Robert Sloan, who has served as the city clerk in Bayonne for the last 30 years, announced last week that he will seek to become mayor in the Nov. 4 special election.
Sloan, 60, is a lifelong resident of Bayonne, and said he feels he can help Bayonne recover from its current problems better as mayor than he can as city clerk.
An attorney and former Army reservist, Sloan has been employed by the city of Bayonne for 33 years. He said part of his reason for running is to turn around the city’s finances and to restore some of the civility of city management toward its own workers.
“I think what really had me decided me was when Mayor [Joseph] Doria bailed out on the city,” he said. “He left us in a mess, and I don’t feel confident that the people who currently want to be mayor can do the job.”
If no one else enters the race between now and the Sept. 17 filing deadline, Sloan will be facing Police Director Mark Smith, retired Municipal Judge Patrick Conaghan, and Zoning Board of Adjustment Member Raymond Rokicki.
Sloan said he believes Smith would only continue the policies of the Doria administration, which he labeled “misguided.” But he also feels that neither Conaghan nor Rokicki has adequate solutions to the crisis the city faces.
“I talked about running for mayor in the last election , but I knew I couldn’t beat the Doria machine,” he said. “I believe we need to break away from Doria’s failed policies.”
The Nov. 4 election will only decide who will sit as mayor until the next regular election in May 2010, and Sloan admits that this is not enough time to turn the city completely around. But he said he hopes to get the city pointed in the right direction if elected.
“I take a great deal of pride in being from Bayonne,” he said. “It is and has always been a unique community – diverse, yet homogenous, blue collar but with blue blood, street smart and intellectual. Bayonne has always been a place where everybody knows and respects their neighbors and takes care of them when they need help. I’ve been helped and I’ve tried to help.”
He said Bayonne has fallen on hard times. Industry has moved away, taking with it well-paying jobs. Shops have closed with no new stores to replace them. Taxes are high with no relief in sight.
“It is time I do more to pay back the city for the good things that have happened to me,” he said. “I am running for mayor to direct my efforts and my energy where they will do the most good.”
Sloan said among his top priorities will be fixing the city’s financial situation.
“We need to find ways to continue to reduce costs,” he said. “The emphasis for much too long has been to find revenue courses to fund current expenditures levels. Past administrations have looked to borrow against future revenues to pay current expenses. That has proved to be risky and ineffective.”
He said solutions will involve a combination of cutting expenses without cutting essential services and finding new revenue. He believes part of the solution will come from seeking aid from the state and federal government.
If elected, Sloan said he will review various aspects of operations.
“I want to look into all aspects of the development of the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor to see where it is going and where it has been,” he said.
But the former Military Ocean Terminal is only one of many possible development sites he believes might become future sources of revenue.
“We need to find developers who are willing to take initiatives in Bayonne to bring those vacant and underutilized pieces of property onto the tax rolls and into the local economy,” he said.
Sloan said one goal will be to develop a comprehensive plan for restoring the city’s health and well-being, something he said the city has lacked during the Doria administration.
“The Doria plan is ‘God will provide,’ ” Sloan said. “That isn’t a plan.”
Government has to be trimmed, and trimmed fairly, he said.
While efforts have been made recently, he said, mistakes have been made in layoffs, and often resulted in unfairness to employees.
Sloan said that if he had role models for being mayor, they would be former Bayonne Mayor Dennis Collins or former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
“These people knew everybody and cared very much about their cities,” he said. “I care about Bayonne in the same way.”