County Surrogate James S. LaCorte, Sheriff Joseph Cryan, Freeholders Christopher Hudak, Angel G. Estrada and Vernell Wright Begin New Terms
UNION COUNTY COURTHOUSE, ELIZABETH—Freeholder Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh today announced a comprehensive series of initiatives for 2015, entitled “Investing in Union County” that includes new announcements in economic development, arts, education, quality of life improvements and public safety.
Jalloh, a resident of Union, was selected as Chairman of the Union County Freeholder Board at the 158th annual reorganization meeting held in the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth. He began serving as Freeholder in 2010. This is his first term as Chairman of the Freeholder Board.
County Surrogate James S. LaCorte and Freeholders Christopher Hudak (last year’s Chairman), Angel G. Estrada and Vernell Wright were sworn in to new terms. Sheriff Joseph Cryan was sworn into his first full term. Freeholder Bruce H. Bergen was appointed as Freeholder Vice Chairman. Freeholders also voted to fill numerous positions on County advisory boards and to adopt the Board’s 2015 schedule and procedural rules.
In reflecting upon a number of tough governmental decisions made by the Freeholder Board over the past several years necessitated by the global recession, Jalloh noted the County is rebounding and must continue to “play offense” through a series of strategic initiatives for the New Year.
“Those steps proved very effective and we have emerged a stronger County government because of it,” Jalloh said. “It is time again for the County to focus on making the investments in our future that will help boost the economy and enhance the quality of life for our residents.”
Jalloh went on to outline his “Investing in Union County” initiatives:
- “Road map to success” – The County will commission a report, conducted through the Bloustein School at Rutgers, that will examine trends in Union County’s overall economy, find strengths and synergies to focus its resources upon, and effectuate positive outcomes.
- “Build a Community of The Arts” – this set of initiatives would build a County-wide arts ecosystem that will grow and stimulate Union County’s economy, including:
- An Arts Master plan, with assistance from former Rahway Mayor Jim Kennedy, which would catalogue the County’s Arts resources and determine how to best utilize them, market them and move forward with a plan for advancing the arts;
- The Union County Advancing Community Theatre initiative (UCACT), through which the County would sponsor and promote five or more theatre events at the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC). This program builds on the recent success of RENT – a pilot of this program that the County initiated in November through a partnership with UCPAC;
- A new partnership with Union County College to offer classes in acting, dance, and public speaking at UCPAC that will be open to all residents;
- A “creative placemaking initiative,” which will involve covering traffic control boxes with the artistic expressions of local Artists, aimed at enhancing community arts and revitalization.
- “College Readiness Now” – Develop a partnership with Union County College to expand this pilot program which tests juniors near the end of the academic year to ensure they are prepared for college and help avoid costly remediation courses.
- “Families First initiative” – which includes a partnership involving the United Way of Greater Union County, the Workforce Investment Board, and our Department of Human Services, that would lead to additional after school programs, workforce investment training and support for families;
- A pilot program with Community Coordinated Child Care (also known as “four C’s”) to serve those who don’t meet eligibility for State subsidized child care;
- Work with various partners including the Court Administration, the Sheriff’s office, Human Service agencies and the Prosecutors Office, to ensure safety and better services for families affected by domestic violence.
- A series of economic development and workforce initiatives meant to boost the economy and create new opportunities, including:
- A $2.3 million expansion of the Union County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) program at the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth to boost job training, job creation and employment programs for County residents;
- The Entrepreneurship Training Program, which just began through the WIB, is aimed at assisting individuals who want to start and manage their own business; and a partnership with the New Jersey State AFL-CIO (community services agency) to screen and assist qualified, legal, permanent residents who live in Union County with their naturalization;
- The creation of a Union County economic development response team to approach each Union County municipality about their needs. This would open a dialogue on sharing services, identifying opportunities and maximizing our resources in spurring economic growth;
- Public safety and recreational announcements aimed at improving the quality of life, including:
- The creation of a new street crimes unit through the Sheriff’s Department that would focus on emerging public safety concerns;
- Action on a recently completed assessment of our parks, public works and motor vehicle locations to install safety cameras as a deterrent to crime in those locations;
- Continuing the successful Union County Gun Buyback program with another round coming later this summer;
- Enhanced development of our parks, such as continuing the “turf and build” program and bike path improvements, as well as roads and infrastructure measures with the goal of increasing recreational opportunities in the County;
Finally, in discussing last year’s developments in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, Jalloh added that it is “is incumbent upon all of us as government leaders to assist in the effort to maintain or restore the bond of trust between our different communities and our police departments.”
Jalloh has initiated conversations with Assemblyman Green, the Prosecutors office, the Sheriff’s office, and the County’s Public Safety Director regarding programs that could be offered at our Police Academy and through County Police.
“We want to raise the bar of tolerance and professionalism for those in the line of duty, and in turn we hope to create an atmosphere of renewed respect that our officers deserve to making the ultimate sacrifice of putting their own lives on the line,” Jalloh stated.
The Freeholder Chairman closed his speech by quoting President Obama:
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues, County staff and members of the community to effect this change,” Jalloh said.
(All photos: James Lowney/County of Union)