August 13, 2014 at 3:41 PM
West Orange, N.J., August 7, 2014 -- West Orange Town Councilman Joe Krakoviak announced today his run for mayor in the November 4 election, saying the township needs a positive change toward fiscal responsibility, transparency, accountability and economic growth.
“We clearly need to move in a much better direction to restore a more affordable town, a more accountable government and a more livable community to raise our families,” said Krakoviak, who was elected to the council in 2010 and re-elected in 2012, both times as the top vote-getter. “We can and will do better.”
The councilman cited as major issues he will address:
- A three-year trend of municipal property tax increases, due in large part to a declining tax base;
- A dramatic rise in municipal debt – up 19%, or $11.3 million -- and debt-service payments – up 30% -- in the past four years;
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasteful spending;
- A lack of transparency and responsiveness to resident concerns on important issues;
- Insufficient support for law enforcement;
- Weak economic-development efforts and results;
- The failure to hold Prism Capital Partners, the downtown redeveloper, accountable for tax delinquencies, a failure to progress and allowing an eyesore Main Street location.
“In nearly four years on the Council, I’ve worked diligently to deliver on campaign promises of greater fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability,” Krakoviak, said. “Our residents now know much more about how their government behaves and spends their taxes -- and more often speak up and express their desires and concerns. However, much more remains to be done to restore West Orange to the attractive, affordable community we all want – and know it can be. I believe I’ve demonstrated the necessary knowledge, experience, independence and vision to lead our town into better times.”
Before winning his seat in November 2010, Krakoviak was called “Taxpayer Watchdog” by The Star-Ledger, in part for his founding of http://www.WestOrangeGrassroots.org to provide more transparency on town financial and governance issues. He also created a blog to post previews and results of each council meeting (http://aol.it/1ppahSO) along with the video indexed to help viewers efficiently find the parts of each council meeting they’re interested in watching.
To keep the town as affordable as possible, Krakoviak has repeatedly questioned proposed contracts and spending, frequently voting against what he considered wasteful or unnecessary. He fought to introduce legislation that now sets requirements for publishing council meeting agendas and proposed legislation on the town website. The councilman also introduced legislation to build competition and lower costs for municipal insurance -- proven to deliver significant savings to other communities. But, opposed by the mayor, the proposal didn’t even receive a second for introduction by the Council.
Krakoviak said a key element to the town’s revival is to address the precarious elements of finances. “The town’s tax base has declined annually for several years, weighed down by continued widespread wasteful spending -- driving our municipal property taxes higher and higher,” he said. “Whether it’s a quarter of a million dollars for proprietary surveillance cameras that no personnel monitors live and which haven’t resulted in a single conviction, or a minimum of $60,000 to improve the sight line on the third-base bleachers at the high school baseball field, wasteful spending has helped drive debt to a historical high of nearly $71 million and our debt service to jump by a third under the current mayor. This is unsustainable.”
Meanwhile, the town’s police force has suffered staffing reductions and long periods of open positions left vacant. “I’ve voted against three municipal budgets in part because law enforcement clearly needs more resources,” Krakoviak said. “Public safety is the most important service of local government.”
Krakoviak has opposed the proposal from Prism to redevelop the downtown Edison Storage Battery Factory site for a number of reasons. He believes the residential-focused project doesn’t have market demand and the agreement with the town is too heavily weighted in favor of Prism. Because the company has demonstrated an inability to obtain construction financing, stay current on its property taxes, pay its mortgages and maintain an attractive site, Krakoviak would require Prism to comply with its legal obligations – which could lead to Prism’s default under the redevelopment agreement and to a search for a new redeveloper and better project.
“We must make our government more business-friendly, with a structured program that focuses professional expertise on doing our part to improve the attractiveness of our commercial space and attract tenants to bring in more ratable revenue,” Krakoviak said.
The councilman has also fought to allow residents more say in major issues. He supported a referendum, fought by the mayor, to allow residents to decide whether to provide $6.3 million in taxpayer-guaranteed bonds for downtown redevelopment. He also favored a public referendum – supported by a resident petition -- to decide on the mayor’s proposal to move the non-partisan municipal election from its traditional spot in May to the November general election, which effectively gave the mayor and Council members an additional six months in office.
“Our residents should have had the opportunity to make these major decisions,” Krakoviak said. “It’s their government, and they should decide.”
Krakoviak, a University of Georgia graduate in journalism with concentrations in economics and finance, has had a successful career in financial journalism with USA Today and other newspapers as well as in corporate communications in the areas of municipal finance, news and financial services. He is a marketing and communications consultant with clients whose businesses include credit scoring, analytics, publishing, insurance and executive training. An eleven-year resident, Krakoviak is married to West Orange native Clare Silvestri, and they have three children: Thomas, Beth and Paul. His extensive community involvement centers around his church and children’s schools, Scouting and youth coaching.
“The world comes to West Orange -- its diversity on so many levels makes it an amazing place to raise a family,” Krakoviak said. “I’ve seen the great results from many in our town working together for the good of the community. It’s that unique sense of partnership that I want to further as mayor. With continued support from residents, we can make that happen.”