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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Perhaps no one but Mayor Hague knows how much the Medical Center cost, and he hates even to hear costs mentioned. `In the past eighteen years,' says the publicity, `money has never been a deciding factor in providing medical care for the sick.' This dislike for discussing the subject of money is carried to the point of secrecy in Jersey City, but the total of the published costs of Medical Center buildings erected and land purchased during the Hague regime is $21,990,000. This does not include the staff house or the nurses' home, which must have cost $5,000,000 more, and does not include many of the furnishings and much of the equipment purchased year by year, concealed in lump budgetary sums. A total of $25,000,000 does not, therefore, seem too high, and perhaps the real cost is nearer $30,000,000. Most of the money was borrowed, $6,370,000 of the total from the Public Works Administration at four per cent interest; but $4,000,000 was an outright P.W.A. grant. Mr. Ickes saw nothing strange here, in spite of the fact that Jersey City bad once defaulted on the payment of interest on its debts.

Most of the building materials were furnished and most of the construction work was done by a select group of companies which appear to obtain most of such business in Hudson County. The building materials companies and the construction companies have interlocking directorates. A list of them, with officers and directors, showing their relationships with each other and with John Milton's office, was published in the New York Post, February 14, 1938, and need not be reproduced here. If the construction and furnishing of twenty-five million dollars' worth of Medical Center buildings the Center is unique among public buildings in the area.did not establish some Hudson County fortunes, then There are persistent rumors, moreover, that much of the construction was faulty and will have to be done over, but no evidence on the matter seems as yet to have found its way into print.

One Christmas Day Mayor Hague showed a group of Elks, who were bringing toys, into the children's ward of the hospital. `Santa Claus is coming,' chanted the children, as the Mayor and a man dressed in the conventional costume came in. Alas, to the taxpayers of Jersey City, there is no Santa Claus in the Medical Center. Just as `money has never been a deciding factor' in its construction, so also `the work [of the Center] is entirely divorced from financial considerations.' On the theory that what the taxpayer does not know will not hurt him, as many details as possible of the costs of operation are concealed.

The city and county budgets are marvelous examples of the art of seeming to show something without doing so. Consider, for example, the item in the city budget `Medical and surgical supplies and other miscellaneous items of maintenance, $237,228.01.' The total appropriated is published down to that one odd cent, but what are the `miscellaneous items of maintenance' that are included with surgical dressings? Nobody is allowed to look at the books to find out. It is clear, at any rate, that the employees and patients all eat. The Jersey City budget for 1940 under the heading `Bread, rolls, milk, groceries, etc.,' appropriates $433,201.60. The county plans to spend $180,000 on two food items, though an unrevealed part of that goes to the hospital for mental diseases at Secaucus. The item of $665,000 for `other than personal services' at the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital may include something for food. Whatever the exact costs may be, they are clearly away out of line with the food costs at other hospitals, even the de luxe private hospitals.


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