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republican Primary Council CandidatE
mark o'connor

Resident of Rutherford for 26 years

Married to Laura. We have a daughter Danielle

Vice President of Operations/Commercial Office Services Company

Member of Council 2014 -2016

1). What are some of the non-political activities that you participated in prior to running for Council?

Some of the Activities I have participated in include:

  Rutherford Little League Girls Softball/Vice President

  Rutherford Lions Club/Board Member

  Multicultural Festival/Vice Chairperson

  Rutherford Chamber of Commerce/Board Member

  Rutherford Recreation Coach/Softball

  Rutherford Theatre Company/Co-Founder

  Rutherford Library Board/Mayor’s Alternate

  Downhill Derby Committee

 

 

2). How do you feel about the Borough's handling of the Williams Center transfer?

 

I have been a supporter of the Williams Center since we first moved to Rutherford.

I have encouraged and supported the small group of long-serving Board Members who have fought to preserve the building and its operations.

 

A local company has stepped forward to revitalize the Center and develop the property based on the initiatives offered in the Redevelopment Plan. They have a strong affection for Rutherford and have rehabilitated other properties in the downtown area to great success. I have faith they will follow through with their plans for the operation of the Williams Center.

 

 Over the past five years the Williams Center has been an afterthought by some members of the governing body. Something that’s there, something important that has to be dealt with, yet something that was pushed off to another day. 

That day came when the County advertised that the property would be put up for auction. How could this have ever been allowed to happen.

 

The fact this happened shows that there was nothing proactive done when it came to the Williams Center even though promises were made during previous election campaigns. Any activity for the William’s Center only began when social media sites ignited over the auction and a protest was held in the Center’s plaza. 

A building like the Williams Center, in the heart of our downtown, shouldn’t have had to wait for something to be done until residents were angry. It should have been at the forefront and resolved in a controlled manner.

 

 

3). If elected to council, how will you help encourage and sustain new businesses throughout the entire town?  

Some ideas for our Business Districts are include:

A) Shopper Parking at The Kip Parking Garage 

We have to create more shopper parking spaces in the existing lot utilizing shared permits and Smart meters throughout. The increased parking for Shoppers will make it easier to visit retail stores, restaurants and Service businesses on a daily basis. Thus creating more activity in the downtown district. The Garage is also in need of a beautification plan. This creates a safer, friendlier environment.

 

B) West End Shopping District 

I would apply for Streetscape Grants and find the additional financing to help revitalize the aesthetics of the West End Shopping District. New sidewalks, lighting, crosswalks and assisting store owners/property owners with new building facades would be the first step. As one of the first Transit Villages in New Jersey we must take advantage of all that is available to us. These improvements would help enhance the shopping experience in the West End.

 

C) Filling Empty Stores

With empty stores we must do our due diligence and research retail stores in other areas that Residents would like to see in town and work to entice them to open in Rutherford. Lets add to the downtown we would like to see.

 

D) Business Owner Forums

I would hold quarterly forums for all business owners who wish to attend to discuss the issues they may be facing and how together we may be able to fix them. It will also be a great forum to discuss ideas for their businesses and the downtown.

 

E) Shoppers Guide

Each year I would work to have a Business Publication created, printed and mailed to each resident that lists all businesses in the Borough. This publication, which would also be in digital form, would be done in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce.  It would include descriptions of each business, ads for those businesses  and maps of the business districts. The publication would allow Residents and Visitors to discover what Rutherford fully has to offer from its Retail Stores, Restaurants and Service Companies.

 

F) Chamber of Commerce

I would encourage businesses to get reacquainted with the re-energized Rutherford Chamber of Commerce to see what that organization and its extended contacts with the Meadowlands Chamber may offer. The Chamber is the perfect group to help businesses of all kinds network together for success.

 

 

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 issues that come to mind are rising taxes and excessive spending 

We must start the process of the Borough operating within its means and by doing so we can work to lower taxes for all Residents. I had the privilege of serving on the Council from 2014 thru 2016. As Finance Chair I worked diligently with the CFO, The Mayor, Council Members and the Department Heads to control spending, lower taxes and reduce the Borough’s debt over those three years.  There has to be a financial plan in place that curtails spending and works to pay down the rising debt. 


 

5). How would you fulfill our affordable housing obligations while keeping Rutherford's suburban, small-town feel?

The Borough came to an agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center in September of 2019 that will protect the Borough until July 1, 2025. However, after that date Rutherford will need to demonstrate that it is in compliance with the affordable housing measures that will be established. This will be a difficult process as the number of affordable housing units needed could be significant. In the end this could present serious issues for the Borough inclusive of builder remedy lawsuits. If this were to happen it may be extremely difficult to maintain Rutherford’s small town feel.

 

Again it comes down to being proactive and dealing with the situation head on; not waiting until the deadline is imminent

 

With limited land we must ensure that developers are actually providing their agreed share of affordable housing. We must also look at available properties that may be utilized as affordable Senior or Veteran housing. Some properties in town that may meet these requirements are the empty lot across from the Kip Center that would be perfect for Senior housing or the existing police station/Department of Health building when it becomes empty.