EAST ORANGE, NJ — Mayor Lester Taylor is running for a second term but, at his fourth annual State of the City Address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the Cicely Tyson School of the Performing and Fine Arts Theater, he discussed his service to East Orange.
“Three years ago, I began my service to the city of East Orange, not a city I was raised in, but a city that I love and one that my wife and children have always known as home; no matter what is happening in the world around us, this is East Orange’s time to shine,” said Taylor on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
“Today, I want to highlight the progressive changes we’ve made over the past three years. The type of momentum we’ve started is the type that leads to real change,” the mayor reiterated Thursday, Feb. 2, during the press conference on the steps of City Hall, when he announced he would not seek a second term of office.
During his State of the City Address, Taylor acknowledged, with regard to new President Donald J. Trump’s administration and agenda, there would be challenges in what his own administration could accomplish in his final year of office.
“Last week, a new president was sworn into office and we know for a fact that his agenda does not match ours,” said Taylor on Tuesday, Jan. 24. “If we are to survive federal cuts to education, federal cuts to health care, federal cuts to programs like our own First-Time Homebuyers Program, we have to work together to continue the great progress we’ve made. In East Orange, we have come too far and we are not going back.”
Taylor mentioned local progressive changes he has instituted in the last three years, including successfully renegotiating city employee contracts and leading the way nationally as one of the U.S. cities fighting to increase the minimum wage to a $15 an hour; collaborating with the East Orange Board of Education to hire new school resource officers, thanks to a federal C.O.P.S. grant; renovating the city’s golf course; closing the $10 million deficit he inherited upon taking office; stabilizing the East Orange Water Commission, and updating and upgrading its operations, equipment and production capacity; cleaning up vacant and abandoned properties across the city by empowering code enforcement director Dwight Saunders; maintaining the city’s historic trajectory of crime reduction and public safety improvements by combining the separate East Orange Police, Fire and Emergency Management departments into one new Public Safety Department with Director Sheilah Coley; and spurring development, investment and redevelopment in East Orange.
“No matter what is happening in Washington, D.C., East Orange will continue to fight for quality education and health care, livable wages for working families, safe and clean communities, and careers, not just jobs, for our residents,” Taylor said.
“Crime has dropped by 20 percent in each of the past three years and we have acquired $5 million in federal funds to hire more police officers and firefighters, to help keep our schools and community safe. We are attracting new developers to our city and private capital investment has increased from $100 million in 2014, to over $400 million this year. That number keeps growing every day and projects previously stalled or abandoned before I took office are now back on track or open for business.”
“We have improved parks, added more arts and recreational programming, and new employment opportunities for our residents of all ages, including our seniors, some of whom are here today as part our new Senior Workforce Development Program. We’re delivering better services. We have extended City Hall hours once a week, created a new state-of-the-art website to serve constituents 24 hours a day and introduced an after-school meal program that provides dinner for every child in need under the age of 18.”
Taylor acknowledged that his administration has enjoyed a string of successes on his watch as mayor, but said he knows there are even bigger and better successes on the horizon in the city’s future, regardless of who the next mayor is.
“People — families, young professionals, and empty nesters — are choosing East Orange in numbers that we have not seen in years,” Taylor said. “Today, I am proud that we made smart and bold choices. I set high goals for my team and I didn’t hope for results, I expected them. I earned a reputation as a taskmaster, and rightly so.
“As a mayor, I knew that, in order to bring the change I promised, I had to become that leader who would not back down from demanding solutions and holding people accountable to the citizens of East Orange. I expect nothing less, and nor should you. It’s about results for our community.”