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JJ 2/28: Fireworks likely tonight at City Council's hearing on local hiring initiative
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Fireworks likely tonight at City Council's hearing on local hiring initiative
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
By KEN THORBOURNE
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

A public hearing is scheduled tonight on Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy's proposed "project labor agreement" aimed at getting more local residents work at construction sites in the city.

The City Council hearing will be held at City Hall, 280 Grove St., as part of the council's 6 p.m. meeting.

Healy's proposal calls for an apprentice program to be established with labor unions. On projects that cost $15 million or more, 20 percent of the workforce would have to be members of the apprentice program, according to the proposal.

Led by Downtown Councilman Steven Fulop, several council members questioned at Monday's council caucus how certain aspects of the proposal would be monitored and carried out.

Fulop questioned the ability of the city to hold developers accountable for what would be essentially a union program.

Fulop and other council members said job fairs - one of the duties assigned the developers - should be carried out by the city, and room should be made for non-union workers as well.

Ward F Councilwoman Viola Richardson objected to language in the agreement requiring developers to make a "good faith effort." She wanted stronger wording, she said.

But "at the end of the day," said City Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis, all that could be legally required of developers is their "best effort."

Link to JJ article on NJ.com

Posted on: 2007/2/28 8:00
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Mayor's plan would tie jobs to tax breaks Mayor offers plan to exchange jobs for tax breaks
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Mayor's plan would tie jobs to tax breaks Mayor offers plan to exchange jobs for tax breaks

Jarret Renshaw - Location Column -Jersey Journal - Feb 21

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy laid out his broad plan last week to link tax abatements to jobs for city residents, particularly minorities. The move was welcomed, but long overdue.

The proposal, which still must pass City Council muster, calls for developers of projects valued at more than $15 million to enter into an employment agreement in exchange for a tax abatement, which provides tax certainty and reduced costs - though that is not always the case these days - to developers while filling the city's coffers with more cash than under traditional taxes.

The agreement mandates that developers use union labor, adding that 20 percent of the labor force must be in the form of local union apprentices, the first step in getting a real living wage.

Unlike the current policy - which is weak and ineffective - this one spells out the steps the city, developers and the union must take to meet the goal of hiring city residents.

These steps include job fairs, advertising openings and increased communication between the city and the school district.

If the majority of the proposal strikes you as common sense, it should.

It's sad that the city has taken this long to mandate such simple things as job fairs and reaching out to the city's school district when it doled out these tax breaks over the years.

In the past, the city has only provided lip service to the problem of finding jobs for the city's minority residents, setting up agencies and departments, but not fully staffing them or providing the leadership necessary to synchronize them.

For example, the city currently uses only four inspectors to police developers who are not living up to their current tax abatement agreements. That's four people to police 119 projects. You do the math and ask yourself whether that reflects a commitment or lip service.

Before voting on this measure, City Council should push the mayor to dedicate more resources and establish a department level position that will oversee and synchronize the city's job creation program and mobilize resources - both inside and outside government - to lift people out of poverty in this city.

However, don't expect the proposal to be met with cheers from all corners.

Several developers expressed concern about the possibility of facing penalties for not meeting employment "quotas" when they don't control who the union hires.

"It's wrong to have a dual obligation that the second party has no control over," said Jamie LeFrak, of the LeFrak Organization. "But in the end, the abatements are totally voluntary."

Did you catch that last part, City Hall?

Regardless of whether you thought Reservoir 3 should have been transformed into ball fields or you agree with the mayor that it should be preserved as passive, open space, you can't dispute the contribution of Steve Latham.

As president of the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance, Latham routinely mobilized limited resources into a powerful force in city politics, eventually convincing the city's political elites that preserving the unique resource was the proper move.

The mayor deserves some kudos as well, since he showed that he listens to the ideas of the people he serves instead of treating community groups as a mere annoyance with nothing substantial to offer - a stance that is all too familiar in today's politics.

Posted on: 2007/2/21 11:25
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