By Elvin Dominici
The redrawing of Jersey City Municipal Ward Maps has brought to light increasing concerns in our diverse communities about discriminatory practices by city officials. We are hoping that these are not disturbing continuations of signals that the city officials are forcing out the minority residents of our beautiful city.
The ward maps, which were designed and approved by a commission made up of no individual of color, will have a major impact on the overall municipal electorate for the next ten years. We cannot accept the lack of transparency and public input for these newly drawn electoral maps, which do not reflect the diversity of our communities and promote the suppression of minority voters.
This level of lack of appreciation for input from the community is exactly what is wanted by the political machine that rules the city government. They would love nothing more than to segregate and ensure voter suppression for the future political elections by chopping large areas from Ward F and Ward E. This is not an accident as these are the wards that currently have independent, strong-willed council people who are not part of the control of Mayor Fulop.
The fact is this city government is trying to exclude newly elected Ward F Councilperson Frank Gilmore out of one main role the people elected him to be. The community knows that he will advocate for them and fight to include the voice of the people as it pertains to three controversial projects currently in his ward: SciTech in Liberty State Park (which has zero affordable housing designated), the privatization of more areas of Liberty State Park, and the proposed 17-story building development adjacent to Berry Lane Park, which also does not include affordable housing.
This was not solely a systemic review of the boundaries as it pertains to the census. This was a calculated measure by Mayor Fulop to limit the voices of minority residents in Ward F who came out vociferously against him during the most recent mayoral election. Remember that Fulop’s challenger, Lewis Spears, only announced his candidacy four months before election day. Within a small window of time, and with a limited amount of funding resources (compared to that of the political machine), the people of Ward F backed Mr. Spears by a count of 3,650 votes to 3,640 for Fulop. Fulop’s “thank you” to the residents is cutting them out of important decisions that impact their daily lives and basically silencing their voices to try and remove the independent voice of Frank Gilmore within the ward.
The lack of democracy in the process of redrawing Jersey City wards is an embarrassment. The fact that hundreds of concerned residents came out to speak at a public meeting held on a Saturday morning speaks volumes to the concerns in the community about limiting the voting rights to minority residents in our city. Even with this, the commission, which does not include any person of color who lives in Jersey City, moved forward with their proposed maps by voting for it 6–0. It is important to note that two of Fulop’s representatives on the commission, including his chief of staff, voted to approve these new ward maps.
This is the reason why political activists and community organizers have initiated an online petition to ask city and state officials to reverse course and see to it that a new map is drawn. This petition got over 10,000 signatures within 24 hours.
I am asking you for your support on this extremely important matter. I encourage you to take the time to view—and sign—this online petition and prove that we cannot silence the will of Jersey City residents despite the best efforts of those who are in power.