There will be battles in several of our towns this year over politics, development, and health care.
Brian Stack is up for re-election as mayor of Union City, and already, his opponents have been out circulating critical flyers against him. Meanwhile, next door in West New York, Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega is under attack from opponents who would like to have a recall election in advance of the regular 2011 municipal elections. So far, their attempts to force an early election have been thwarted, but expect more political rancor in that town this year.
In Weehawken, Mayor Richard Turner usually runs unopposed, so it remains to be seen if he’ll have that luck again this May. In Secaucus, new Mayor Michael Gonnelli just took over on Jan. 1 and will try to maintain control of the Town Council in November.
More than half of local towns will see either a mayoral or a council election in 2010.
What else is coming up? Read on to learn more!
Seeking funding for projects – As Gov. Christopher Christie takes his helm, the biggest story for Guttenberg in 2010 will be how town projects will be funded and completed. Mayor Gerald Drasheff would like to finally complete the town’s new waterfront park, which originally was expected to be finished last fall. Drasheff also hopes to create the community recreation center/ Anna L. Klein School extension in conjunction with the Guttenberg Board of Education. While Drasheff is confident that the projects can be completed, in tough economic times there is worry that small towns will receive less aid or even none from the state. Guttenberg has not yet approved its 2009-2010 budget as it waits for state aid numbers.
NJ Transit tower on south border? In 2010, Hoboken, like many other transit village communities, will be paying close attention to S2972, a state bill sponsored by State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36th Dist. The bill would allow NJ Transit to supersede local zoning and development controls in order to build mixed-use transit developments.
In 2008, NJT proposed a large development along Hoboken’s southern border that would include a 75-story office tower and residential buildings on land that is currently covered with railroad tracks and maintenance stations. Community activists and the City Council said the project was too large.
New Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Councilwoman Beth Mason have both vowed to fight the bill so that the town can maintain some control over what NJT builds there.
City budget woes a major concern – The big story for Jersey City will be how they deal with their municipal budget, which covers spending through next June 30.
City Hall is looking at a budget deficit that will be anywhere from $42 million to $73 million. Already, the city is going through with controversial furloughs for 12 days over a six-month period, which will save the city only $2 million.
There has been talk about mandatory layoffs of up to 200 employees in February, especially in light of the fact that the city may receive less state aid if Gov. Chris Christie’s administration slashes spending.
Trailer Court residents face eviction – For more than two years, residents of the Manhattan Trailer Court, located on Tonnelle Avenue near the new North Bergen Light Rail station, have awaited their Jan. 31, 2010 eviction. Some have left their trailers behind; others are determined to stay until they are told to leave, while other residents are prepared to fight in court to obtain ownership of the property.
The property’s developer, Manhattan MTC Associates, LLC, has told North Bergen officials that he does not plan to force people off the property on the actual eviction date, but he does plan to build on the property. Some residents wonder where they will go next.
Town Council shifts – The two biggest stories of 2009, the arrest of former Mayor Dennis Elwell and the ongoing investigation of suspended Tax Collector Alan Bartolozzi, will continue to have ripple effects, especially with both men likely to make court appearances in 2010. However, the story that will have the most impact on residents will be the political shift on the Town Council. Beginning this month, new Mayor Michael Gonnelli and five allied Independent councilmen will have control of the governing body.
During the fall election, the Independents vowed to curb municipal spending, cut the number of professional service contracts, reorganize the Tax Collector’s Office, and share more information with the public. Secaucus residents will be eager to see if they can fulfill their promises. Also interesting will be whether the new mayor, who is a member of the local fire department, will reinstate any of the three volunteer firefighters who resigned amidst controversy in August 2008.
Election season comes in 2010 – Union City’s Mayor Brian Stack will be up for re-election in May of 2010. Stack said through his spokesman Mark Albiez that he won’t officially be campaigning until the kickoff of election season in Union City in January of 2010. “He maintains a relationship with the community [when not in election season],” said Albiez. Does this mean that taxes will be stable? And will anyone run against Stack? Stay tuned this year!
Progress with projects? In 2009, several development projects were in the works that won’t be completed till 2010 and beyond. NJ Transit and the NY/NJ Port Authority are building a rail tunnel to New York that goes under North Bergen and Weehawken. As a result, a 25-foot sound barrier will be erected near 19th Street. In addition, Baldwin Avenue, the road that connects Boulevard East near the Lincoln Tunnel with Harbor Boulevard and River Road, will receive improvements to the road and sidewalks. The $9 million dollar endeavor has been slated for completion in early 2011 with the majority of it completed by fall of 2010.
Election – Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner will be up for re-election in May. He rarely faces opposition, so it is unknown whether he will be challenged this year.
West New York
Politics and taxes – An effort to recall West New York Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega by Dr. Felix Roque might continue into 2010, although it was stymied at the end of last year by faulty petition signatures.
In addition, reports of possible cutbacks in state aid to municipalities may mean that towns like West New York will have to cut spending or raise taxes. Although Mayor Vega said he remains hopeful that there will be no tax increase in 2010, the outcome will only be known later this year.