Alexander X. O’Connor Auditorium at Bayonne High School vibrated with prayer, song, and hope on July 1 as Mayor Mark Smith and his slate of council candidates were sworn in, each promising to change the way the city has done business in the past in order to restore some of its past glories.
The mayor and council members were elected in elections this past May and runoffs in June.
“Like many of you,” Mayor Smith told the audience at the swearing in, “I was born in an era of unrivaled prosperity. As I came of age, our great city was in full stride. Men and women worked in any number of industries in town: Esso, Texaco, Tidewater, Mobay, the MOT, Rollins, ICI, Baker Castor Oil, the list goes on and on. This city was booming – once the largest oil refining city in the world. Of course, times change and cities are not immune to the constant beat of time.”
“Change is never easy, but it is necessary if we are to renew this community.” – Mayor Mark Smith
“The rail system was shut down and jobs began to drift away,” Smith said. “Our once proud city was showing some wear and tear, and people seemed resigned to our fate as another decaying urban community.”
Change is never easy, he said, but it is necessary to renew the community.
“In many ways, the 2010 election has been a harbinger of change to come,” Smith said. “For the first time since 1962, an entirely new mayor and council will be taking office together. We are all new faces with new energy and new ideas. Bayonne people have summoned this change with their vote, and you will facilitate it with your continuing support.”
Mayor calls for renewal
Except for Councilman-at-Large Terrence Ruane, none of Smith’s runningmates had served on the City Council before. Ruane had served for one year after filling the seat vacated by Councilman Anthony Chiappone, and Mayor Smith has served only since November 2008, when he won a special election to fill the unexpired term of office of Mayor Joseph Doria.
Taking their oaths of office along with Smith were incumbent Ruane, Councilwoman-At-Large Debra Czerwienski, 1st Ward Councilwoman Agnes Gillespie, 2nd Ward Councilman Joseph Hurley, and 3rd Ward Councilman Raymond Greaves.
Smith called this a new beginning and a chance for the community to start fresh.
“I stand before you, as has been the custom in our city, to address the public as we begin this new endeavor together,” Smith said, noting his administration set the groundwork during his first 18 months in office. “In the coming years, we will see a new interest in our urban centers. Communities such as Bayonne with a strong transportation infrastructure are poised to resume their rightful place as leading, interesting places to live and raise a family. Our future is bright.”
A new team is seated
First Ward Councilwoman Agnes Gillespie called this one of the “most wonderful days of her life.”
“I’ve taken an oath, now I shall give the office my energies and all the wisdom I can summon to move Bayonne forward,” she said. “My position in life is to serve you, and I promise to do that well. To change Bayonne we must be bold, to do what no other generation before us has had to do, we must invest more in people and jobs while at the same time stabilize taxes.”
Second Ward Councilman Joe Hurley said it is time to celebrate the past and look forward to a promising future.
“Today, a new era begins,” he said. “The citizens of Bayonne have chosen a new team of leaders to guide this city for the next four years. Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we go to work. We begin to roll up our sleeves and tackle the problems confronting this great city. We will work every day to restore Bayonne to its rightful place as the gem of Hudson County.”
Third Ward Councilman Raymond Greaves said he was proud to be part of a team as passionate about Bayonne as he is. “We are facing some daunting challenges in our community: tax stabilization, job creation, revitalization of Broadway, and improvements to our quality of life,” he said.
To achieve these, he said the city must continue to be fiscally prudent and embrace working families who are struggling to make ends meet, strengthen project labor agreements with unions, and support local businesses.
Debby Czerwienski, councilmember-at-large, said she has tried to present herself to the people as “a hard working citizen who cares about what is happening in the city.” She said she can hardly wait to begin working to move Bayonne forward.
“I know this city has many challenges, and the solutions are not going to be easy,” she said. “I promise you to do my best to do what is best for the people of Bayonne. I believe the next four years will signal a change in the way business is done in this great city, and I’m glad I’m going to be a part of that.”
Terrence Ruane, who was selected by the council as its president, said this group will move toward a common goal.
“That is simply to improve the quality of life for our citizens,” he said. “This has not been a good time to enter politics for any us. With the downturn in the economy and cuts in state aide, this is no walk in the park. However, this is a group of individuals I can assure you will not run from a fight.”