REMARKS OF VICTOR DE LUCA
January 1, 2021
Wow, what a year it has been! I’m sure you’ve heard people say how the year went by so fast. Well that certainly wasn’t 2020. Last year felt like it would never end. We lived through a pandemic, a collapsing economy, tropical storms, and a presidential election.
And don’t forget we voted in Maplewood too, with a record turnout. I want to thank all those who gave me another opportunity to serve our community. You probably know that I love this job and I’m honored to have earned your vote and your trust. My commitment to Maplewood and to improving the lives of regular folks is as strong as ever.
I want to congratulate my running mate Dean Dafis, who truly embraces the concept of public service. He is a smart, tireless and fun colleague and we are lucky to have him on the Township Committee.
Thank you to the Maplewood Democratic Party Chair Ian Grodman and Vice-Chair Garnet Hall for your leadership and wisdom. Thanks also to the Democratic District Leaders for your work in turning out the vote. And special thanks goes to Tom Carlson who served as our campaign treasurer.
My wife Janey wishes that by now I would have outgrown this stage of my political life. Nevertheless, Janey is my biggest supporter and my best friend. I want to thank her for her assistance, love and understanding.
Over the years I have had the fortune of serving with 16 different people on the Township Committee. Each of these women and men put Maplewood first and made tough and important decisions. There is one who I will never forget, my first running mate Jerry Ryan, who sadly passed away at too early of an age.
I am particularly glad to be serving with Frank, Nancy, Dean and Greg as we dig out from this pandemic and four years of the Trump administration.
For most people, government doesn’t matter until it does. And it sure did in 2020. It showed how it mattered with COVID-19 in two very different ways. The abject failure of the federal government to take charge, convey consistent messaging and set an emphatic tone mattered to hundreds of thousands of people who ended up getting sick and dying. On the other hand, the stewardship by governors and county and local officials was true leadership and helped to save thousands of people and families from the horrors of this disease.
We – the Township Committee and professional staff – took the steps necessary to protect the health and safety of our residents. We followed science and public health. We helped our small businesses and maintained municipal services. And now we are organizing to get people vaccinated so we can return to some sense of normalcy in the distant future.
Our work mattered. Government mattered. We serve as elected officials to make people’s lives better and this is the time when our constituents need us the most.
As I look toward the next 12 months I am excited about the projects I’ll be working on. And there are 8,388,250 reasons to be excited about the Maplewood Library. The State’s $8.4 million grant along with $1 plus million raised by the Library Foundation and $10 million
allocated by the Township will allow us to build a Library for the 21 st Century. This will be a busy year and I look forward to breaking ground in the fall.
Maplewood is a walking town and pedestrians need to feel safe crossing our streets. Nearly four years ago I wrote a proposal to the NJ Department of Transportation for pedestrian safety assistance. We got the DOT’s help, crafted a plan, and engaged traffic professionals and the community in developing solutions. In 2020 we finished work on Prospect Street from the South Orange line to the Union border. This year work will focus on Burnett Avenue. As the incoming chair of the Engineering, Public Works and Planning Committee, I look forward to continuing our work to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety.
We have not paid enough attention to the Irvington Avenue Commercial District, a place which now has the only supermarket still in Maplewood. That will change in 2021. A local housing developer has made a significant commitment to the area. Essex County is finishing up the first phase of its roadway improvement project with the second phase to start this year. I intend to work with my colleagues in making Irvington Avenue a higher priority in 2021.
Maplewood has always lived up to its state mandated affordable housing requirements. New apartments house eligible families with affordable rents and forgivable rehabilitation loans permit eligible homeowners to make necessary life safety repairs. And now we’ve partnered with a local housing organization to purchase and rehabilitate two single family homes for ultimate sale to two income eligible families. I’m eager to make the homeownership idea a reality.
My enthusiasm is strong but it is tempered by a couple of concerns facing our community.
Property taxes are a killer and they drive everything. Families of modest means are unable to
move here or in many cases to stay here. Seniors really take a hit. Our efforts to maintain a racial
balance are being jeopardized by the high costs of living here. I don’t have the answers but I do
know that we have to resurrect the discussions in Trenton about solving the property tax
problem. Other concerns have crowded out those conversations and I will do my part in raising
We also need to continue a One Maplewood approach to delivering municipal services and developing our entire community. We are one town from the South Mountain Reservation on the west to the Lightning Brook on the east. Our actions need to back up our words about valuing diversity and inclusivity and about being a welcoming community. We will be tested this year as we discuss the impact of skyrocketing real estate values, income inequality, resource allocations and school redistricting. I intend to be a positive force in these discussions, making sure all of our residents are at the table.
I’m motivated, energized and ready to go. I hope you will join us on our journey.
Thank you and Happy New Year!