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Why Are We In Jersey City?

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Joined: 09 Aug 2006
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Location: Jersey City

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 5:49 pm    Post subject: Why Are We In Jersey City? Reply with quote

The first piece -- "Why Are We In Jersey City?" -- provides a brief history of Jersey City and describes its severe state of decay by the early nineties. The second article -- "Jersey City Elects A Republican Mayor" -- tells how Mayor Schundler's innovative and enlightened leadership, with a corrupt political machine working against him, returned fiscal stabiltity and hope to Jersey City.

Why Are We In Jersey City?

T. Pike

As World War I ushered the United States into the ranks of the great powers, Jersey City already was the center of the New York Metropolitan area's network of railroads. Growing around the tracks were innumerable factories, stock-yards, and piers. Indeed, as the main transit point of ammunition to England and France, Jersey City was the target of the war's most notorious act of sabotage, the Black Tom Explosion.

Frank Hague ruled Jersey City from 1917 to 1947. Though thoroughly not of saintly character, in spite of this, Hague administered in a way that did not fail to provide for both residents and businesses. His greatest trophy was the gift of the Jersey City Medical Center -- in return for New Jersey's decisive vote -- from his "good friend," President Franklin Roosevelt. The construction of what was at one time a world-class medical facility gave jobs during the depression. Once finished, the masses of poor residents received free medical care.

Hague retired in 1947. His nephew, Frank Eggers then assumed office in his place.

In the election year of 1949, John V. Kenny put together a "reform" coalition that ousted the Hague regime from office. The Kenny "reformers" quickly unleashed -- first in Jersey City, then upon all of Hudson County -- a wave of ferocious and unprecedented venality. Organized crime developed into a parallel government.

J.V. Kenny, through a succession of puppets and satellites, operated this political machine until 1971. That year the federal government severely curtailed the organizations operations through a sweeping set of convictions and prison sentences.

Throughout this generation of being devoured alive by Kenny and his piranhas, Jersey City was caught in the same vortex as other American cities.

Industries moved away or simply died. The system of railroads and ferries that nurtured these enterprises, receded back from the corpse-like buildings. By 1971, the Hudson River that had been immortalized in "On The Waterfront," -- the great water highway of mile after mile of piers, docks, ships, tug boats, rail-yards, engines, trucking outfits, and factories -- had just about vanished. The ceasing of activity yielded a shore of desolation, reminiscent of Germany's devastation after the air war bombardment of World War II.

Eventually, all that remained of the thriving piers were almost endless lines of wrecked concrete pilings in the mud of the river. These blocks seemed like headstones marking the spots where workers once stood. With each outgoing tide, a little more was washed a way. The incoming tide only brought in garbage from New York City and offshore ships.

Jersey City's tax structure depended on commerce and industry.

Coincident with this rot of the tax base was a shift in demographics. Uneducated and unskilled poor flocked to Jersey City and other cities of the Northeast in search of jobs. With industry retreating, all the unfortunate could hope to find would be welfare and other handout programs.

In 1988, when Bob Dylan needed a blasted urban nightmarscape for the song, "Tweeter And The Monkey Man," it was only natural for him to use Jersey City. One of the last lines in the song is, "There ain't no more opportunity here, everything's been done."

The curtain lifted on a final tragicomedy. Then Jersey City mayor, Gerald McCann was charged in federal court with crimes revolving around accepting money from an out-of-state savings and loan in exchange for “facilitating” their acquisition of Liberty State Park! Considering that the park, even though it's located in Jersey City, is administered by the state and that McCann was not in office at the time of the crime, the scheme bore a striking resemblance to a sale of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Convicted, Gerald McCann was removed from office. In 1992, a special election was held to choose someone to serve the remaining six months of the term.

Bret Schundler ran for mayor.

One might have excused Schundler's well-wishers for wondering if even he could save Jersey City. It seemed unlikely that an electorate that was overwhelmingly low-income, overwhelmingly ethnic, and overwhelmingly registered Democrat, would vote for a Harvard-educated, Republican, Presbyterian Sunday school teacher who had worked as a bond trader at Salomon Brothers. What seemed most likely was for the poor to open the door for another machine-crony burglar or bungler.

And, no matter what, in 1992, Jersey City's troubles seemed intractable. If elected, would Schundler -- with limitless good intentions and great ability -- be overwhelmed by this city's horrible problems? And, looking across the nation, was not this the general condition of our cities?

By 1992, one might find attacking Jersey City, all the gnawing, predatory and parasitic forces that afflicted American society. The surreal shadow of a city, drained and weakened by the bad economy, and a succession of worse mayors, no longer had the internal strength needed to heal itself.

Jersey City was leading the nation: in AIDS, tuberculosis, drugs, abandoned houses, welfare, children born into broken homes, crime, arson, boarder-babies, and rising taxes. The hothouse of political corruption provided the atmosphere to accelerate the growth of all these plagues. Jersey City seemed to be fulfilling the prediction that America's cities would each become a Vietnam.

If Bret Schundler failed, would that be the death-knell for Urban America?

The results as reported in,
September 1993

Jersey City Elects A Republican Mayor
David Beiler
Taking office immediately, Schundler wasted no time in seizing his opportunity. He would have to face voters again in only six months -- May, 1993 -- and ask them for a full term. Schundler seemed to sense that -- in light of his constituency's partisan inclinations -- his only chance to stay in office was to build evidence that he was making a positive impact on the city. His truncated re-election campaign would be based on piling up accomplishments rather than PAC money.

