The 162-page report prepared by the people who served on Mayor Steven Fulop’s transition committee was released recently, making a series of recommendations including retraining city employees in how to deal with the public; selling more taxi medallions, and folding the Parking Authority into the Police Department.
The report is a summary of major recommendations made by the members of 11 transition subcommittees that evaluated city agencies and operations.
“The committees…initially met to review the functions, responsibilities, and scope of inquiry established for each committee,” the report states. “The committees met as a whole and in smaller subsets to review the issues assigned to the committees. Members of the committees gathered and reviewed thousands of pages of critical documents and spent hundreds of hours interviewing key personnel. Based on this information…the committees spent countless hours more formulating their recommendations, detailing them and setting them out in [this report].”
‘The magnitude of the effort has to be commended, but is this really a blueprint for change?’ – Francisco Henriques
The transition report also incorporates the top issues and concerns raised by residents during the four public town hall meetings Fulop held throughout the city in June before taking office.
“Our administration completed the most comprehensive and professional transition report in the history of the city,” Fulop said last week through city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill. “The transition report was done with the goal of implementing the recommendations and once [our full] team is assembled we will work toward implementation of the recommendations made in the report.”
Many of the recommendations in the report were anticipated.
The transition committee urged the Fulop administration to immediately begin retraining city workers who deal with the public to be retrained so they are polite and have a more “consumer friendly” attitude when interacting with residents.
Rudeness and among some city workers was one of the top complaints of residents who attended the town hall meetings last month.
To help residents access city services and information, an expansion of the Mayor’s Action Bureau was also suggested, a recommendation that is already being implemented by the Fulop administration.
In an effort to generate more revenue for the city, the transition committee suggests that the administration should expand cab service in the city and sell taxi medallions, expand billboard advertising, and get more aggressive about collecting fines owed to the city. Police officers who currently issue parking tickets might also be trained to issue violations for city code violations.
The committee does not estimate how much money might be generated from these recommendations.
And in an effort to reduce the future retirement costs of city workers, the committee suggests that Fulop consider moving city workers into defined contribution retirements plans and get away from the traditional and more costly Jersey City Pension System.
This recommendation would likely affect new hires only, not employees currently working for the city. But the move could be controversial and could be opposed by city workers and their unions.
The transition report also urges Mayor Fulop and his staff to modernize both data and record storage, and the way in which fees are collected and payments are made. The administration believes doing this will save both money and free up much needed space in city hall offices that is now being used for the storage of records.
As has long been recommended by Fulop himself when he was a councilman, the report recommends that the Parking Authority be absorbed into the Jersey City Police Department and the Jersey City Incinerator Authority be absorbed into the Department of Public Works so end duplication of services across city agencies
Response to the report among those who have read it appears to be mixed.
At the July 17 City Council meeting, at which the council approved a 2013 municipal budget that included a 7.6 percent tax increase, at lease two residents urged the council to quickly explore revenue-generating recommendations made in the report.
One resident, Francisco Henriques, wrote last week in a letter to the editor, “The magnitude of the effort has to be commended, but is this really a blueprint for change or just, and mainly, a set of recommendations to improve what is already there?”
Two city employees last week questioned the degree to which transition subcommittee members met with “key staff,” as the report states.
“Our department was evaluated and I feel like our work was audited by this committee, and yet nobody ever came and talked to me about what we do,” said one staffer.
She acknowledged it is possible the committee that did the review of her department may have met with her supervisor, however.
The full 162-page transition report can be accessed and downloaded by visiting the city website at CityofJerseyCity.com. The link to the report currently appears on the home page.
According to Fulop’s transition committee co-chairs, Hudson County Freeholder William O’Dea and State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, members of the transition committee “promised not to use and privileged information gained during the transition process for personal gain or benefit.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.