Bayonne resident Peter Franco went to a local bakery in order to personally present Mayor Jimmy Davis with a cake asking him to “unblock” him, along with other residents, from some of the city’s official social media feeds.
Last week, Franco told us in an interview that he and his fellow residents were asking questions on the city’s social media feeds about the frequency and duration of the city’s tax abatements to developers to help fund redevelopment in the Peninsula City.
However, they weren’t receiving any feedback or responses, eventually realizing they had been blocked from the official Facebook pages of the mayor and the city.
“I’ve been trying to get the attention of our elected officials for quite some time. I think it’s a disservice because as an elected official, you should be open to criticism, but it [commenting on Facebook] also creates a dialogue for the rest of the residents,” Franco argued.
“No one person has a monopoly on all good ideas. I think it’s important for us to try to question things and add insight and, I’m not the smartest, and I don’t assume the council is the smartest; we should be open to other ideas.”
After a couple of months’ worth of submitting questions related to abatements and development, he claims that he was ultimately blocked from the Mayor’s official Facebook Page because the Mayor was censuring his and residents’ questions.
“So, they blocked me and other people, it all seemed related … we had questions about the abatements and the developers and their money.”
In what he called a show of goodwill to the mayor and other officials, Franco delivered a cake to City Hall to personally present it to Davis. It said “please unblock the people!” As luck would have it, Davis was not in his office at that time.
“I wasn’t able to see him, but it seems that it was effective because by the time I got home I was unblocked from the Mayor’s Page, but I’m still blocked from the City of Bayonne’s official Page. [However], according to the law director, they’re going to work on that tomorrow so that anyone who was blocked will be unblocked,” said Franco.
As he has argued many times in the past, Franco said this administration needs to be more open to hearing new voices when large-scale developments continue to be improved.
We asked him that if he isn’t happy with the current development process, what kind of development would he like to see in the city.
“I think that sustainability is important, and I would like to see keeping some of the older structure buildings and maybe just revamping them, sort of like how we did with the Silk Lofts on Avenue E,” Franco started.
“My other issue though, really, is that when it comes to abatements there doesn’t seem to be a standard. For example, the Council just approved a 25-year tax break for a 1,100-unit apartment complex, but then they also approved a 20-year tax break for a complex with 76 units. So the parameters make you wonder if we’re giving away too much, and then you have to wonder [because] the developers are really the ones funding the council and the mayor.”
Bayonne Corporation Council Jay Coffey told Franco and another resident who spoke up from the podium, that he directed the city last summer that anyone who was blocked should be unblocked.
“If people are still blocked, tomorrow I’m going to making sure that they’re unblocked, unless I can determine that they used vulgarities.”
He figuratively threw up his arms to say that he’s no longer interested in monitoring the comments people make on social media platforms.
“Even then, I think I’m going to direct [the city] to open it up because it’s just not worth the time to sit there and look through all these comments. If people want to act like idiots, they have the constitutional right to act like idiots.”