EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Despite the pandemic, financial crisis and racial tensions that have plagued the nation, I have never been more proud to be an East Brunswick resident and your Mayor. I remain humbled at the faith the community has placed in me as we navigate these unchartered waters. I ask for your continued support in that endeavor as I seek re-election.
Over the past fours years, I, along with Councilmen Sterley Stanley and Michael Spadafino, have been able to keep strict financial control over spending with a four year average increase of only1.94% per year- below the average cost of living for the same period. This has been done while controlling debt and providing the services that East Brunswick residents deserve. Even in our most challenging times, independent rating agencies give the township the highest credit scores. This will continue to be important as we face revenue shortfalls in the near future due to the continuing economic recession. Clearly, we intend to support the superior schools, public safety department, infrastructure needs and redevelopment projects that will define our future as much as it has done so in the past.
Over the past four years we have made tremendous strides, as our redevelopment projects are about to hit high gear. Success on this front will not only redefine our most important commercial corridor, but it will spell increased municipal revenues and job opportunities. These are all necessary ingredients for stabilizing property taxes, as we cannot cut our way to prosperity. Such projects are also part of our court mandated affordable housing obligation. As such, it is important that we maintain control over this requirement so that any project enhances the township and provides developer contributions to public projects. Roadwork has increased, along with an expanding network of bikeway/walking paths. Our commitment to the future has clearly taken hold as over 300 new businesses have come to town since taking office. This has been helped by our success in re-establishing the East Brunswick Chamber of Commerce. Even in our most challenging times, my administration has worked with the Township Council, the Chamber, civic organizations, our residents and neighboring towns to support our many businesses here in the township. This didn’t just start with the 2020 campaign!
The COVID-19 pandemic, while tragic in its toll on human suffering, has also taught me a lot about leadership and our community. There cannot be any substitute for informed leaders who are clear, honest, and transparent with the public. I have strived to keep the residents safe and informed from the very beginning of this crisis. This has, at times, put me at odds with state leadership. But results count and our township rate of infection, along with those of our employees, are among the lowest in the state. This commitment goes beyond my being a physician, as you cannot put a price on human life.
But it is usually in times of despair that you really learn about the people that define our community. I have always held that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. My Council teammates and I made a commitment four years ago that, if elected, we would work to build on that strength. Over the past four years, almost all our committees and boards have been filled with members from a wide range of communities in East Brunswick. In addition, we have seen several new committees form, as that is a natural byproduct of community building initiatives. Members of both political parties and those that are unaffiliated participate in many township boards and commissions.
As racial tensions build across the nation, East Brunswick residents have approached the subject in a balanced, civil and meaningful manner. Peaceful protest and FB Live presentations by the Human Relations Council have all helped to look at the criminal justice system in a way that promotes respectful discussion and meaningful change. But our approach to public safety is blended in to the community building that has always been part of my core beliefs. This has resulted in the culture and mission of public safety as advocates for fairness. This is also underscored by the building and support for community policing, which started long before the current political discourse.
As additional proof of our success in community building, the pandemic saw a groundswell of East Brunswick residents rising to volunteer time, money and talent to our first responders, healthcare workers, and essential workers. And this came from every corner of our diverse community. Whether it was food for first responders and healthcare workers, donations of PPE, fundraisers for charities, mask making, signs, social media postings of support, socially distanced parades, prayers, or a simple letter of appreciation-East Brunswick responded! THIS is the “dividend” that comes from inclusion.
As I look to the future, my teammates and I would like to build on what we have achieved over the past four years.
- Fiscal responsibility will always be a cornerstone of good government. While not “exciting”, I will continue to keep tight control of our debt ratio, expenses, fund balances and cost structure. This has been the main reason for our consistently high credit rating among credit agencies. This will be important as we access capital for our redevelopment projects, infrastructure projects and capital needs. In addition, our schools will depend upon our good credit rating for their capital needs. This will continue to save taxpayers from the higher interest charges the Board of Education would incur if left to market rates.
- Commitment to the Future continues to be the driving principle behind our success. Despite having hit the “fog” created by the pandemic, our commitment is on track. This includes, not only our redevelopment plans, but also our commitment to the Arts, new businesses, retaining of existing businesses, our Public Library, and our top-rated public schools.
- Community Building starts at a very basic level – by that I mean “the people”. Whether we connect through civic/religious organizations, boards, commissions, councils, youth groups, community policing or social media we are all part of a very powerful, invisible, diverse human network. Now that this network is in place, my goal is to tap into this energy and fuel the potential of our strong community to provide for the needs of everyone who calls East Brunswick home. We have only begun to see the potential of our community during this pandemic.
There is an old Indian adage that states that, “the tree with the most fruit is the one with its branches bent the lowest”. It is with the utmost humility that I ask for your support for Councilmen Sterley Stanley, Michael Spadafino and me, Mayor Brad Cohen, as we continue to work to make East Brunswick the community that anyone would be proud to call home.