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Mayor Jerramiah Healy

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

Mayor Jerramiah Healy quoted the legendary missionary Mother Teresa during his State of the City address (read it here) on Wednesday night to describe the challenges that Jersey City faced after Hurricane Sandy unleashed her fury upon the municipality.

But he could have also been reaching for divine inspiration while giving what could be his last such address as the city’s top executive. He faces a tough reelection battle against opponents including his nemesis, Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop, who sat in the front row of the City Council Chambers observing while Healy made the case for various achievements under his watch.

“When I look and see the progress we are making, I see a better city not just for my grandchildren but for all the children in our city,” Healy said. “I always put Jersey City first and I am committed to working every day to advance our city for all of us.”

Otherwise, he spent about 40 minutes stating his administration’s plans for the upcoming year, and the successes of the past year. Nothing new from his previous “State” speeches – he covered everything from the city having the lowest amount of homicides since 1969 to seeing more than 330 affordable housing units in the works.

Yet the mayor did pull a surprise when acknowledging the efforts of community activists Riaz Wahid and Esther Wintner. Wahid and Wintner organized a letter-writing campaign to New Jersey Congressional representatives that led to the U.S. Justice Department awarding the city nearly $2 million to hire 15 police officers. In past years, both Wahid and Wintner have criticized how the mayor has run the city.

City Council members

He Missed A Few Things

After the address, Wahid said he was “happy” that he and Wintner were recognized by Healy. However, he had hoped that the mayor would have mentioned an issue dear to Wahid’s heart. “I wish there was a plan to address chronically homeless people on the street,” said Wahid, who has offered assistance to homeless people in the Journal Square area along with Wintner and others involved with the advocacy group, the Jersey City Peace Movement.

Wahid explained that the city should look at an arrangement to pick up homeless people during cold days (like Wednesday’s 20-degree chiller) and take them to a shelter.

Meanwhile, Fulop took the mayor to task for what he saw was Healy’s most glaring omission from the speech.

“I don’t know how you can give a speech that doesn’t speak of one of the biggest issues facing the city that Mayor Healy asked for, and that is the tax reval,” Fulop said. “It was supposed to be done before the election and then he has to delay it. I have said all along that it will crush taxpayers.”

The tax revaluation of all real estate properties is the 18-month process that the Healy administration first pursued in 2010 but didn’t commence until late 2011. Then in February of last year, the city received a one-year extension from the Hudson County Board of Taxation to allow an appraisal company carrying out the revaluation to finish its job. One of the biggest concerns for many homeowners is that the reval will lead to higher property taxes like the previous one the city experienced in 1988.

Healy shot back at Fulop when asked about not mentioning the reval and countered that it will take another year for the reval to be complete.

Downtown Jersey City resident Stephen Musgrave

“I didn’t delay the f-----g tax reval,” Healy said. “Just because Steve Fulop says it, doesn’t mean it’s true.  The reval entity that’s doing it could not accomplish it in a city this size in a matter of nine months, or whatever the hell they think they could do it. So they came to me saying they needed another year and I said that it was important that the product is solid.”

Otherwise, Healy thought that he “covered all the bases” in his speech, although he would have liked to go into more detail about gun control legislation he wants to see passed by the state.

Longtime Ward D City Councilman and Healy ally Bill Gaughan, who is retiring on July 1 after 20 years on the council, said the mayor “hit a home run” with his speech, and commended him for promising to finish construction of the “100 Steps” in the city’s Heights section that will connect Jersey City residents to the Hoboken Light Rail station.

Interlopers, Newcomers or Just Residents?

Several supporters of Steven Fulop’s mayoral campaign sported black t-shirts with the words, “Newcomer. Interloper.”

According to Downtown Jersey City resident Dale Hardman, the shirts worn by himself, Downtown resident Stephen Musgrave (seen above), and Fulop’s At-Large Candidate Daniel Rivera were a way to tweak the mayor and his longtime political supporter, Hudson County Freeholder Jeffrey Dublin, for their recent comments painting Fulop and his supporters as “newcomers” and “interlopers” who want to take over the city.

“What we’re looking at is a response to the argument that divides us,” said Hardman, a 30-year resident. “Oh, you weren’t born here; I was, so I have more of a right to say something about what goes on. We don’t happen to feel that way.”

Photos by Ricardo Kaulessar