This early, weeks before his formal inauguration to office, Jersey City mayor-elect Steven Fulop has his hands full with a “things-to-do list” already full of bright ideas and strategic schemes to implement in order to move the city forward.
Focused like an arrow in flight, the amiable mayor also plans to restructure the Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) to demonstrate his firm commitment to public safety. His goal of adding people to the department and the rigid expansion of the police-recruit class from 25 to 40 starts immediately during his first month in office.
Targetting the reduction of the crime rate that plagued too many neighborhoods in the city, the new mayor will prioritize the fielding of more officers on city streets. The JCPD experiences a massive wave of retirements as nearly 25 senior officers are slated to leave the force through the end of the year rebuilding its stature would certainly strengthen the entire agency.
“I am committed to a community-policing approach,” Fulop firmly said. “Once these officers are sworn in, residents should expect to see them walking the beat,” he added.
In this connection, Fulop has begun a broad search for a Public Safety Director (DPS) to ensure, not only a safer community but attracting the best leadership in every level in Jersey City since he believes that any organization is only as effective as its leadership.
Fulop just recently announced the retention of former New York City Police and Fire Commissioner Howard Safir to conduct a search for a Public Safety Director. Safir is also tasked to audit the police structure and fire departments. Having full knowledge, adequate experience, and the right contacts, Safir looks for somebody who has the perfect embodiment of leadership, armed with strong management capability, and equipped with technical and interpersonal skills that could be a productive member of and a great asset to the Fulop administration.
A nationally and internationally recognized public safety expert, Safir and his firm, Vigilant Resources International, will be paid through private donations raised by Fulop and “Building An Empire,” a non-profit organization in Jersey City headed by Councilwoman Diane Coleman. Fulop also partnered with Jersey City Business Community for the search so that no tax dollars will be used and funds will be raised through local corporate businesses instead.
In a related issue, Fulop joins National Bipartisan Coalition of Mayors committed to ending gun violence in America. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the national bipartisan coalition of more than 950 mayors in 45 states, is committed in keeping illegal guns and military-style weapons off the streets and out of schools in an effort to combat senseless gun violence. In New Jersey alone, 110 mayors are members of the said coalition which was founded in 2006 by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In his fervent effort to reach out to as many of his constituents as possible, Fulop focuses on escalating communication. He trues to disseminate all the happenings in his office and the city as a whole, whether through newsletter, social media, or press releases so that people could be involved and most importantly, to get feedback.
The last weeks saw the energetic mayor in various forums, community meetings and fund raising events. Just recently, Fulop, known for his innate compassion and a regular fixture in many cause-oriented projects, actively participated in the American Cancer Society’s “Over the Edge” event rappelling down a 34-storey building at the Harborside Financial Center.
Last Monday, June 24, at the Hank Gallo Center of the Francis X. Burke Administration Building in Lincoln Park along West Side Avenue, Jersey City, pressuring appeals, mounting suggestions, and diversely alarming comments profusely poured in during the final of the four organized community meetings attended by various representatives from the different sectors of the city.
Donning a light blue long sleeved polo shirt which perfectly contrasted with his maroon tie, Mayor-elect Fulop was his usual composed self, wearing his “patented” smile while he acknowledged the audience. He was with other newly-elected officials, including Fil-Am Councilor-at-Large Rolando Lavarro, who wouldn’t be missed in his eye-catching chartreuse green dress shirt.
A very articulate speaker, Fulop showed his cool composure but arresting presence during the entire two-hour proceeding. He also listened to other speakers, took notes, and maybe, with mind already actively grinding to find solutions to every comment.
From what I gathered, here are the most mentioned subject problems and suggestions from the audience of last Monday’s community meeting: the city’s security and orderliness, better business and commercial establishments, street beautification, residential and traffic congestion, rampant drug pushing, addressing dilapidated building problems, addressing housing and tenant-related issues, more sports-related activities for the youths, the need for neighborhood block watch dogs, address burglary and crime issues, better garbage and waste management program, taking concrete action against noise pollution caused by eardrum-bursting boom box music, implementation of better school system, more street CCTV cameras and street lights, more information bureaus, and the promotion of arts and theater productions.
