Second Ward City Councilwoman Beth Mason met with former Pres. Bill Clinton and officials in the Obama administration last week to discuss policy initiatives pertinent to both Hoboken and the nation as a whole. Additionally, she traveled to Washington two weeks ago to meet with the New Jersey Congressional delegation on equal pay for women, anti-flooding initiatives and the future of low-income housing in Hoboken.
The first meeting, which Mason attended as a member of New Jersey’s delegation of the National Jewish Democratic Council, focused largely on bringing salaries for women comparable with those offered to men. Statistics put a woman’s average salary at $.79 to every $1 made by a man.
“This is about justice,” said Mason last week. “Women tend to live longer than men, and so accumulated salary over a course of a woman’s professional life is an important thing.”
Mason and the Council met with various New Jersey congressmen, including Rep. Albio Sires, Rep. Bill Pascrell and Rep. Donald Payne Jr., as well as other officials.
“Women are increasingly likely to be the breadwinners of a family and when they do not receive the paycheck they deserve, our children suffer and our communities suffer. I support Hoboken’s congressional representatives’ efforts to overcome misguided Republican opposition in order to pass this bill,” Mason said.
“This is about justice.” – Beth Mason, on equal pay for women.
Mason is a heavy player in the New Jersey and national Democratic Parties, and she and her husband have donated considerable amounts of money to various candidates and the party itself.
The Monarch and Vision 20/20
Despite the topic of the meeting being the Equal Pay Act, Mason said she was able to get a few words with the congressmen about two of Hoboken’s most controversial development projects: the Monarch, a pair of 11-story luxury high-rises that a developer would like to build on an uptown pier, and Vision 20/20, a proposal to demolish and rebuild large portions of the city’s aging housing projects.
Mason is against the scope of the Monarch, but supports Vision 20/20.
“These projects are at opposite sides of the spectrum, and it looks like the Monarch, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because it’s a set of buildings being built on a pier that could easily flood, will happen,” she said. “Why put these buildings in the middle of the river and yet leave the Hoboken Housing Authority, which we have an opportunity to improve, completely vulnerable?”
Mason said that she believes that protecting the city’s least fortunate residents must be a priority.
“The Hoboken Housing Authority is home to a diverse group of Hoboken residents including low income families, veterans, senior citizens and disabled residents,” Councilwoman Mason said. “I personally witnessed many of the residents left stranded in their apartments with no electricity and no heat for over a week after Hurricane Sandy.”
Allies of Mayor Dawn Zimmer also have opposed Monarch, but have said that they did not get enough information to support Vision 20/20. The latter project has become the focus of a political battle between allies of Zimmer and Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Carmelo Garcia.
Mason’s second trip to Washington included a meeting with members of Obama’s Economic Advisory Council and the Business Forward initiative. The meeting was primarily concerned with the National Infrastructure Trust Fund, which could run dry as soon as July, Mason said.
The officials held the meeting because the administration, Mason said, is attempting to pass legislation to renew the trust fund. This time, however, the administration wants to focus on shovel-ready projects supported by public-private partnerships. Whether the projects pertain to roadways or public transportation, Mason said she believed the best way to fund them is through a combination of public money and private sources which benefit from the projects.
“In Hoboken, we’ve got a great example with the NJ Transit property,” she said, describing a massive redevelopment project along Observer Highway. “There are many private entities which could potentially want to help fund that project, so that’s something worth exploring.”
Mason said that she felt being able to discuss Hoboken on a national stage helped her formulate new ideas for what the city, and nation, could achieve.
“This was a great experience for me, to be able to go down and meet on these issues that important nationwide but also for our community,” she said on Wednesday. “We’re a great model to use when you’re talking about how to improve and expand infrastructure in this country.”
And always one to enjoy the trip, Mason didn’t leave Washington empty-handed.
“I got some napkins with the president’s seal,” she said.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com