A Forty Percent Pay Raise For A Rubber City Council

By Elvin Dominici

Jersey City is experiencing an affordability crisis that is displacing minorities and permanent residents from the city they call home. This crisis has been reinforced and embraced by the government of this city that welcomes major developers, regardless of the needs and concerns of our communities and the residents within them.

The average annual household income in Jersey City is $105,120, while the median household income sits at $70,752 per year. These salary figures do not represent the reality of low-income and permanent residents who are displaced out of our city. We can see this disparity when we look at the salary of local officials, who are often local residents who grew up in that city. Newly hired junior police officers earn between $30,000 and $45,000, while newly hired public school teachers earn a salary of $31,000. What are our city’s elected officials doing to maintain affordability for local residents who might not even reach the average household income? Nothing!

In recent weeks, the city council has had the nerve to raise their salaries as Jersey City residents struggle to make ends meet. This government agency has made our town a haven for developers at the expense of displacing lifelong residents who cannot afford to live here. It’s City Council that has a track record that aligns perfectly with Mayor Steven Fulop’s will and delight, and they’ve turned their backs and closed their ears to the needs of the voters who elected them.

Before focusing on themselves, the council should have considered raising wages for all city workers beyond minimum cost-of-living adjustments, which don’t even increase past inflation. City workers are being left behind in the darkness of gentrification and lack of affordability. They are continually 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 getting more and more expensive, and the people who work for the city, as well as many hard-working locals, can’t even afford to live here anymore.

We should consider the fact that the City Council has many more issues affecting our communities than they should have considered before thinking about increasing 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 well: “Board members gave themselves a 40% pay raise on the same day the State of New Jersey cut our school budget by 68.5 million. #Priorities. Members of our city council are indifferent to the struggles of our education system, which is now at risk of budget cuts. This will cripple our local school district and prevent it from having all the resources to provide the best education to thousands of our local children. The lack of leadership in the priorities of our City Council members and Mayor Fulop is embarrassing!

City council members provided no leadership when they could to our mayor’s minority voter suppression efforts during the process of redrawing our ward boundaries. These council members took more than eight years to implement a new Inclusive Zoning Ordinance (IZO) to provide the minimum amount of affordable housing possible in most developments. These council members have not shown up for any public debate to defend their voting record because they know they have greatly failed in their duty to be public servants and to be the voice of our communities. However, they sped up the process to give themselves raises while the rest of our city suffers.

We need board members who understand the meaning of service to others, dedication and selfless service. Current City Council members are not focused on the priorities of the people of this great city of Jersey City. They don’t deserve a raise but deserve to be fired.