Even city hall, Fulop’s soon-to-be official business residence, was not spared from harsh and discriminating comments. Here are a few of those “hard-to-believe-but-true” remarks: better customer service, better communication and sound systems, changing the culture of city hall, additional municipal parking, thorough clean-up of city hall’s facilities and function rooms, and the need for more courteous personnel.
These pressing problems in and out of city hall have profoundly bred unchecked or unaddressed for so many years and it seems that Fulop’s administration, after hearing all these voluminous woes and sentiments, could easily defy any premature negativism that might hinder or dodge his well-studied and carefully structured plans for his effective urban governance.
Meanwhile, huge plans and hectic preparations are simultaneously happening in various Jersey City areas for the most-awaited inaugural ceremony of the 49th mayor of Jersey City.
On Monday at, July 1 at 6:00 PM, outside of City Hall along 280 Grove Street, Mayor-elect Steven Fulop will be formally inducted to office by the Hon. Katharine S. Hayden, US District Court Judge for the District of Jersey City in a public celebration that invites residents’ participation.
Mayor Fulop will then deliver his inaugural address and outline his administration’s vision and goals while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and US Sen. Robert Menendez will deliver remarks. The nine City Council members will also be sworn in during the ceremony.
The newly-elected At-Large Council Members to be formally sworn in are Joyce Waterman, Rolando Lavarro, and Daniel Rivera; Ward A Councilman Frank Gajewski; Ward B Councilman Khemraj ‘’Chico’’ Ramchal; Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano; Ward D Councilman Michael Yun; Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne; and Ward F Councilwoman Diane Coleman.
Fulop will pattern his significant event in an inauguration format similar to that of Mayor Thomas Smith in the 1970s that brought people back to City Hall. “I want my people to be part of the ceremony and the civic process that follows.,” Fulop said, adding, “The inauguration is the first step in the process of bringing change to city government and we want the residents of Jersey City to be with us each step of the way!”
“We believe that government should be responsive and should work for the people, which is why we chose to break with tradition and have our inaugural ceremony at city hall after the work hours, so as many people could participate as possible,” he added.
The block party celebration from 4:00 to 8:00 pm, which is paid for by the Election Fund of Steven Fulop, is free and open to the public, and will include a performance by ELEW, who has performed for President Barack Obama at the White House. Local Jersey City bands and cultural presentations by various ethnic groups are also in the program. Food vendors and a wide variety of interesting booths will be available. Residents are encouraged to participate in the festivities and welcome their new Mayor and City Council members.
PACCAL [Pan-American Concerned Citizens Action League] fetes octogenarians
Three octogenarians have seemingly found the proverbial “Fountain of Youth” as they grow old glowingly graceful and functional despite decades of tiring years.
“We credit it to our healthy lifestyle,” said Gloria Gonzales, who just turned 80 last June 19. Stunning in her two-piece pants-and-top fuchsia outfit, the former school teacher from Bulacan and a widow of a Philippine guerrilla, doesn’t look her age. Aling Gloria actively attends PACCAL’s Fandangorobic sessions regularly. She attends the regular Saturday sessions with friends Salud and Loreta.
Salud Veluz, born Feb. 3, 1933 in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque, has been in the US since 1996 and hasn’t suffered from any major ailment. “It’s all in the way of life. I eat the right food and exercise regularly. The Healthy Heart, Healthy Family workshops from PACCAL helped us a lot even more!”Confirms Aling Salud who turned 80 during her last birthday.
Not to be outdone, Loreta Casiño, widow of WWII Veteran Nicomedes Casiño and turning 86 come November, showed us her moves as she performed ala Gangnam Style. Still possessing incredible mobility, Aling Loreta , I would say, has successfully defied the “curse” of the aging process.
The three octogenarians threw all their cautions to the air when a danceable music played before blowing the longevity candles on a buko-pandan cake that PACCAL has prepared for them.
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NB: Through this column, I just want to thank regular Asian Journal readers especially those who sent feedback through emails. I want to personally thank Mr. Cris Saulo of Franklin Park, New Jersey, (a retiree after 30 years of affiliation with a Fortune 100 NYC company), for his very inspiring and encouraging comment.