June 7, 2016

SSDS Alumnus Mayor Fulop a Rising Star in N.J. Politics

Aryeh Lande ‘18 and Zach Colton-Max ‘17

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has been a on a meteoric rise in New Jersey politics since securing a seat on the Jersey City Council in 2005. After securing his Council seat, Fulop won the mayoral election of Jersey City in 2013. In addition to being a politician, Fulop is also an alumnus of Golda Och Academy – then Solomon Schechter Day School – and he acknowledges the important role the school played in his development.
“[Schechter gave me] every opportunity to learn and develop,” he said.
Fulop’s political leanings are shaped by his family’s experience. He is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and his family believed very strongly in faith. As a result, Fulop incorporates the lessons Judaism taught him into his outlook on society and politics.
One major issue that Fulop tackled successfully in Jersey City was paid sick leave. He was able to grant salaries to Jersey City employees who are taking time to care for someone at home. He does not want employees to have to choose between caring for an ill family member or sacrificing their salary.
He did not comment on the ability of this policy to be implemented statewide, only mentioning that other municipalities experience similar issues.
In response to questions about tax policy, Fulop offered a new approach to incorporating tax cuts and revenue boosts.
“In Jersey City we’ve been able to cut taxes by about 2 percent while increasing revenue and expanding services,” he explained, “because we’ve been successful at growing the ratable base. We don’t have to increase the burden on taxpayers if we invest intelligently, partner with the private sector where possible, and focus on growth.”
This new approach has been incredibly effective in Jersey City, improving their ability to invest in underserviced areas. Fulop is most proud of the growth he has spurred in these areas as well as the economic stability of his city, leading in the raising of its credit rating twice.
Although he is a registered Democrat, Fulop he believes in looking past party ideology to achieve what is best for the city.
“There is no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage,” he said, quoting former New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia.
Fulop prioritizes the betterment of his city and helping others as a civic servant. If helping others requires him to break through his party platform, he has no problem in doing so. That said, Fulop believes the Republican party is headed in the wrong direction with Donald Trump at its helm.
Fulop is in a very interesting position in regard to the election, because Trump has used Jersey City in one of his most controversial and questionable comments. Earlier this year, the presumptive Republican nominee for President described the events of 9/11, seeing citizens of Jersey City cheering as the towers fell. Fulop wants to make it very clear that this portrays Jersey City’s citizens unfairly, as it did not happen.
Fulop has also been critical of Chris Christie’s governorship.
“I don't think it has been successful overall,” he said. “I think his term started with some problems and those issues still exist.”
From a state-wide outlook, it is easy to see Fulop emerging as the Democratic front-runner in the next gubernatorial election. He has all the characteristics that brand him as a poster-boy ticket: he is young, intelligent and a veteran of the U.S. army. Additionally, he has an impressive track record and has proven his effectiveness across many offices of government. Furthermore, many people feel Christie has hurt the state more than helping it and so a Democrat looks increasingly likely to be the next governor.
If Fulop can win the Democratic primary, he stands the greatest chance of becoming our governor. This will be a great achievement for GOA, the Fulop legacy, and New Jersey Jewry as a whole.

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