After supporters introduced her as “councilwoman” at a campaign gathering on Saturday afternoon, 3rd Ward city council candidate Lilisa Mimms promised to build a recreation center in the ward.
Mimms also promised supporters she would propose an incentive programs to encourage public safety – police and fire – employees to live in the city.
“We definitely need firefighters and police, but there’s a big majority of workers who are from outside of the community,” said Mimms at her campaign headquarter on 10th Avenue in the 4th Ward. “They are coming to our community and they make money, but they move it to other communities.”
Mimms said an estimated $78 million is leaving the city every year with public safety employees who do not live in the city. The city’s public safety budget for fiscal year 2016 is $77.7 million, according to the city’s budget document.
Mimms said she intends to propose an incentive programs to encourage police officers and firefighters to live in the city.
Cities across the country have been struggling to get their police and fire employees to live in the communities they serve. Some like Baltimore and Austin and West Valley City have sought to entice police and fire employees to reside within municipal borders by providing monetary incentives, according to news reports.
Baltimore wants to offer police and fire employees tax credits to make them live within the city, according reports.
Mimms would not share the details of her proposal on Sunday.
A single mother of four children, Mimms said, she has lived in the city for 46 years. She told supporters she will push for a recreation center in the 3rd Ward.
“That is a serious problem when it comes to our children and our youth not having anywhere to go or anywhere to play,” she said of lack of recreation in the city. “I’d like to push for a recreation center in the midst of the 3rd Ward.”
The city allocated $2.1 million for recreation in its fiscal year 2016 budget, according to city records.
How will she pay for a recreation center? Mimms, who also told supporters she wants to stabilize taxes, said she will analyze the budget and reallocate funds towards recreation from other line items to build the recreation center. She said she looked at the budget and believes there are funds that can be taken from elsewhere to bolster the recreation line item.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres sought to build a recreation center at Buckley Park in the Totowa section; however, that proposal fell on the wayside when voters overwhelmingly rejected a new tax to fund recreation.
“My biggest issue is having a place for our youth,” said Montaye Curry, one of about 100 people who came out for Mimms’ 10th Avenue headquarter opening during a rainy Saturday. He wants to see more recreation spending in the city.
Mimms connected lack of recreational opportunities for young people to crime on the streets. “We know crime is high in the community. One of the reasons is because there’s no recreation centers in our community,” she said.
The other reason is a poor educational system in the city, said Mimms, a school board member. “They have a few programs, but that’s not enough,” she said of dearth of recreation in the city.
Mimms said she will also demand the administration provide the budget early in the fiscal year so that council members can analyze it to provide better financial oversight. She said this will assist her in finding funds to reallocate towards recreation.
Mimms also unveiled a public service announcement to promote her campaign. She said she wants to build a business directory to promote local commerce and start up a newsletter to target young people through social media.
Some of those who attended Saturday’s event are part of Mimms’ congregation. She is the founding pastor at the New Beginnings Christian Outreach Ministries. Theresa Bell, who resides in Clifton, a mentee of Mimims’, said she worries about her nephew, who lives in the city and is an 11th grader at John F. Kennedy High School.
Bell’s main concern was sports and recreation for young people. She also complained about the potholes on the roads.
“The worst are the streets,” added Bob Foxworth, a 3rd Ward resident. He swore the streets of the 3rd Ward were not receiving much attention.
The 3rd Ward will receive more resurfaced roads than any of the city’s six wards in Torres’ $37 million road reconstruction project.
“I don’t see it,” said Foxworth. He was adamant not a single road has been completed in the 3rd Ward until shown several road segments that have been resurfaced in the past year as part of the first phase of the mayor’s road resurfacing project.
This report was last updated on April 11th, 2016 at 11:12 a.m.