O’Dea speaks to community development in rousing launch of run to become Jersey City mayor

Longtime county commissioner, labor leader and lifelong resident pitches vision of affordability

The line of cars to hear Bill O’Dea announce he is running for mayor of Jersey City stretched for blocks — and eventually led to numerous parking tickets.

Don’t worry, he told the hundreds gathered Saturday at the View at Lincoln Park, his campaign will handle the fines.

“That’s a good problem,” he said. “That speaks volumes for how great this crowd is.”

It speaks to how many supporters there are in Jersey City for O’Dea, a lifelong resident who won his first election to serve on the Hudson County commissioners in 1997 — and by one vote.

O’Dea said those decades of experience and his team leading “Project IMPACT” — an effort with Hudson County Building Trades President Pat Kelleher to increase women and minority involvement in the trades — has given him a front-row view of the city’s greatest need.

“We need smart, community-based development,” he said.

The record-breaking investment in every ward of the city is not reaching everyone, O’Dea told the crowd of supporters.

“Few of these projects provide the community benefits that they should,” he said. “Every development project must include truly affordable housing and workforce housing, provide opportunities for local minority- and women-owned businesses and ensure the local hiring for construction and permanent jobs supporting unions and providing good-paying jobs must be a priority.

“And every union job site must result in the creation of new apprenticeship opportunities for Jersey City residents.”

O’Dea said he will expand Project IMPACT — while ensuring its reach grows, too.

“Having spent 30 years working on neighborhood development, I know how to make sure that this goal will come to fruition,” he said. “We can and we will provide developers with local contractors, vendors and skilled workers. Developers will then be held accountable for the community benefits.”

Neighborhood development is workforce development, O’Dea said.

“We will make the necessary investments so our small businesses can access these opportunities,” he said. “More importantly, we will increase the investment in workforce development. Under my administration, all — and I emphasize all — development projects will have community benefits, and our neighborhood residents will have a say in in determining what those benefits are.”

O’Dea will have a lot to say about all this and more in the coming two years. That’s right, the election is not until November 2025. Former Gov. Jim McGreevey already has announced his candidacy, too. Others may follow.

O’Dea said increasing education opportunities and public safety are key. As is affordability. He said he is a strong supporter of rent control policies.

Affordability is everything, O’Dea said.

“Making our city more affordable is much more than a catchphrase from a poll — it is a commitment that I have had for over three decades,” he said.

He said he has voted against tax increases and worked to stop political patronage jobs — and the lifetime benefits that go with them. It’s why he said he has never accepted a pay raise.

“I’m not here to game the system,” he said. “I’m here, as I’ve always been, to fight for you.”

On this day, the love was returned by a raucous crowd, which chanted his campaign slogan — “Our city … our choice” — at the end of an approximately 20-minute speech.

And with that, a long campaign has begun.