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Boss Hague
King Hanky-Panky of Jersey

Part 8

By Jack Alexander

Originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post on October 26, 1940
Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2002

When Hague is under public attack, as he often is, he is apt to become angry over what he considers the unfairness, and ingratitude of his critics and to roar to a sympathetic listener, “Why, I made the city! Nobody cared a damn about it until I came along!” There is much truth in his claim. Jersey City was just an ordinary town getting along fairly well under the minor handicap of small-time politicians when Hague brought his organizing ability to bear on it. Once in the saddle, he held out the lure of cheap, docile labor and attracted hundreds of industrial plants to Jersey City. Highly industrialized today, the town is a monotonous collection of drab homes entirely surrounded by plants making mouthwash, chemicals, patent medicines, steel, soap, valves, macaroni and scores of other things.

Hague’s ugly fief has indeed grown industrially under his rule, but the price it has paid for permitting a mugg politician to operate it without restraint has been appalling. The condition is no different from that of any other American city which is run by a mugg or a camorra of muggs, except that it is much worse. Housing is poor, rents are high, recreation space is niggardly, taxes are onerous, schools are antiquated, public pay rolls are padded and sweat shops infest the place.

In 1939, Jersey City’s per-capita bonded debt of $172.83 was the highest for American cities of between 200,000 and 500,000 population. In adjusted tax rate it topped all the large cities, with a levy of $48.88 per $1000 of valuation. Adjusted tax rate means what the regular tax rate implies in terms of 100 per cent valuation of property. In Jersey City, the regular and adjusted rates are identical, as the valuation has already officially reached 100 per cent. Actually, according to Jersey City bankers and businessmen, assessments have passed 100 per cent of true value and are up somewhere around 125 per cent, or possibly higher. Hague himself owns no property in the city of which he is so proud. On the personal tax rolls he is assessed modestly at $2000.

In the face of the city’s dangerous financial plight, Hague has this year restored many pay cuts, including a $400 reduction which he himself was making. He has increased the police force by eighty patrolmen and in this and other ways has added more than $1,000,000 to the city budget for 1940. This has caused a hiking of the tax rate for 1940 to $52.98. The new budget is $34,561,854, a staggering sum considering that Jersey City’s population is in the 300,000 class and that the city’s geographical area of 8320 acres is exceptionally small. Geographical spread is an important factor to be weighed in arriving at a fair cost for municipal services such as garbage collection, police and fire protection and street and sewer maintenance.

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