Late last year, Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, New Jersey Citizen Action’s (NJCA) Executive Director of the past 36 years, sent you a farewell letter thanking you for your steadfast support over these many years. New Jersey Citizen Action was formed 41 years ago to be a multi-issue, multi-racial coalition working and fighting for justice and equity, for all of New Jersey’s low– and moderate-income communities. During this time, Phyllis built NJCA into one of the state’s most successful social change organizations – one that combines on-the-ground community organizing and political action with the delivery of community services.
Under Phyllis’ leadership, NJCA profoundly shaped local and state policy and politics, delivering real, impactful reforms benefiting low-and moderate-income communities that included:
- lowering utility costs and expanding services to access to them;
- exposing and cleaning up toxic pollution in our communities with the adoption of the nation’s strongest Toxics Right to Know Act;
- nationally recognized work in promoting and implementing community reinvestment in New Jersey’s underserved communities by negotiating CRA Agreements with more than 40 banks, totaling over $40 billion in investments in affordable housing, minority-owned small business development, affordable mortgage products for low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers, and discounted home improvement loans, among other programs;
- the formation of the first phase of a New Jersey Public Bank, which when fully implemented will finance socially beneficial projects that traditional banks can’t, including unmet community needs like housing, day care, infrastructure upgrades, and micro-lending for small businesses; and
- winning the first of many progressive income tax reforms that made New Jersey a leader in quality public education and ensured funding to support countless other public and safety net programs.
Phyllis’ leadership also ensured NJCA helped shape national policy and politics. We helped in the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa by pressuring the state to make the largest divestment of pension funds in history. More recently, NJCA helped elect our first Black President, Barack Obama, which paved the way for passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Later NJCA worked with partners and grassroots activists statewide to successfully defend the ACA in 2018, while flipping three NJ Congressional seats from Republican control to Democrat, leading the way to a Democratically held US House of Representatives.
Phyllis also oversaw NJCA’s creation of a host of support services for New Jersey’s working families. For decades, these services have empowered families to build economic security in a variety of ways, including purchasing their first home, accessing their rights as renters, enrolling in health care coverage, resolving student loans and other debt, and accessing free tax preparation and available tax credits for working families. Today these programs are stronger than ever, serving more than 18,000 families a year, across the entire state.
I am humbled by the profound legacy of transformative social change that Phyllis and NJCA’s past leaders have delivered over the decades. We owe a debt of gratitude to Phyllis for all she has built here at NJCA, and all she has done for the working people of New Jersey. We wish her all the best as she begins her new chapter.
Cheers to a successful, happy and healthy New Year!
Dena Mottola Jaborska
New jersey Citizen Action