Michael Yun, Central Avenue Special Improvement District President, Announces Candidacy for Ward D Council Seat

In Michael Yun’s 33 years in Jersey City, the South Korean-born business owner has been involved in almost every aspect of civic and business life. Not only did he help form the first Special Improvement District in Jersey City – the Central Ave SID – he’s been its president for the entire 20 years of its existence. He’s also worked for various administrations as both a mayor’s aide under former Mayor Bret Schundler and a member of the Jersey City Development Agency under former Mayor Gerald McCann.

Now Yun, the owner of Garden State News, has his eyes set on taking what he sees as the next step in his effort to help revitalize Jersey City — the Ward D Council seat currently held by Bill Gaughan. The announcement comes over a year before Gaughan’s term expires in June of 2013.

What makes this race more interesting than most is the fact that Gaughan and Yun go back 31 years. But Yun, who describes the Councilman as a friend, says “you can’t mix politics and friendship.” And though Yun has described Gaughan’s 20 years as the Ward D Councilman positively, he says 5 terms is long enough.

“Councilman Gaughan is the longest serving Councilman in Jersey City,” said Yun. “His experience is very valuable. It’s not that I disagree with what he’s done, but I can improve on what he’s done.”

Specifically, he says quality of life and public safety would be his focus, two big issues that have caught the public’s attention – and ire – over the past few years.

“What [residents] pay and what they get from city services is not enough,” he said. “What they pay for and what they get from public safety in this area isn’t satisfying.”

To address this, Yun said “we need police service to be customized to each district.”

One of Yun’s longest-running bones to pick is with the Jersey City Parking Authority, which installed what he calls “faulty” parking pay stations. These, he says, are the biggest detriment to businesses along Central Avenue, a problem that motivated him to announce his interest in heading the JCPA for a $1 a year.

But despite Yun’s impressive C.V., Gaughan says he “welcome[s] the challenge.”

“I’ve run against many, many people,” says Gaughan of his five successful elections. “He’s done an outstanding job with Central ave SID, and if he wins I’m sure he’ll do a good job. But I don’t think he has as much experience in government.”

Gaughan predicts at least another three candidates. “I’ve been very lucky to be successful these last 5 tries.”

“People talk about new voices and they talk about term limits, they talk about age,” continued Gaughan.

“I think there are term limits even though they aren’t in place legally – a term limit is when [voters] think you’re not doing a good job and vote you out,” he went on. “I stand on my record.”

Still, Yun’s ability to successfully run the Central Ave SID speaks to his business savvy and popularity. His extensive political experience, even if they were appointed positions, suggests a potentially close race.

“Delivering for the people is the bottom line,” said Yun. “Over the years I’ve proved it and my approval record shows I have leadership ability. I have the guts to correct the problem. I’m not afraid of nobody, I only care about the people. My ambition is to make Jersey City’s Heights better than before.”

Photo courtesy of Michael Yun

Matt Hunger

is a former staff writer for the Jersey City Independent.