About Michael Shurin
Let me begin by saying there’s nothing Really Jersey City about me, I’m only someone trying to report what’s really going on in Jersey City.
I’ve been doing this for a few years in different capacities, but stepped my game up from June 2014 to early March 2015 – spending night and day covering news for Hudson County View, mostly in Jersey City.
While I certainly grew as an individual and am proud of the work I produced with Hudson County View, during those nearly nine months, I regained my zeal for public policy that drew me to politics in the first place.
For those that don’t know me, I first entered into politics as a “quixotic” candidate for Congress, running on a platform that focused largely on ending the failed U.S. War on Drugs – among other policy initiatives that could be defined as socially libertarian and economically moderate.
I failed miserably to say the least – which wasn’t a bad thing because of the invaluable lessons learned – and until Hudson County View it had been a bumpy down hill road since. As the job rejections became countless, not only did I worry about the damage I did to my professional prospects but I also began to question whether my core beliefs were still worth fighting for.
Somewhere along that bumpy road I stopped caring about the issues that were important to me, but since the launch of Hudson County View I’ve had a personal reawakening.
It all started on the morning of June 24th, 2014, when I conducted my first big interview for Hudson County View with Assemblyman Charles Mainor (not my best audio/video work, but I’d like to think I’ve improved since.) During the interview – in which we discussed education, gun, and drug policy – Mainor told me he “would not agree that fighting the drug war has… taken any lives or caused anything else.”
Later that day, Lavon King – who was being pursued for five open cases in Hudson County Superior Court for drugs and theft, as well as a pending violation of probation, according to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office – was shot and killed by a Jersey City Police Officer.
King’s death – which essentially went unnoticed by the media – is another overlooked casualty from our nation’s failed drug war.
While he was certainly involved with drug dealing, something his brother wasn’t shy about discussing with me, does that mean his life didn’t matter?
The fact that King died at the hands of a police officer is what makes his death more noteworthy than the average casualty of the drug war, especially when you consider the current politics of white police officers killing unarmed black men.
The truth is “the game” will eventually get most people killed or locked up, and even more so if you’re from “the streets.” The ugly truth is that statistics say King was significantly more likely to die from another black male, and it should be noted he had survived two prior shootings.
Yet what puzzles me about the King story, especially after nine months, is that I’m still the only reporter to identify the officer who killed him – Kenneth Bowes. Barring an indictment of Bowes, which I doubt is coming, I often wonder if anyone in the general public would’ve ever known his name.
(UPDATE: Within 24 hours of the launch of Real Jersey City, The Jersey Journal published a story identifying Bowes.)
In addition, I’m almost 100% sure an indictment would spur zero positive change in Jersey City- even if Bowes were actually guilty of using unjustified force.
(Note: The death of Lavon King remains an active and open investigation.)
It’s safe to say my religious beliefs are agnostic, but King dying in a scenario typical of the drug war only hours after my interview with Mainor was a spiritual moment for me.
Let me be clear, I’m neither “anti-cops” nor “pro-thugs” – I’m an advocate for public policy that creates safer communities and improves the relationship between law enforcement and citizenry.
King’s death doesn’t have to represent another life that didn’t matter. It’s an opportunity for elected officials from Jersey City to make policy changes that not only seeks to stop another officer-involved shooting from happening, but also seeks alternative education options for at-risk youth long before they join a gang, or become institutionalized in the prison system and dependent on second chance programs.
Maybe the core issue of police brutality and black-on-black crime isn’t the drug war, but it certainly plays a significant role in the senseless gang violence and death that plagues so many communities – regardless of race – across America.
I plan on using Real Jersey City as a platform to discuss positive policy change in Jersey City that can make the city a model for the rest of the country to follow.
I also plan to keep reporting objectively on news items, political stories from the inside sources willing to divulge, and community stories that highlight the real people that make Jersey City the great place that it truly is.
Something I know to be true is that Jersey City – for both its population and economic impact – is seriously lacking in the number of journalists covering what’s really going on.
That’s not a good thing in a city, county, and state with a stigma that political corruption runs deep.
Mayor Steven Fulop may want whomever to “make it yours,” I just want the city’s government and political institutions to stop screwing those who already have. I could think of so many stories that fit into that scenario, but none more sickening than the “Garbage for Greenville” deal.
Fortunately for the residents of Greenville a concerned group of citizens banded together to fight back.
Unfortunately that’s the exception to the rule, and more often than not similar initiatives happen in less politically favored communities without any public knowledge or input.
That story, and many others, is the reason Jersey City needs more journalists. I hope to fill the void to the best of my ability.
Finally, this project would not be able to take off without the financial support of real estate investor Steve Hyman, a person who has dealt with a lot of “bulls**t” in his quest to develop the Sixth Street Embankment.
(UPDATE 7-19-15: Steve Hyman has ceased his financial relationship with Real Jersey City.)
The one thing I’ve learned from Hyman’s situation – which is now a decade long legal battle with the city government – is that without money and access to lawyers the city would’ve taken his property like the countless people who can’t afford their property taxes.
If the government of Jersey City can twist the legal system to punish a wealthy investor, imagine what it could do to poor people with no legal representation.
Although I reserve the right to publish information on this website regarding the issues and politics of the embankment, his support for this website is not contingent on that and he has no editorial discretion.
So while I’m not Really Jersey City, I hope that those that read this site know that my goal is to cover what’s really going on and be real with people.