TRENTON - On Jan. 15, Governor Phil Murphy (D-Rumson) delivered his first State of the State Address at the State House in Trenton. The Governor highlighted accomplishments from his first year in office and outlined priorities for year two.
“The state of our state is stronger and fairer than it was one year ago, but our work is far from finished,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “It comes down to this - you can’t have economic progress without social progress, and you can’t have social progress without economic progress. That’s where this journey is taking us - to a New Jersey that is both strong and fair - and I know we can make this vision a reality.”
In his address, Governor Murphy reiterated his call for an overhaul of the State’s tax incentives programs following last week’s audit of the Economic Development Authority’s corporate tax incentives program by State Comptroller Phil Degnan. Governor Murphy vowed to create a new tax incentive program with monetary caps, clear eligibility criteria and oversight, and flexibility. The Governor believes that any reformed tax incentive program should include targeted investment in high-wage, high-growth sectors of the New Jersey economy.
“Carefully crafted, properly enforced, and transparent tax incentives have a place in a successful economic program,” said Governor Murphy. “Tax incentives must be just one tool in our toolbox. Education, infrastructure, workforce development - those are the primary tools for building a stronger and fairer economy and a stronger and fairer New Jersey. Tax incentives should be used strategically and sparingly to get us to our goal.”
Governor Murphy reflected on an extraordinarily productive first year of his Administration, working with the Legislature to sign 169 new laws - more than any first-year administration in over two decades - and issuing more than four dozen executive orders to advance job creation, environmental protections, equal rights, and fair pay. In his speech, the Governor highlighted some of his first-year accomplishments, including:
· Increasing pre-k funding by over $55 million, expanding K-12 funding by $351 million, and enabling 13,000 students to qualify for free community college;
· Enacting a millionaire’s tax on incomes over $5 million, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and creating a Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit;
· Signing laws to establish an individual health insurance mandate and implement a reinsurance program, lowering health care premiums on the individual market by an average of 9.3 percent;
· Restoring $7.45 million in funding to Planned Parenthood;
· Signing into law the nation’s strongest equal pay law;
· Signing into law one of the most expansive paid sick leave programs in the nation;
· Reforming New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program, more than doubling the number of patients;
· Unveiling a statewide economic development plan to spur job and wage growth and create the country’s most inclusive innovation economy;
· Marking 100 percent completion of the Federal Railroad Administration’s 2018 year-end milestone for Positive Train Control and more than doubled state operating assistance for NJ TRANSIT.
· Signing into law one of the most expansive Automatic Voter Registration policies in the nation.
· Leading the nation in fighting climate change, from promoting clean energy alternatives to rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI);
· Signing an Executive Order establishing the nation’s most ambitious offshore wind goal of 3,500 MW by 2030 and overseeing the nation’s largest offshore wind solicitation; and
· Strengthening commonsense gun safety laws.
In addition to outlining his vision for reforming the State’s tax incentives programs, Governor Murphy highlighted the following initiatives as part of his State of the State address:
· Fixing NJ TRANSIT for the nearly one million New Jerseyans who depend upon it every day. NJ TRANSIT’s full focus this year will be on improving customer communications, service, and reliability.
· Fighting the opioid epidemic and dedicating resources to better strategic use, through access to treatment and recovery programs, careful data compilation and analytics, and helping law enforcement keep fentanyl and other dangerous drugs out of our communities.
· Encouraging companies to invest in New Jersey’s communities and Opportunity Zones.
· Leveraging a new Evergreen Innovation Fund to grow the next generation of innovative companies.
· Establishing a $15 per hour minimum wage that will give more than one million families a stronger foothold in the middle class, and allow those who aspire to enter the middle class the means to do so. Doing so will allow us to invest more in education, in infrastructure, and in other critical needs. A higher minimum wage strengthens all of New Jersey.
· Legalizing adult-use marijuana so that we can reverse the inequality and unfairness left from years of failed drug policies and shift public safety resources to where they can do the most good. This will also allow New Jersey to broadly benefit from creating an entirely new and legal industry.
· Rebuilding New Jersey’s water infrastructure network to ensure the delivery of clean water to every child and family.
· Expanding access to democracy by allowing residents to register to vote online and at the polls on Election Day; enacting early, in-person voting; allowing 17-year-olds to register and vote in June primaries if they will turn 18 by the November general election; and restoring voting rights for individuals on probation or parole, to further their reentry into society by allowing them to exercise the right to vote.
· Allowing all residents, regardless of status, to obtain a valid New Jersey driver’s license to make roads safer for all drivers and stimulate the economy.
Do you think that Governor Murphy has done a good job so far? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think.
By Walter Elliott
WEST ORANGE - At least someone here at the Thomas A. Edison National Historic Park had the foresight to laminate the "Area Closed" sign that has been posted on 211 Main St.'s entrance here since Dec. 22.
The closed sign, due to "a lapse in federal appropriations," has been up since Congress failed to pass a federal appropriations bill by raising its debt ceiling.
That all-weather sign was last put up Feb. 9, Jan. 20-23 and up to eight more times when similar shutdowns have occurred since 1980.
Edison NHP's own website and Facebook pages have the following passage: "During the federal government shutdown, this site will not be updated and may not reflect current conditions. Some national parks may remain accessible to visitors; however, access may change without notice. Some parks are closed completely. Some visitor services may be available when provided by concessionaires or other entities. For most parks, there will be no NHP-provided services, such as restrooms, trash collection, or road maintenance."
The statement from the U.S. Department of the Interior reflects what is going on at some other national park sites in Upper New York Bay and across the country.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for at least the second time, has had the state fund the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island's daily operations.
Volunteers have been hauling trash and cleaning restrooms at Yosemite (Calif.) NHP. Park rangers, before getting furloughed, closed the site's camping area and some of its trails.
Joshua Tree NHP, also in California, remained open for visitors for the holidays. The National Park Service Police are the only supervisors there.
All but the NHP Police are considered "non-essential" federal workers, subject to having their checks delayed, being furloughed or laid off. This non-payment affects some 420,000 federal government workers across the U.S. - including 20,000 in New Jersey.
Federal police, including those for Amtrak, remain on the job. Several officers were among those having to sweep Newark Penn Station Dec. 30-31 after a bomb threat was made.
Being essential and on the job, however, may not mean getting paid in a timely manner. Some of the Transportation Security Administration agents one sees at Newark Liberty International Airport are working without any word on when they will see another paycheck.
The same may be true for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security police. Dhs.gov, among other federal website, stated Dec. 21 that they may not be updating. (DHS, however, did post six later press releases related to border security.)
The U.S. Coast Guard, who patrols Newark Bay and other waterways from Sea Girt, will be getting a one-time check. (The Coast Guard, due to no wars declared, is currently not a military service branch.)
Newark's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Courthouse and Justice Complex is running on what it takes in on fees and fines. Offices in the Peter W. Rodino Federal Building may be open but with reduced staff.
