From promoting fiscal responsibility to improving parks and recreational facilities, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. touted the year’s successes and the challenges ahead at his annual State of the County speech.
It is the ninth such speech DiVincenzo has given during his three terms as county executive. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker, and a host of legislators and local elected officials attended the standing-room only event Monday night held at the county’s Hospital Center in Cedar Grove.
“I’m here to celebrate the successes of Essex County and its comeback,” said Guadagno, who brought greetings from Gov. Chris Christie. She addressed DiVincenzo with her remarks, “You have reached across the street and across the aisle. We have seen in a bipartisan way. . . that you do what’s right for the people of our county, our city and our state.”
Booker also praised the partnership between the city of Newark and Essex County and pointed to the upcoming opening of a riverfront park this spring, a new 12-acre park and walking promenade in Newark made possible by state, county and city cooperation. The mayor praised the county executive’s leadership and said, “Every night you should be able to go home and say you gave it your best. . . Joe doesn’t just speak these words, he lives them.”
But besides touting this year’s accomplishments at the county – which ranged from not laying off any county employees this year to raising millions of dollars at the county hospital and jail – DiVincenzo also spoke frankly about the thousands of county residents receiving aid during the economic recession.
He said 125,000 people had gotten public assistance from the county’s Department of Citizen Services, “More people than ever reached out for emergency support ranging from utility payments and security deposits to food stamps and health benefits.”
The county executive also noted that several programs are in place at the county to assist residents economically. A new business resource center has opened in the Hall of Records, a GED program continues to operate at the county’s One-Stop centers, and small vendors participated in a free eight-week course to improve their bonding, which in turn, improves their chances to bid on projects.
DiVincenzo also touted programs that help youngsters all the way to seniors, from Environmental Center programs to a Senior Wellness Day held at the Codey Arena. He pointed out new county facilities, including the opening of McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant and a new zipline course at the South Mountain Recreation Complex, in addition to a new exhibit at the county’s 9/11 Memorial at the Eagle Rock Reservation.
The county executive closed his speech by pointing to programs he hopes to complete in 2012 – including the opening of the riverfront park in Newark, improvements to Weequahic Park and its golf course in Newark, bridge improvements at Becker Park in Livingston, and improvements to a section of the Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield and to the Codey Arena in West Orange.
Before closing his speech and receiving a standing ovation, DiVincenzo also recognized Det. Sgt. Jorge Oliveira, a sheriff’s officer who died in Afghanistan and Newark native Whitney Houston, whose funeral services were held recently in Newark.