After eight years of often challenging work on the Council “seeing how the sausage is made,” Joe is excited about the prospect of West Orange residents joining together to move our town in a positive direction. Joe is confident that, working with and for each other, and supported by new members and new energy on the Township Council, we can move West Orange forward.
Joe’s campaign and commitment to public service are built on several principles, which are the heart of his platform:
Reducing Taxes by Controlling Municipal Spending: We must get our teetering fiscal house in order. The Mayor and Council majority have raised property taxes the maximum amount permitted by state law in each of the last four years. Not surprisingly, the town’s tax base declined eight straight years before rising less than 0.03% this year - indicating the market value of property and homes is not keeping pace with those of many neighboring towns. The township’s debt has increased by $22.2 million since Mayor Parisi took office - and stands at a record $82 million. Annual debt service – what is required to pay back this debt and interest on it – has risen 48%, or nearly $2.4 million, in the same time period. And now with interest rates rising from historic lows, we’re likely to be repaying even more.
The township is littered with municipal projects that cost too much or were not needed in the first place. Joe believes it’s possible to provide the services township residents need without constant tax increases – other municipalities in Essex County have even managed to reduce property taxes. Eliminating the trend to give large annual salary increases to non-union municipal employees such as the town’s chief financial officer (who received raises in each of the last four years plus 2019 totaling $33,5983, up 24%), changing the commission-based compensation for the insurance broker, and requiring competitive bidding on all contracts over $10,000 are just a few of the elements of Joe’s “common sense” budgeting that would provide residents with quality municipal services, while at the same time make the town more affordable to everyone, allow our senior citizens to age in place, and help attract new families and businesses to West Orange.
Enabling Senior Citizens to “Age in Place”: Joe worked with older residents to craft an ordinance creating a senior citizens advisory board similar to ones in virtually every other Essex County municipality. Such a board would provide a centralized, organized voice for senior citizens – a vital, growing part of our community – to contribute to improving the township’s “Aging in Place” challenges. Mayor Parisi opposed the ordinance, and the other four Council members voted against it – without allowing full debate or suggesting changes – citing unspecified “questions,” “redundancy,” and expenses (click here to see video of the effort). We must improve access and accountability in senior citizen transportation; we need to start systematically tracking complaints and resolutions. The loss of mobility among seniors has a major negative impact on many of their lives. Communication between the township and seniors is another area that requires major improvement. Creating such a board and implementing programs better enabling senior residents to remain in West Orange would be priorities for a Krakoviak administration.
Restoring “Smart Development” to the Township: "Smart Development" means promoting development that is in the best interest of the entire community and follows the law. We have many tools we can use to guide development that adds to our property tax revenues, doesn't overly burden our schools, brings jobs and services, makes us more business-friendly, and protects our open space. After five years with a contractor serving as our part-time planner, it's clear that West Orange needs a full-time professional to manage smart development and spur commercial improvements in all areas of our town. Other towns actively pursue retail, restaurant and select commercial establishments they think are a good fit for their municipalities. We should, too.
The recent designation of the Essex Green/Executive Drive Redevelopment Area project is a clear example of how the administration and Council majority have mismanaged development in West Orange during the past eight years. Designating one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the township as “blighted” and “untenantable,” they have opened the door to the property qualifying for multi-million-dollar 30-year tax abatements – which would sharply reduce future tax revenue that would otherwise flow to the town from one of its largest commercial taxpayers. (Since the finding of “untenantable,” three new tenants have signed leases in less than a year.) This comes one year after the Parisi administration’s unsuccessful attempt to designate the vibrant Eagle Rock/Prospect Avenue commercial district as another Area in Need of Redevelopment (and enable potential tax abatements). Joe has also led efforts to hold Prism accountable for its repeated failures – including two foreclosures and tax delinquencies for most of the last five years – in redeveloping the Edison property on Main Street.
Preserving and Enhancing Township Environment: A mature township such as West Orange experiences significant pressure from developers to replace open space and the natural environment with buildings and asphalt. Joe has worked hard to protect our natural resources and promote historic preservation, which would continue in his Mayoral administration. Joe is in favor of improving the tree-protection ordinance – and finally enforcing it. He will continue his advocacy to maintain and restore our historic treasures, including the fire-damaged, 200-year-old St. Mark's Church. The Township’s refuse-collection and recycling programs will receive close scrutiny in a Krakoviak administration, ensuring contractors serve our complex environmental needs efficiently and effectively.