Is NJ’s reputation improving around the country?
A handful of New Jersey mayors are among the roughly 300 from across the country at the annual Winter Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C.
Topics of universal importance to all mayors regardless of where they’re from were being discussed. Two Garden State mayors took the time to describe the impression they got about New Jersey’s reputation when talking their counterparts from other states.
“It varies, but I think Gov. Chris Christie is doing great outside the State of New Jersey in terms of painting a great picture of what’s going on in New Jersey,” said Tim McDonough, Mayor of Hope Township in Warren County. “I really think the whole feeling about New Jersey and the attitude about New Jersey has improved and I’ve been a mayor for 24 years now and I see a definite improvement.”
That did not mean some New Jersey problems weren't still brought up, such as property taxes McDonough explained.
“That comes up all the time. It’s funny. I talked to a mayor from North Carolina who actually lived in New Jersey. Her name will go unmentioned here, but she left New Jersey because of the property taxes. Usually if we get into any in-depth discussion with any mayors from around the country property taxes always comes up because we have that reputation of having very high property taxes,” he explained.
Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson was also at the conference. He said he hadn’t really heard any bad things about New Jersey. He talked about panel discussions on guns and violence, veterans’ programs, community policing, economic development, health issues, obesity awareness and treatment, workforce training and more. Jackson was subjected to an old joke that people from around the country apparently still thought was funny.
“There was a joke where someone said we all live right off of the (NJ) Turnpike and we’re defined by what exit that you live off of and I have been asked that,” Jackson said.
Word about the Garden State’s deteriorating roads and bridges has clearly gotten out too, according to McDonough, because that was another subject he was asked about quite a bit. He also had to jokingly defend his bucolic, rural town.
“I introduced myself at a panel and talked about Hope and the fact that we have farms and rolling hills and I got, ‘Well, I didn’t even know there were any farms or rolling hills left in New Jersey,’ so there are still those kinds of perceptions of the state,” McDonough said.
Overall, both mayors said the conference was informative and important. Thursday’s agenda included a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama in the morning and a meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama at night.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.