Four candidates are running for two open seats in this year’s election for the Maplewood Township Committee. Members of the five-person committee serve staggered, three-year terms. The seats currently held by Mayor Vic DeLuca and Committeewoman India R. Larrier are up for election on Nov. 4 this year.
On the ballot this year are: DeLuca, Larrier, Kurt H. Kiley and Angel “Bob” Perez. The elections are partisan. DeLuca and Larrier each are running as Democrats, on separate tickets. Kiley is running as an Independent and Perez as a Republican.
The Village Green asked each of the candidates to provide statements on why they are running and what issues are important to them.
Mayor Vic DeLuca’s statement:
I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the Maplewood Township Committee for 15 years, nine of them as Mayor. I’m running again to help keep Maplewood as a welcoming, inclusive, safe and vibrant community in which to live and raise a family. I believe my efforts have contributed to making Maplewood a place of choice for those looking to buy a home, to open up a business or to visit and patronize our shops. We have a beautiful town with our homes, our parks and our commercial areas. Our 24,000 residents are willing to chip in and do their part to keep our town moving forward. I think you’d be hard pressed to find another town that has a level of volunteerism as high as we have in Maplewood. I’m proud to say I live here and even prouder to say I’m the Mayor.
Now we are not without our challenges. We’ve been working to keep municipal property tax increases as low as possible. This year the increase was less than one percent. We’ve engaged in responsible redevelopment projects that will bring new revenues to the Township. The Station House apartment building at the old police station is now the fifth largest taxpayer in town. Other examples are the Walgreens, Maplewood Crossing on Burnett Avenue and the CVS being built on Valley Street. We also have more than a dozen shared service agreements with surrounding towns to keep costs down while maintaining services.
Safety is a paramount concern of mine. We set up special crime suppression details to address robberies and burglaries and we are adding two new police officers this year. We’ve worked with neighborhoods around town on traffic calming measures and street lighting upgrades. And we are making sure our codes are enforced to protect people and property values.
I’ve been working with other Mayors and elected officials across New Jersey and the nation to bring about changes that will help our community. As a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns I’ve lobbied in Washington and in the state for common sense gun laws. As a member of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry I have been out front for marriage equality. And as a board member of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors I’ve been promoting a more equitable tax system and for other measures to benefit our Township.
We have a lot on the horizon. The post office redevelopment will be a tremendous boost to Maplewood Village. The former Woman’s Club, now the Woodland, is getting ready for prime time. This fall we will schedule dozens of events at this historic property we saved. The former Public Service Electric and Gas building on Boyden and Springfield Avenues will be the site of a new apartment complex that will help revitalize the eastern end of town.
I’m very excited about the possibilities before us and ask you to support me for another term so together we can continue to make Maplewood the best it can be.
Committeewoman India R. Larrier’s statement:
It seems unreal that three years of serving this community on the Township Committee has passed. During this time, I have been honored to work on health issues, public safety issues, development issues and virtually all things Maplewood. As I have said over and over, this is a great and diverse community, and I am privileged to serve on its government.
Maplewood has seen many positive changes since my husband John and I moved here in 1995 before our children were born. I believe the changes that are to come are also positive and exciting. The development that will take place on Springfield Avenue at the former PSEG site will help continue the uplifting trend in that area and for that business district. Residents who move into the new apartments will be able to patronize the Springfield Avenue shops and Hilton Branch of the Library, all within walking distance, bringing continued importance to that part of town. The proposed development of the Post Office site will add to the already vibrant Village District while increasing the tax ratable for that property – something that will help all of our residents. And anyone who has been in the gem that is “The Woodland”, as the former Woman’s Club is now named, knows the value of that acquisition, now and in the future. I look forward to working with the Township Committee and developers to move our community forward – all while keeping the diversity, charm and flavor of Maplewood.
As a member of the Public Safety Committee, along with Mr. Brownlee and Mayor DeLuca, I have helped keep Maplewood as safe as possible. Major crimes, overall, are down this year; however, to combat the slight increase in burglaries and robberies, our committee has authorized special crime suppression details to focus on these areas. I stand behind our Police Chief and the Maplewood Police Department – an outstanding team of individuals. I am also proud that our police department has begun to become as diverse in body as it is in spirit, thus reflecting the mosaic of the community it protects. My aim is to see more diversity in our Fire Department, and I look forward to working with the Fire Chief to realize this goal. While it may not be a municipal department, the Maplewood First Aid Squad has been an integral part of our public safety team, and I look forward to working with those selfless volunteers.
My passions are health and community. As the president of the Maplewood Board of Health and the chairwoman of the Code Enforcement Committee, I have been able to impact both. I have enjoyed working with our Health Officer on issues that affect our community. Under my direction, we are coordinating health clinics that will address the language needs of our residents. We will be taking a closer look at our existing senior clinics, as well. Our health department has teamed with concerned residents to address the issue of the exploding population of feral cats in town, and I hope to be able to see a pilot Trap/Neuter/Release program implemented by year end. Additionally, I have asked that our department heads look to address code violations that impact residents and possibly pose safety hazards for our public safety personnel in the event of an emergency.
John and I are now raising three children – one about to leave for college – in this township, and hope it remains a great place for them to live when they are on their own. As I have said since I first ran for the honor of serving on the Township Committee, “a community is only as strong as its residents are willing to get involved.” I am and have been involved. I ask for your vote in November so that I can continue this involvement for the next three years, as well, so that my children – and yours, and seniors, and singles – can have an equally great place to live.
