Jersey City: A Republican Success Story
Before Bret Schundler's election as mayor, Jersey City was caught in what seemed to be a never-ending downward spiral.
Soaring property taxes, a rising crime rate, government corruption, and hostility toward business destroyed community property values. Many residents were forced to leave as job losses in Jersey City outpaced those of Camden and Newark. Other residents simply stopped paying taxes on properties that eventually became worth less than their tax liability.
On Bret Schundler's first day in office the skeptics said he needed to close a $40 million municipal deficit by laying off city workers, reducing the number of policemen and firefighters, and raising property taxes by as much as 30 percent. But Mayor Schundler realized these were not real solutions.
So Bret Schundler went to work applying the financial skills he learned on Wall Street and the strength of character and courage he had developed over a lifetime.
The Mayor pioneered a plan that turned tax liens valued as worthless into $40 million in cash by selling the liens in bulk to investors. This Bulk Lien Sale produced the cash needed to close the budget gap, increased the tax collection rate to 99 percent, and allowed the city to reduce property taxes by $1,200 per year for the average homeowner. This was hailed as one of the top municipal finance innovations in the country.
|"Some liberal critics called the creative initiatives that turned Jersey City around a mistake. But Bret Schundler proved them wrong. He doesn't cave in to the liberals -- he fights for the people!"
Shortly thereafter, Bret Schundler persuaded the Federal National Mortgage Association to accept reverse mortgages on Jersey City homes - a strategy that provided homeowners with the alternative financing they needed to pay delinquent taxes and still hold onto their homes.
Bret Schundler put civilian employees on police desk jobs, re-assigned police officers to street patrol, and implemented cutting-edge community policing strategies that led to a 35 percent reduction in the crime rate. This decrease in crime is much greater than the average reduction statewide and has made Jersey City safe for its residents and business owners.
The city now has a booming real estate market, an increasing resident population, ten times more job growth than New Jersey's five other largest cities combined, and has -- despite a loss in municipal aid from Trenton -- held the line on property taxes.
Bret Schundler has turned around the fortunes of Jersey City and in the process has set what Jack Kemp describes as the "gold standard of political leadership."