Eleana Little

1. What about your background would make you a good County Executive?

I’m an engineer, so I look at problems and want to solve them using solutions backed by data. We need outside-the-box thinking to tackle some of the systemic problems facing Hudson County – not more of the same status-quo thinking that got us here. Since I’m not beholden to political insiders, I’d work to end double-dipping and would have an open and transparent hiring process for the leadership of County departments. We want to hire the best candidates for the roles, instead of handing out certain positions like political favors. 

2. How does your background inform how you would approach your job?

I’m coming from outside the political machine, so I’m able to look at problems facing Hudson County with a fresh perspective. I’m not accepting corporate or developer donations, so I’m not beholden to any special interests. I’d also be the first woman to hold the office of Hudson County Executive, and would be able to use my platform to advocate for issues that so far, the men who have held the office seem to have overlooked – such as the fact that there’s no Planned Parenthood in Hudson County, and instead a network of volunteers with cars have to take time out of their days to drive people up to 40 minutes away to access abortion services. Or such as the fact that there’s only one shelter/center for victims of domestic violence – it’s in Jersey City, but working to establish satellite locations in other parts of the county would save lives.

3. You’re running as a progressive. What makes you one? I believe government should work for the people, not special interests. I believe that housing is a human right, and that we all deserve clean water & a liveable climate. I believe there’s no place in Hudson County for racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia. I’m running to do right by the people of Hudson County—rejecting backroom deals & addressing some of the most serious issues facing our communities.

4. Can you tell us about specific causes you’ve worked on in Jersey City?

I’m a past President of Harsimus Cove Association and the Downtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, where I worked to organize civic forums, connect residents with resources, and advocate for neighborhood concerns. I’ve also been active politically, previously serving as Executive Vice President of Progressive Democrats of Hudson County, an organization dedicated to helping progressives run for local office. I served on the steering committee of NJ-08 for Progress and was a lead organizer of Jersey City for Biden, where we coordinated local volunteers to help flip swing districts and volunteer in national elections. I’m an active member of the Friends of Liberty State Park, and have traveled to Trenton on multiple occasions to speak out against privatization of our public land. In 2021, I was part of a slate of women candidates who challenged and eliminated the gender requirement for the Hudson County Democratic Committee and was subsequently elected to the committee, representing Jersey City Ward E District 13. In this role, I’ve continued to advocate for my community, such as advocating for stop signs on Erie Street and Coles Street.

5. What do you feel are the most important issues to Jersey City residents going forward and what would you do to address them?

The affordability crisis, our infrastructure, and government accountability are all major issues facing Jersey City that I’d like to work on as County Executive. (Of course, there are other extremely important topics in Jersey City that are outside the scope of the County Executive’s office – the Jersey City Public School system, for example, comes to mind.)

In terms of affordability, we want to protect tenants’ rights with a universal Right to Counsel and eviction diversion programs. Right to Counsel is a program that pays for itself – it’s always cheaper in a government budget to provide legal services upfront and keep people in their homes, than have them become homeless. We want to expand on Philadelphia’s eviction diversion programs, where landlords and tenants meet with a trained housing mediator before the Sheriff’s office will serve an eviction. Preventing evictions from being filed in the first place is important because even in cases of wrongful evictions, or cases where a tenant wins in court, the evictions still follow the tenant around on background checks, making it harder to find housing in the future. 

We also want to build nonprofit units on under-utilized County-owned properties to address the lack of affordable housing stock in Hudson County. By leveraging the equity of the land itself, we can pursue favorable funding opportunities, and we can also obtain state and federal funding. This “Community Land Trust” model could be used to build nonprofit senior housing, nonprofit rental units (including for very low income levels, 30% AMI), and affordable homeownership opportunities for more middle-class families who want to put down roots in Hudson County. This would help residents who would be otherwise priced out of Hudson County stay in the place they call home, and it would provide numerous benefits in terms of community and family stability. 

In terms of transit infrastructure, we want to improve safety on our county roads and build a world-class Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. BRT is the lowest-cost form of mass transit to build, since it’s working with our already-existing County roads. The reason why we don’t already have BRT is our current county government’s lack of support. With dedicated bus lanes, you can run more buses more reliably. You can also make the stops and platforms higher quality, providing a more rail-like experience for riders. This would alleviate a pain point for many commuters, and increased bus service and ridership would mean fewer car trips contributing to congestion. Although Jersey City achieved “Vision Zero” in 2022 on municipal roads, the county roads are lagging behind, and we continue to see preventable deaths. We need to prioritize safety for all road users, especially our most vulnerable.

Hurricane Ida a couple years ago was a stark reminder that climate change is here, and we’re not ready. In terms of environmental infrastructure, we need to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. We need to invest in both green and gray stormwater management infrastructure, mitigate flooding, and continue working with the state to separate our combined sewers. I’ve also been active in opposing new fossil fuel projects, such as the proposed plant in Kearny, and in opposing the widening of the turnpike extension, which would bring an estimated additional 100,000 vehicle-miles traveled per day of congestion and pollution into our already-overburdened communities. In the forum hosted by the JSQCA, my opponent refused to take a stance on that issue.

Finally, residents and taxpayers deserve greater transparency. We need to end practices like double-dipping, “boat check” payouts, and patronage jobs. Running off the line and being accountable to everyday people, instead of party bosses, means that we’ll have the freedom to make real government transparency and accountability a priority.

6. Do you support the plan proposed for Liberty State Park by the Paul Fireman backed groups “Liberty State Park for All” and “The People’s Park?’

No. I support the Friends of Liberty State Park and I support the DEP’s plans for both passive recreation and 61 acres of free active recreation. This is a public park. We can debate what the appropriate mix of active vs. passive recreation is (personally, I think both are important), and what sorts of improvements could be made – for example, I think a shuttle bus service would make the park more accessible for folks without cars (the park is large and many parts are removed from public transit, and not everyone can bike or walk those distances). But we shouldn’t accept any privatization. 

7. Are Jersey City property taxes too low, about right or too high?

I believe that for what we’re getting for them, our taxes are too high. I think if we truly invested our tax dollars in world-class schools, infrastructure, and abundant affordable housing opportunities, we’d be having a different conversation. We need to see that we’re getting a return on our investment. We need to see taxes being spent wisely, and not padding the pockets of the politically connected. As president of the school board for the Hudson County Schools of Technology, my opponent approved a $1.1 million dollar “boat check” payout to the retiring superintendent. Three years after he stopped working for the HCST, he was still on payroll and still among the highest-paid superintendents in the state of New Jersey. This is an example of how our tax dollars are not being spent prudently. I’m not taking any corporate PAC donations or donations from real estate developers. Further, running “off the line” means I’m not beholden to the same machine bosses whose family members continue to receive public paychecks. This will allow me to remain free from conflicts of interest and bring a change to how Hudson County operates.