The League of Women Voters Maplewood Township Committee Candidates Forum took place on October at Maplewood Memorial Library on Baker Street.
There were clear differences between the candidates: even Mayor Vic DeLuca and his running mate Dean Dafis offered differing thoughts on development and business retention. And Mike Summersgill, the lone Republican running, has never been one to pull his punches.
But this forum was everything voters might wish the national political discussion could be: Informative and polite, even when contentious.
The candidates expressed their views on uniting the town, merging fire services with South Orange, retaining businesses, ameliorating parking crunches, providing buses for seniors, lowering property taxes, the impact of development, and more.
But it was the final question from the audience that was the head turner. Each candidate was asked to speak about what he liked about the other two candidates. The answers felt genuine and un-practiced. As much as all three men might disagree, there was a true sense of admiration or appreciation — and a lot of humor.
Video of the forum was processed by Joy Yagid of SOMAtv.
The forum was introduced by Maplewood resident Michelle Bobrow; however, as per LWV rules, a league member from another town moderated
The election takes place on November 7.
Candidates drew numbers to decide the order of opening statements. Below we have transcribed questions and provided time stamps so that citizens can find them on the video at the end of the story.
Vic DeLuca 5:05
Dean Dafis 7:25
Mike Summersgill 9:22
11:54 What would you do to make maplewood more of a community rather than a racially and culturally divided town?
Dean Dafis 12:02
18:30 The recent report dealign with the maplewood South Orange fire depart study recommends a merger of the fire departments of South Orange and Maplewood. Do you agree with this study and are there any other departments you would recommend for future consolidation?
Mike – 18:49
22:52 Dean Dafis
25:00 In light of recent Maplewood store closings, what would you propose to maintain the viability of Maplewood Village, the Irvington Avenue and Springfield Avenue commercial districts? Do you feel that the limited availability of parking is a factor?
25:20 Vic DeLuca
27:30 Dean Dafis
29:49 Mike Summersgill
(31:35 Request for Audience Questions)
32:00 How much money will new developments produce for Maplewood? With the tax abatements and the payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) given to new projects, what is the benefit to Maplewood?
32:13 Dean Dafis
33:30 Mike Summersgill
34:42 Vic DeLuca
First Question from the Audience:
36:39 Do you propose we hire a new police chief for our town? There was talk of promoting from within. This concerns me in that we had a police chief who did not do a good job of mentoring and leading or officers. What would you do to ensure that the police chief will be able to make positive changes such as those suggested by SOMA Justice?
37:00 Mike Summersgill
38:12 Vic DeLuca
39:20 Dean Dafis
41:00 Senior Bus – There is only a small 20 seat bus that we can use between the hours of 10-4 bec it is needed for train station service. Will there ever be a bus for a larger group of people so that we can go on trips (say, 50) for at least 8 hours? Will there ever be a weekend bus perhaps?
41:22 Vic DeLuca
42:35 Dean Dafis
43:22 Mike Summersgill
44:38 What would you do to lower property taxes? And is there anything you feel you could do to ameliorate the proposed changes to the tax code that will eliminate the federal deduction for state and local taxes if that passes?
45:10 Dean Dafis
46:20 Mike Summersgill
47:35 Vic DeLuca
48:53 Is the new police station building fully used or not? If not, can we use some of the vacant areas for financial gain?
49:07 Mike Summersgill
50:05 Vic DeLuca
51:10 Dean Dafis
52:25 How would you go about involving more talented citizens to serve the comunity as volunteers?
52:40 Vic DeLuca
53:48 Dean Dafis
54:48 Mike Summersgill
56:00 Directed at Mayor Vic DeLuca: How much does the township give annually to the CCR and does the township give financial support to any other non-profit organizations?
(Only Vic DeLuca responded; the other two candidates waived rebuttal.)
57:40 What do you admire most about the two other candidates sitting at the table?
57:50 Dean Dafis
59:45 Mike Summersgill
1:00:55 Vic DeLuca
1:02:40 Mike Summersgill
1:03:45 Dean Dafis
1:06:50 Vic DeLuca