NJUMA aims to advance the well-being of children, families and communities in New Jersey’s cities. We are especially concerned with the prospects of low and moderate income people and the institutions that serve them. We understand the importance of paying attention to the shifting racial and ethnic make-up of many communities in New Jersey and to the opportunities and challenges these shifts are creating. Through the neighborhood planning process, local officials in the urban centers will continue to work with residents, business owners and other community members to establish a vision for neighborhood revitalization. Downtown revitalization has an important role in attracting additional economic benefits to urban centers. Urban centers should build upon the unique and historical assets of their downtown districts and create thriving centers of commerce, residential living and entertainment. Since downtown revitalization has the potential to catalyze redevelopment in surrounding neighborhoods, existing resources should be employed to help implement downtown economic development projects.
We support programs to provide affordable housing opportunities to police, firefighters and teachers as an incentive to live in the communities in which they work. Like the rest of America, New Jersey’s economic health depends on the development of a skilled workforce with the knowledge and ability to adapt to changing economies. Therefore, we promote strategies to improve the level of job training and development in urban centers, and advocate for improved technology. Lastly, we are in strong support of Urban Enterprise Zones (UEZs) and the restoration of municipal wide UEZs.
The NJUMA requested that the Watson Institute research federal resources available to assist their membership with running efficient city governments. The Watson Institute researched and came to the conclusion that New Jersey municipalities, especially our urban centers, were not receiving their fair share of funding from federal agencies. The U.S Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (federal EDA) was one of those agencies. The Watson Institute submitted proposals to the federal EDA to conduct an economic study of the North- Central region of New Jersey because many of the NJUMA municipalities in this area had not created the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy document (CEDS) necessary to receive EDA funding.
The Summit was intentionally designed to attract and facilitate interaction, learning, and information exchange among a diverse group of stakeholders in New Jersey’s urban and rural economic development future. These stakeholders included:
New Jersey Mayors of Urban and Rural Municipalities
Other state and local officials, elected and appointed
Public and private sector economic development professionals and practitioners (including UEZ Coordinators, Engineers, Business Administrators, etc.)
Federal, state and local economic development agencies
State, regional, and local Chambers and EDC executives
The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) provides a roadmap to diversify and strengthen the regional economy. The document provides an overview of economic conditions, including: population, geography, workforce, transportation access, resources, and environment, as well as the identification and analysis of traditional and emerging industry clusters of significance. Project’s seeking financial assistance from the federal EDA, must demonstrate how the investment will address the goals and objectives that will be outlined in this and other CEDS in the region.
The first phase of the Urban Focused North Central Region CEDS planning process was the convening of more than 200 New Jersey public and private sector leaders. These innovative, engaging meetings have resulted in identifying eight initiatives to address economic/community issues in our region. In addition, a Workforce Development Task Force was formed and made significant progress on an action plan to address this key component of the economic well-being of our region.
Phase Two of the work is underway to create an Urban Focused North Central Region CEDS. We will ask asking the mayors to identify ten local stakeholders/community group leaders from their municipality who will be the contact lead on planning and implementation process as well as to identify the key community people from the municipality.
Crime & Public Safety
One of the most important factors affecting both the quality of life and the economic recovery and growth in our cities is public safety. The increase of violent crime in urban communities is tied to an increase in gang presence.
NJUMA seeks to identify holistic intervention and prevention strategies to re-entry that move beyond incarceration models. The New Jersey Urban Mayors Association (NJUMA) supports initiatives such as My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) to combat crime and create safer cities and neighborhoods in New Jersey. In addition to advocating for full funding to implement the various components and phases of the various crime prevention strategies, the mayors are calling for the state legislature to fully fund, implement and evaluate initiatives such as Cease Fire and to look into Anti-Crime Partnerships, and to provide ongoing support and expansion of these initiatives.
Education & Positive Youth Development
Low educational attainment on the part of adult residents is a serious problem in the majority of our urban communities. While the Association supports and is actively engaged in conversations related to school funding finance reform, we strongly support policies and reform efforts that continue to provide additional funding to support schools in districts formerly known as Abbott. High-quality childcare and early education programs lay the groundwork for future economic success by preparing the next generation with life and learning skills. Strengthening the capacity of early care community providers, advancing culturally and linguistically competent curricula and practices, and promoting PK-3 training and certification programs are essential to ensuring that children are ready for kindergarten and beyond.
As the high school drop-out rate increases, after-school and youth programs must address the issues of career preparation and mentoring for career options/apprenticeships and shadowing opportunities. Furthermore, both a short- and long-term solution is needed to develop a strategy around moving school construction forward. Lastly, we support strategies that look at investing in our youth to ensure their success through after-school programs and other special initiatives.
