Democratic Mayoral Primary CandidatE
Rutherford resident for 53 year.
Director of Business Development for DHL Global Forwarding
1) What do you consider the most pressing issue facing our town right now that you want to focus your attention on if elected?
I consider one of the most pressing issues to be transparency in communication.
Communication in our town needs to continue to improve and become more modern. It is essential that all Rutherford residents feel welcome and that they belong to the community. One way this feeling happens with regular communications over a number of forms of media. That is why I believe it is important that our council should begin to livestream our council meetings and have the meetings available on social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram, in addition to the traditional forms of media that we currently use such as our town website, newspaper announcements etc., so that the decisions we make, and the reasons behind those decisions, are readily available for the public to see at their convenience.
And if I can pick a second issue, another pressing issue we all face is we need to never lose sight of the fact that we are a community that needs to support each other. Whether it is businesses that we have here in our community, diversity groups, veterans, life-long residents or new residents who have chosen Rutherford as their new home, we must continue to give everyone the support of the community and council to succeed here in our town. Whether someone was blessed to call Rutherford his or her home their entire lives or perhaps moved here, as my father did, to start a better life, we can’t forget the importance of remembering why Rutherford residents chose our town to be the place to plant their roots here, whenever they chose to do it.
If I were to be elected mayor I would work with all of the councilmembers, to do everything in our power to not only improve the level of communication with the residents in our community, but increase the focus of what we have in common: our love for Rutherford.
2) If a person or entity came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in the borough (road, bridge, etc.) how would you evaluate whether that project was worth implementing?
It is important to point out that proposals, no matter the size or purpose, cannot be entertained or evaluated by any individual council member or the Mayor alone. No one person can privately negotiate with a developer or entity. The decision to develop in Rutherford is not an arbitrary one and would require a vote and approval of members of council as well as the planning and zoning boards. It is critical that all proposals must be made before the mayor and council in a public forum as we are all together, and not negotiated privately between any one council member and potential developer or entity.
If I am elected Mayor, I will create a culture with council members where we will put Rutherford residents and business needs first when looking at proposals presented to us. When we evaluate proposals, I will want to see development project ideas that bring foot traffic to our businesses and improve the quality of life of current Rutherford residents at the same time. New developments cannot just make developers money. Quality of resident life must be maintained if not improved with every project.
The reason we have a council as well as a planning and zoning board is to ensure that the decisions are made in an open, thoughtful, transparent manner, which will eliminate any question as to the integrity of the process and the motivation for any council member’s decision making. Any decision that involves development of land in Rutherford, should not be taken lightly and would require serious thought and consideration on the impact that it would have on all residents and their families in Rutherford.
3) As you review proposals for development projects in town, and potential revenue streams, what will you do to ensure Rutherford not only maintains its small community character, but also has the infrastructure--emergency services, DPW--and schools--to adequately support the development, ideally with no tax impact to residents?
Most importantly, I believe it is important to stress to the residents in our community, that if elected mayor I will never forget that the decisions that are made by myself and the councilmembers will always be made with the best interest of the Rutherford residents first and foremost.
I’ve worked with our Chief of Police on issues such as Pedestrian Safety to ensure that we will always remember our main priority as a council is the safety of our residents and their families. The chief and I are working on traffic calming programs, to alleviate the unnecessary stress and inconvenience our residents deal with on a daily basis.
As a council member I have worked to improve the quality of the fields that our children use and my own children use, too. These issues are examples of ways in which I feel our community and council remember not only who we are, but more importantly the commitment we have made to our community as a whole.
What makes Rutherford the community great where so many people, including my family, are proud to call home, is the fact that we realize that our success is dependent on the community working together to keep our small town feel, supporting each other in our common ground and in our differences, and supporting our local businesses.
The character and compassion that has been shown by Rutherford families for their fellow residents will never and should never be defined by projects and proposals but instead by the community and its commitment to stay true to who we are; a town that makes all of the residents and their families feel welcome, whether they have been here for decades or recently moved here over the last several days.
4) How do you see developing arts for all ages in our town?
If I am elected Mayor, we need to look at developing arts programs to help all of the residents and families of our community to come together and afford each resident an opportunity to express him or herself in a way that they feel comfortable and most importantly safe.
I appreciate that your question addresses that the community is comprised of residents of all ages and we should never forget that fact. Our senior citizens laid the foundation for our generation to plant our roots here. As council member and if elected mayor, I will work with the council to ensure that we provide more programs and opportunities for these incredible men and women. They have done so much for us and it is only right that we prioritize programs that will enhance and improve their experience in this community.
As a father of teenagers, I see the need for activities and programs in our town for young adults and teenagers that are outside of school and different than sports. Don’t get me wrong. I love rooting on the Rutherford Bulldogs in every sport at every age. But I know every middle schooler and high schooler doesn’t want to participate in sports. Kids have many interests and our town activities need continue to keep our young residents doing healthy activities and they should reflect the variety they experience in our great schools outside of school. It is essential that the mayor and council work together to explore options that will allow us to provide the tools necessary for Rutherford residents to be able to pursue their passions, cultivate their creativity, and appreciate the opportunity that the arts will present to bring us together.
I believe it’s also important to remember that our community is very diverse. Our residents and their families come from various cultures and unique backgrounds, which would allow events involving the arts, to bring us all together and allow us to learn from each other.
The arts are not only a great way for our community to express themselves, but also a way in which we can host events in the community that will bring us all together, so that we can learn more about our neighbors and afford families the opportunity to meet other families.
It is through sponsorships as well as a uniform effort from all members of the council and local businesses we can build a program that accommodates the needs of our entire community, while offsetting if not eliminating the cost so that a person’s financial situation does not hinder their ability to participate in these activities.
It is extremely important that we never forget to show support to all of our great volunteers and borough employees both on the municipal as well as the board of education level. Our volunteers make the arts, sports, senior, child, veterans, young adult, civic and service groups possible in our town. Because of these hard working men and women, we as a community have become a place that people want to move to, but more importantly, a place where families do not want to leave.
I believe our community’s success will always be defined by our ability to remember to offer our support and express the gratitude we have for the hard work these amazing men and women do on a daily basis to make Rutherford thrive both on a personal as well as economic basis with our local businesses.
5) What initiatives do you envision implementing if elected that can bring in revenue streams to our town?
One example of a project I envision that has the potential to bring revenue to our town is the Link Equities project on the other side of Route 17. Once it was presented to the Mayor and Council, I am currently working with the Meadowlands Commission to change the classification of the project from residential development to commercial development. Changing the development to commercial buildings will increase the revenues we will receive (so not only no tax impact, but we will receive revenue from the new commercial tenants), eliminate any increase in our student population and decrease the demand on our town services. The character of this town will never be measured in dollars and cents but by the accessibility and availability of the services that Rutherford families deserve to have as members of our community. I want any new project to be viewed by these points.
This second point isn’t related to town revenues, but long-standing and new businesses in our town that improve the quality of life and increase property values in our town. We have Varrelmans Bakery on Park Avenue in Rutherford. It has been in Rutherford for over 100 years. It has been written up in the New York Times twice. The owners Kathy and Mike have done a great job running a successful business in one of the most competitive industries you can imagine. If you walk two blocks up the road from Varrelman’s you will see the Daniel Mougel Tailors and Cleaners that have been in existence since 1933, by the same family. The owner of the store is Tara. She has done a great job as well in another business in which there is also a great deal of competition. We also have had newer businesses in town, like Mambo Tea House, Mason’s Cellar and Matera’s, support many local organizations and commit to expanding with new locations or bigger places in Rutherford. They know the great potential Rutherford has and what a great community we have.
These businesses could be considered success stories and examples of what is possible in Rutherford if we as a community go out and support our local businesses. We need more businesses like these to succeed to show that anyone interested in starting up or relocating that Rutherford residents support Rutherford businesses.
If we could make a concerted effort as a community to support these business and others that decide to open here we will not only provide incentive for other businesses to come to our great town but more importantly we will make it clear to our local business owners that we do not want them to leave. It is through the actions and support of the council and community that we can generate revenues by the example we set and the choices we make collectively as a community.
6) What do you consider to be the most effective mode of communication to share news with the residents? Do you think information (such as road closures and new ordinances) is currently communicated effectively? Why or why not?
It is imperative that we as a council work together to look to expand upon the methods we use to communicate with the families of Rutherford by using various social media platforms in addition to the traditional forms of communication that we have been using for years, such as Twitter, the NIXEL program, the Swift Reach program, our town website, newspaper postings, Facebook, Next Door as well as robocalls which we as a municipality use in events such as a state of emergency.
I believe the council and mayor should always be open to creating additional modes of communication as some of the traditional methods may be effective for some of the residents, but it is our job to be able to communicate effectively with all of the residents in Rutherford. I have stated before that I believe our council meetings should be livestreamed and made available on various forms of social media so that the residents of Rutherford will always be afforded the opportunity to see the decisions that we make as a council and hear the reasons behind them.
It is essential that we have the most transparent and accessible council to the families of our great town. I hope my fellow councilmembers will work with me to make this occur as it truly serves the best interest of the families of our community.
There are issues that the community care a great deal about and it is our responsibility to make them aware of when these issues are being discussed so that the residents are provided the opportunity to voice their concerns to any potential issues that may have an impact on the borough of Rutherford.