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Letters: County Exec Thanks Residents


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An Open Letter to the Residents of Essex County:

Thank you for helping us make history on Election Day, November 2nd, when I became the first person to be elected to a third term as Essex County Executive. I am humbled by the overwhelming margin of victory and the confidence you have in me. Serving the public is a sacred trust and one that I take very seriously.

My administration, from our professional directors to our dedicated 3,500 employees, along with our Board of Chosen Freeholders, has made a great deal of progress these past year eight years. Improvements have been made in each one of our County parks and reservations, while bridges, roads and intersections have been modernized to enhance safety for pedestrians and motorists.

Most importantly, in these economic times, our financial position has been stabilized.   Our bond rating has been upgraded six times, to its highest level in 20 years, and for eight years, Essex County has maintained the second lowest average percentage tax increase of the 21 counties in New Jersey. In addition, four underperforming County facilities – Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Correctional Facility, Essex County Juvenile Detention Facility and Essex County Hospital Center – were physically transformed and now generate about $40 million in recurring revenue. These positive changes, as well as many more, such as the total renovation of the old Newark Jail into a modern office building, adding $1.7 million to our bottom line, through revenues and cost-avoidance, have made Essex County a model government.

This is not the time to rest on our past accomplishments, however, because the county, state and country are in a deep economic crisis. Essex is particularly affected, with the state’s highest foreclosure rate, highest unemployment rate and highest property taxes. Huge as these problems are, though, they are not insurmountable. We can overcome them if we put aside our differences and work together.

We must rein in pension and health care costs for public employees, find ways to create new jobs and keep people working, make Essex County attractive for businesses, and stabilize our neighborhoods. These issues affect our quality of life, our ability to afford to live here, our future and our children’s future. The constant fighting between Democrats and Republicans obstructs progress and mutes every discussion. It can no longer be business as usual in Essex County, Trenton or Washington, DC. We should want our elected leaders to collaborate, with progress for the people in mind, and we should encourage our elected leaders to engage in Democratic-Republican partnerships instead of questioning their party loyalty. Essex County stands ready to work with anyone who has ideas to help move us forward.

It is time for a change. Time for a “from the ground up” re-examination of the governmental structures that have been in place in New Jersey for 200 years. New Jersey is a state that has jealously guarded the “rights” of individual municipalities and school boards, leaving us with 566 municipalities, with populations ranging from 18 to almost 300,000. We have school boards in towns without a single school. This is a luxury of squandered resources that we can no longer afford. Not in the state, and especially not in Essex County. Not with the property taxes we pay. Not with the 2 percent budget increase cap we face.

Leadership, to me, means setting goals and new directions. Many people are afraid to make changes, and seek to modify existing policies little by little, rather than forging ahead with broad suggestions.  As you know by now, that is not my style!

I think it is time for the 22 municipalities in Essex to take a giant leap, gather together and seriously consider the ways we can consolidate our communities, share services and reduce the burden on our taxpayers. Let us take charge of our destiny and lead the state by setting new directions in Essex.

More than ever, I am inspired and motivated to work for the people of Essex County. I am proud to serve you as Essex County Executive and will devote as much energy and commitment over the next four years as I did in my previous two terms. We want you to stay involved by sharing your thoughts and concerns at 973-621-4400 or [email protected]. Together we will continue Putting Essex County First.

Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
Essex County Executive

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