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The Boss

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

There is no civic league, no city betterment association, no group to offer trenchant criticisms of public policies and to demand reforms. The nearest, perhaps, is the Junior Service League of Jersey City, an organization of women. In 1935 the league published an eighty-nine-page booklet called a community survey, prepared by twenty-four clubwomen. The report deplored the fact that `Jersey City's per capita cost of general government was the highest of all the cities in the United States with a population of over 100,000,' and concluded from this that `the city administration has not always been efficient.' This masterpiece of understatement was followed by a recommendation for `further study' of the expenses of running the government and a timid suggestion for `a self-survey by the city administration.' The ladies also regretted that the collection of garbage was inefficient, and they hoped that before the next contract was let the city would `insist upon a sanitary method of covering cans and wagons.' They deplored overcrowding in schools, and recommended that more public schools be built. They noted, too, that `There is an anti-spitting ordinance which is not well enforced.' The Hague organization is in no danger from the Junior Service League.

An unorganized group has no chance of impressing the machine. There is a story current in Jersey City that a group of business men a few years ago got Mayor Hague to attend a private meeting at which they recounted all their grievances against his administration : high taxes, high assessments, inefficient government, poor schools, and all the rest. They made their complaints, and then they asked him what he was going to do about them. He arose and told each man what favors he had received from the organization, what laws he was violating or had violated, or what money he owed to banks of which the Mayor was a stockholder or director. He reminded others of the relatives they had on the public payroll, and he told some of them of business practices in which they had engaged that would not make good publicity. Then he put on his hat and walked out. As recently as January, 1940, there was talk among certain Jersey City bankers and business men of taking some sort of concerted legal action against the new budget and the record-breaking tax rate, but after secret meetings in Newark and New York nothing was done. There was only one banker who felt that he could risk a fight with the organization; he said (privately), 'They all ran out on me.' The thesis advanced in some national periodicals that the business men of Jersey City like the regime because of its anti-labor policies cannot be sustained; they tolerate the machine because they can do nothing else.


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