Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres delivered his state of the city address on Thursday afternoon touting past year’s accomplishments while looking forward to a less ambitious agenda for the coming year.
Torres cited the improving crime numbers. He said the hotspot business curfew ordinance reduced shootings in 16 designated zones by 71-percent in the past year while non-fatal shootings dropped citywide.
“Crime is down,” said Torres.
He said the city created over 1,500 jobs through various projects approved by the planning board. Developers made $294 million in investment in the city over the past year, said the mayor.
“We’re making progress,” said Torres. “Business investment is up.” He said 60 primary roads have been resurfaced as part of his $37 million road resurfacing project. The roads project is still on time despite approval delays from the council, said the mayor.
Torres promised to get 170 primary roads resurfaced before his term is up. The mayor reviewed the reports of each department for the last fiscal year touting the accomplishments of his directors.
The mayor, who has two more years remaining in his nonconsecutive third-term, said his administration reduced overtime spending to a five-year low. He said last fiscal year the city spent $3.91 million in overtime compared to $5.98 million in fiscal year 2015.
In the upcoming year, the city will make it possible for homeowners to pay their taxes online.
“No more coming to the tax office to pay your bills,” he said. Visits to the tax office to pay bills has been a pain for property owners for years. Downtown parking is an issue and so are the insolent staff members at the office.
Torres also said a business incubator in South Paterson with commercial kitchens to spur small business growth in the Silk City will open next year.
Three council members – Luis Velez, Ruby Cotton, and Michael Jackson — sat through the mayor’s speech. Alex Mendez also attended the speech, but did not sit through the mayor’s speech.
“I’ve heard this before. I think it’s more of the same,” said Velez, 5th Ward councilman, after the speech. He said the mayor has to prove himself by bringing in more economic development to the city.
“There’s a lot of great things going on,” said Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. “All of what he talked about is real.”
The mayor in two separate segment made references to his battle with the city council over the tax levy. He even had a chart that showed the levy increase is one of the lowest in recent memory.
Jackson said the jobs the mayor talked about did not reach the broader community. “I don’t think the overall community feels it,” said Jackson.