Fresh from a successful referendum campaign that rescheduled the municipal elections from next May to November, Mayor Steven Fulop says he will ask the City Council to approve another referendum in 2016 that would eliminate runoff elections, similar to what the city of Hoboken did in 2013.
Under the current system, a candidate for council or mayor must win by more than 50 percent of the total vote – and if he does not, the two top vote getters must face off in another election.
“We do not have runoff elections for president, governor, or state legislators,” Fulop said. “Why should we do it for a local election?”
This was among a number of issues raised during a recent “Pen and Pad” sit down session with the mayor, part of an informal question and answer opportunity for reporters to grill him on various issues.
A lawsuit filed against the city prior to the Nov. 3 election was partly designed to make it clear that even if last Tuesday’s referendum passed it would not do away with runoff elections.
The courts dismissed the suit, and in a low-turnout vote on Nov. 3, voters approved the election move to November. Fulop said he would ask the council to put the runoff question on next November’s ballot.
“We do not have runoff elections for president, governor or state legislators. Why should we do it for a local election?” – Mayor Steven Fulop
Casino proposal will go to the legislature
Fulop said he intends to ask the state legislature to enable a statewide referendum for a possible casino complex at the southern portion of Jersey City near Liberty State Park. He said the proposed complex would offer a number of possible commercial elements and not depend exclusively on the gambling aspect.
“We don’t want something that just has a lot of slot machines,” he said.
The proposal faces possible opposition by Gov. Christopher Christie, but Fulop said approval by both houses of the state legislature would allow the public to decide. If the public affirms, allowing the casino would not require the governor’s approval.
School district proposal back on the agenda
Fulop said that he intends to revive a plan to tie local development approvals to the construction of new early childhood classrooms. A school district report unveiled last summer showed the district has the potential to come up nearly 7,000 seats short by 2017.
He said hopes to revive a program that would allow developers extended abatements in exchange for developing needed school room space. Last year, the school board rejected a similar effort.
The Fulop administration along with the Jersey City Housing Authority eventually successfully brought in Head Start programs to the classrooms that the school district refused to use. Fulop said there were two more development projects on the horizon in which he hoped to include a similar proposal.
“We’ll bring it to the new board and hopefully, they will decide to go with it,” he said.
PATH upgrades and Journal Square development
With large high-density residential towers going vertical near Journal Square, some people have raised questions about the capacity of PATH trains to handle the increased ridership.
Fulop said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will have to address this question, but he did not fear the new development would overly burden the system. He compared the PATH to the New York City subway system.
In a related issue, Fulop said he was disappointed with the court decision that allows the Friends of the Landmark Loew’s Theater to continue to oversee operations in the Journal Square theater.
“Their mission was to save the theater, not to run it,” Fulop said. But he said his administration has not yet determined if it will appeal. “We may have to let the Friends contract run out. But that would be a significant loss to the city. Jersey City deserves a first class performance center.”
When asked how he could support Friends of Liberty State Park and not the Friends of the Loew’s Theater, Fulop said the two situations were diametrically opposed.
“Friends of Liberty State Park do not run the park,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.