By Ricardo Kaulessar
“I am proud to announce that in 2014, we will introduce a budget with a tax reduction and flexibility for the Council.” That was one of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s final lines in his State of the City address Thursday night, when he addressed not only the progress of the city on various fronts since he took office last July but also how it is going forward in the upcoming year. But Fulop was more detailed about other accomplishments and goals while speaking in front of over 400 people inside the McMahon Student Center on the campus of Saint Peter’s University.
He spent time talking about how the city’s consolidation of the Fire and Police departments into the recently-formed Public Safety Department enabled the city to save money to hire 26 more firefighters and 34 more cops, and how the additional cop manpower along with the employment of various crime-fighting initiatives will help the police bring crime down by double-digits by the end of this year.
He then said coming this Monday, the city will launch a reentry program for ex-offenders that will provide treatment, housing options, and job opportunities with the goal of reducing recidivism for ex-offenders by over 30 percent from the current average for those residing in Hudson County. This effort was described by Fulop as being in sync with his Marine training.
“We here in Jersey City also believe no person should be discarded, that no life is nonredeemable, so as a progressive and as a marine, we’re doing things differently,” Fulop said.
Fulop emphasized the role of job preparation in building Jersey City’s economy on two fronts: partnering with major companies such as
Pershing and Goldman Sachs to launch a summer internship program for top students in the city’s high schools and putting together a mentor program for Jersey City students to learn on-the-job mechanical/technical skills coupled with academic courses at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.
He also mentioned jobs in terms of the various companies bringing them to Jersey City such as Forbes and Nautica, helping to burnish the town’s reputation as the fastest growing city in New Jersey at the present time, even claiming that Jersey City will be the largest city by 2016.
However, Fulop is not just depending on the economic kindness of others to boost Jersey City’s image and population as he announced the city will carry out a $1.2 million marketing campaign, financed by the municipality and the private sector, to attract people to come settle here.
Fulop spoke further about the city’s growth when he pointed out that the city’s school system will have 4,000 more students in the next five years, many of whom will most likely be the children of those couples that officials hope will relocate as a result of Jersey City’s promotion effort. In that vein, the mayor highlighted three pre-k facilities that will open in coming years – two in the planning stages and one to open in the former home of a charter school – while pushing the city’s school district to ensure that they not just focused on pre-k education in downtown Jersey City.
He also spoke during the address about some other items that will make Jersey City into “the best mid-size city in America”: the management and restoration of the Loew’s Jersey Theatre in Journal Square that has met with opposition from the current operators of the theater and their supporters over the city’s handling of this issue; booming development across the city including 10 projects underway and 23 that have already been proposed or approved, and the creation of a special improvement district for the city’s west side.
And while it seems City Hall has an ambitious mandate this year and beyond, Fulop early in the speech laid out how something so daunting can actually be doable. “We know expectations are high, as they should be. I know we will succeed. I believe in our team, and I believe in Jersey City,”