After a four-year absence, Jose “Joey” Torres has returned as the mayor of New Jersey’s third-largest city. Torres served two terms as mayor, from 2002 to 2010, before losing the position to Jeffrey Jones. He regained the seat in May, beating Jones and City Councilman Andre Sayegh in a six-candidate race.
During his inaugural speech last week, Torres pledged to fight the drug epidemic that plagues Paterson streets. “Paterson’s path onward toward recuperation is not going to be easy,” said Torres. “But we cannot accept anything except success.”
Torres also told the crowd that his “Neighborhood Stabilization” plan would transform underserved areas, creating economic development.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was Torres’s special guest. Outside City Hall, however, teachers gathered to picket the event and draw attention to the growing plight of the Paterson school district, which has been under state control for more than 20 years.
Christie evaded the protestors. “I’m happy to be in Paterson today, and I’m happy to be here to celebrate Joey Torres’ inauguration,” Christie said. “He’s the guy you want to hear from.”
Christie’s sour relationship with the teachers’ union goes back well into the beginning of his first term as governor, when he infamously slashed $1 billion from school funding.
Although not representing the union at the time, the teachers picketing at the event said they have been working without a contract for four years and that the new contract their union is negotiating with Christie’s administration is unfair, leaving many without a raise for another three years.