South Orange is a great place to live, but it does have problems. I view those problems as mainly ones of neglect of the basic civic and capital infrastructure of the village as it operates, which neglect causes daily frustrations for us all.
These are basic, bread and butter issues. The post office is one of them — everyone agrees the service is slow and unreliable, and packages and mail get mis-delivered. Davis Ford started an initiative in 2018 to improve the postal service, and brought together the new and interim postmasters, Member of Congress Donald Payne Jr. (it is a federal facility after all) and me (when I was “temping” as a freeholder). Perhaps because of the standards and expectations we explained, and the impending scrutiny, a new postmaster was assigned. Bottom line, improved postal service is a high priority for Davis Ford.
Another is traffic-calming our local roads which have way too much speeding traffic, using family neighborhoods as a virtual rat-run to avoid lights. We’ve had teenagers and seniors hit, and a senior killed, cars on sidewalks, cars in yards (front and back). Hundreds of tickets have been issued to drivers for not stopping for pedestrians. When’s it gonna stop?
We have to do something different. I worked with the West Montrose residents for years to get traffic calming on Scotland Road and Montrose Avenue. After years, still nothing. So when the Scotland Road reconstruction project came before me as a freeholder, I delayed it, and asked the County Engineer for traffic calming instead. He said, Get me a resolution from your town to show support. And Davis Ford is the one who got that resolution moving, done and passed (and thanks to Howard Levison for all the helpful details and all the trustees for their yes votes). I think Davis Ford can really help with this speeding traffic through our neighborhoods problem.
Street paving is another problem. Many of our roads are a mess and the list is long (multi-years) to fix them. We rely largely on DOT local aid grants to fix the 1-3 roads per year that we do fix. It’s not sexy but I’d like to elect someone who works more on getting more local aid of all types.
The proposed fire department merger, share, district, whatever, has dominated the debate. Personally, I think State Senate President Steve Sweeney is going to have to get some of his legislation enacted first before municipal-to-municipal or municipal-into-county consolidation happens, and makes sense, whether of services or whole governments. The savings are just not that great when towns do it by themselves. And the hurdles are great, which is why Mayor DeLuca from Maplewood wrote that our towns have been working on it for 20 years!
Btw, Davis Ford was one of the first to call for shared services way back in 2006, and she’s voted for all of them. I give her a lot of credit now for raising hard Qs about the proposals being considered in the last several months. Obviously we’re all dependent upon whomever gets elected to sort out the details, but what I don’t want is a situation haled as “visionary” when it occurs because it’s a “first” which in future decades saddles South Orange with paying more and getting less — and governing less — than it may need.
In my view, that’s what happened with the school district. I wonder what the trustees who struck that school district deal with Maplewood were thinking and whether South Orangians asked enough hard Qs back then. You can love our school district and still understand that we in SO pay more to educate fewer students.
Bottom line, I think we need to get back to basics and quality of life, and spend less time and energy on one-off passion projects.
Bread and butter issues make or break quality of life — the mail, the potholes, the traffic, the parking, safely crossing the street, whether our buildings are falling apart. Davis Ford will be great at pulling together the people at all levels of government to listen to your day to day problems and make sure the employees of the Village do their job, and help you. Yes, Davis Ford has relationships at all levels and she will work well and to our collective benefit. And Davis Ford also will negotiate deals with developers to get projects done. I understand the vision — what I’m interested in is the execution, on time and on budget. That’s what really counts.
I’m very confident Davis Ford will be a solid, back to basics, good manager/ leader. I trust Davis Ford to look out for the Village and all of its residents.
Editor's Note: The letter writer is a South Orange former Village Trustee, and former Essex County Freeholder.