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State of the City 2012 MEDIA

State of the City 2012 MEDIA

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Published by: The Jersey City Independent on Feb 17, 2012
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02/17/2012

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Members of the City Council, Senators and Assemblymen, County Executive,Freeholders, reverend clergy, community leaders and members of the public, good evening.
 
I think everyone in this room will agree that 2011 was a year like no other. In Jersey City,we felt the tremors of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, were battered by Hurricane Irene, andsustained significant damage from a late October ice storm. But while we were faced withmany challenges
those from Mother Nature and those from the current economicdownturn
we have met each and every challenge and prevailed. I am proud to say that inJersey City we have developed strategic operating plans, reacted quickly to emerging andemergency situations, and smartly used our resources to deliver solid government services.You have heard me say before that our City had been cut more than $70 million instate aid between direct funding to the city, direct funding to the Board of Education, andthrough the acquisition of Urban Enterprise Zone dollars by the State. This came at a timewhen revenue from other areas, such as development, was already down. But, unlike manyother cities, Jersey City managed to produce a budget without a municipal tax increase. It 
wasn’t easy, and it took 
a determined effort by our City leaders to execute a plan that reduced the operating costs of our municipal government without significant cuts inservices. Next week, my administration will again present a budget to the City Council that does not raise taxes and that maintains the same level of robust city services.Creating a leaner and more efficient government requires us to make tough and
painful decisions. It's easy to pay lip service to being a “fiscal conservative”
 
but it’
s anentirely different thing to have the fortitude to make the hard choices. It wasn't easy to ask our non-uniform employees to accept furloughs for more than one year and to ask ourmanagement employees to forgo any raise for more than three years, but we did so in thebest interest of the taxpayer. It was the most difficult thing that I had to do in my tenure asmayor, but it was necessary to lay off nearly 100 civilian employees last year. While thesecity employees rendered valuable services, it is important to remember that public salariesare paid for with taxpayer dollars. Indeed, salaries and employee benefits are by far thelargest share of any municipal budget.Excluding grants, nearly 50
percent of the City’s budget covers public safety costs
 salaries, health care and pension benefits, and equipment for our police officers and
 
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firefighters. While this is money well spent, it is no doubt a significant cost and one thagrows annually due to contractual agreements. Let me be clear, the brave men and womenof our police and fire departments deserve every penny for the dangerous work they do.Their work is absolutely the most important service provided by municipal government.That is why we did everything we could to avert public safety layoffs and Jersey City wasone of the few cities in New Jersey that managed to do so.Everyone needs to share in the sacrifice in order to achieve our goal of providing thebest possible services to the residents while keeping taxes as low as possible. It isindisputable that civilian employees have disproportionately participated in the sacrificeup to now. As we move toward negotiations for new agreements with our uniformed andcivilian employees, we will assiduously work to achieve all possible savings, while trying tonegotiate fair contracts.Jersey City has been a leader amongst the largest cities in New Jersey in reducingcrime and creating sensible gun legislation. In fact, it was legislation crafted by thisadministration that became
the model for a statewide “One Handgun a Month” bill that 
passed at the state level and was signed into law by Governor Corzine.Jersey City has been a leader amongst the largest cities in New Jersey in attractingnew business and in turn creating jobs for our residents. Last year, we saw corporationslike Goya Foods, DeBragga & Spitler, and Fluitec amongst others announce plans to relocateto our city. Jersey City continues to be the economic engine of the state sending hundredsof millions of dollars in income tax revenue into the state coffers annually.Jersey City has been a leader amongst the largest cities in New Jersey in fostering agreen and sustainable City. Last year, Jersey City was awarded Silver Certification bySustainable Jersey and is the largest municipality to hold such designation.Jersey City has been a leader amongst the largest cities in New Jersey in creatingnew development 
both commercial and residential. Last year, Jersey City approved
 
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construction permits for new residential and non-residential development representingmore than $50 million in estimated construction costs.And tonight, we are pleased to say, Jersey City is leading the charge in restructuringgovernment so that the public we serve will know that their tax dollars are being spent inthe most prudent of ways.
Last year I said that “part of our mission as we move forward isto downsize not only to save tax dollars, but to make government run more efficiently.” In
the past year, we have been developing a consolidation plan that will streamline servicesand move offices and functions within and across departments.
As the late Steve Jobs once said, “
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a
follower.” While consolidation is not a unique concept, we believe that our proposal
maximizes the amount and quality of services, while minimizing the cost to the taxpayer. It removes duplications and serves to identify the most logical structure for government.Over the course of the next several weeks, our consolidation plans will be unveiledin full detail and I am confident they will be met with support by the City Council. It is ourduty to bring relief to the taxpayers of this City and to show them that our mission is toserve them
not politics or personal agendas.One component of this plan is the consolidation between the Department of PublicWorks and the Jersey City Incinerator Authority. It is time to take action on this long-discussed merger. Good arguments can be made for consolidating the JCIA into the DPW orfor consolidating the DPW into the JCIA. I am willing to work with the City Council toaccomplish the consolidation of these two agencies in the way that we believe is most beneficial to the taxpayers of Jersey City. Our plan calls for making this a priority this year.Another component of our consolidation proposal contemplates the merger of thePolice and Fire Departments into a Department of Public Safety. A civilian Director of Public Safety would oversee the administration of these two distinct operations, while thetwo chiefs would continue to run the day-to-day operations. Under our proposal, theParking Authority would also be folded into this new Department of Public Safety, as there

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