In a letter to the editor, Jersey City resident Deborah McWilliams gives her opinion on why the Board of Ward Commissioners meeting last month was woefully inadequate and ultimately approved a racist map.
Be advised that I was a virtual attendee at the Ward Redistricting publicly held meeting of 1-22-22 who also spoke on the subject of the meeting and this letter.
I am expressing my disapproval and disgust with how the redrawing process took place, the lack of transparency, the lack of adequate and timely notification (in all local Jersey City newspapers instead of just one newspaper, on the Jersey City website and on social media platforms), not allowing questions to be asked at the meeting, the lack of diversity in the make-up of the ward redistricting commission along with totally ignoring the voices of those who spoke out against this entire process and the way the redistricting was handled.
After a botched non-meeting on 1-14-22, with very little public notification (I found out about the meeting through Facebook) and where the majority of those who wanted to attend could not either in-person or due to a limit of 100 virtually, the new meeting was scheduled for a Saturday Morning,1-22-22. with thankfully a virtual option.
As per my understanding, the original rescheduled meeting was supposed to take place on a weeknight with no virtual option.
Over 80 in-person and virtual speakers (out of the hundreds of attendees both in-person and virtually) spoke out against the map, against the lack of transparency of the process, against the lack of diversity of the commission and against the lack of public input.
These speakers asked and begged the commission to seek a sixty (60) day extension so that a ward redistricting map with proper logical and sensible boundary lines could be drawn with input from the public.
This plea fell on deaf ears and was like speaking into the wind, they heard the words and voices, but chose to ignore them.
Additionally, the Jersey City mayor, Steven Fulop, appointed two members of the commission. He chose to appoint political allies instead of people who could and would represent the diversity that is Jersey City.
Not one member of this commission was a person or color and there was only one female commissioner.
How is it that this type of commission is justified or qualified to redraw redistricting maps that will affect the voting public for the next ten (10) years as they are not familiar with the municipality and do not represent the diverse population of the municipality?
This map which the commission approved, disenfranchised the minority residents of Bergen-Lafayette (mainly African American/Latinx of Ward F) whose outcry against the splitting up of the historic Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood between two wards and the chopping up of their Ward, went unheeded and was ignored as they were totally disrespected. However, this map was quickly changed before the meeting to accommodate the largely Caucasian neighborhood of Hamilton Park (Ward E) after their outcry over the proposed dividing up of their neighborhood among two wards. Shameful racism displayed by the commission.
Additionally, politics reared its ugly head as several development sites that the Ward F residents and their newly elected city council representative (Frank Gilmore) spoke out against, were removed from Ward F and moved to Ward A, whose city council representative (Denise Ridley), is a Jersey City mayoral ally.
This map also sadly kept intact neighborhoods that were already split between two wards, instead of being combined.
An example of this is Jersey City Heights, where one-third (1/3rd) of the neighborhood lies in Ward C and was not combined with the other two-thirds (2/3rds) of the Heights neighborhood situated in Ward D which would have been logical and sensible.
Taking pieces from one ward and moving them to another ward to create equal population and boundary lines, while keeping a neighborhood split between two wards is not only illogical, but just plain crazy.
In 2022, it is sad to see that political considerations, corruption, non-transparency, voter disenfranchisement/suppression, racism/prejudice and ignoring the voices of the public were and are on display and very much alive and well in the diverse county of Hudson County, the diverse municipality of Jersey City and the diverse northern state of New Jersey.
However, I still have some hope that this situation will fire up the public to raise their voices in protest and make themselves heard regarding the very sad and unjust redistricting issue.
Jersey City resident