Environment & Public Health
In urban areas throughout New Jersey, residents are exposed to a multitude of environmental and public health hazards including lead poisoning, indoor air pollution, poor ambient air quality, contaminated urban rivers and wetlands, vacant lots, and lack of open and green space. Cumulatively, the effects of these hazards on urban residents and high risk populations such as children and the elderly are compounded by issues including environmental injustice, economic stagnation and social ills. This results in disproportionate risks to residents and unsustainable stress on the quality of the air, water and land in urban neighborhoods. The disproportionate risk in all likelihood results in disproportionate health impacts in urban communities and needs to be addressed as a public policy issue in which prevention is given top priority.
As urban mayors, we view global warming as an opportunity to:
save lives in urban areas now by emphasizing strategies that reduce emissions of fine particulate matter (PM) and its gaseous precursors along with carbon dioxide emissions; and
create nonpolluting jobs in urban areas through the extensive use of renewable energy, and through improved efficiency and energy conservation. Using renewable energy, while also improving efficiency and conservation, is a particularly attractive policy in urban areas because it has the potential to simultaneously fight global warming, reduce fine PM concentrations and provide much needed jobs.
Taking these thoughts a step further, NJUMA favors the creation of an urban redevelopment policy that uses the precautionary principle, and addressing environmental justice issues as the framework for a comprehensive urban revitalization strategy. This policy would include:
the extensive use of renewable energy, improved efficiency and improved energy conservation to fight global warming, provide jobs and reduce fine PM concentrations;
programs in urban high schools that would prepare students to go directly into renewable energy jobs or attend college to prepare themselves for a career in this field; and
a site remediation policy that would create funding streams for the thorough and safe remediation, and therefore eventual redevelopment of brownfield sites.
This policy area will address the range of environmental and public health problems facing urban residents in the targeted cities of the NJUMA, while specifically prioritizing particulate matter air pollution, lead poisoning, site contamination and remediation, and green space for parks and other community needs. Attention should also be directed toward promoting investment in downtown districts, coordinating a strategic capital investment plan, and encouraging brownfields redevelopment and “green” city initiatives. We work closely with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Justice Advisory Council and statewide advocacy organizations such as the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance to achieve these objectives.
The Association advocates for legislation and administrative support of climate change initiatives (as strategies to address global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to workforce development and the economic growth of urban communities. Specific public health concerns include the treatment and prevention of childhood obesity, access to quality healthcare and urban hospital closings and relocations.
Family & Community Welfare
Most of our communities are plagued by various issues regarding the welfare of families, particularly youth. Issues such as high unemployment, substance abuse, and mental health create enormous stress and have great impact on families in our communities.
Significant investment has already been made in school based youth services, which leverages federal funding streams. These programs provide direct services and supports to youth in their respective schools. We recommend greater coordination between the various state agencies, primarily Human Services, Education, and Health, to expand the number of school-based youth services sites. This has proven to be an effective intervention method and should be continued in the future. There are multiple factors that can elevate a family’s risk for child maltreatment, including teen births; preterm and low-weight babies; mothers with little or no prenatal care; mothers who use tobacco, alcohol or drugs; and mothers who suffer from domestic violence, poverty or perinatal depression. Reform efforts should continue to ensure that our children are protected, and the numbers of safe foster care families are increased to accommodate the need. We must work to ensure that the various programs started under these reform efforts (e.g., differential response, family success centers and home visitation programs) are continued. We advocate for expanded support and access to drug and alcohol treatment services which contribute to healthier and stable families. It is important for services to leave families stronger and more self-sufficient. We should continue providing additional youth programs and prevention activities, and look at welfare programs, HUD changes and emergency service legislation.
NJUMA supports a comprehensive strategy to reform property, sales and excise taxes. There has been concern regarding the state’s revenue system and its response to demographic, economic and technological changes. In addition, issues surrounding distribution of tax burdens, property tax administration, school funding formulas and continuous budget deficits remain without redress. The system produces divisions which result in tensions between school districts, municipalities, interest groups and citizens. The efforts to increase efficiency and reduce costs have been insufficient to reverse the negative effects of the overuse of property taxes. Varying methods will require reforming other parts of the tax structure, rescinding some property tax relief programs that are poorly designed and increasing the use of more progressive taxes. The Association is also engaged in conversations relating to tax reform and school finance reform with stakeholders around the state.
Intergovernmental Relations and Unfunded Mandates
NJUMA will work strategically with its state and federal legislators to carve out and implement initiatives to support New Jersey’s urban cities. Complex and cross-jurisdictional issues such as immigration and homeland security, rapid demographic shifts, unemployment and underemployment, increased crime rates, re-entry, and educational equity, among many other issues, are formidable issues that require coordination at every level of government. NJUMA, through its Executive Committee, addresses many of the above referenced intergovernmental concerns and coordinate communication and intervention strategies at the local, county, state and federal levels.
The long-standing, prior practice of state-imposed, unfunded mandates has contributed to the rise in local property taxes which has increasingly burdened New Jersey’s property owners. NJUMA is extremely concerned about the number of unfunded mandates handed down to local municipalities.