Author Archive: Steven Fulop

NJ Cities Working Together

Cross-posted at Huffington Post

Crime recognizes few boundaries – urban or suburban. That’s why it’s so important to have police departments cooperate as regional crime fighters, especially to slow the movement of guns and drugs. But fighting crime is more than just good police work. We also need to remedy some of the problems that cause crime to occur by focusing not only on public safety but job creation, housing security and recreation opportunities as well.

That’s why, in New Jersey, the mayors of the state’s three largest cities have joined together to launch a three-pronged, united front to help change the cycle of poverty and crime. In Jersey City, Newark and Paterson, we have come together to share services, and at times personnel, in fighting crime, while also seeking to coordinate community outreach efforts. Mayors Ras Baraka, Joey Torres and I believe this can become a model for mayors throughout the United States to follow.

Urban Living and the Necessity of the Arts

Cross-posted at Huffington Post

American cities are thriving in ways unimaginable a generation ago. Once the places people wanted to flee, cities are now where more and more families and individuals want to live, work and play. Interesting architecture, historic brownstones, shorter commutes between work and home, all serve to increase the allure of city living between Live-Work-Play.

Often overlooked though in city development is the need to foster vibrant arts opportunities for our residents. In coping with many of the issues we face, urban mayors spend much time focusing on the live and work part of growing their cities, but the play portion is similarly important, especially when it comes to the arts.

As American Cities Grow, New Urbanism Must Be Inclusive

Promoted by Rosi.

Cross-posted at Huffington Post.

Mention affordable housing and too often it conjures up the thought of failed housing programs from the ’50s and ’60s. Not only does this fly in the face of reality of what’s happening in our cities today but it does a disservice to the residents of recently built affordable homes. Simply stated, affordable housing means bringing income diversity to neighborhoods, rather than isolating communities from one another.

Traditionally, affordable housing was something that was only built in certain areas — typically less desirable — of most cities. However, it’s important that all residents, including working families, enjoy the opportunity to live throughout city neighborhoods.

Let’s remember, cities across the country have reversed decades of population decline and are now growing. Once places people couldn’t wait to leave, cities are now where more and more people want to live, work, and play. This isn’t an accident. The high-rise apartments and closely located brownstones that represent many American cities are now recognized as integral to community living.

Get Real on Climate Change

Cross-posted at Huffington Post.

Earth Day is upon us and that means attention is focused on cleaner water and air, along with a more recent emphasis on climate change – perhaps this century’s greatest challenge. It’s appalling we are wasting time debating whether or not climate change is real. Instead, we should be talking about solutions.

In March, two reports were issued that make clear – yet again – the problems of climate change are real and getting more severe. First, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest scientific organization in the world, declared that the planet is now seeing the impact of climate change and that the consequences could be catastrophic. Most ominous, the association said the window for effective action is swiftly closing.

Then, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations organization that for 15 years has been warning us about the awful costs of a hotter Earth, released its most dire report yet. Melting polar ice caps, extended droughts and massive floods are getting worse – at an increasing rate. What’s more, unless we reduce our fossil fuel dependency, the report concludes we are sure to face climbing temperatures, rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields for decades, if not centuries. The damage will be particularly severe in coastal communities.

Gov. Christie can help restore NJ food stamp cuts

Cross-posted at Star-Ledger. Promoted by Rosi.

Far too many New Jersey residents are facing a health crisis, which shouldn’t be the case in such a wealthy state. Maintaining a wholesome diet is an almost impossible challenge for our urban poor, who suffer with limited financial resources and few places to purchase affordable fresh food. As a result, low-income New Jerseyans are especially vulnerable to obesity and its associated health risks.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 530,000 New Jerseyans – or about 6 percent of the population – live in “food deserts” with limited access to supermarkets. Camden, for example, lost its only supermarket last year and its 77,000 residents must now rely on expensive corner stores and mini-markets with inadequate healthy food options. Families living in these deserts are forced to make difficult choices between fruits and vegetables that cost more and unhealthy high-carbohydrate products and processed foods that are less expensive, feed more people and last longer.

Hate Your Commute? Read This Column

Cross-posted at Huffington Post.

