By Elvin Dominici
Jersey City has an affordability crisis that is displacing minorities and life-long residents from the city that they call home. This crisis has been empowered and embraced by this city’s government that welcomes big developers regardless of the needs and concerns of our communities and the residents that make them whole.
The average annual household income in Jersey City is $105,120, while the median household income sits at $70,752 per year. These salary numbers do not represent the reality of low-income and life-long residents who are being displaced out of our city. We can see this disparity as we look at the salary of local public servants, who many times are local residents who grew up in this city. Newly hired rookie police officers earn between $30,000 and $45,000, meanwhile newly hired public school teachers have a salary of $31,000. What are the elected officials from our city doing to maintain affordability for local residents who might not even reach the average household income? Nothing!
In recent weeks, the City Council had the nerve to increase their salaries while the residents in Jersey City are struggling to make ends meet. This government body has made our city a haven for developers at the expense of displacing life-long residents who cannot afford to live here. This is the city council that has a track record that aligns perfectly with the will and pleasure of Mayor Steven Fulop, and they have turned their backs and closed their ears to the needs of the voters who have elected them.
Before focusing on themselves, the council should have considered increasing the salaries of all city workers past the minimal cost of living adjustments, which don’t even increase past inflation. City workers are left behind in the darkness of gentrification and lack of affordability. They are continuously overworked, verbally abused by their political bosses, and their morale is completely gone due to threats and intimidation regarding their job security. Jersey City is constantly getting more expensive and the people who work for the city, along with many hardworking residents, cannot even afford to live here anymore.
We should consider the fact that the City Council has many more issues affecting our communities they should have considered before thinking about raising their own personal salaries. Thinking of yourself first is an insult and a stab in the back of local residents. Jersey City Public Schools educator Kristen Zadroga-Hart said it best: “Council members gave themselves a 40% salary raise on the same day the State of New Jersey slashed our school budget by 68.5 million. #Priorities.” Our city council members are unmoved by the struggles of our education system, which is now at risk of budget cuts. This will hamstring our local school district and prevents them from having all the resources to provide the best education for thousands of our local children. The lack of leadership shown by the priorities of our city council members and Mayor Fulop is embarrassing!
City council members have not provided any leadership when it can to the minority voter suppression efforts of our mayor during the redistricting process of our ward boundaries. These council members took over eight years to implement a new inclusionary zoning ordinance (IZO) to provide the minimum amount of affordable housing possible in most developments. These council members did not show up to any public debates to defend their voting record as they know they have failed greatly in their duty to be public servants and be the voices of our communities. However, they sped through the process to give themselves pay increases while the rest of our city suffers.
We need people serving on the council who understand the meaning of service for others, dedication, and selfless service. The current city council members are not focused on the priorities of the residents of this great city of Jersey City. They do not deserve a salary increase but deserve to be voted out of office.