NASA - despite having at least three planetary and deep space probes in action plus monitoring astronauts on the International Space Station - is down to a skeleton crew.
The Veterans Administration Hospital in East Orange and local Social Security offices remain open - but for how long until Capitol Hill and the White House settle on a spending plan is anyone's guess.
Congress and President Donald J. Trump reached an impasse Dec. 21 over a $5.1 billion line item. That item is to construct Trump's long-pledged wall along the Mexican border.
Jan. 2, 2019 marks the impasse's 11th day. It is the second time that a partial shutdown entered a new year since the record Dec. 16, 1995-Jan. 6, 1996 shutdown.
A change of Congress is another unique feature of this closure. A now-Democratic majority House of Representatives is to be sworn-in Jan. 3 after a Trump Administration national security briefing for the new Congress members.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), is anticipated to be returned as House Speaker. Pelosi has gone on holiday break; Trump decided to stay in the White House instead of going to his Florida resort.
Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) is among the Congressional rookies. The former military helicopter pilot and lawyer has joined 12 other colleagues in foregoing part of their $174,000 per person salary until the spending bill is passed.
Negotiations between the reorganized Congress and Trump may hinge on whether there will be a physical or a virtual wall funded.
By Walter Elliott
EAST ORANGE - Theodore "Ted" Green - who walked onto the Cicely Tyson School of Performing Arts main stage to cheers and the sound of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours," Jan. 1 - more than left that high school stage as East Orange's 14th and latest mayor.
Now-Mayor Green had most of the "Local Talk" estimated audience of 1,150 chanting his administration's motto "One City, One Community, One Goal - Progress," on their way out of Tyson's high school late Monday afternoon.
"For years, East Orange was known as 'The Crossroads of New Jersey,'" said Green live before the main stage capacity audience of 800 and, via closed circuit television feed, an almost capacity small theater audience of 350.
"We, indeed, need to have businesses and investors use our location for easy access.
"We need to make East Orange a destination city, where people - young and old, employee and taxpayer - can live, play and be educated," continued Green. "That is why, from our diversity, we can work together as one city and one community with progress as our goal."
Green's swearing-in as mayor here was the headlining event of a roughly four-hour inauguration and reorganization program that included the following changes:
· Second Ward Councilman Romal Bullock succeeding Green as Council President.
· Bergson Leneus succeeding Green as Third Ward Councilman. The outgoing East Orange School District Board of Education President became the first Haitian-American to become a city councilman here.
· Green appointing Mark Barner to succeed Dwight Saunders as Director of Property Management.
East Orange Inauguration and Reorganization 2018 was an expansion of the familiar personalities and ceremony once has anticipated since the Tyson magnet school building was first used as its venue.
Many of the audience were city employees, civil servants, appointed and elected officials - only more so.
The nine-member East Orange Fire and Police color guard presented the flags and led people through the salute in the main stage. They were complemented Monday afternoon by some 62 recruits going through the Essex County College Police and Fire academies - most of whom future East Orange first responders.
East Orange's Congressional Delegation - Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez respectively swore in Green and Bullock. Menendez presented Green with an American flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol for his office.
Cong. Donald M. Payne, Jr was among the main stage audience.
Orange Mayor Dwayne D. Warren swore in his own chief of staff - Fourth Ward Councilwoman Tyshammie Cooper. Green, in his remarks, thanked Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss and his Team Irvington Strong for their campaign assistance last year.
Outgoing East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor III and former mayors Robert L. Bowser, Cardell Cooper and Thomas Cooke, Jr. - whose tenure dates back to 1976 - answered Green's invitation to be present. Cooke also took the stage to praise Green.
Essex County Clerk Christopher J. Durkin, assisted by City Clerk Cynthia S. Brown, presented certificates of election to Green, First Ward Councilman Christopher James, Bullock, Leneus, Cooper and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman.
"I can't think of being in a better place New Year's Day than here in East Orange," said Durkin (D-South Orange). "What's taking place here is also taking place in thousands of town halls across the country - the peaceful transition of power unique to the United States."
All six were elected on East Orange and Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones, Jr.'s "Team Green" Line A Nov. 7. They plus respective First through Fifth Ward Council Members Amy Lewis. Jacquelyn Johnson, Quilla Talmadge, Casim Gomez and Mustafa Al-M. Brent all thanked Jones for his support and mentoring.
State assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-Montclair) and Essex County Freeholder President/native daughter Britnee Timberlake were also among the galaxy of officials here.
The 2018 edition was so much "more of the same" that, if one arrived at 12:01 p.m., one was sent to the smaller, 400-seat auditorium. Former County Clerk/Freeholder Carol Y. Clark was among the last to get a big stage seat. The program started at 12:25 p.m.
Part of the overflow audience comes from Green's reputation as a city son. He, as an 11-year-old, moved with his family to the Fourth Ward from Newark. Green, while on the City Council, has headed or been an effective member of each of the council's committees.
Although the small stage audience were treated to a 10-minute video presentation of Green family photos from his youth through Nov. 7 Election Night, technical problems kept the audio silent until into Tyson student Marlon Solomon's rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Several people helped out by singing along through the gaps.
The skipping audio ended during the invocation given by Abdoul Aziz Ouedrago as Imam of Masjid As'Haabul Yameen - also known as "The Fourth Avenue Mosque."
Green attested to support the constitutions of the United States and New Jersey while placing a hand on a Quran given to him by Imam Ouedrago and the Masjid Dec. 26. (Newly elected Maplewood Township Committeemen Vic DeLuca and Dean Dafis, that afternoon, each swore, affirmed or attested on a stack of the Quran, the Bible and the Hebrew Tanakh.)
His relatives turned up and turned out on the stage, filling every spot from stage left to stage.
"I told you I have a large family," said Green.
Green's acceptance speech was a blend of thanking as many supporters as he could remember plus outlining his administration's goals while offering personal touches.
"Let me give you an example of who I am through my family," said Green, who went on to outline a six-month period in the early 1990s. That period included the suicide of one of his brothers.
"With all of that going on," said Green, "I looked up and took charge."
Green assigned volunteers from various walks of life to join his Nov. 8-Dec. 31 transition teams. Each team assessed a city department and set goals for progress. Those goals are to be released in reports during his first 100 days as mayor.
Green thanked each of his four predecessors present, including Taylor "for his hard work." Taylor, except for a Dec. 28 published letter where he thanked the city for his tenure, kept silent. Both he and his wife, former Essex County College Board of Trustees President Bibi, left the public stage Jan. 1.
Green, through Clerk Brown, would announce his choice of Barner to succeed Saunders as Property Management Director. It was about the only change Green made among the various department heads left from Taylor's administration.
Barner, Public Safety Director Sheilah Coley, Planning and Economic Development Director Valerie Jackson and Director of Public Works Christopher Coke are among the heads Green has left in place. Their interim appointments are for 45 days or when the City Council decides to confirm them to permanent terms.
"I have 45 days," said Coley to "Local Talk" in Monday evening's reception in the Tyson gymnasium. "So do they (the Council)."
Bullock's turn to be sworn in came after a musical interlude by a native saxophonist. About half of the small theater audience used the moment to leave for the day. "Local Talk" and a literal hand full of people would be left at the reorganization's end.
"I thank my brother, Ted Green, for his mentorship during our two years together in our offices," said Bullock after taking the CP chair from interim president Cooper. "I thank my colleagues for their support of me. I look forward in working together to fulfill Mayor Green and the Council's vision for our city."
Bullock, as Council President, becomes de facto chairman of all 11 council committees. His colleagues Monday also placed him onto the Board of School Estimate and Second River Joint Committee.
"I've had to make some compromises with the committee selections," said Bullock. "I think we've good teams."
The periodic cheers and waving of Haitian flags among the big stage audience climaxed when Leneus took his oath of office from Municipal Judge Sybil Elias. His family took up only half the stage as Green's.
"It wasn't long ago that I became this city's first Haitian-American municipal judge," said Elias. "I'm proud to swear-in East Orange's first Haitian-American councilman.
"I want to thank my family for being here," said Leneus, who wore a scarf bearing the Haitian coat-of-arms. "One of my four brothers came in from China on a 14-hour flight. Another one of my brothers came from Orange - and you know how much of a trip that can be."
Leneus also thanked all of East Orange's "diaspora community" for their support.
The full council later passed 14 measures to keep the city government on budget and on payroll. The measures included creating a temporary Calendar Year 2018 Municipal Budget.
"Local Talk News," for another consecutive year, was named as a City of East Orange Official Newspaper.
Five people stayed for the public hearing of citizens. One speaker asked if there was "grant money out there" to reopen the East Orange Public Library's Ampere Branch.
By Walter Elliott
NEWARK - "It's not finished until the paperwork is done," in the light of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission's Oct. 27 complaint against "The Committee to Elect Ras Baraka for Mayor 2014," may have taken on a new meaning for the mayor and his campaign officials.
Baraka and campaign treasurer Frederick Murphy, who were named in the ELEC's 29-count, 48-page complaint, may be huddling with Chief of Staff Amiri Baraka, Jr., representatives of CFO Compliance LLC and related officials to answer before Nov. 16.
ELEC Assistant Legal Counsel Gail L. Shanker, who signed the Oct. 27 complaint, has given Baraka and company 20 days "after service of the complaint" to either enter a response or request a hearing in Trenton.
Baraka 2014 campaign officials, should they file no response or "no contest," may face the commission's final decision - and up to $275,200 in election law fines and penalties.
The mayor and associated officials may need whatever time they can spare or make between now and Nov. 16 - given the volume of counts, instances and figures the ELEC document cites - to trace and find those contributions and expenses.
The complaint, by "Local Talk" count, includes 381 instances of what the ELEC alleges were the late or non-reporting of campaign contributions, the non-refunding of "excessive" contributions back to donors and the late or non-reporting of campaign expenses. These instances, by ELEC investigation, occurred between Feb. 1, 2013 and May 7, 2014.
Feb. 1, 2013, said the complaint, was when Baraka transferred $5,075.46 "from a campaign account used for his 2014 municipal office candidacy ("prior campaign") into a separate account used for his 2014 mayoral office candidacy."
Baraka filed a certificate of organization and designation of campaign treasurer and depository to the ELEC April 15, 2013. That document first named Murphy treasurer. They began filing quarterly campaign contribution reports July 15, 2013.
The complaint's instances include:
- "188 occasions of failing to disclose some $160,000 worth of contributions."
- "161 cases of incorrect or incomplete information adding up to $155,172."
- "20 instances of late reporting totaling $29,045."
- "12 'excessive' contributions totaling $16,344."
The ELEC defines "excessive" as individual contributions of more than $300 and organizational contributions of more than $2,600. Campaign fund treasurers are required to refund the overage back to the donors.
Richard and Mary Jo Codey, of Roseland, for ELEC example, sent a $5,000 check to Baraka's 2014 campaign on their joint account. That check was deposited March 27, 2014 as a single $5,000 entry - $2,400 over the $2,600 limit.
R. Codey is the current State Senator, former Senate President and former Governor.
"They (Baraka's campaign) applied $2,500 to my wife and $2,500 to me," said Codey to a reporter's Nov. 1 query. "Both of our names are on the check - what's wrong with that?"
ELEC sanctions any "willful acceptance and non-refunding within 48 hours of an excessive donation" up to a $10,000 fine for each instance.
The other 369 instances come with a $7,600 fine for each late or incorrect filing. "Local Talk" calculates an up to $2,515,600 maximum in fines.
The complaint also cites:
- 107 instances of "incomplete or incorrect information on expenses, totaling $26,360."
- 24 instances of "reporting expenses too late, totaling $6,706."
- One instance of" failing to disclose a $1,282 expense."
May 7, 2014 was a week before the May 13 municipal election where Baraka narrowly defeated Shavar Jeffries and his entire council team was swept in. The ELEC then recorded the $12.6 million campaign the most expensive for a mayoral election in state history.
A. Baraka, in his Oct. 31 response, said that the campaign has hired CFO Compliance, LLC, of Providence, R.I., to "ensure the campaign continues to remain complaint with the law.
"Mayor Baraka holds his campaign to the highest standards and is committed to ensuring it's in full compliance with election and campaign finance laws," said A. Baraka. "We're taking this matter very seriously and are currently reviewing the complaint with our legal counsel."
By Walter Elliott
NEWARK - Election officials here at the Essex County Hall of Records and the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission may be receiving formal complaints regarding public education-related questions or races in Nov. 7's General Elections now or very soon - if they have not been filed in Newark and/or Trenton earlier.
Two of the more serious questions involve campaign literature distributed in Orange, South Orange and Maplewood.
The top vote-getting Belleville Board of Education candidate has meanwhile accused the second-highest vote-getter of having connections with a reputed Newark power broker.
Committee for an Elected Orange School Board officer Tyrone J. Tarver, for instance, presented a sample "Vote No on Public Question 1" handbill before the Orange City Council at their regular meeting's public comments segment Nov. 8.
"Orange doesn't need an elected school board," reads the handbill in question. "An elected school board doesn't ensure that teachers will get better wages or our children's test scores will improve. An elected school board will bring more politics that'll negatively affect our children! Look at the Orange City Council."
The broadside's latter half, starting with, "Leave The School Board Alone!" urges the election of Phil Murphy as Governor plus State Legislative District members Nia Gill, Thomas Giblin and Sheila Y. Oliver. All of the mentioned candidates are Democrats; Gill, Giblin and Oliver are incumbents. The material finishes with "Vote Tues., Nov. 7 Polls Open 6 a.m.- 8 p.m."
A majority of Orange's voters - like those in Maplewood, South Orange, Belleville, the rest of "Local Talk" land, Essex County and New Jersey - voted Murphy as New Jersey's next Governor. Orange similarly joined East Orange, Montclair, Glen Ridge and Clifton voters Assembly Members Oliver and Giblin plus State Senator Gill back to the State House.
"I called the campaign managers for Murphy, Gill, Giblin and Oliver," said Tarver. "They had no knowledge of this flier until I told them. They had not endorsed or approved this flier."
A majority of Orange voters also approved for the second straight year, or the third time in four years, a public question to convert the Orange Board of Education from a seven-member mayor-appointed board to a nine-member voter-elected board.
State law allows distribution of campaign materials or advocacy on a public question or one or more candidates up to a set amount of feet before a polling station's entrance. Any and all electioneering is prohibited within that area. Tarver told the council, the TV-35 home viewing audience and a City Hall Council Chamber gallery audience of 20 that copies of the handbill started appearing by polling stations around their 6 a.m. opening. He said that people he can identify as associated with Mayor Dwayne Warren's administration were handing out the flyers to those approaching the station.
"What's missing is a 'Paid for By --' attribution or contact number," said Tarver. "By the looks of the flier, it seems to be professionally made from one or more printers overnight."
Tarver, before the council and the audience, said that he will be presenting the handbill to Essex County Board of Elections Clerk Linda von Nessi.
"Should the production of this flier be done by someone in the city government," concluded Tarver, "then this government will be put on notice."
Orange's "Leave the Orange School Board Alone!" handbill looks particularly clandestine compared to the second controversial election material - 7,000 copies of which were distributed in the South Orange-Maplewood School District around Nov. 4.
The four-page "SOMA Black Parents Workshop Equity Now! Election Edition" tabloid formatted handout features SOMSD Board of Education President Elizabeth A. Baker and member Donna Smith on its cover.
"The Incumbents," reads the headlines above their photos, "Experience in Failing our Students." Below Baker and Smith's headshots are 10 votes that the "Equity Now!" author finds critical. "The Black Parents Workshop Says No!" finishes the brochure's front page. On Nov. 7 Vote for a New Direction."
Logging onto "www.blackparentsworkshop.org" at the bottom of the front page results in finding downloadable copies of the brochure plus links to SOMA BPW's Facebook page - and another download opportunity.
Logging on eventually leads one to SOMA BPW President and founder Walter Fields.
Fields, in published reports, is standing by the "Equity Now! Election Edition" for the most part. Fields, countering charges of turning the eight-member SOMSD BOE race "ugly" and "divisive" sees the material as "for informational purposes."
"It's generally geared toward informing the public about our options about this election," said Fields. "We're not endorsing candidates, but we're making known our displeasure with the incumbents who're seeking re-election and we're stating the issues we care about."
Fields apologized for an instance where a Columbia High School some copies were furnished to students while in class sometime before Nov. 7.
"We take full responsibility," for the in-class incident, for "a miscommunication with one of our student's volunteering. The newsletter was distributed in a classroom and not after school outside the building as intended. We communicated our apologies to the Superintendent (Dr. Thomas Ficarra) and the Principal (Elizabeth Aaron) (Nov. 6). We also made clear that the student wasn't responsible."
Fields also explained that the 2014-founded BPW is a non-profit but not yet a 501(c)(3) organization. BPW has filed with the IRS for 501(c) (3) status but has not yet received it.
BPW's funds are being raised through Sidewalk University of Maplewood, a 501(c)(3) organization Fields had founded in 2011. SUM, in its financial disclosure filings, had raised $177,000.
IRS regulations prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations from supporting or advocating for or against political candidates or questions.
School board elections that are placed on November General Election ballots are still considered non-partisan. Candidates are to identify them, their running mates, platforms and tickets with political parties. They are allowed to form their own for-purpose platforms or tickets.
"All within perfectly legal bounds," concluded Fields.
Fields also counter conflict of interest charges as BPW President and as campaign manager for candidates Felisha George and Avery Julien. George and Julien, recent CHS graduates and community activists, were among the field's six challengers to Baker and Smith. The pair, just before Election Day, endorsed independent candidate Anthony Mazzocchi.
BPW also sponsored one of several candidates’ forums.
"BPW is an independent organization and the campaign is the campaign," said Fields. "We don't mix."
A majority of SOMA voters returned Baker plus her new-coming teammate Robin Johnson Baker and Mazzocchi onto the three board seats. Smith, placing fourth, just missed re-election. George and Julien were among "the also-rans."
Belleville BOE candidate Michael Sheldon had posted his letter Nov. 2 on two outlets accusing his then-"Believe in Belleville" opponents and two Newark political operatives of collusion or undue election influence.
Sheldon, who ran with Gynise Gotto on their "Putting Children First" ticket, sent his accusations to Essexwatch.com and the "Polite in Politics" Facebook page.
The second-time BOE runner said that "BiB" candidates Erika Vivana Jacho and Olga Setteducato have 188 Jefferson St., Newark as their campaign headquarters address. This address is found on organizational and financial disclosure filings with the ELEC.
188 Jefferson, in Newark's Ironbound, is home to a private Postal Center and the Fonseca Consulting Group. Fonseca Consulting, on its website, includes "Campaign Strategy" among its specialties.
Founder/Managing Partner Pablo Fonseca was, most notably, Then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker's campaign manager for his 2010 re-election. Sheldon then describes his Oct. 25-Nov. 2 encounters with an "Angel Colon."
"Colon," who first did not so introduce himself to Sheldon, had their relationship start off poorly when the candidate refused to accept a Jacho and Setteducato lawn sign from him.
"We're going to do for Erika and Olga what we did for Liza (BBOE Trustee Lopez) last year," Sheldon claimed "Colon" had said to him. "We already have 5,000 votes in the bag. You've already lost the election and will be lucky to get 2,500 votes."
Sheldon, furthermore, said that "Colon" "presumably signed one of the public session sheets at the Oct. 30 BBOE meeting. I've never seen him at any previous meeting."
"Colon" reappeared at Nov. 1's Candidates Forum in Belleville High School's Connie Francis Auditorium, "embracing Ms., Jacho, Setteducato and Lopez."
Sheldon's "Google search" linked "Colon" with an Angel Colon, then 51, who had plead guilty to second-degree election fraud in 2011 and sentenced in 2014 to a three-year state prison term.
The latter Colon, in his plea bargain as stated by then-New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman, confessed to "fraudulently submitting absentee 'messenger' ballots on behalf of voters who never received their ballots or an opportunity to cast their votes."
Colon was one of several campaign workers who were involved with submitting fraudulent ballots during the Nov. 6, 2007 General Election. Samuel Gonzalez, for example, was so prompted to resign as an Essex County Freeholder in 2011 as part of a pretrial intervention program.
A majority of Belleville voters bestowed Sheldon and Jacho, at 1,842 and 1,394 respective votes, the two BBOE seats. Setteducato and Gotto placed third and fourth. Incumbent BBOE Trustee Patricia Dolan and former trustee Raymond Kubler completed the balloted field.
Sheldon has not said whether he was going to take his charges to election authorities.
By Walter Elliott
ORANGE - Two of the decisions made by voters here in the Nov. 7 General Election, although all results are unofficial through Nov. 12, took immediate effect.
The City of Orange Township, for starters, awoke Nov. 8 to having its board of education becoming an elective body.
Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin posted 10:42 p.m. Tuesday that a majority of participating Orange voters approved switching from a seven-member, mayor-appointed Orange Board of Education to an elected one by an almost nine-to-one ratio. Durkin and his Election Division employees counted 1,788 "Yes" votes to the public question to 288 "No" votes. Their respective percentages translate to 85.98/14.02.
The wide "Yes" versus "No" plurality was found among all 17 of Orange's reporting polling stations. The 10:1 ratio also played out among the 115 to 16 mailed-in votes.
The above and following figures does not include any counted provisional, emergency or challenging ballots.
Durkin is refraining from certifying the results as official for 14 days in case anyone wants to call for a recount or a challenge. Voting machines throughout "Local Talk" land and Essex County are meanwhile remained sealed and under State Police watch. The second voter approval vote is as many years - and the third in four years, if a nonbinding vote is considered - means that OBOE's conversion to an elective board starts now. The said conversion includes holding a special election as early as March to add the first two elected board members.
Orange Public Schools, instead of the City of Orange and the now-defunct Board of School Estimate, will henceforth be responsible for issuing future school construction bonds.
Shelia Y. Oliver meanwhile awoke from her East Orange residence Wednesday morning both as Lieutenant Governor-Elect - and as a returning incumbent to her State Legislative District No. 34 General Assembly seat. Oliver, a Newark native who has lived the bulk of her adult life in East Orange, is expected to forgo her LD34 seat in Trenton's State House - where she has represented Orange, East Orange, Montclair and Clifton - for an office next to Governor-Elect Phil Murphy. Durkin is to schedule a special election to succeed former Assembly Speaker Oliver as assemblywoman as soon as Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones tells him who his group will appoint.
A majority of Local Talk, Essex County and statewide voters chose Democratic Party runners Amb. Murphy, of Rumson, and Oliver mainly over Republicans Kim Guadagno and Charles Rendo. Murphy/Oliver, with 99 percent of 6385 statewide polling stations reporting as of 12:52 p.m. Wednesday, drew 1,158,974 votes or 56 percent of statewide gubernatorial votes cast. Guadagno, who was outgoing Gov. Chris Christie's Lt. Governor, and Rendo drew 882,669 or 42 percent.
Independent former Long Hill Township Mayor Gina Genovese drew 11,847 for one percent. Libertarian Peter Rohman, at 10,282; Green Party candidate Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, 9,729, Constitution Party runner Matthew Riccardi, 6,694 and We the People's Vincent Ross, 4,809, each drew less than one percent.
Murphy/Oliver, with 96 percent of Essex County's 550 polling stations reporting 10:42p.m. Tuesday, drew 121,068, or 31.41 percent of 154,223 votes so far counted. Guadagno/Rendo drew 28,690 for 18.83. Genovese garnered 931 for .81 percent. Kaper-Dale and Lt. Governor candidate Lisa Durden, of Newark, tallied 692 votes for .45. Roherman mustered 374 for .25, Riccardi amassed 274 for .18 and Ross 159 for .10. There were 136 write-in votes for the remaining .09.
The 154,223 votes so far counted are 31.41 percent of the 498,010 registered voters across all 22 Essex County municipalities. This turnout is slightly less than those who voted Nov. 5, 2013. There were 158,458 voters, or 32.13 of the county's electorate, who voted then.
State Public Questions
Essex County voters joined a majority of their 20 county colleagues in approving a $125 million bond issue to renovate and/or expand local and county public libraries. There were 59,583 "Yes" votes to 19,925 "No" for a 74.94/25.06 percentage split. Question No. 2, dedicating environmental damage fines towards remediation and cleanup projects, also passed here. There were 61,374 "Yes" votes for 78.67 to 16,644 "No" for 21.33.
State Legislative Races
34th LD: Oliver, for the record, was Tuesday's top General Assembly vote-getter. The former Assembly Speaker and city board of education president tallied 23,871 for 48.68 percent. Fellow Democrat and incumbent running mate Thomas P. Giblin, of Montclair, mustered 22,420 for 45.72. Republicans Nicholas Surgent and Tafari Anderson mustered 1,398 and 1,326 for 2.85 and 2.7. There were 18 write-ins. Nia H. Gill, of Montclair, retained her State Senate seat with 23,827 for 94.48. Republican Saleh mustered 1,387 for 5.5. There were five write-ins. 29th LD: Incumbent Democrat Eliana Pintor-Marin and newcomer Shanique Speight, both of Newark, received the two Assembly seats with 17,440 for 44.63 and 16,708 for 42.75. Republicans Charles Hood, of Belleville, and Jeannette Veras, of Newark, amassed 2,470 for 6.36 and 2,426 for 6.21. there were 37 write-ins. Voters kept incumbent Democrat M. Teresa Ruiz in the State Senate over challengers Maria E. Lopez and Pablo Oliveria. Ruiz tallied 18,743 for 86.96, Republican Lopez 2,382 for 11.05 and One Nation independent 408 for 1.89. There were 12 write-ins. 28th LD: Voters kept incumbent Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo, of Nutley, and Cleopatra Tucker, of Newark, over four balloted challengers. Caputo topped out at 29,232 for 42.65. Tucker was next at 28,843 for 42.08. Republicans Veronica Branch, of Newark, and Bloomfielder James Boydston respectively drew 4,718 for 6.88 and 4,550 for 6.64. "Time for Change" candidate Joanne Miller made 763 for 1.11. "A New Hope" runner Scott Thomas DiCastro amassed 413 for .60. There were 17 write-ins. Voters helped incumbent Democratic Sen. Ronald L. Rice turned back Green Party challenger Troy Knight-Napper. Newarker Rice received 30,787 for 95.94. Knight-Napper, of Bloomfield, drew 1,268 for 3.95. There were 35 write-ins. 27th LD: Incumbent Democrats John McKeon, of West Orange, and Mila Jasey, of South Orange, turned back Republican challengers Ronald DeRose and Angelo Tedesco, Jr. McKeon topped out at 28,817 for 38.49. Jasey was next at 27,817 for 37.16. DeRose finished third at 9,165 for 12.24. Tedesco was next at 9,045 for 12.08. There were 19 write-ins. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Richard Codey, of Roseland, defeated Republican challenger Pasquale Capozzoli, of Caldwell. The Orange native and former Gov. and Senate President topped out at 30,791 for 78.84. Capozzoli tallied 8,247 for 21.12. There were 18 write-ins.
Essex County Freeholders
At Large: A majority of county voters preferred the four Line A Democrats over the four challenging Republicans. Patricia Seabold, of Livingston, led the eight-candidate table with 96,751 for 20.43. Montclair's Brendan Gill, who left his Freeholder Fifth District seat for this at-large run, placed second at 96,973 for 20.47. Gill, like Oliver, may not enjoy his new term long. Murphy may reward him with a new state job for being the Governor-Elect's campaign manager. Newark's Rufus Johnson was next at 95,862 for 20.24. Irvingtonian Lebby Jones completed the top four with 94,095 for 19.85. Frank Contella, of Nutley, at 23,367 for 4.93, was "the best of the rest. Running-mate Blanca Lopez, of Newark, followed at 23,122 for 4.89. John J. Piserchia, of Roseland, was next at 22,719 for 4.8. Che JT Colter, of Newark, rounded out the balloted field at 20,591 for 4.35. There were 157 write-ins. Freeholder District 1: Newark voters chose Democrat Robert Mercado over Republican Karina Garces to succeed Rolando Bobadilla. Nercado drew 9,666 for 91.83 to Garces' 868 for 8.23. There were 15 write-ins. FD2: Incumbent Democrat Wayne Richardson turned back Republican Douglas H. Freeman. Richardson amassed 21,973 for 95.08 to Freeman's 1,137 for 4.9. There were six write-ins. FD3: Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake had only 19 write-in votes opposing her re-election. Timberlake, of East Orange, tallied 21,433 for 99.91. FD4: Voters help incumbent Democrat Leonard Luciano repel Republican Adam Kraemer's challenge. Luciano, of West Caldwell, earned 21,871 for 63.55. Kraemer, of West Orange, amassed 12,523 for 36.39. There were 22 write-ins. FD5: Democrat Carlos Pomares, of Bloomfield, ran virtually unopposed to take Gill's old seat. Pomares mustered 22,854 for 99.68. There were 74 write-ins.
East Orange: Voters largely let Mayor-Elect Ted Green and his Line A Democratic City Council colleagues roll to victory. Green, who is now the outgoing Council President, garnered 9,336 for 99.88. He was opposed by 11 write-in votes. Christopher James was re-elected in the First Ward to similar proportions. He captured 2,153 for 99.77 to five write-ins. Second Ward voters granted Councilman Romal Bullock a perfect score - all 1,306 votes for 100 percent. Bergson Leneus denied Mayme V. Robinson's bid to succeed Green in the Third Ward. The outgoing Board of Education President drew 1,686 for 77.59. Independent Democrat Robinson mustered 486 for 22.37. There was one write-in vote. Fourth Ward voters returned Tyshammie Cooper against one write-in vote. Cooper amassed 1,517 for 99.93. Incumbent Fifth Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman was almost unanimously re-elected. She drew 1,894 for 99.79 versus four write-ins. Maplewood: Veteran Victor DeLuca and newcomer Dean Dafis, both Democrats, repelled Republican Michael Summersgill for the two Township Committee seats. DeLuca, who is also the current Mayor, received 6,136 for 46.01. Dafis drew 1,148 for 5,716 for 43.09. Summersgill tallied 1,417 for 10.78. There were 17 write-ins. DeLuca's colleagues may reselect him as mayor in their annual reorganization meeting on or around Jan. 1. Bloomfield: Township Democrats were allowed to prevail for the three ward seats against challenging Republicans and write-in candidates. Jenny Mundell, who was appointed to complete Elias Chalet's unexpired term, won her first elected First Ward term at 2,013 for 78.27. David G. Tucker, Sr. mustered 559 for 21.73. Retired East Orange teacher Nicholas Joanow won his fourth Second Ward term with 2,613 for 78.02. Challenger Republican Ciro Spina III drew 733 for 21.89. There were three write-ins. Sara Cruz got the nod to succeed Carlos Pomares in the Third Ward over Pedro Taveras, Jr. Cruz netted 2,001 for 85.59 to Taveras' 336 for 14.37. There was one write-in. Glen Ridge: Voters both split incumbents and swept the Civic Conference Committee-endorsed platform for Borough Council. Newcomer Deborah Mans outdrew incumbent and fellow CCC-recommended Dan Murphy; 1,201 for 43.22 to 1,148 for 41.31. Mans' victory bumps out incumbent Arthur Dawson. Dawson, who ran as an independent, mustered 423 for 15.22. There were seven write-ins.
South Orange/Maplewood: Voters chose incumbent and two challengers from among eight candidates. SOMSD Board of Education President Elizabeth A. Baker, of Maplewood, led the field at 5,564 for 20.66. Running mate Robin Johnson Baker, of South Orange, placed third at 4,808 for 17.86. Maplewoodian Anthony Mazzocchi split "Team Baker & Baker" for second. The second year "Creativity and Innovation" runner tallied 5,345 for 19.85. Incumbent Donna Smith, of Maplewood, was "first alternate." She drew 3,384 for 12.57. Shannon Cuttle, of Maplewood, was next at 3,024 for 11.23. Sheila Shidnia, of South Orange, followed with 1,460 for 5.42.
Columbia High School graduates, Maplewoodians and community activists Avery Julien and Felisha George, who ran together, completed the active field. Julien amassed 1,352 for 5.02; George 1,40 for 4.23. Lucas Calhoun, who withdrew too late to have his name removed from the ballot, received 801 for 2.97. There were 47 write-ins.
West Orange: Ken Alper narrowly attained outgoing member Laura Lab's seat over Christopher Diaz in the night's tightest contest. Alper received 4,035 votes to Diaz's 3,375 for a54.32/45.44 percentage split. There were 18 write-in votes.
Bloomfield: The "Campaign for a Better Bloomfield" candidates unseated two of the Board of Education's three incumbents. CBB runner Jessica Salinas topped the five candidates with 3,727 for 29.94. Running mate Thomas Heaney finished second with 3,316 for 23.08. Board Vice President Ellen Rogers secured the last seat with 3,021 for 21.03 - locking out Board Member Michael Heller and Board President Emily Smith. Heller drew 2,149 for 14.96. Smith mustered 2,114 for 14.71. There were 41 write-ins.
Belleville: A majority of township voters split board of education tickets while approving a $48.5 million construction bond issue. Michael Sheldon received the first of two BBOE trustee seats as top vote receiver. He netted 1,842 for 27.94. Erik Jacho, who ran on the "Believe in Belleville" ticket, took the other seat. The third-time runner mustered 1,394 for 20.69. Olga Setteducato was "best of the rest." Jacho's running-mate amassed 984 for 14.92. Gynise Gotto was next at 932 for 14.14. Incumbent Patricia Dolan's re-election bid ended with 737 for 11.18. Former Trustee President Raymond Kuebler's comeback attempt ended with 720 for 10.92. There were 14 write-ins. The bond issue to renovate all Belleville Public Schools and bring them up to ADA code was passed 1,677 for 59.59 to 1,137 for 40.41.
Glen Ridge's three school board incumbents ran virtually unopposed. Alison Lang placed first with 1,433 for 33.71. Paul Roman was next at 1,408 for 33.01. Tracey St. Auburn, at 1,399 for 32.79, completed the field. There were 21 write-ins.
Nutley: Voters helped the three board incumbents to turn back their two challengers. Salvatore Ferraro drew the most votes, 3,067, for 23.18. Frederick Sclara placed second with 3,069 for 23.12. Lisa Danchak-Martin completed the sweep at 2,854 for 21.57. Kenneth J. Reilly, at 2,309 for 17.45, placed fourth. Karen O'Malley, at 1,919 for 14.50, placed fifth. There were 24 write-ins.
By Dhiren Shah
You, the readers, made Local Talk Weekly Newspaper a household name. As you know, our team has been giving informed opinions for the past 17 years. In the primary election, we endorsed Phil Murphy for the Democratic nomination for governor. However, the general election is different. Now, the two best candidates from both major parties are running and making their case to run the state.
After all our research, analysis of the debates, and the word of the people on the street, Local Talk endorses…NEITHER CANDIDATE.
Let us explain why we came to this decision. Both of these candidates have failed to show why the other candidate is wrong about the attacks put forth. Murphy has come out and said that Guadagno will be Christie 2.0. She has failed to refute this claim, and has left one thing burning in people’s minds: If you were so against Chris Christie and his policies, then why didn’t you resign? By staying on, it seems that you had no problem in being complicit with those policies as long as you had a fancy job title.
Meanwhile, Guadagno accused Murphy of not having a plan for his $9 billion proposal to boost education. Murphy had several chances to reveal such a plan, but did not.
We also cannot endorse either one of these candidates because of their parties. The GOP clearly does not believe in Guadagno because she has not received support from any major figures, particularly on the national level. Only New Jersey and Virginia are having Gubernatorial elections this year, so this is surely a race the GOP should be interested in. President Trump, a Republican, endorsed Ed Gillespie in the Virginia Gubernatorial election. However, when it comes to New Jersey, he only comes here for golf, and has not endorsed Guadagno. Contrary to this, Murphy has had support from President Obama, who appointed him as Ambassador to Germany, VP Joe Biden, and President Clinton among others.
As for Murphy, he has been on record as saying he owes the insiders nothing. However, he got the support of pretty much all the Democratic insiders, including all 21 counties. If someone is saying he doesn’t want insider help, then why are you so quick to back him? Is Phil Murphy being installed as a party puppet?
Then there is the matter of his running mate. Sheila Oliver, the first African American female Assembly Speaker, is more than qualified to run for the position of Governor herself, so why is such a powerful figure not at the top of the ticket? Is she just there to get Murphy votes? Also, if Murphy does something similar to Christie and Bridgegate, will she resign and publicly rebuke him, or do nothing like Guadagno did?
Another reason why we cannot endorse either of these candidates is because of the lack of leadership in their respective political parties.
It would be nice someday to have a GOP candidate have a significant run in Essex County. Could you imagine if that person won? Even if he/she wasn’t too great after being elected, it would force the local order to wake up, as the people would have said, “Just because you’re a democrat doesn’t mean we are obligated to vote for you, so work for the people and not your party and friends!” However, Republicans do not care about Essex County, and in most cases, don’t even field a candidate for some positions. Therefore, if the GOP thinks we are not worth their time, then we will treat them the same. Also, if they get any money for elections, it should be voided, as they are not earning that money.
On the other hand, in the 2016 Presidential Election, the Democrats destroyed Donald Trump over making so many promises but not giving the plan on how he would make it happen. Phil Murphy is doing the same thing, so why aren’t the Democrats questioning him? Political allegiance should not excuse outright hypocrisy.
Last but not least is the issue of accessibility, which was one we tried for ourselves. As a duly elected official, will you be accessible to the people?
We contacted both campaigns to get answers to the concerns our readers and casual voters had. Neither party replied. The chain of attempts to get feedback from the candidates indicated that Guadagno was either too small in her personnel to address issues from the press or did not care to reply, and that Murphy’s campaign was too “big league” to care about the concerns of people who aren’t “big league” like Goldman Sachs.
This is our reasoning. What say you? Send us an e-mail with your thoughts to email@example.com.
By Dhiren Shah
East Orange Council President Theodore “Ted” Green has been a people’s person for as long as I have known him. He has been a businessman in East Orange for many years, and has worked with the community throughout his life. For our readers, we wanted to get his ideas about how he will administrate as mayor, if he gets elected. So far, he is uncontested in the general election, and in a Democratic stronghold like East Orange, he will definitely win the official election in November 2017.
Dhiren Shah: Congratulations on winning the primary election for East Orange Mayor. Due to no other candidates running in the general election, you will be the Mayor-elect in November. What is the difference between being a candidate and mayor in your opinion, and what will be the different approach you take?
Ted Green: First of all, thank you Mr. Shah, and I thank Local Talk for the endorsement. In fact, thanks to all the citizens of East Orange for coming out and participating in this election. I am grateful for their confidence in me. I am very grateful, because I love East Orange. I think the election went very well. It gave me an opportunity to really transition, just from being a councilman to being a candidate to oversee the entire city, transitioning me from council president to mayor. As being a candidate, you are marketing yourself to show people what I have done the last 12 years on council. I do have leadership skills. As a candidate, it gave me the opportunity to knock on doors. You can get a feel for what people are thinking, and my goal is to gather information; what people talk about during the election, what kind of problems they have, some of the issues they have, some of the ideas they gave me. I want to compile all of the information, and that is going to my administration. We work very hard for addressing some of those concerns, some of those issues. Not everybody complains, some folks want to see something different, and a good government. So, I am looking forward to taking my experience from council as being a legislator and now as being an administrator. I have played both roles as being director of Irvington Housing and building department; I am on the administration side. I am going to bring all of those tools and skills to the office of the mayor. I believe that we have a great council, experienced and new council members coming in. Berg Leneus brings a background, not only from the board of education but also manager of a big apartment building. I am looking forward to building the city with more development. Right now, we have $6 million in private and public money in East Orange. We know the importance of redevelopment. I clearly understand the importance of bringing businesses here. I clearly understand small businesses, because I am a small business owner and know how important it is for all of us, and we talk about it and make sure that we should promote small businesses, not only investing in small businesses, but patronize small businesses. We want those type of businesses to stay. I would not be here with my family owned business for 27 years, I wouldn’t be here, if people and the community would not have supported my business. All of us play a role in the city, and I am going to be a mayor for everybody. There are many sectors of people here in East Orange. We have many folks who have been here 40, 50, 60 years. We have folks here who commute every day, New York or Morristown. They are here. I want to bring those people as part of the community we call home.
DS: Do you believe in the idea of a Sanctuary City? (December 2016)
TG: We were proudly one of the first cities to adopt an ordinance where we protected people here in city of East Orange. We believe in sanctuary for those who lived here, who have contributed to this community, raised their families. I don’t think that anyone has the right to snatch somebody away from their family, away from job, just because they do not have documents. There should be due process. As mayor, I fight for my community and we just believe in due process. I am very honorable and happy that we were the city that you knew stood up. Whatever happens with our (federal) government, our president, if he is going to do it, do it right with due process.
DS: Different communities like Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews living together in East Orange. What is your vision for that?
TG: I have been councilman for every spirituality or nationality. I am going to be mayor for everyone. I believe that all of us share the same, and part of city’s growth. We have been the city to embrace individuals since I have been here. We have a great city, we are very diverse. Everyone should feel that they are the part of City of East Orange.
DS: I have heard that some of the police officers, when they stop people for any reason, they talk authoritatively. I wouldn’t say they are harassing, but some people think otherwise. How would you change it so that when they are stopping people, they are courteous?
TG: I am glad you asked me that, because this year and the previous year we had long conversations with our chief of police department. How our police officers interact culturally with the public. I know that a lot of police officers attended diversity and cultural classes. Sometimes, there are officers who have not lived in African American community or Latino or Hispanic community. They don’t know the language barrier, so we ask that they go to classes, so really understand people. Why do some people get loud, some people get emotional? So, when police officers stop someone, they know how to have a conversation with that person. I will make sure that we continue those cultural classes, especially with newly recruited police officers, to understand what type of community they are coming to. As mayor, I am not going to tolerate people being treated unfairly. I want people to be treated with dignity and respect. As you know, crime went up 23% in East Orange in the last few months, and that’s a problem. I am going to tackle public safety, and I am going to make sure that we have the right tools and make sure the right things are in place to make sure our brand here in the City of East Orange has one of the top police departments in the country. We want to keep that going. We want to keep the crime rate down.
DS: Concerning your street light system at night, when people are walking, they have been robbed many times. What can you do to brighten up the area?
TG: As mayor, I am going to be meeting with the prospective directors, managers of these departments. That’s the advantage we have in those meetings citywide that gives a sense of what residents are speaking about, business owners and even tenants are speaking about. We can start identifying those areas where they are having problems. I have an opportunity to meet with public service gas and electric about street lights being out. We met with representative Calvin a number of times about the lighting. So those conversations are going to continue. We don’t want anyone to be victimized by any crime. Anytime people see a failing street light, they can call property maintenance 973-266-5330 and report those lights out. As a representative and as mayor, we will make sure to bring those folks to the table. Quality of life issues have to be number one.
DS: Right now, no one is talking about it, but winter snow cleaning is a main concern. Last winter, we did not have a rough winter, but there were still many complaints. What will you do differently as mayor?
TG: I am glad you asked, because I go into office on January 1, 2018. And God willing, as we speak, here it is July and I have conversations already to make sure we have action plans in place. Making sure that we have a plan ready. Proper preparation brings proper performance. So, you can’t wait until something happens. Do we have enough salt, we have money in the budget, do we have manpower? Strategic planning for six months is going into the winter months. We did not do well last year. Many people were complaining about how we addressed the snow issue, ice issue. Right now, we are ahead of the game.
DS: How will you energize the younger generation to take pride in East Orange?
TG: The energy we had in this election, I never knew how many people watched me over the years. We had so many young people volunteer this year. Just wanting to be involved, to feel their community, they know it and they can touch it. During this election, there is a group called the young professionals who endorsed me. Not only teenagers, but young adults and young professionals for the first time endorsed a candidate they believe in. I am going to embrace that organization now. We start grooming and engaging. You know that somebody gave me an opportunity, that you can be here where I am at in eight years or more. We are going to meet with those young people, in our churches, our mosques, high schools, many non-profit organizations. We are going to meet with them even outside of East Orange; groups that work with our young people. Mr. Shah, I have been working with young people almost the last 40 some years. Not only teaching karate, but my Father’s Day program, my Mother’s Day program, my day of giving program, my expungement program. I spend my whole life really trying to engage young people, to give young people hope. On certain days, we are going to be meeting outside, I want to block off the street and have meetings right on the street. Cars are off, you put chairs out there, listen to people. Guess what? We want our young people to know that they have obligation also. If they want us to embrace them, their obligation is that they are committed and they are going to work hard and do the right thing and not be part of gangs. Once they commit to be part of the new East Orange, we are going to hold them accountable. We have to make sure that we embrace them too. We can’t feel like, because our kids made it, and our kids are successful, our job is over; it’s not. As long as you are in this community, you have a responsibility. Not only to your family, but also to humanity. Honestly, I love this community. I have a passion for young people. They are the future. We have to put them on a path to a career. Even with me, I have a degree. Right now, if I have to get a job, it is hard for me. I am going to build my mayor’s office of employment and training. I am going to working hard to increase the job opportunities. Right now, we employ 300 some kids. Doing the budget, we put $50,000 in the mayor’s office of employment and training, so we can hire more kids. So, kids can get an opportunity for work experience but also make some money for themselves and be responsible.
DS: You work with the expungement program and you are with open arms for giving second or third chances for those who are ready to change. But how can you show gang leaders that East Orange is not for them?
TG: We look at some of the activities, and when it comes to gangs, it is all about territories. We want to stop individuals disrupting our communities. There is going to be a strong signature coming to my administration that we are not going to tolerate it. But if you want to be here and if you want to help, improve your life, move onto something better, then you are in the right city. I want to embrace those who want a second or third chance, but we are not embracing those folks who want to disrupt the city. The city is messy right now. We want to get things back.
DS: Do you have any other message?
TG: This year, the East Orange city council has to deliver over the budget. I am very proud of the council that we took a budget of $141 million. We have to make sure that we stabilize the taxes. Most people always talk about higher taxes. But when you look at it, we have to make sure that the budget make sense. Nationally, our president talks about the sanctuary cities that adopted the sanctuary city status, and pulling the money back from the cities. Like the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) money. Just say for instance, if he pulled back $2 million, employees are getting salaries from that money. So, we have a slight increase in the budget. It is not the norm with what our governor is going to do, not the norm with what our president is going to do. We have not cut any services from street cleaning, Department of Public Works, snow removal. When we came into 2017, our bargaining unions last year bargained with percentages, to be factored in. Then you look at health care costs, then you look at our police department, fire department. We are very proud that last night (July 10) the council passed the budget with amendments. We believe that we are on time (for the budget) and the state did approve the budget. So, folks here in city of East Orange get the proper needed services at a cost that is really not hurting them. I am a homeowner too. I believe that the 2017-2018 budget make sense without jeopardizing services.
DS: Thank you very much Mr. Green for your valuable time.