Mention asphalt or rail in a conversation to someone outside the transportation industry and you will surely be met by a blank stare or feigned yawn. But, ask the same person about his or her commute and emotion quickly returns.

This is the dilemma for policy makers when it comes to improving our transportation infrastructure — how to make commuters aware of the need for significant investment to make our transportation system better and safer. Even tea party Republicans acknowledge our roads and bridges are crumbling but they don’t want to commit the revenues needed to make a dent in the problem.

It’s important to understand the enormity of the nation’s infrastructure disaster. Make no mistake, in the land of the car, our road quality ranks with many third world nations. Our rail lines are worse, especially when compared to other G8 countries plus China. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ACSE), which issues reports every four years on the state of America’s transportation infrastructure, saw little improvement even after the massive stimulus spending early in the Obama presidency. In 2009, ASCE gave the United States road infrastructure a grade of D-, transit a grade of D, bridges a C, and rails a C-. In 2013, both road and transit infrastructures each received a D, and both bridge and rail infrastructure each received a C+. Despite some improvement, these are not grades that should make our political leaders proud.

New Jersey and the New Urbanism

Promoted by Rosi.

Cross-posted at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Once the place people couldn’t wait to leave, cities are now where more and more people want to live, work, and play. This isn’t an accident. The high-rise apartments and closely located brownstones that represent many American cities are now recognized as integral to community living.

What’s more, long drives from remote suburbs to offices in cities have taken a toll on commuters. Urban dwellers are finding there is a correlation between shorter commutes and happiness, and this realization is helping to make cities a focus for growth.

That’s why Charles Montgomery’s new book Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design is so timely. [here’s a link to the book – Rosi]. Montgomery’s enthusiastic style of writing sets the tone for what’s happening in many mid-size and large cities in New Jersey, in the United States, and throughout the world.

Training Ex-Offenders is the Right Thing to Do to Boost Our Economy

Cross-posted at Huffington Post

Most Americans would be shocked to know the United States has a higher incarceration rate than that of any other country in the world. One out of every hundred Americans is imprisoned today and one out of every 35 Americans is either jailed, under watch through probation or on parole. Said another way, nearly nine million Americans have been a part of our corrections system.

It’s even worse if you are a person of color. For instance, the incarceration rate of black males in the U.S. today is higher than the rate of black males imprisoned in South Africa under Apartheid rule. This is a tragedy that ought to give moral pause to all Americans.

In no way am I suggesting that people who commit serious crimes ought not to be incarcerated. Instead, what I am stating is the need to change for the better the lives of those who have served their time.

GOP Hit on Unemployment Benefits Hurting Americans — What Else Is New?

Cross-posted at Huffington Post

Out of work “Americans rely on their unemployment benefits to pay for the mortgage or rent, food, and other critical bills. They need our assistance in these difficult times, and we cannot let them down.”

This is one of the strongest arguments for unemployment benefits ever made by a president. Surprisingly, these words came not from President Obama but from President Bush in a radio address in 2002.

Yet his party in Congress almost unanimously ensured that these vital benefits ended last week for 1.3 million Americans and will end for a further 1.9 million Americans in the first six months of 2014. Of the more than 3 million who have been heartlessly cut off from these earned benefits, the greatest number comes from New Jersey, according to a House Ways and Means Committee report.

A New Approach on Gun Reform — Let’s Get Started

This is an interesting idea. Promoted by Rosi. Cross-posted at Huffington Post.

One year after Newtown, Congress has failed to enact a single reform that would make children safer from gun violence. This is a tragedy in every sense of the word — for those who perished. And, for the living. It’s also a tragedy for those who believe in public service because on all levels, Newtown, and indeed all mass gun violence, is the clear failure of government to protect the innocent among us.

We face an unacceptable situation and one that sadly seems unlikely to be altered anytime soon in Washington. Instead, change regarding guns must come on the local level. Incremental though it may be, it is a start and clearly we can no longer wait on Washington to change national policy.

That’s why Jersey City will help start to transform the thinking about guns. Police departments are huge buyers of guns and ammunition but have not taken advantage of their power in the marketplace to demand change from gun manufacturers. This has been a missed opportunity that must be — and will be — reversed.