During Mayor Healy’s State of the City address, we heard good news about moving forward on necessary restructuring that has been long talked about by the public including merging the Jersey City Incinerator Authority (JCIA) and the Department of Public Works (DPW) together and combining the police and fire director offices not just into one public safety office but also eliminating the independent Parking Authority and putting it under the public safety umbrella and direct city control.
A particular area that the administration deserves to be commended – is finally realizing and putting to work the tremendous human resources that we have in our communities starting with the long time overdue activation of the Environmental Commission and appointing a team of outstanding commissioners, and also embracing the Jersey City Parks Coalition and working with them on the hugely successful citywide “Big Dig”. Unmentioned successes and examples of the city government being supportive (and then getting out of the way) are the 4th Street Arts Festival, and Bike JC’s citywide bicycle Ward Tour.
The city’s heightened attention to environmental issues is welcome. However, the city still relies on and sometimes is in opposition to the relentless work of citizen activist groups such as the Interfaith Community Organization and community based GRACO that persevered after the city’s settlement to press for and win full chromium clean up of the PPG site on Garfield Avenue.
While Jersey City has not seen the tremendous tax hikes nor police and fire layoffs experienced by other cities around New Jersey and the country, the administration’s continued claim of stable taxes with no tax increases misrepresents the real increases of 9 percent in 2011 and 23 percent in 2010 of the amount raised by taxes in the municipal budget.
The Mayor was clearly frustrated that despite significant statistical reductions in crime, the perception of high crime remains. This disconnect cannot be ignored.
While the city has clearly moved on progressive initiatives; be it fiscal, quality of life including entertainment and parks, and economic benefits of sustainability, there still remains much needed structural and systemic changes to improve governmental decision making by providing greater openness and transparency, checks and balances and minimizing conflicts of interest – adopting a stricter ethical standards code with independent enforcement mechanisms, banning campaign contributions in city offices and on city property, and opening up the appointment process to the city’s boards, commissions and authorities.
Are we there yet? No. If we were the world class city that the mayor claims us to be – paving crater pocked streets would not be touted him as an accomplishment.
To be the world class city we believe we can be - we must reduce our over reliance on residential development, embrace best public safety practices from around the country and the world, save and make the Jersey City Museum a pillar of our city, implement the sorely needed Complete Streets policy giving equal consideration to pedestrians and bicyclists, implementation of on street bicycle lanes, complete the almost 10 year overdue 311 quality of life issues reporting system, utilize land use policy to ensure adequate educational facilities and a more meaningful commitment to sustainability starting with measuring and improving recycling compliance.