In a letter to the editor, Jersey City resident Dan Levin questions if the municipality truly embraces their diversity, despite often receiving praise for such.
It is the time of the year for the annual Jersey City State of the City Address and the recent news coverage of a report pronouncing Jersey City as the most culturally diverse city in the county is timely.
Our mayor retweeted the coverage adding – “With all the great things happening in Jersey City and our growth, we really are an example of how our diversity is such a great strength and a key part in creating a desirable city.”
Sounds great and something that that we all should be proud of, but are we? Does Jersey City honor its diversity? Are we a just city (incorporating the principles of democracy, diversity, and equity)?
This administration jumps on the on the train of progressive issues while not just ignoring longtime problems but actively obstructing solutions like squandering $5 million in efforts to cancel a property revaluation that would correct the racial and socially economic property tax disparity.
Instead, the reval was delayed and the tax disparity continued for 4 more years.
This administration also has sat for five years on a disparity study (known as the Croson study) by a nationally recognized organization, MGT of America that identified gross racial disparities and problems in government spending and procurement, then watered down the proposed solutions and finally is starting the study over (a do over) with a less capable and qualified local consultant.
Despite the national, regional and local growth of the past 10 years that should have provided and expanded the financial wherewithal of Jersey City, we are now facing a colossal school funding crisis all relating to exempting the new development from paying school taxes.
While starting in prior administrations in less healthy economic times to drive redevelopment, tax abatements also known as PILOTS (payments in lieu of taxes) allowed the administration to take the school’s share of property taxes and use it to keep the city portion of taxes stable while starving and underfunding our schools.
Now with the state determining that Jersey City has not been paying its fair share for schools, they are reducing their huge subsidies from a peak of 85% of the school budget down to below 50% over the next 7 years.
Jersey City when confronted with problems and issues keeps distracting, dragging its feet, avoiding and watering down efforts to confront and address.
Community groups and advocates try to lead the city forward, but as we all know, we can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink.
Age old conflicts of interest, nepotism, patronage, and duplicity remain within local government.
Valuing our diversity is much more then proclamations and photo ops, it should be attending to our city’s needs and providing municipal and school services with best practices that work towards solving our problems and issues.
This is our state of the city.
Jersey City resident