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2000 State of the County Address
By County Executive Robert C. Janiszewski

Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Court House
Jersey City, New Jersey
January 6, 2000

(click Photo to enlarge)

 

Introduction top

Education

Quality of Life

Open Space

Transportation

Housing

Healthcare

Economic Opportunity

Conclusion

Introduction

Reverend Clergy, Justice Garibaldi, Members of Congress, State Legislators, Members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, County Officials, Mayors and Council Members, Commissioners, other elected officials, family and friends: On behalf of Beth and I, and on behalf of County Surrogate Donald DeLeo, Freeholders Sal Vega, Al Cifelli, Bill Braker, Nidia Davila-Colon, Maurice Fitzgibbons and Bill O'Dea and newly elected Freeholders Barry Dugan, Thomas Liggio and Brian Stack, and in the name of the official family of Hudson County, I welcome you. And to Freeholders Dugan, Liggio and Stack, let me say I am confident in your leadership abilities and look forward to working with you in the years to come. Welcome to the Brennan Courthouse. Welcome to this celebration of our community and our Democracy. And welcome to the dawn of the new century, and the new millennium. We gather today in this historic building, named in honor of one of our most distinguished United States Supreme Court Justices - William Brennan, who served in this very building nearly fifty years ago.

When Bill Brennan began his service here, Hudson County - and New Jersey - was a very different place in many ways. Since then, we have been a part of history. We have lived through war. Many of us saw the Berlin wall go up, and we all witnessed the Berlin Wall come down. We watched the Civil Rights movement fight for equal opportunity for all. We witnessed the assassinations of several distinguished leaders of our generation - John and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin, just to name a few. We witnessed the fall of the Soviet Empire and watched Communism crumble and democracy and freedom prevail. We put a man on the moon, and watched as the Challenger exploded in the sky. Within the 46 square miles we call home, Hudson County has been and continues to be a gateway to the land of opportunity and prosperity for millions of immigrant families, including my own, and, no doubt, many of yours as well. Hudson County was and is a community of tremendous diversity, but clearly, one of shared goals and hope in the future.

Earlier this week, we all experienced a special moment in history as we entered the new millennium. Throughout time, very few people have witnessed such a momentous occasion, and it gives us the opportunity to reflect on what this change means, and how rapidly change occurs. While it is easy to say that it is just a new date on a calendar, it signifies so much more. The new millennium offers us all an opportunity to change focus - to make a fresh start. It reminds us that time does not stand still, and if we are going to be a part of history, we must act now. As John F. Kennedy pressed, "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." We must look to the future or be swept aside. An ancient Chinese wish says, 'May you live in interesting times'. This, the last decade of the 20th Century, has certainly been "interesting times." In the last 10 years, we have witnessed the most dramatic transformation of our nation and our county since the industrial revolution of the 19th Century. Globally, the Information Age has increased the pace of change and challenged our institutions in ways that could not be foreseen just a decade ago. Our ability to compete and our ability to cope have been severely challenged and, at the same time, we have been given an opportunity - rarely found - to make a real difference in securing a better future for our children and for our communities. In fact, this work has already begun and all of you are a part of it.

On January 1st, President Clinton underscored the theme for the Millennium Celebration "Honor the Past ... Imagine the Future". Let me take this opportunity to honor those who made their contributions in the past decade and who helped all of us in the progress made so far. Former Mayors Tony DeFino, Bruce Walter, Frank Rodgers, Paul Amico, Tony Just, Stanley Iacono, Tony Cucci, Dennis Collins, Rich Rutkowski, Pat Pasculli, Gerry McCann, Tom Vezzetti, Dan Sansone, Tony DiVincent, Leo Gatonni, Nick Cicco, Pete McIntyre, Leo Vartan, Ken Lindenfelser, William O'Donnell and Peter LaVilla. Former legislators Chris Jackman, Lou Romano and Tom Cowan. Former Freeholders Marilyn Roman, Lou Manzo, Hank Gallo, Frank Pizzuta, Ken Blane, Anne O'Malley, Sam Kaye, Phil Connelly, Bob Drashef, Alex Locatelli, Mario Hernandez, Angelo Cifelli and former Congressman Frank Guarini. I thank them for their efforts at the close of the last century.

While we may not have always agreed on one issue or another, each of these men and women labored long and hard on behalf of the people they served. I want to make special mention of those who leave office this month - those who were and are a big part of the success story that is Hudson County today. Freeholders Vince Ascolese, Neil Carroll and Neftail Cruz, and Assemblyman Lou Romano - each of you has given much to your constituents through your service and I thank you on their behalf and on behalf of generations yet to come. And I would be remiss if I did not give a personal thank you to Justice Garibaldi, who will soon begin a well-deserved retirement. For more than 17 years, you have brought pride and distinction to the Supreme Court, and the Court will not be the same without you. In 1988, you launched this administration, and have shared every success with us along the way. Thank you for being there, and, just as importantly, thank you for being here today. And let me extend a heartfelt thank you to those who serve Hudson County and our municipalities today, and who, along with those taking the oath of office tonight, will lead Hudson County into the new millennium. Mayor and Assemblyman Joseph Doria, Mayors Joseph Smith, Robert Sabello, Ray McDonough, Anthony Russo, Bret Schundler, Alberto Santos, Mayor and Senator Nicholas Sacco, Mayor Dennis Elwell, Mayor and Assemblyman Rudy Garcia, Mayor Richard Turner and Mayor and newly elected Assemblyman Albio Sires; State Senators Edward O'Connor and Bernie Kenny, Assemblymembers Joseph Charles, Anthony Impreveduto, and Joan Quigley. We have a great future ahead of us, and together, we can accomplish all our goals.

Just 12 years ago, I stood in this very chamber and took the oath of office for the first time. Students enrolled in the Hudson County Community College last September were 1st graders then. Freshmen at the Hudson County Schools of Technology were infants. Our parks and roads were crumbling, our schools ailing, our unemployment and welfare rolls swelling, our jails dangerously overcrowded, and our bureaucracy bloated. We were in desperate need of a new energy and a new vision - not of the Hudson County of the past, but of a Hudson County of the new century. Not what Hudson County was, but what it could be. Change did not come easily, nor overnight, but change we did and the results are evident and abundant.

Our waterfront - the Gold Coast - has been transformed, attracting high-profile firms Merrill Lynch, Dean Witter, Paine Webber, Bankers Trust and now Goldman Sachs.

We've rebuilt every County park, and added the first new park, Laurel Hill in Secaucus, to our neighborhoods in 80 years. Our Affordable Housing Trust Fund has financed the construction of more than 2,000 units of affordable housing, far more units than any other county in the state.

Where we used to have blighted abandoned factories, we now have sprawling market-rate residential developments. Where we used to have an education system in shambles, with declining registration and inadequate programs, we now have high schools dedicated to technology programs and the fastest growing community college in the state. And where we used to have a soaring unemployment rate due to a lack of qualified candidates and jobs that pay a living wage, we now have well-trained employees and nearly enough jobs for them to fill.

We have reduced our welfare rolls by more than 50% to a 30-year low. Our crime rate has dropped more than 29% since 1990; the lowest point in a generation, leading the state in crime decline. Building permits in Hudson are five times the state average. New housing construction is growing at an average of some 20% a year, outpacing the rest of New Jersey by a 10-1 ratio. And, we lead the state in the construction of commercial office space. In fact, the Eagleton Poll last month reports that the rebirth of Hudson County ranks amongst the state's top success stories of the last decade. Elections are a choice, and the 1999 elections were no different. Our voters made a choice on Election Day - they chose a county government and a egislative delegation who have labored on their behalf and have brought them through difficult times - a body of people who have a depth of commitment to community and to our continued progress. Of this, I am very proud. Any election is about two very important issues - past performance and a vision for the future. While the past cannot be altered, the future is a choice we can and should make together. Imagine what our future can be. During the 1999 campaign, I was often asked, "What's next?"

After 12 years in office, it's a reasonable question. Will we choose the comfort and complacency of more of the same? Or, should we challenge ourselves to ever better performance, ever greater progress, and to reach for the future with optimism and confidence?

So, rather than a recital of accomplishments of the unchanging past - a practice of mine familiar to all of you, I thought I would take this opportunity to answer that important question - What's Next? And in addressing this question, I will focus on three areas of emphasis: education, quality of life and economic opportunity.
 

Education

For the past few years, I have stood before you and stressed that our largest accomplishment has been in education, and this is no less the case this year. The Schools of Technology, Hudson County's secondary schools, are thriving. Enrollment and test scores are up, and our students want to learn. We have truly reinvented Hudson County's education system. The United Negro College Fund's theme is, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," and it surely is, especially in the century to come. I can't think of any comment closer to the truth. The best way, indeed the only way, to prepare for the changes America and the world are about to face is through education. Our children deserve a top-notch, diverse education which will prepare them for adulthood.

