It was all quality of life at Wednesday’s city council meeting. While the council passed an ordinance re-writing the law on “mobile food vendors” and withdrew for further discussion competing proposals for creating a civilian complaint review board, it was the second reading of an ordinance to place the Quality of Life Taskforce and other agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Public Safety that elicited the most comments.
Once again, Solidarity and Mutual Aid Jersey City was out in force arguing against the ordinance, lining up numerous callers. Jenny Chang’s comments were typical:
“Quality of life enforcement will result in a larger budget for the Department of Public Safety and may increase its budget through tickets and fines. I agree that increasing quality of life is important but giving the JCPD more reason to ticket people will create the incentive and opportunity for profiling. A city that invests in its people is a safer city. Everyone deserves access to education, opportunities, clean air, water, shelter and food…that’s what the city should invest in, especially during a pandemic when we’re facing record unemployment. Actual resources to increase quality of life rather than more resources for the police and incentives for the police to profile and treat people like criminals. Quality of life policing increases interactions between the community and the police and gives the police the authority and incentive to ticket, arrest and harass people for something like littering and noise complaints. This is basically just a repackaged form of broken windows policing which leads to countless incidents of police brutality. Quality of life policing can also lead to increased detention and deportation of immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants in our sanctuary city. It can also lead to increased harassment by police of people experiencing homelessness. It’s only a matter of time that police, enforcing quality of life violations, will kill, injure or displace even more people here in Jersey City, because this is something that is already happening in cities across the U.S. Relying on issuing tickets to generate revenue will result in police misconduct and profiling. Unless something changes, it’s only a matter of time.”
But Valerie Taylor, a resident of Ward F, had a very different take on the need for quality of life enforcement. “Recent events in Ward F may be a surprise for some but not for those of us living here. Unfortunately, this unruliness and disorder is a part of our daily lives. There are constantly incidences that have made it impossible for many of us to feel safe. Police presence, in many cases, does deter some of this activity. For me, at this moment, defunding the police will only make things worse. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t revisit this issue down the road because I do believe that we in Ward F are in dire need of more social services. But we have to provide the residents of Ward F with a better quality of life first. The day that I can walk out of my home and not see drug dealing, large disorderly groups or a man, literally, urinating in my yard on my flowers, then we can revisit this issue. The day that my neighbor can open her window and not see two adults having sex outside in broad daylight, then we can revisit this issue. When we can walk out of our homes or send our children out without the fear of them being shot, injured or hurt, then again we can revisit this issue. I must say that I do stand with my brothers and sisters in this fight for equality for Black and brown people to have the same rights as others. But I also stand with my children and the children in my neighborhood who just want to go outside and ride their bikes without fear. I have lived in my home for 13 years and every year I pray for improvement but unfortunately, every year things remain the same, or actually they get worse. I love my city and at this moment I am not willing to give up on it. I am here tonight because I can no longer sit back and let things happen. We must see improvements in our neighborhood. Our quality of life must be equal to that of other parts of this city. We deserve that.”