Jersey City Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano said on Saturday morning that not only should council aides be paid more, but that serving on the council should be a full-time job.
Boggiano participated in the New Journal Square Community Association’s monthly meeting, along with Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33), where JSCA President Bill Armbruster asked them both about a range of issues, such as development at One Journal Square,Â at the Hudson County Community College STEM campus.
But first, Armbruster asked Boggiano about the status of increasing pay for council aides.
“I am definitely in favor of full-time council aides … during the week we receive emails, calls from constituents, and I’m out of the office quite a bit,” he began.
“I can’t expect to say to my aide that she has to be at the office for three or four days when she’s only earning $15,000 yearly. We have to have full-time aides.”
Last month, the Jersey City Council gave the initial okay to raise their aides’ salaries to $32,000, but didn’t vote on pay raises for city directors – an initiative introduced by Mayor Steven Fulop.
Next, Armbruster asked Boggiano about what he thought about the possibility of full-time council members in Jersey City.
“Newark has full-time council members, but we are bigger than Newark. Our population is bigger than Newark, and we have more industry. We should have full-time council people in City Hall. They should not have another job, working for the County or for Goldman-Sachs. They should be in City Hall five days a week,” Boggiano said.
Armbruster then asked what the prospects are for that proposition?
“I’ll be honest with you. I go back to 13 mayors in Jersey City over the last 46 years, and no mayor wants a full-time council. I’ll tell you why, because then the council people will know what is going on and maybe they’d be a little more independent and be able to say no to certain things. The administration makes all the decisions, when actually it should be the nine council members making the decisions.”
The mayor’s office wasn’t impressed with Boggiano’s rationale, claiming the councilman is simply looking for an angle to get a pay raise.
“There is no limit on what Rich Boggiano can do today with his time as he is retired. Clearly this isnâ€™t about more time then this is about him wanting a pay raise again,” said city spokeswoman Kim Wallace-Scalcione.
“The administration is supportive of adjusting salaries or structure for the next elected officials so everyone can run under the same rules. The mayor and council ran under these salaries and these rules so the expectation when they ran was they were willing to run at the stated salary. Why the bait and switch from Boggiano now?”
In response, Boggiano said that Scalcione is “way off base” since the idea of salary increases for council people were never brought up at the meeting.
At last month’s meeting at the HCCC STEM campus, Fulop told Armbruster and residents in attendance that the city has no plans to use eminent domain to take over the empty lot at One Journal Square from Kushner Companies, which used to be run by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Armbruster askedÂ Mukherji whether there are any options the state can pursue to encourage development at One Journal Square.
“From the state’s perspective, the Economic Development Authority has a number of programs that can help neighborhoods like Journal Square incentivize development,” he began.
“There’s the Grow New Jersey Job Creation and Retention Program incentive that offers up payroll tax credits ranging from $500 a job all the way up to $8,000 a job. A neighborhood like Journal Square with the population density around it … we would be able to make sure that being that close to a transit hub maximizes the amount of bonus credits. That incentive will be very meaningful to a company seeking to locate to create jobs, and the same thing applies to a developer seeking to develop in an area like Journal Square.”