The US economy is in its 9th years of economic expansion with unemployment dropping nationwide from 10 percent to 4 percent, near full employment. Jersey City’s real estate has been booming along with the greater New York City area. Things should be good in Jersey City.
In his “State of the City” address on Feb. 22 our mayor says, “Our goals have not changed. We are continuing to work towards a safer city, one that applauds diversity, encourages innovation, and invites the community to be part of the progress.”
The police force is in shambles. The mayor’s appointed police chief pleaded guilty in the huge corruption scandal involving 11 officers to date that erupted under this administration. There are issues of excessive force with four officers under indictment for beating an innocent man while his car was on fire and another officer has been charged with assault after running over a man twice with an unmarked police car.
There are also allegations of bid rigging purported at the top levels of this administration including the former chief of staff. Just recently a former head of human resources with the city who plead guilty to racketeering 25 years ago and had been hired by this administration is now accused of an alleged jobs for kickback scheme.
The administration talks a great deal about Jersey City’s diversity, but falls short of doing much to correct injustices both in city business by addressing the Croson Study or with equitable property taxation. The mayor still claims that he did not want to go through with the property tax revaluation (it is required by law ) while the city continued to tax poor black and brown homeowners at higher rates than wealthier whites. This transfer of wealth from downtown to other areas exceeded $20m per year and should be a major embarrassment for any city, let along the most diverse city in the county.
Tax abated growth (PILOTS) have created immense distortions in the local economy and tax base. That the city keeps all tax abatement proceeds is NOT a good thing. We just had a teacher’s strike that was rooted in resources available to pay teacher benefits and our city’s failure to fully fund our schools at an adequate level. Our schools, over-aided and underfunded are facing a $70m deficit.
The new city hall annex where the developer makes money as developer, landlord and bank instead of the city just building it itself has the city paying $80k a month rent for the past 6 months for an incomplete building.
This administration took office in July 2013 and our mayor has been serving in city government since 2005. At this point, we need to see some completed progress and problems fixed, not rosy press releases containing new promises. Jersey City needs to focus on a host of challenges and issues that include financial stability, modernization of services, improving all forms of mobility, and rational development with affordable elements. We should work towards being a just city.