At Feedback Meeting, Mayor Calls For Team Effort to Fix Paterson
Saturday, April 28, 2012 • 6:04pm
PATERSON, NJ – In a speech during a community feedback meeting last week, Mayor Jeffrey Jones urged Patersonians to reach out to his department heads with ideas, issues and concerns about the city.
In the April 25 session attended by about 80 people, Jones told residents they ought not rely only on the mayor’s office for help.
“No one person can get things done alone,” Jones said. “We as a community need to know how to make the system work for us.” To illustrate his point, Jones had all of the directors and members of his administration stand as he introduced them and explained their duties.
The meeting at Eastside High School was designed as the administration’s response to the concerns that residents raised during the series of six ward community forums held in February and March. At those sessions, folks complained about crime, litter problems, unkempt and unsafe abandoned properties, the late operating hours of city liquor stores, drug trafficking and a variety of other issues.
Jones talked to the crowd last week about his meetings with representatives from China who are considering economic development opportunities in Paterson. He spoke about a Facebook page that would allow residents to share information with the city about things like downed trees. He also informed the group that the city soon would be sending out letters reminding home and business owners of their legal responsibility to maintain their property and the consequences for failure to do so.
“Things are happening. They aren’t happening fast enough, I’ll grant you,’’ Jones said. “We all have to get together and get together quickly to make things happen.”
As part of the feedback session, city officials tried to establish an ongoing team effort with residents to develop a strategy for resolving the most pressing issues culled from the ward meetings. The meeting broke down into 10 groups focusing on the following topics Media and Administration, Public Safety, Public Works, Finance and Budget, Revaluation Process, Community Development, Vacant and Abandoned Properties, Neighborhood Watch, Health and Human Services, and Male Mentoring and Churches.
The group focusing on public safety drew one of the largest crowds. Acting Police Chief William Fraher, Police Director Glen Brown and several other members of law enforcement hosted the discussion. Authorities discussed the statistical crime analysis they use to isolate the city’s hot spots by locations, time and day. Based on that information, they said, patrols are increased with the objective of enforcing municipal ordinances regarding public drinking, noise and other quality of life issues.
According to Fraher, this has the impact of disbursing would-be assailants before incidents occur. He said that in Paterson his officers have issued 500 city ordinance violations since January 1.
Another concern expressed in the ward meetings and again on Wednesday night, was that youth recreation centers are closing too early and that liquor stores are staying open too late.
Fraher told the group that state intervention has stymied the efforts of local police to close down bars with distribution licenses that violate local ordinances. “We do investigations, take them to ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) board who closes them down for six months,’’ said Fraher. “They appeal to the State and reopen after paying fines.” The bars, he surmised, see the fines, as a cost of doing business. While the State benefits from the fines, local communities continue to suffer.
The Public Works group also drew about 10 people. Director Chris Coke urged people to support the community by not littering and helping with the various clean ups which are conducted through his department. He also pointed out that recycling generates revenue for the city and said that one of his goals was to increase revenue and save costs through increased recycling.
After the group sessions concluded, Jones again addressed the crowd. “What you have seen tonight is our attempt to be proactive,’’ he said. “We’re not going to just sit back and say we can do this but to actually get out there and do it.”
Health and Human Services Director Donna Nelson-Ivy, who passionately spearheaded the ward meetings which she called “A Time For Healing,’’ said she would have the groups designate team leaders who will provide monthly progress reports that will then be posted on the city website in newsletter fashion. With the continued support of residents, Ivy said she is confident “that we can fix Paterson!”
For those who were unable to attend Wednesday’s event, they can contact Ivy and join a team. Her number is 973-321-1242.