Follow up

As a follow up from yesterday’s post, here’s an article in the Jersey Journal about what happened:

I would have expected a stronger statement from the city – something along the lines of: “As a city, we are appalled to hear about this attack on two of our law enforcement agents. We are working as hard as possible to make sure that justice is served, and that this community can again feel safe and proud walking down its streets.” Something like that. Instead, we get “But the reality is, we also have to address problems in other parts of the district which require attention,” which really doesn’t do much to calm the very nervous residents who walk through West Side Avenue every day.

Words matter. I think most people are sophisticated enough to know that just because the mayor’s spokesperson doesn’t explicitly say that they support their officers, that they still do. But say you’re looking to open a business on West Side Ave, and this incident just happened. Would you rather read that a city is doing all it can to prevent future incidents, or would you rather read – eh, this whole neighborhood has a lot of problems? Which would make you feel better? What if you were a young family choosing between staying on the West Side or leaving? Which would you rather hear?

What can – realistically – a mayor’s office do in a situation like this? Can they instantly deploy dozens of cops to the scene? Can they immediately and definitively provide endless assistance to people who are marginalized and give them the help they need so they don’t strike out? No, of course not. But they can set a tone. They can draw a line in the sand and say this is what we stand for and what we will and will not accept, and we will do all we can to make sure we uphold that. Just sort of admitting that the problem is somehow too big and unruly to ever really fix – well, that doesn’t really help.


Jersey City, goddamn.

I had this great blog post all figured out in my head – really! It was going to be so cool. It’s all about how our two local colleges can help be better partners in our city and comparing how Antioch College is handing their real estate issues in OH and….

On my walk home from work, I stumble into this:


It’s a surprisingly warm Wednesday in January; I just taught a long day of classes, and I turn on West Side getting ready to turn off onto my block, and there’s a half dozen police cars pulling up with lights and sirens blazing. My picture sucks; I’m clear on that. There were a ton of people on the sidewalks being screamed at by the cops to clear the area, including some guys still in smocks from getting their hair cut at the nearby barber shop. Everyone was wrangling for a view; of what, it wasn’t really clear.

But to give you some background: we have a liquor store on this stretch of West Side, that a bunch of guys hang out at. It’s usually about 6-12 guys (sometimes more sometimes less), and they can get pretty unruly. “Pretty unruly” is a euphemism for “I’ve seen one of the guys try and choke out his girlfriend until I got in his face and screamed til he stopped” and “they yell obscenities at young women with children going grocery shopping during the middle of the day.” It’s a bad situation.

This area has had three councilmen in the last year (yes), and I have spoken to all of them about the problem. I also went to a Police Captain’s meeting and I’ve complained to the cops many times, as have countless neighbors and other community members. Nothing changes. Shopkeepers on the street will go out and ask the guys to move on, and the guys will scream racial epithets at them.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, no one wants to see the guys arrested, hurt, punished, or anything like that. If they need help – please! By all means, let them get help. Alcoholism is terrible, if they are in fact alcoholic. I don’t know! I just know that I’d like to be able to walk home without being harassed, and that the situation is rapidly escalating. I want it resolved as quickly but also humanely as possible.

Tonight, something happened. I don’t know for a fact that it was related to the guys in front of the liquor store, but I do know that right at the corner where they all hang out there were a ton of cops and a guy being led away in handcuffs while resisting all the way. I can’t help but think what we’ve all been complaining about for over a year has finally boiled over. How many times do you have to speak up and be ignored? At what point does it become serious enough to be addressed?



Why is Jersey City trending?

…or maybe #whyisjerseycitytrending would be better?

When I woke up this morning and saw #jerseycity trending on Twitter, I have to admit that my heart stopped for a minute. Small cities that rarely make the national news usually only trend when there’s a mass shooting or horrific hate crime, so I couldn’t help but fear the worse for a split second there. My concerns were quickly assuaged as I flipped through tweet after tweet with #jerseycity in it, only to realize that really no one had any idea why it was trending. Like, at all.




Some were a little quick to credit how “cool” and “hip” we are:


Some had, erm, a different view:


Naturally, some tried to make a buck:


Mostly we were just confused:


And then finally, a theory that actually makes sense:


Somebody for governor

Local politics has been a constant source of both amusement and frustration to me, but I’m mostly just surprised that anyone cares about my opinion at all. This is a densely populated area, after all, and I’m just one person out of very, very many. Is voter turnout so bad now that politicians now chase down every single last actual voter to try and convince them to turn out for their cause?

It sometimes kind of feels that way. For example, just the other day I tweeted:


That’s a not-too-veiled reference to the leading Democratic contender for NJ governor. That race is a long way away, and Murphy pretty much has it in the bag. It wasn’t too much that I thought about – I was on to tweeting about my impending trip to the dentist five minutes later.

