South Orange Village President Sheena Collum held a formal kickoff for her campaign for a second 4-year term as Village President at the Ceterko residence in South Orange on March 10. Trustee Deborah Davis Ford has also declared her candidacy for Village President. Election Day is May 14.
From the Sheena for Village President campaign:
Surrounded by nearly 200 neighbors and guests, Village President Sheena Collum kicked-off her campaign for a second term with a continued promise to focus on taxes, infrastructure, economic development, and community capital.
“Taxes in New Jersey are absolutely absurd and in South Orange, the average home is assessed at $580,000 with a $17,500 tax bill to go with it. Taxpayers are subsidizing inefficiency and duplication of services at every level of government,” said Collum. Recognizing Maplewood Township Committee members in attendance, Collum listed various shared services already successfully put into place including courts, code enforcement, field maintenance, senior services, and tax collection. She argued that having 565 municipalities and 600 school districts is not sustainable or efficient for taxpayers: “We’re better and stronger together and next up is fire services which is the second largest expense in both towns’ budgets that can operate more efficiently as one department and save money.” In the long term, Collum joked that she hopes one day both towns will have the community support and political wherewithal to finally “put a ring on it.”
Regarding infrastructure, Collum highlighted that deferred capital projects have been or are currently being addressed. “Under my leadership, we’ve tackled long idle projects,” said Collum. “Working together, with a steadfast vision of who we want to be as a community, we committed to stop the irresponsible practice of burying our heads in order to meekly kick the can down the road.” Recognizing the collaborative styles of attendees Trustees Walter Clarke, Howard Levison, Karen Hilton and Steve Schnall, Collum underscored, “We now have safe and reliable drinking water, a long-term plan for our sewer utility, our tennis courts and skate house are beautifully refurbished, our police headquarters is almost done, and next up is our Baird Community Center as well as our library and Connett buildings.” Collum also reinforced the sale of Village Hall to a private investor for a historic renovation and opening of a restaurant and beer garden saving taxpayers $8M freeing up money to focus on other projects.
As Executive Director of the American Planning Association in New Jersey, Collum is best positioned to lead the community through the implementation of the new Master Plan, meeting compliance on the true construction of moderate and lower-income housing and addressing the challenges of balancing growth and change with a focus on smart growth and equity in planning. Beyond the visionary plan for Village Hall, Collum has been at the helm with downzoning of Orange Lawn Tennis Club to preserve open space, insuring all new developments have solid financial models based in good urban planning and design, maximizing revenue for the town while minimizing traffic and providing off-site community contributions.
“Our neighbors are eager for a strong retail presence in our downtown,” added Collum. “And, it’s with this in mind that I’m most excited about adding 2,500 square feet of co-retailing and incubator space as part of the redevelopment of the former Blockbuster building that will be by the community and for the community.”
Recognizing the best ideas come from the volunteers and people of South Orange who ever day work to make the town stronger, more equitable, more exciting and a place everyone can be proud to call home, Collum reiterated her unwavering commitment to transparency and accessibility with a stronghold focus on “community capital and collaboration.”
The campaign also announced that a website will be launched shortly where community members can read the details of Sheena’s full platform, get involved and view calendar listings of upcoming events. In the meantime, community members can visit the Sheena for Village President Facebook page for updates.
Photos by Matt Yeager: