An Action Network petition has over 10,000 virtual letters asking for Jersey City’s ward maps to be redrawn after the Board of Ward Commissioners approved a new map on January 22nd.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“The process under which the new Ward Map — which will affect Jersey City neighborhoods for the next ten years — didn’t take into account community feedback, natural boundaries, or our city’s history. We deserve a map that reflects the true Jersey City!,” the petition, started by Jersey City United, says.
The effort was spearheaded by former Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden, activist Amy Wilson, Erica Walker, an aide to Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore, and former Ward F Councilman Dan Wiley.
The ward commissioners, where six members (three Democrats and three Republicans) are appointed by the governor and the seventh seat is occupied by the municipal clerk, approved a new ward map despite three hours of public comment against it, as HCV first reported.
The state mandated process occurs every decade or so after each U.S. Census and many speakers expressed frustration that the map only came to light two days before the meeting after the previous iteration sprung up without any community feedback.
Through the petition, virtual letters can be sent to Gov. Phil Murphy (D), Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D), Mayor Steven Fulop, all nine city council members, City Clerk Sean Gallagher, and Board of Ward Commissioners Chair John Minella – who is also a top aide to Fulop.
“This whole issue, from beginning to end, seems set up to erode public faith in our democratic system. This is happening with the national backdrop of voters’ rights being eroded throughout the country, and gerrymandering becoming an increasing problem,” the e-letter says.
“I am writing to ask you to do everything you can to reverse this decision. I expect that you will be as horrified and upset at this absolute lack of transparency and community input as I am, and that you will do what you can to apply pressure to make sure it is not ratified. Jersey City deserves better than this map, and the process that brought us here.”
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione reiterated that re-warding is not a municipal function, as well as that Fulop is ready to accept whatever the final outcome is.
“The mayor and council have no control over it, but the mayor realizes that there is plenty of misinformation circulating with regards to the map and the process,” she began.
“However, this is the exact same process that every town in NJ has undergone, with the exact same timetable, and it’s the same process from 2010 when it was last required and the mayor was a councilperson. Whatever is decided, the mayor will be comfortable with and will continue to work with all the council members on behalf of all the residents.”
Gadsden, a spokesman for Jersey City United, said they are looking for the map to be redrawn since gerrymandering clearly took place in Ward F, adding that they are considering legal action.
“Our mission with Jersey City United is to reopen the process, which is why we’re writing letters to all stakeholders,” he said over the phone.
“The mayor said he was considering litigation and we’re looking into that option as well. We don’t believe that the residents of Ward F have been treated fairly and we want that to be remedied.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Jersey City United spokesman Chris Gadsden.