But then I got this:


Dan seems nice. It was thoughtful of him to reach out. I genuinely appreciated it, as much as it surprised me. I mean, I never @’ed his campaign or named the candidate, or mentioned the words “governor” or “New Jersey” so it’s not like it showed up in a search, so it did seem a bit intense. Intense, but still nice. He gave me his email address and that evening I wrote out some of my questions and concerns about his candidate:

Hi Daniel,

First off, thank you so much for reaching out via twitter. I genuinely appreciate your willingness to answer some questions regarding Phil Murphy’s run.
I have many questions, but I’ll keep this as brief as possible and narrow them down to three:
1. How does Mr. Murphy’s previous work experience prepare him for the job as governor? Coming from a background at Goldman Sachs and having been an ambassador – those are certainly impressive achievements, but how, specifically, do they qualify him for this particular job?
2.  What are his plans for improving public transportation both within the state and to NYC?
3. I’ve been in NJ for many years, and as far back as I can remember, every candidate for governor has always – regardless of party/timing/etc – run on the idea of lower taxes and cleaning up corruption in Trenton. Over and over, through the course of at least 30+ years that I’ve been here, those same issues have been campaigned on with an eye to the idea that they are the “winning” issues. What new, innovative ideas does your candidate have? They need not refer to taxes/corruption specifically – I’m just asking what distinguishes him from prior candidates. Certainly lowering taxes and ending corruption are important, but I’m also eager to see NJ embrace an agenda bigger than simply winning the next election.
Thanks so much for your time. I look forward to reading your reply.

Look, I was on my best behavior because I genuinely wanted dialog. Part of me was screaming: post-economic meltdown, post-Occupy, post-Corzine, post-Trump as PEOTUS, in one of the most liberal states around, what on earth are the Democrats doing rallying behind a Goldman Sachs exec? Also, what does an Ambassador to a very friendly nation actually do (no seriously though)? The other two questions are super important too, but I’m still really stuck on question #1.

Couple of days later, i’m still waiting for a reply.


Still nothing. I was kind of hoping that after the big snowstorm today, Team Murphy would find themselves home with nothing better to do than answer my email, but oh well. I was never expecting a reply from my initial tweet, so it’s not like my hopes are totally tied up in this.

If I get anything, I’ll update this post.

Jan 10th – UPDATE!!!! He wrote back!!!!!

For the most part, the response was along the lines of “here are some links for you to look at and come to your own conclusions.” Which is fair. A little less than I was hoping for after the build up of all this, but fair.

I’m working my way through the links he sent (trust me, there’s a lot), but one that caught my eye was this one: mostly because of the source – Occupy, as in Occupy Wall Street. Since one of my concerns about Murphy was his association with Goldman Sachs, this got me interested.

The article reads a bit like an over-the-top press release for the Murphy campaign (for example: “Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive, has jumped from the predatory ship and joined the ranks of the robbed and maltreated. Like Robin Hood, he’s a rogue nobleman, but unlike Robin Hood, who merely redistributed wealth….[etc etc].)” That’s downright nauseating, and really called into question the worth of the rest of the article.

Which is a shame, because the underlying premise – that Murphy is calling for a public bank in NJ – sounds really interesting. I’m going to be very, very honest and say that I don’t totally understand this idea – not at a comfort level where I feel as though I have enough information or expertise to really have a firm opinion about it. I’m not a finance person at all, and that is a world I absolutely don’t get. But for the first time, a candidate claiming Wall Street experience actually has a reason why and a specific example how that experience might be used for the common good – and I find that refreshing. (This is versus the usual strategy of “I made a lot of money on Wall Street and that means I’m a good businessman so vote for me because I know how to make money” – which, I don’t get how that’s a convincing argument at all.)

So, I have a lot more reading and research to do. In closing, I’m encouraged by their desire to engage me, and also by this “big idea” of a public bank. The election is a long way away, so plenty of time to look into this more. But they’ve gotten my attention.



McGinley Square Pub is turning into Yappy Hour

McGinley Square Pub is where CivicParent and I go to talk about data and Jersey City. No really. By way of proof, I submit this random picture of a laptop with property tax data on it, with CP’s finger pointing to something:


Right? It’s not a terrible use of a Thursday evening by any means. Sometimes we wind up taking the data and making maps and charts out of it like this. We also drink.

But anyway, on this particular evening, the most amazing thing happened, which is basically that lots of people started showing up with dogs. So many dogs! Ok, there were like three of them. But it was still pretty terrific. It made me think of Yappy Hour in Asbury Park, only with like three dogs and we were all inside and mostly the dogs were ignoring each other. But I still got to pet them so it’s cool.

Here’s a pic of me drunkface with a completely terrified little dog:


Anyway. More dogs, more booze, more data in 2017. Please.

Little Free Library

This appeared on Highland Ave between JFK and West Side and I am thrilled! It’s a Little Free Library – take a book, leave a book, any time, day or night. (Although could someone please give the guestbook back? You were just supposed to write your name in that… it’s the only book not up for grabs.)

Apparently, this tiny library was designed and is currently maintained by a proud member of a local Girl Scout troop, and she won a Bronze medal (? I don’t really understand the inner workings of the Girl Scouts, but it sounds very impressive to me) for her project.

So, yay! And in more yay – I posted about the Library on social media and immediately heard from some people in the neighborhood who are inspired and excited about the idea of making their own Little Libraries! Woo!

So, yeah. Super cool. Thank you, Miss Girl Scout!