs and 600 cats in the municipal zip code of 07305, where there are many strays, dead animals reported, and “owner surrenders.” All spay/neuter surgeries will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. All dogs must be licensed to benefit from this grant.