The Schools of Technology, born a mere 5 years ago, is well on its way to becoming the school of choice. Our High Tech High School, County Prep and Explore 2000 Middle School are recruiting Hudson's top students in record numbers. In fact, enrollment is up 40% since 1996.

And, the demand for our adult programs at the Schools continues to outpace capacity. Last June, we graduated more than 400 adults, the largest class for the Schools yet, and, I might add, the largest ever from an Adult High School in the entire state.

Through a cooperative public/private partnership with Bell Atlantic, we have created an interactive network at the Schools of Technology, affording even more students access and opportunity for education and skills acquisition. This interactive television network links the Schools with 4 colleges in Hudson, and every high school in our 12 municipalities.

And the Schools of Technology have achieved all this without increasing the County tax levy in the past three years. Now that's responsible government.

So, what's next?

Building on our successful model of "schools within a school," I will recommend to this Board and to our communities that we recognize the challenge we face and the growing waiting lists of students - both school age and adults - which have accumulated over the past 3 years and that we act. I will call upon you to commit to a dramatic increase in our award-winning Hudson County Schools of Technology - its classrooms, its offerings, including a school for the performing arts, and it's excellence. We should not, indeed, we cannot, respond with indifference or with "more of the same" to those thousands of students seeking the skills which will be required in the century ahead, by saying there is no more room at the Inn.

Instead, we need to build a larger Inn, equip our facilities with the best teachers and equipment, connect it all to the Internet, and share our successes with every school in Hudson County through our inter-active system.

I will also ask the Schools of Technology Board of Trustees to begin this process this year by incorporating a feasibility study into their budget. And, I will ask the Board of School Estimate and this Board of Freeholders to approve this first investment in our future.

Hudson County also has a success story on the college level. The Hudson County
Community College has grown from a neglected institution into a sprawling, comprehensive urban community college. President Gabert and the Board of Trustees have devoted countless hours to the school and its students, and I commend them for their dedication.

Their efforts have helped the Community College become the fastest growing institution of higher education in all of New Jersey, and for that they should be very proud.

In addition to this achievement, they have also boosted enrollment to record levels, opened new academic buildings like the Joseph Cundari Center on Bergen Avenue, and added more programs to the curriculum. Hudson County Community College has become a viable open access and affordable option for our residents who are serious about furthering their education, upgrading their skills or launching a new career.

So, what's next?

This year, working in partnership with the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency and Planning Board, the College Trustees and Administration, and this Board of Freeholders, we will forge an agreement and finally launch the largest single campus expansion project in the history of our Community College at Journal Square. This $20 million investment will not only more than double our college capacity, but will also leverage another $80 million in private investment dollars, and will reshape both the face and the future of Journal Square - the transportation hub of our County and an inner city neighborhood and shopping district that needs a second chance. This project will make that dream come true.

Once underway, I will ask the college trustees to complete their search for the permanent site of the college's North Hudson Center - centrally located and accessible to our northern multi-lingual community. The current facility is obsolete and hopelessly overcrowded. If we wish to continue our commitment to open and affordable educational opportunity for all residents, regardless of race, color, creed or language spoken at home, this step must be taken, and taken soon.

Educating our children and adults is the only way to prepare them for the future. They must have the skills to compete, and, after a decade's hard work, they can now get these skills here in Hudson County and improve their quality of life.

Quality of Life

Quality of life is difficult to define, but certainly includes recreational space, transportation improvements and options, housing opportunities and health care, just to name a few. Each of these has been and should continue to be a primary focus of our community-based agenda for the coming term.

As you know, working together, we have rebuilt every park in the County, and we have added to our open space, in the midst of the most urban county in New Jersey, by building the first new county park- Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus - in 80 years. Still, our residents continue to be short-changed in recreational space and options in our county. The Parks Master Plan, adopted by the Board of Freeholders last year, points the way to a better environment and a better future.

So, what's next?

Open Space

Just last week - and without press fanfare - US Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt visited Hudson County. He and his senior staff toured the western section of Lincoln Park with an eye toward funding that would empower us to transform the abandoned landscape into a passive environment center and an active park as well. Later this year, I will seek approval of the Board to begin this project, once again funded by a proposed $6 million grant from both the state and federal governments and coordinated with the Bay Keeper, the River Keeper, and our environmental partners.

In addition, I will seek funding for a substantial expansion of our new park at Laurel Hill. This asset, with its boat launch ramp and new canoe availability, has provided access to the Hackensack River for residents of Hudson County for the first time in generations. And, I will recommend that the Board adopt a resolution in support of an initiative which will designate the Hackensack Meadowlands as a federal environmental preserve, protecting this magnificent environment in the heart of our urban center for future generations.

