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The Boss

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

Breaking up opposition groups: taxpayers' associations. Infiltration into existing groups: the Bar Association, the chamber of commerce, and fraternal organizations. Support of the Catholic Church and its price. Priests, preachers, and rabbis on the payroll.

A city accustomed to live in freedom, if it is to be ruled at all, is more easily controlled through its own citizens than in any other way.

THE HAGUE ORGANIZATION is an institution in itself, but it could not exist if it were opposed by the other institutions in its community, such as the churches, the chamber of commerce, the veterans, and the rest. The Roman Catholic Church alone could depose Frank Hague in a moment if he did not keep peace with it. In order to preserve itself in power the machine has kept certain groups from forming; has `disorganized' others, such as labor unions; has elected its men as officers in some, and has done favors for or bought off the leaders of the remainder.

The New Jersey Taxpayers' Association, a voluntary, federated type of organization, has local chapters in some four hundred towns in New Jersey. Its general aim is to obtain for citizens, to use its slogan, `Setter government at less cost.' It would appear from all the evidence of tax rates, assessments, and waste that no community in the state offers a more fertile field for its work than does Hudson County. The executive vice-president, Mr. A. R. Everson, nevertheless, reports that the association `has not been able to get a foothold in Jersey City.' What happened to attempts to organize a local association may best be told in his own words:

In the early days of the association, several attempts were made to organize a taxpayers' association, beginning in 1931, when one of the early sponsors was an editor in that city. Following a sparsely attended meeting word came out that many people had been warned not to attend it and did not do so because they were afraid of retribution. On another occasion a number of realtors started an organization known as the Jersey City Taxpayers' Association. They held two or three meetings, and there appeared to be no interference. The third meetiu.g drew such an audience that it had to be moved to the auditorium of one of the schools; but after that there were no more meetings, and the reason was that it was found impossible to secure a hall.... Nothing was ever done. The facts are that Jersey City business men are scared to do anything. (Letter to the author.)
The state association, which is very influential in state affairs, has only a skeleton association in Jersey City and no important local unit elsewhere in Hudson County. It may frighten officials into good government in other places, but not in Mayor Hague's domain. The motives of the political organization for threatening possible members and for denying halls are clear enough: rabid, question-asking reformers have never been popular in Jersey City, and it showed forethought to prevent the taxpayers' association from getting a start. With an active taxpayers' group in the city the meetings of the city commission to approve the budgets might not have been the customary tranquil affairs of the past.


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