Reason #1 - Joe is the candidate who truly can and will deliver on his promises and wants to be held accountable. West Orange has a "strong mayor" municipal charter, which means that the mayor has significant powers to act independently of the Township council. The mayor:
- drafts the municipal budget for council review, amendment and approval,
- implements the approved budget,
- manages the municipal workforce and daily operations,
- hires department heads, who serve at the pleasure of the mayor,
- negotiates all contracts including those with employee labor unions,
- appoints many members of municipal boards and commissions, including all but one of the members of the Planning Board and all the members of the public library board,
Practically speaking, Joe’s power on the council now is transparency – letting residents know more about what their government is doing in their name and with their taxes so that voters can hold their elected officials accountable. The current mayor and council majority do not need his vote to pass any legislation – and as a result they almost never negotiate with him or agree to any of his suggested compromises or proposed legislation. He is almost always the only council member who votes against any of the mayor’s proposals. Thus the “4-1 Joe” moniker.
However, given the mayor’s powers and authority, Joe will be in a much better position to implement his agenda, through both statutory powers and the development of a better give-and-take relationship with council members. For example, his power to draft the annual budget allows him to avoid proposing wasteful spending that is now routinely approved by the town council majority. His contracting powers allows him to implement competitive bidding in dozens of no-bid contracts annually and structure other bid specifications to ensure the greatest competitive response. Additionally, he will be in a position to influence council members’ work with the township’s workforce and resources to realize shared goals. Joe expects these dynamics to lead to an excellent working relationship with town council.
Joe has pledged to keep residents better informed, and he will keep council members better informed than is current practice. If two of the change agents running for Township council this year are elected, Joe would have council members with whom he could work to bring about additional change to benefit the community.
Reason #2 - Joe is the candidate who promises (and has long provided) true transparency, utilizing his journalistic skills at research and communication. For the last decade, Joe has provided West Orange the vast majority of information about wasteful spending, mismanaged contracting and other failures of their government to serve them. He believes transparency leads to accountability, which in turn leads to better government for the benefit of the community. Government is supposed to work for residents, not the other way around.
Joe will conduct municipal business in the "sunshine," improve the sound quality of council chambers, Facebook Live stream council meetings, and get more information on the budget and legislation out to the community utilizing various channels that are largely ignored now – all to encourage residents to become more informed and engaged in the process of governing. As mayor, Joe will make significant improvement with Open Pubic Record Act requests for township documents. Joe also will hold regular town hall meetings so that residents can get information and provide input in a two-way dialogue – particularly on important issues.
Reason #3 - Joe is the candidate who promises true fiscal responsibility. Joe has been a “watchdog” against wasteful municipal spending since before he was first elected to the township council in 2010. Joe is the only candidate who has put forth a plan to reduce the budget by $1 million without impacting employee headcount or services. Joe's “Common Sense Budget” trims wasteful spending, ends no-bid contracts valued at more than $10,000, holds vendors to high performance standards, and makes other structural reforms. Joe will create incentives for municipal employees to suggest ways to make government more efficient and will work to reduce the level of municipal debt, which will weigh down the budget as interest rates rise. Importantly, Joe will end the practice of offering tax abatements to wealthy developers -- which increase the tax burden on residents who must replace this lost future revenue.
Reason #4 - Joe is the candidate who will promote true SMART development. One of Joe's first steps as mayor will be to replace the part-time planner with a full-time one with economic development experience. This will greatly improve our focus on development that meets the needs of our community, not just developers. Such a planner will work to attract appropriate commercial activity to boost ratables, targeting specific areas of town that need help. We need to grow the tax base, which over the last eight years of the current mayor has contracted significantly every year until rising a paltry 0.03% this year. Growing the commercial tax base and ratables will help reduce downward pressure on residential taxpayers and the value of their homes. Targeted and appropriate commercial development also will improve the quality of life for residents and make the town attractive to live in and stay in. Joe also will end the abuse of the state redevelopment and long-term tax-exemption statutes for the benefit of wealthy property owners and developers.
Reason #5 - Joe is the change agent candidate working to make West Orange better for all residents. West Orange is becoming unaffordable. We need to reverse this trend, so that senior citizens can age in place, young families can move here and establish roots, and the diversity that makes West Orange such a special place is not lost. Joe will work to establish a senior citizen advisory board and provide meaningful opportunities for seniors to share their concerns and communicate their ideas. Joe will work to improve senior transportation. Joe wants to expand open space and will protect our treescape from encroachment and destruction. Joe will look to plow savings from increased municipal efficiency and cutting of wasteful spending into infrastructure such as roads, public safety, new youth recreation non-athletic programs such as chess and computer programming, and more support for the library. Joe is committed to making West Orange a town that welcomes all, that is responsive to its residents and that provides a full range of municipal services efficiently, cost effectively and fairly.