Kurt H. Kiley’s statement:
Hello, my name is Kurt Kiley and I am running for Maplewood Township Committee as an Independent, thank you for taking the time to read my introduction.
Running for Township Committee in 2013 was very fulfilling. I met hundreds of our neighbors and experienced firsthand the passion everyone feels for Maplewood.
I bring to the Maplewood Township Committee over 25 years of management experience, and have a Master’s Degree in Management from NJIT. I have had the opportunity to work with many innovative companies in very competitive industries. These businesses managed to excel despite facing tough economic challenges and tight resources.
As a town, we face similar challenges. We compete to attract shoppers to our downtowns and to attract the best residents. Taxpayers struggle, forcing the Township Committee to be frugal, yet innovative, in how tax money is spent.
I am running for the Maplewood Township Committee because I believe we have the opportunity to break free from the doldrums and to excel. We can enhance our city vibe while retaining our small town charm, and do this while lifting the quality of life for all Maplewoodians.
This is going to be a long term challenge. To be successful I believe we need to focus on improving public safety, driving economic development, and be committed to the arts.
Safe Streets, Safe Neighborhoods
In all corners of Maplewood, most people’s top concern is crime and safety. Some neighborhoods are particularly hard hit, with citizens having been repeated victims.
Crime affects us all. It drags down property values, and hampers the recovery of our shopping districts.
Maplewoodians have great praise for the Maplewood Police Department and their professionalism. The average response time is an incredible 3-5 minutes.
The areas I believe we can invest in and improve on are:
- Recruiting and retaining officers from within Maplewood.
- Increasing police visibility in high crime neighborhoods and shopping districts.
- Improving the number of crimes cleared, and decreasing the time it takes to clear a crime.
Pair our charming tree lined streets with our healthy, family oriented lifestyle and it’s no surprise that our streets are teeming with pedestrians. Unfortunately pedestrians must combat aggressive drivers, drivers that ignore crosswalks and drivers that race down our local streets.
Let’s put our pedestrian’s safety first by:
- Increasing enforcement of our traffic laws.
- Simplifying the process of neighborhood traffic calming.
Economic development should focus on improving the quality of life of Maplewoodians, as well as stabilizing taxes. There are no silver bullets to solving the tax problem, and the new residential developments have not demonstrated any meaningful tax relief.
We need to be looking long term at what can be accomplished; these are the areas I believe we need to focus on for long term sustained growth:
- Develop Springfield Avenue into a bustling pedestrian friendly downtown
- Become an incubator for small businesses and solopreneurs
- Market and promote Maplewood and our small businesses
- Develop a “Maplewood First!” local shopping program.
- Control growth of residential development to protect our schools from overcrowding and stabilize taxes.
- Eliminate ineffective tax breaks, or PILOTs, for residential development.
- Use PILOTs judiciously to stimulate retail development along Springfield Avenue.
A Commitment to Arts
Access to the Arts will improve the quality of life for all Maplewoodians. The Arts engage communities, increases social contact and increases the feeling of connectedness to the community. The Arts can be a cornerstone for Maplewood’s economic development. A commitment to the Arts will distinguish Maplewood from all of the surrounding areas, and continue to attract the best residents to our town.
I don’t believe that the Maplewood administration should be in the business of putting on productions, art installations or the like. The township should provide easy access to facilities or places where artists can express themselves and we can appreciate their work.
In Maplewood Village, The Woodland’s ballroom and balcony can support 500 guests and beyond. The possibilities are boundless. I believe that we can balance the needs of the neighborhood, the parking in Maplewood Village and the desires of the community and transform The Woodland into a world class space that becomes an anchor for the village and a major community asset.
In other towns with depressed retail districts, the towns have worked with landlords to turn vacant retail spaces into spaces for the arts. Pop-Up performance spaces, or art installations bring visual interest to the streetscape and new visitors to what would otherwise be an empty storefront. Springfield Avenue is a prime candidate for this type of program.
These are just a few examples of what we can do.
Thank you once again for your time. I ask for your vote in the 2014 election. I will work hard for Maplewood to help bring about change and to move Maplewood forward.
Please feel free to email me at [email protected] and let me know your thoughts. For more information please visit my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kurt.h.kiley or my website www.kileyforcommittee.org.
Angel “Bob” Perez’s Statement:
I stand as a candidate for Township Committee to afford the residents of Maplewood a choice that may make a difference in our quality of life going forward. It is a choice that most voters have rejected for nearly two decades. Why? I leave that question to you.
Over the past fifteen years Maplewood voters have seen their taxes triple and their debt burden quadruple. During this time, a majority of voters have elected to maintain the status quo. Voters have decided to accept massive over runs in construction projects, placing an over-abundance of rental properties in the center of town and adjacent to schools and playgrounds, commandeering pool funds to cover town expenses, placing the Maplewood pool in a debt position, driving the Women’s Club from its home premises with all the weight that a governing body can bring down on its citizens, watching our high school’s performance slip from tops to the level of also ran all the while ignoring important citizen committees such as the citizen budget advisory board.
It has been postulated that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is time that the citizens of Maplewood have at least one voice that will ask the questions and raises issues that may help to rein in a run-away governing body. One could opine that it is unwise for the citizens of Maplewood to continue to place absolute power in the hands of its governing body and further, that this arrangement is unfair to the members of the governing body.
I look forward to representing Maplewoodians with a philosophy that we should pay as we go, require performance based on agreed upon objectives, and that we must ask the hard questions that will help inform the voters and avoid unanticipated negative consequences of current decisions.