Bayonne mayoral hopeful Jason O’Donnell, along with four of his five running mates, battered incumbent Jimmy Davis’ administration over giving tax breaks to developers during their three-and-a-half year tenure.
About 350 people came out to The Chandelier Restaurant to support the O’Donnell team and the common theme among the candidates was curbing the city’s frequency of giving developers long-term tax breaks.
“A few things have happened over the past three years that caused me great concern for my sons. I mentioned that Brian is a carpenter. He’s in his fourth year as an apprentice and he’ll pursue that degree,” began 1st Ward Council candidate Sharma Montgomery.
“He works on buildings in Jersey City, not Bayonne, Jersey City. He spends the majority of his working days getting up at five in the morning to drive out of this town and go to work. We have a lot of buildings going up … very few, if any, of those buildings are required to use Bayonne for union labor.”
2nd Ward Council hopeful Kevin Kuhl, who owns the popular Prospect Avenue bar Kuhl’s Tavern, reiterated that same point.
” … We own our houses for 20, 30, 40 years: we’re here, we’re residents here, and we’re not getting any tax breaks. These new developers come in and they get all the breaks. What about the regular citizens that have never left this town.”
Councilman-at-Large candidate Dan Ward, the director of social studies and library/media services for the Bayonne Board of Education, stuck with the same theme.
“I’m tired of 30-year giveaways to wealthy developers that give us nothing, zero in return. But rob, rob our union brothers and sisters, Bayonne residents, of good paying jobs,” Ward said.
Under Davis, the city council has approved over 30 payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements to help get new development projects started throughout the peninsula.
Walking to the podium to a standing ovation as U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” blared over the speakers, O’Donnell cautioned the audience about Davis’ team using dirty tactics throughout the campaign before taking shots at Davis and his campaign manager, Joe DeMarco.
“As my father would say, actions speak louder than words. Does someone who loves Bayonne leave for 14 years? Buy a house elsewhere, pay taxes and start a new life in Rahway?,” O’Donnell questioned.
“Does someone who loves Bayonne allow an out-of-town, disgraced business administrator to make decisions that affect our families and our children? Does someone who loves Bayonne allow out-of-town developers to profit off the backs of Bayonne taxpayers?”
Melissa Enriquez-Rada, the O’Donnell slate’s other council-at-large candidate, spoke about her long record of community service before imploring everyone to come out and vote on May 8th.
O’Donnell has previously went after the Davis administration for the council introducing a project labor agreement last month ahead of the May 8th municipal elections, calling the timing “completely disingenuous.”
At the time, Davis responded in a statement by saying that he and the council have been focused on “creating a Redevelopment Plan that will deliver real property tax relief for homeowners.”
In August, the Jersey City Council approved a project labor agreement that requires at least 20 percent of the project workforce to include local women and minorities after a long, contentious meeting.
The city had lost a lawsuit over their previous PLA, which prevented non-residents and non-union construction workers from performing labor work in Jersey City.
Dignitaries in attendance included Board of Education Trustees Mary Jane Desmond and Christopher Munoz, former Assemblyman/Union City Mayor Rudy Garcia, ex-Bayonne Councilman Joe Hurley and retired Superintendent of School Dr. Patricia McGeehan, among many others.