As you know, I have called for the completion of the Hudson River Walkway over the past six months. I am happy to report the meetings with officials representing our riverfront communities and property owners have proven fruitful. Currently, we are working on an agreement between Hudson County and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection which will designate Hudson County as the lead agency for implementing new open space initiatives, including our walkway - a unique linear park on the banks of the Hudson River. Given the extraordinary level of positive partnership surrounding this plan, I expect to bring a proposed agreement to this Board for review and approval during the Spring of this year.

Transportation

On the transportation side, we will have an exciting year indeed. Within 90 days, the dream of a decade and more will become a reality. The dawn of the new century will welcome the largest single public works project in state history - the $1.3 billion Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, linking our communities and planting seeds of renewal at each and every station along the way. Not only do we welcome the advent of this transportation asset, but we also commit ourselves to the second and potentially third phase of the program. This is a breakthrough project which will help define our county for the next hundred years and add to our economic opportunity in ways that have yet to be imagined. Imagine the future -- Roadways that will receive necessary attention in the coming year include River Road in West New York and North Bergen, the 15th Street extension in Hoboken, and the triple benefit of the long-awaited over-passes at Secaucus Road, Paterson Plank Road, and at 69th Street in North Bergen.

In combination with the Kearny Connection already in service, the Secaucus Transfer under construction, the re-design of the Tonnelle Avenue circle, and the Light Rail, more than $2 billion has been committed toward unlocking gridlock, improving traffic flow, providing inter-modal transportation assets to our landscape and improving our air quality.

Housing

There is no place in this state as committed to the right to safe, clean, and affordable housing than Hudson County. This past October we reached the goal we set 7 years ago. That goal, to build 2000 units of affordable housing not only has been met, but has been exceeded. I am proud to say that more affordable housing has been built in Hudson County that in any other county in New Jersey through our efforts, particularly Susan Mearns, in partnership with the non-profit community and private housing developers. The numerous awards won by our Trust Fund, working in combination with the federal HOME grant program, State Balanced Housing program, and leveraged with federal tax credits, are making a difference in the lives of our residents and can be found in every municipality in our county. Still, we must do more. Our current housing market is still short some 12,000 affordable units and we must re-double our effort in the months ahead.

Health Care

Health Care for children is another challenge we must face. Just one year ago, we launched "Hudson Cares For Kids." This aggressive program aimed at enrolling some 20,000 eligible kids throughout Hudson County has made great strides. In fact, since this effort began and in cooperation with dozens of non-profits and every Board of Education in our towns, I am proud to announce that we have increased enrollment from 1,100 to more than 5,058. Although this 460% increase is indeed impressive, we cannot be satisfied until each child in need of health care is enrolled and each family protected.

With every passing day, more children are needlessly at risk of an unattended illness and more families risk their fragile economic status to pay those uninsured and unmanageable medical bills, and that's just wrong. I pledge to you that this effort will succeed, because it must succeed. I will again be seeking approval from this Board to continue this effort, an effort to save our children.

Economic Opportunity

As you all know, Hudson County is in the midst of a transformation that has not been experienced since the Industrial Revolution of a century ago. You and I are presently charged with the stewardship of the hottest piece of real estate in New Jersey. A few years ago, Kevin Costner's "Field of Dreams" popularized the phrase, "build it and they will come." Though part of a fictional movie, this phrase might very well be the reality we have experienced during the past 5 years. Though defying logic, not to mention the bedrock theory of the certainty of economic cycles, it seems our current boom has no end in sight. Our job is to encourage others to join in our unprecedented growth and become part of Hudson County history. And, to take the necessary steps to be sure our residents are prepared and equipped to take advantage of the new jobs growing in our landscape.

With financial, media, and high-tech companies locating and growing in our county, there is new demand for qualified employees. Given the hot real estate market, construction and tradespeople are in demand. And, with increasing population and the strains on our present infrastructure, there are multiplying opportunities in the service industries. Taken together, it is estimated that we will need an additional 20,000 qualified workers in the next 5 years alone. We must do more to prepare Hudson County's residents for these jobs. And we have already begun to respond to this challenge.

When the bus companies that operate in Hudson told Freeholders Neil Carroll and Bill Braker about how the lack of bus drivers was hurting their business, we set up a program for residents to obtain their commercial drivers licenses.

