The Jersey City branch of the NAACP voted to hire legal counsel at last night’s meeting after many members said they felt the city has not taken any action to remedy the problems revealed in a Croson study completed several years ago.
“No one will provide an answer, or any feedback, or any update, over what the city has done to correct the [racial] disparity and it’s a major, major issue,” said Jersey City NAACP Labor and Industry Committee Chair Willie Keaton, Jr.
“When you think about the study, it looks at the years from 2002 to 2008 – they produced the study in 2011 – and here it is 2018, and what don’t know what has been done to correct the problems.
Noting that municipal government is the largest employee in the city, Keaton said there needs to be a fair hiring practice, as opposed to “whoever’s friendly with the mayor gets the job.”
Back in March 2016, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop put the blame on his predecessor, Jerramiah Healy, claiming that the process of implementing the recommended changes had been delayed “because they [the Healy administration] didn’t want to deal with it.”
A press release from September 23, 2014 stated that the study, conducted by the firm MGT America, commenced in 2007 and was completed in May 2011.
The $370,590 study called for the city to add outreach programs, expand the utilization of and using “multi-prime construction contracts” for large scale projects – among other things – all in relation to minority women business enterprise programs.
Although the city council passed a project labor agreement in August, which requires all development projects over $25 million to have at least 20 percent of the workforce to include local women and minorities, the Jersey City NAACP was seeking 23 percent.
Jersey City Councilwoman Denise Ridley, who was elected to the council in November, called on the room of about 100 people to take action if they wanted to see change.
“We have people here and we have the resources right here in this group and it’s time we start to utilize some of those resources. At some point we need to stop waiting to be saved if we can save ourselves: we need to start saving ourselves,” she said.
Barbara Camacho reminded everyone that the Croson study came with recommendations that are awaiting legislative action, so it’s up to the elected officials to make the next move.
Mashuna Harley, nicknamed “Queen Free,” was even more vocal in exclaiming frustration over the lack of progress.
“I am a black woman, I am a black mother of sons, I’m an educator here in Jersey City … and every day I go to work and see little children who look like me who are also effected by the Croson study because their fathers are absent because we’re forced to live a life that we do not want to live,” she said.
“So, when they hire one or two of us … that’s a problem!”
Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson commended everyone for attending and for fighting for a seat at the table, before Henry Gage made a motion to hire legal counsel.
“What I’d like to say is that I move that the branch immediately initiate retaining legal counsel to explore legal action as a remediation to make fixes against this city and provide an update by the next branch meeting,” he read into the record.
The vote passed unanimously.
A Jersey City spokeswoman did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The full meeting, which streamed live on our Facebook page, can be viewed below: