Republican Primary Council CandidatE
My wife Laura and I have made Rutherford and Stuyvesant Ave our home for over 20 years. We have three daughters. Ava and Olivia, our twins, are currently juniors in high school and Maeve is in seventh grade.
I work as a registered patent attorney and Laura works as neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse practitioner. I received a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Rutgers University College of Engineering and spent several years working as a software engineer. I have a law degree from Rutgers University Newark School of Law and have worked in the intellectual property field over the past 25 years. I currently work in a patent procurement, licensing, and litigation role for a large multinational telecommunications, information technology, and consumer electronics company.
1 What are some of the non-political activities that you participated in prior to running for Council?
I have coached youth soccer, basketball, t-ball, and softball with Rutherford Football Club, Rutherford Recreation, Rutherford Little League, and Saint Mary CYO. I am currently a coach for RFC soccer and Saint Mary CYO basketball. I previously served as a teacher with the Saint Mary Religious Formation program, a member/officer of a local Toastmasters club, and a volunteer at the Rutherford Downhill Derbies and other church and local activities. I also participate on the planning committees of the annual Meghan Doyle’05K and Reindeer Run 5K road races at my daughters’ school.
I am and have been a member of numerous professional organizations including most significantly a multi-decade membership in the John C. Lifland American Inn of Court, which is directed to the advancement of professionalism, civility, legal excellence and ethics within the legal profession and in practice before the federal judiciary in New Jersey.
2. How do you feel about the Borough's handling of the Williams Center transfer?
The process was rushed. The Borough Council transferred the Williams Center to the Council-chosen developer for a single dollar with no other conditions placed on the transfer. Now, that developer has asked the Council to change the Council’s previously approved Williams Center redevelopment plan to at least double to ninety (90) units the number of apartment units permitted and substantially reduce and/or eliminate parking requirements.
As with other recent large-scale projects in the Borough, the Council and Mayor first designated the project property as an area in need of redevelopment. This designation permits the Council and Mayor to legally approve a redevelopment plan that would otherwise not be permitted under the zoning requirements of the Borough’s Master Plan (e.g., higher density, oversized, reduced parking, etc). This designation also permits the Council and Mayor to contractual bestow on a developer the right to make PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) payments instead of paying conventional property taxes for up to the thirty (30) years. The PILOT payments due for each year replace and are less than conventional property taxes (= assessed value x tax rate) that would be due for a property in the Borough.
Upcoming decisions by the Council concerning the future of the Williams Center must be made transparently, only after the Council shares sufficient financial information and estimates with the public and holds a fully interactive public discussions/debates with the public addressing the benefits/detriments associated with changes to the Williams Center redevelopment plan and any further subsidy to be granted to the project via, for example, a PILOT.
3. If elected to council, how will you help encourage and sustain new businesses throughout the entire town?
Our business districts and main Borough entrance points should be kept clean and well-maintained. The Borough should investigate grants and/or undertake efforts that would enable the streetscape of the Union Ave Business District to better align/replicate the Park Ave Business District. In the past, the Borough had a special improvement district for the business community and it may be worth reconsidering the benefits such a district could offer. If elected, I naturally would be open to listening to the business community and facilitating appropriate use of the assets of the Borough when possible.
4. What do you consider the most pressing issue facing our town right now that you want to focus your attention on if elected?
The most pressing issue is the need for responsible fiscal management with transparency and respect for Rutherford taxpayers. For example, the Borough desperately needs a municipal tax abatement policy and ordinance to be adopted before the Council and Mayor continue to grant PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes) that bind the Borough for decades into the future.
The Municipal Tax Abatement Handbook of the NJ Department of Community Affairs under Governor Murphy instructs that developing such an ordinance is “an essential preliminary step for any local unit contemplating issuing tax abatements.” The State explains that a tax abatement ordinance sets forth objectives and methodology to guide an analysis in a consistent and effective manner to ensure a municipality is receiving a net benefit from each project and is crucial to full evaluation of an abatement proposal. This is because payments in lieu of taxes represent a subsidy that “may unduly burden other taxpayers who must offset the subsidy through their own tax dollars.”
Rutherford does not have a municipal tax abatement policy or ordinance as recommended by the State. As a result, the Council and Mayor have not felt it necessary nor been compelled to publicly share any independent, non-developer-prepared, unbiased financial analysis or provide any compelling, substantive rational for granting PILOTs to the developers of four projects so far, with more redevelopment projects in process and expected to come for approval in the near future.
Unfortunately, the Mayor and Council have bound the Borough into long term financial agreements covering the already granted PILOTs, the effects of which will be borne by Rutherfordian taxpayers over the next thirty years.
Basic fairness and equity demand that each Rutherfordian taxpayer be treated equally. Therefore, guardrails in the form of local policies and ordinances need to be installed to prevent non-transparent, inconsistent, and ineffective granting of tax abatements/subsidies and to limit the ability of the Council and Mayor to bestow PILOTs and shift developers’ equitable share of Rutherford’s taxes onto the backs of every other Rutherfordian.
5. How would you fulfill our affordable housing obligations while keeping Rutherford's suburban, small-town feel?
State law and local ordinance require a housing development to include an affordable housing component proportional to the number of units to be built. In 2019, the Borough settled a lawsuit with Fair Share Housing Center that sets forth the Borough’s obligations through 2025 with respect to affordable housing.