The circumstances of my childhood were among the statistics that said children who grow up in single-parent households are less likely to succeed or even obtain a high school diploma. I am grateful my story is one of both the perseverance necessary to succeed and the incredible return that comes from investments and programs designed to help those who are less unfortunate obtain access to greater opportunities.
As children who were raised by our grandmother in Roselle, my two brothers and I were able to live and grow with the support of state benefits like welfare and food stamps. Our medical needs were met as the result of Medicaid benefits. I received a solid public education and was able to obtain my undergraduate degree from New Jersey City University and Masters in Public Administration from Kean University as the result of being eligible for New Jersey's Educational Opportunity Fund. All of these programs were created based upon the democratic values that say all children—regardless of the communities from which they come—deserve to be cared for and are worthy of opportunities to achieve the American dream.
Over the last ten years, I have worked diligently to pursue a career in public service aimed at giving back to the community that has given so much to me. I have fought tirelessly to ensure the needs of Roselle residents and members of our surrounding communities are met. First as a member of the Borough Council and then as Mayor, I have worked with my colleagues to propel Roselle into a period of renewal and renaissance. With a goal of making government efficient and effective, we have spurred economic redevelopment projects that have stabilized residential property taxes. We created the Roselle First Workforce Development and Job Readiness Program to provide a resource where residents are prepared to be competitive in their employment endeavors. We also have ensured that our public safety departments have the required tools to keep our neighborhoods safe and made meaningful investments in our public parks, infrastructure, recreation, youth and senior services. This has all been done with a spirit of optimism and togetherness that has permeated Roselle, from the government to the local businesses to the community itself.
As I reflect on the successes we have achieved in our community, I can see a blueprint for success that can be shared with other municipalities, fostering the creation of partnerships. Our accomplishments in Roselle have been the direct result of collaborative efforts on multiple levels of government who believed in the vision of Roselle's potential to achieve positive progress. Although the results of our efforts are tangible, there is much more that can be done—especially on the state level where the scale of change is much greater. New Jersey’s property taxes are among the highest in the nation and direly require restructuring. Our public schools need continuous funding so that children can graduate with greater opportunities to succeed. Pervasive unemployment and underemployment hurts families and drives up foreclosure rates, leaving people exiting New Jersey at a faster rate than any other State in the United States. Not only is the unemployment rate in New Jersey above the national average, it is double the national average in urban communities. Changes must be made with a keen focus on rebuilding communities in a way where all residents and stakeholders can live, learn, work and play peacefully. We need continued strong leadership on the state level to make these changes happen.
It is for these reasons that I decided to seek the Democratic appointment to fill the unexpired Assembly term of our great vocal and fearless leader, Sheriff Joseph Cryan, in the 20th Legislative District, and why I am now running for the full two-year term.
As I embark on this journey, I will be committed and focused on establishing an agenda designed to create solutions that will bring maximum benefits to residents of Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union. I will work with my colleagues in the Assembly and the Senate to establish the groundwork necessary to deepen our reach into all communities in our state, especially into our towns where the needs are so great.
This candidacy for Assembly is not about me. It's about the boy in Elizabeth whose parents came to this country to seek a better life and many of the same services and support I received when I was young. It's about the young woman in Union who is trying to become the first member of her family to attend college, similar to my path in life. It's about the family in Hillside who is trying to afford a home where they can raise their children, something my grandmother was fortunate to provide for my brothers and me. It's about the senior citizen in Roselle who has worked hard their whole life and now deserves respect and support. It's about all of us working collectively to improve the communities we love and fight for the opportunities we deserve. With your continued support, I will take up that fight on the state level.
On June 2, 2015, I will ask for your support for my candidacy for State Assembly in the 20th Legislative District. I look forward to the opportunity to partner with Senator Lesniak and running mate Assemblywoman Quijano to develop programs and policies necessary for creating opportunities you so richly deserve. I am humbled and grateful for this honor and I promise you that I will work tirelessly to maximize this chance to continue serving the people.
Thank you in advance for your support.
Assemblyman Jamel C. Holley