PHOTOS: Maplewood Reorganizes, Looks Forward to 2015

by The Village Green
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The mood was upbeat and festive at the Maplewood Township Reorganization — an annual New Year’s Day tradition at Town Hall where elected officials are sworn in, the mayor and deputy mayor are selected, and other township appointments are made.

Victor DeLuca was sworn in for his sixth three-year term on the Township Committee. India Larrier was sworn in for her second term. DeLuca was also unanimously selected by his Township Committee peers to serve as mayor for 2015 — this will mark DeLuca’s 10th year as mayor. Kathleen Leventhal was unanimously chosen to serve as deputy mayor for 2015.

In his State of the Township address (read it here), DeLuca pointed to positive trends such as increased housing values and a 16.5% drop in major crimes, development projects and arts and cultural events. He promised to continue to tackle difficult issues such as the redevelopment of Springfield Avenue and the tax burden. Other interesting bits of information from the speech included:

  • The mayor announced the Clergy Alliance Program through which Police Chief Robert Cimino will meet regularly with religious leaders.
  • Maplewood welcomed two new department heads, Chief Financial Officer Juan Uribe and Public Works Director Calvin Bell.
  • The Maplewood Township 2015 budget meetings start Jan. 10 and will be televised.
  • Talk to Township Committee sessions are expanding to Jacoby Street, Irvington Ave and DeHart Park.
  • The Maplewood Diner, which burned down several years ago, is being renovated with plans to open new eatery.
  • Maplewood will consider rebranding the Irvington Ave. shopping district as “Maplewood Corners.”
  • The new CVS Pharmacy on Valley Street (across from Ritzer Field) is scheduled to open this spring.

In his remarks after his swearing in, DeLuca noted his personal pledge to work on the statewide and national level to support gun control and combat the widening income gap.

In her remarks, Larrier congratulated DeLuca on his re-election, saying that his leadership “had truly been a great thing” for Maplewood. Larrier — along with DeLuca — commended the Maplewood police as well as fire personnel for fostering an atmosphere of “constant and open communications” with the community. She also said she looked forward to the debut of the new trap/neuter/release program that would be implemented to fight the town’s feral cat population. As president of the Board of Health, Larrier has been a key player in shaping and championing the program.

Larrier also spoke excitedly about the development of the PSE&G and post office sites — bringing new tax ratables and economic development to two different parts of town.

Both DeLuca and Larrier spoke of volunteerism and encouraged citizens to get involved. Larrier, who volunteered for the Maplewood Rescue Squad long before being recruited to run for Township Committee, invoked her mantra: “A community can only be as strong, as safe or as good as its residents are willing to work to keep it that way.”

“To that end I encourage any and all in town to come volunteer and help make and keep making Maplewood the wonderful place that it is,” said Larrier.

Larrier’s closing words were particularly interesting in light of the disclosure that she chose not to run on a ticket with DeLuca last fall due to their divergent views regarding marriage equality: “We may not always agree but as we respect and value our diverse opinions and abilities, we will work toward that one single goal — a Maplewood that we can all love and be proud of.”

A video of Larrier’s remarks is shown below. A transcript of DeLuca’s remarks follows.

Remarks of Mayor Vic DeLuca upon his swearing in:

Happy New Year!

Thank you to the voters of Maplewood for giving me a sixth term on the Township Committee.

To have received the support of three of every four voters on election day was very gratifying. I appreciate the confidence you have in me and will continue to work hard on behalf of the people of Maplewood.

I want to thank Janey, my wife, best friend and biggest supporter. You came out of political retirement to campaign with me and be by my side. Thanks for all you did. To the Maplewood Democratic Party and our chair, Ian Grodman, and vice-chair, Garnet Hall, I thank you for your support. And to all of you who put up a lawn sign, knocked on doors or stood at the train station, labeled and stamped post cards, and encouraged your friends and neighbors to vote for me, thanks for your assistance.

I want to congratulate India Larrier on her reelection. I am excited about working with India, Kathy, Jerry and Marlon over the next year and know we will accomplish much. During the election I said the fire to serve my community still burns inside me. My enthusiasm has not waivered a bit.

I continue to believe in an active and forward thinking government that engages citizens to find real and practical solutions to societal challenges. I’ve never before quoted Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but I intend to do so now. Recently he said, there are “two kinds of people in politics: those that want to make a point and those that want to make a difference.”

Now you can be sure the Senator and I disagree on what that difference might be, but we agree that getting something done is what an elected leader is elected to do. I approach my work with the goal of making Maplewood the best it can be and I know that each one of us up here believes we can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

In 2015 I will focus on keeping our neighborhoods safe, controlling spending and taxes, promoting arts and culture, engaging in responsible economic development and preserving our quality of life. I also will seek to increase affordable housing opportunities for current and future residents and will make a particular effort to assist homeless veterans. I will continue to speak out on state and national issues that impact our community. The disparity in wealth is one of those issues. The December 23rd Star Ledger headline said it all, “Income gap in New Jersey grows without a sign of ending.” The Pew Research Center said the wealth gap is at its widest point in 30 years.

We must strive to increase economic opportunities for all and adopt economic safeguards like a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, paid sick days, and accessible and affordable health care. One concrete step that can be taken is for the governor to restore cuts to the earned income tax credit program for New Jersey’s working poor. As a society, we have a responsibility to address the financial, housing and health insecurity of American families. I intend to be part of that debate.

For the safety and security of our families, the spread of illegal guns in our region must be stopped. In Maplewood and surrounding municipalities, there has been an increase in incidences in which guns are used. Most of these guns are purchased illegally, often coming to the Northeast by way of the Iron Pipeline, a chain of southern states with weaker gun laws. I will work with mayors from across the country to lobby Congress to enact sensible guns laws. Taking on the gun lobby is a job for which all of us should sign up.

In her book, My Beloved World, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer writes: “There are no bystanders in this life. Our humanity makes us each a part of something greater than ourselves. And so my heroes were never solitaries. My heroes were all embedded in community.”

My time in public service has been personally rewarding and I believe I’ve made a positive difference in our community. I invite you to get involved in the public arena. Share your ideas, concerns and suggestions. Bring new thinking to the table. We may not always agree but together we will make the best decisions to move Maplewood forward.

My friends, I’m excited, energized and ready to go. Thank you for giving me another opportunity to serve.

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