His major coup during this brief trial period was persuading the state government to allow the city to sell off $40 million of tax liens to a banking house that would employ professionals in their collection. Solidly backed by Hudson County's all-Democratic organization, Schundler got approval from the legislature, but was temporarily stalled by a conditional veto from Gov. Jim Florio (D). Florio demanded a clause that would guarantee continued residency for tenants of the affected properties, and got it. Suddenly in possession of a $20 million windfall and a promissory note for millions more, Schundler slashed the property tax rate.

That was just the beginning. Schundler cut his own salary in half. He began putting more policemen on the street. He drafted an ambitious economic development plan -- in effect, making the city a giant enterprise zone -- and recruited major Manhattan developers and financiers to put it in motion. He went back to the legislature to lobby for another enabling act, this time to provide school vouchers to city residents rather than guarantee funding to the city's languishing public schools.

The Democratic regulars were amused by “His Accidency's” rag-tag reform movement. They presumed that if they could get their own slate straight, the interloping yuppie mayor and his band of political wannabes would be mowed down by partisan pressures.

After the regulars had settled on Lou Manzo as their consensus candidate, professional electioneers from the Democratic National Committee were sent into what was supposed to be a non-partisan campaign. They tried to counter Schundler's populist appeal by attacking him as a wealthy stockbroker who had profited immensely from the trickle-down excesses of the Reagan-Bush years; a blueblood whose family had invested heavily in South Africa. The reverse racial card was played again when Manzo brought in Jesse Jackson for a three-day revival tour to push the class warfare case against Schundler.

But even powered by a war chest that reportedly approached $500,000, traditional campaigning, welfare-state liberalism, and partisan politics fell flat in today's Jersey City. Republican Schundler buried Manzo in a 38-point landslide, sweeping everything but the black neighborhoods, where he ran close behind. Moreover, the mayor's slate won eight of nine council seats outright, then took the last (a black ward) in a runoff.

Schundler was not without his own artillery. General consultant Mark Campbell (of Strategy Associates) marshaled a campaign operation that also spent in the half-million range, concentrating on cable TV and direct mail (the New York broadcast market being prohibitively expensive for even well-heeled Jersey campaigns.) Substantial ground and GOTV efforts were mounted. Detailed polling was provided by Rutgers professor Steve Salmore, author (with his wife) of “Candidates, Parties & Campaigns,” the standard text on modern electioneering in America.

The reform campaign also benefited from the nature of the opposition. “It was good versus evil, honesty against the machine.” But observers agree the key to Schundler's shattering re-election was in its message of hope, and the supporting evidence provided by six months of innovation, daring, outreach and hard work.

Harbinger of a Populist Age

What will rise of this Jersey Jihad? Was it -- as advertised -- the Lexington of the conservative empowerment movement? After all, a Republican has replaced a black liberal Democrat in America's second largest city already this year, and the trend may repeat itself this November in our largest city. Is urban America turning to conservative solutions out of frustration with the unfulfilled promises of paternalistic liberalism? Perhaps. But much more than that was at work in Jersey City.

The sudden sea change in the politics of this traditional eastern city was the product of one man, and how his particular set of values, characteristics and talents made a perfect catalyst for a community eager to transform its stagnating life. He is not another rising star on the depth chart of the national Republican party, though he could easily become a major figure, perched as he is across major figure, perched as he is the communications universe. No, as Senator Paine defiantly insists in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “This boy is different.”

“Schundler's interested in Jersey City, period,” say Lee Seglem. “He's not an empire builder...He's plugged into doing things for the city from a technocratic posture.” It is a strange assessment of a poltician, but one shared by many.

“Most state senators look in the mirror in the morning and see a president,” observes Alan Marcus, who has seen plenty of them over 25 years in Trenton. “When Schundler looks in the mirror, he sees a mayor...He still believes in what he says, and that comes across to people. He knows how to motivate them.”

Too often communities are forced to choose among ambitious professional politicians who have carefully nurtured relationships within the power structures of their particular political party. They have done so because it is the accepted means of advancement in the public arena. These are people in pursuit of a profession, entrusted with the mantle of leadership, but they are not leaders. They have become players in recreation masquerading as government; they have lost track of their original selfless motivations -- if they began with any -- for participation in the process has become their sole purpose. It shows.

Bret Schundler breaks these rules and molds, and has succeeded beyond expectation because he is of a new breed of office-seeker. He pays little heed to the gang mentality that fosters distinctions made by party label. He has no gnawing ambitions to climb the ladder of elective office simply for the sport or ego gratification of competitive challenge. He comes off as a guy who wants to help his community. When these kinds of candidates are imaginative problem-solvers and capable communicators, such people are now the most effective candidates on the electoral landscape.

Hacks beware. Sightings of Bret Schundlers will soon no longer be isolated incidents attracting curiosity. They will be scattered, then common, then prevalent -- for the times demand their presence.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another give away the waterfront politician. Why is it that Jersey City is the only Hudson County town that gave tax abatements to every waterfront project? Schundler was just one of these guys who did that.
To make up for the budget shortfall one year, he proposed a payroll tax which was disallowed by Trenton. Finally, why would anyone support a guy who backed Bush for president?
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Buck Swindler

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 9:19 pm    Post subject: HACKS ??? Reply with quote

The Schundler Administration was filled with them. Bret bought them off in order to live out his right wing wet dream. And in the end a trip to political oblivion.
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Burt Snuffler

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cory booker will be what bret salivates over: governor and maybe president some day.

bret will always just be a footnote.
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Anthony the Wonder Pony

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:11 pm    Post subject: Wonder Pony Reply with quote

Is it any wonder, Anthony took hand outs from Schundler and was running his websites.

Do we really need to listen to this crap?

Anthony, your god is going no where, rejected by his own.
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