100 Days Accomplishment Highlights
Today marks our 100th Day in office, and I want to take this opportunity to update the residents and business owners about our efforts to make government more effective and efficient, while also making our city safer, expanding programs and services, and stabilizing taxes. We are also laying the groundwork to make Jersey City the best mid-size city in America – the mandate on which we were elected. And this is just the beginning.
- Mayor Steven M. Fulop
October 9, 2013
Making Government Responsive, Enforcing Accountability
& Streamlining Services
One of the first things we set out to do when we took office was to make the government more responsive to the people it serves. We immediately refocused the former Mayor’s Action Bureau – transforming it into the Resident Response Center. We added more representatives to serve constituents and expanded hours, with the RRC now open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
We have streamlined the process for constituent services, improved response times, and have established a citywide data-driven system, the Jersey City Dashboard Program, to track how we are using our resources.
Within the first month in office, we also conducted a desk audit of all city employees to evaluate employee functions as well as program performance. The audit will help eliminate any duplication of services, thereby increasing efficiencies and reducing costs.
Another accountability measure we have implemented is the installation of GPS devices in city vehicles. Already, this GPS program has eliminated unauthorized stops and after-hour usage by city employees and has greatly improved productivity while creating efficiency and reducing fuel costs. Our initiative is now being used as a model for legislation at the state level.
We have also been studying how we can consolidate services and merge many of the functions performed by our autonomous agencies into the city government. The Law Department has taken the first step in the process to dissolve the Jersey City Parking Authority. The process begins with a study of the operations of the autonomous agency as a way of informing the City Council as to how best to proceed. Generally speaking, autonomous agencies create unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and duplicative services. This will be a win for the taxpayers and residents and this was a campaign pledge that we are committed to moving forward.
Creation of Department of Public Safety & Restructuring of Police Department
For too long, public safety resources were unevenly distributed in Jersey City. Too much emphasis had been placed on crime statistics for the entire city, rather than looking at how crimes were happening on a specific block or in a localized area. We have taken a different approach.
Immediately after taking office, the Police Department redeployed personnel to the areas with the greatest need and that have historically seen higher crime, so that all of our residents can feel safe. Furthermore, since mid-July, officers have been assigned to walking posts in these areas using grant funding. We currently have 37 officers in the police academy and are seeking additional grants to hire additional officers. Our police leadership also implemented a series of police sweeps that resulted in the arrest of more than 200 offenders and removed weapons and drugs from city streets.
We also reviewed and determined that a merger of our police and fire departments into a Department of Public Safety would be beneficial for Jersey City as it would produce both cost savings and synergies of communications and operations. So, we introduced and passed legislation to create a Department of Public Safety consolidating our police and fire operations. We are currently studying the merger of parking enforcement operations into this new public safety department, as well.
And because residents must play be part of the public safety dialogue, we created a Citizen Public Safety Advisory Review Board to review public safety reports, crime reports and incidents involving Department personnel. The board, established by Executive Order, will also make programmatic, legislative and training recommendations to improve public safety.
Establishment of Jersey City’s First Tax Abatement Policy & Aggressive
My administration’s new policy on tax abatements, the first of its kind in Jersey City, establishes a tiered structure for abatements based on geography and income levels. The plan incentivizes development in the inner city. This policy puts clear objectives in place, creates foresight for future development in the parts of the city that need it most, and puts an end to the culture of artificial competition and abatements based on who you know. This is an important shift from past practices, this policy establishes that affordable housing, in most cases, should be built in the same ward that generates the contribution.
Together with Jersey City’s Law Department and the Jersey City Tax Department, we are conducting an aggressive audit of tax abatements and have already recovered approximately $5 million from two developers who had failed to make payments owed as part of their tax abatements with the City. What we are finding is that the prior administration literally left millions of dollars on the table. Failure to collect this money is unacceptable and we are going to hold these developers accountable. We anticipate taking similar actions against other developers in violation of their abatements. These are tax dollars that could be used to better serve our residents.
Passage of Paid Sick Days Legislation
Last month, Jersey City was the first city in the State of New Jersey, and the sixth city nationwide to pass legislation requiring paid sick days for employees. The Jersey City legislation, which will take effect in January of 2014, provides for workers employed by businesses with ten or more employees to earn up to five paid sick days per year to care for themselves or their family members. Employees of businesses with nine workers or less would accrue five unpaid days. The legislation also calls for the aggregation of employees if a business owner owns more than one establishment within the city.
This is a basic human dignity issue and one that builds upon the principle that a healthy employee is a more productive employee. We advocated for this policy and worked with the City Council for passage. We want Jersey City to be business friendly as is evident with our new tax abatement policy, but we also want to support working families and advance strong public health policies.
Expanded and Diversified Recreation Programming
Providing more recreational opportunities for our youth and adults alike has been another focus of my administration during the first three months. We have created new programming that reflects the immense diversity of our city – such as boxing, cricket, scuba, and more. We have also expanded existing programs such as league basketball – adding sites in parks throughout the city that during the summer months drew hundreds of participants and spectators providing a positive outlet for our residents.
The City, now a Let’s Move City and a member of the Mayor’s Wellness Program through the State, is now offering yoga and fitness boot camp classes at Pershing Field and The Bethune Center to help residents get fit and stay in shape.
Advancing the Arts in Jersey City of Jersey City
Jersey City is one of the most diverse cities in the nation and has long been a mecca for the arts, however, for years the city government has not done enough to capitalize on our potential to be a true arts and culture center. Our administration is committed to ensuring that Jersey City is a place where artists can work, create and be successful.
To that end, we have launched the Jersey City Mural Arts Program, part of the city’s Keep America Beautiful initiative. Our comprehensive mural project will see dozens of murals displayed citywide as part of my administration’s focus on the city’s art community to beautify neighborhoods and promote cultural awareness. Additionally, murals have proven to be a proactive approach to graffiti prevention, blight reduction and community engagement. They are also an investment in the arts, raise property values, and offer educational opportunities.
We are also setting the stage to make Jersey City the premier destination in New Jersey for filmmakers with our recent introduction of the Jersey City’s first Municipal Film Ordinance.
Jersey City has the resources to make more films than any other municipality in New Jersey – whether it is our extraordinary diversity, waterfront views, or gem locations like the majestic Loew’s Theatre and Liberty State Park. Jersey City should be first in the state when it comes to film production, and should be where the millions of dollars spent by the film and television industries are spent.