When 21st Century Rail needed tileworkers to complete the Hudson Bergen Light Rail stations, we joined hands with Tileworkers union and trained residents for these positions.

And when local restaurants told us they didn't have enough qualified chefs, we expanded the culinary program at the Hudson County Community College, which has turned into such a popular program that most students are offered jobs even before they graduate.

These are good examples of customized training and responding to the needs defined by our growing economy. But, it is just the beginning. This spring, I will call together leaders in our training programs and our education institutions along with our planners and the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce to craft a new strategy to meet the new demands of the new Hudson County.

So, what's next?

Armed with a new Strategic Revitalization Plan adopted by this Board and the NJ State Planning Board just last year - the only county-wide adopted plan in NJ - we have the framework for sustainable growth in the years ahead. Soon, we will begin the operation of the Office of Strategic Revitalization to carry out the goals of the plan and to help our municipalities gain the financial support and grant dollars they will need to make their own plans for the future a reality for their residents and our constituents. This office has the responsibility to keep Hudson County on track and to advance the day that all of our goals are realized. The map has been drawn, the groundwork laid and the next few years will see our neighborhoods uplifted and infused with both hope and opportunity.

The Office of Strategic Revitalization will focus on 2 specific areas: the Light Rail, which will give us "strategic economic centers" at each station. Each station will provide economic power and vitality by creating opportunities for small businesses, developing previously neglected real estate and by creating jobs for our residents; and brownfields, long abandoned and unproductive, will be assessed, resources for clean-up committed, and sites aggressively marketed - all with grant dollars, in order to recycle these assets back into productive use as ratables for our communities and as job centers for our residents. This year, we will double - from 4 to 8 - the number of municipalities targeted for this assistance.

CONCLUSION

From the beginning, this administration dedicated itself to fulfilling the pledge I made when I first took office in this very chamber 12 years ago; to grow our economy and create opportunity for our residents; to better educate our young people and train our adults for the jobs of the new millennium; and, to provide for the basic needs of our community. Over these 12 years, we have worked together hand-in-hand to make this pledge a reality. Much progress has been made, but more needs to be done. I thank all of you who have been so much a part of this growing success story - especially our Mayors, our Legislators, our US Senators and our Congressional Members. All of you have contributed greatly to our community. To my Administrators, my Chiefs of Staff, and my Directors - Department and Division heads, each of you have given much and performed well. And a special thank you to someone who is very dear to me. Someone who has shared it all - the good days and the bad; the challenges; the successes and the failures. A person who has worked as hard as anyone I know in advancing the cause of Hudson County - Beth Janiszewski. She has been there every step along the way, and I want to thank you for all of the faith and hard work you have given on behalf of all of us.

By accident of birth, happenstance of history, and through commitment and hard work, each of us has been given the unique opportunity to lead Hudson County into the new millennium. With thanks to all of those who have gone before, we accept this challenge with both compassion and commitment. We are the architects of the 21st Century and the choices we make today will be Hudson's legacy tomorrow. The decisions we reach together will shape and form the foundation for a new generation of Hudson's residents- our children and their children as well. I take this responsibility seriously and welcome the opportunity to serve. When people look back on this day 100 years from now, let it be said that in the 21st Century our children learned more, accomplished more and reached higher because of the work we did here. Let it be said that our diverse communities lived better and prospered further because of the foundations we laid today. And, let it be said that we planned well, and set the stage for managed and sensible growth that served our communities at the dawn of this, the Information Age.

Just a few moments ago, I took the oath of office for my 4th term as your County Executive. More than a millennium ago, the ancient Athenian city-state instituted another oath to be taken by those in service to the public. The oath concludes, "We will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us." Let each of us today take this ancient sacred oath to heart as our own commitment to the future, to our people, and to generations yet unborn. A commitment to excellence, to service, and a pledge to our children, our grandchildren and their children that our gift to the future will be to transmit into their hands a Hudson County better for our having been here, brighter in prospects through our efforts, and prepared for their successes in the decades to come through our caring intercession.

Some may view the agenda I outlined today overly ambitious. I view it as progressive and, more importantly, necessary for the well-being of our people. And, no matter how aggressive it may seem, we will succeed if we have the faith that we can, the commitment to do so, and the will to make it happen. Winning, whether in the last century or in this century, begins with one's own belief and confidence that we can. I tell you today that we can, and with your help, we will open a gateway to Hudson County's future, building on our heritage, treasuring our history, and shaping a new tomorrow.

Thank you, God Bless, and a Happy New Year!

 



 


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