BAYONNE, NJ - Despite being embroiled in controversy, Peter Franco continues to campaign vigorously in hopes of becoming the First Ward councilman on Nov. 5.
Franco is running in the special election against Neil Carroll III, John R. Cupo, and Paul Hagdorn.
Franco’s campaign took a heavy hit in mid-September when he and his volunteers were banned from participating at the local soup kitchen, and later, after news reports revealed details of his discharge from the military.
Although Franco admitted his had received a bad conduct discharge from the military, he disputed the charges that led to that discharge as well as to many of the details contained in the news reports.
One of the most persistent critics of Mayor Jimmy Davis’ administrator, Franco paints a more positive face on his campaign, detailing what he hopes to accomplish rather than highlighting the current administrations’ failings.
While Franco’s tenacity has put him at the heart of many of the current political disputes, even some of his enemies admit he’s smart and knows the issues. Franco sees himself as an advocate, someone whose role it is to hold public officials accountable.
Franco has been very vocal at council meetings for years and claims that his frequent attendance has given him a thorough understanding of issues facing Bayonne, helping him develop strategies for addressing some of these problems.
A lifelong resident of the First Ward, Franco attended Bayonne High School before going onto Thomas Edison State University in Trenton where he majored in applied science. He is currently employed as a senior account manager for a Hoboken-based company.
Until the recent controversy sidelined his ability to volunteer at the local soup kitchen, Franco said his role there made him very conscious of how many people need help in Bayonne, and how extensive homelessness is in the Peninsula City.
“We really need to provide better services for the homeless here,” he said.
But his vision for an emerging Bayonne, he said, involves avoiding the mistakes that gentrification causes in places like Jersey City where long time residents are being priced out as new development brings new residents and high rents.
“We need to keep Bayonne affordable,” Franco said. “This means we must require developers to build affordable units as well as luxury units.”
Tied closely to new development is the issue of parking. Unlike some of the other candidates, Franco opposes building new parking decks.
“I work in Hoboken where I see parking buildings go half unused,” he said.
As with Hoboken, he believes Bayonne needs to do an audit of existing available parking and find ways to increase those spaces such as reducing some areas near corners that are currently restricted or modifying the alternate side street cleaning regulations to provide more time for people to park.
“We also need to get tangible parking from new development” he said.
Not only does he want developers to provide a parking spot for every single bedroom unit built, but Franco was to increase the number for larger units, such as one and a quarter spots for two-bedroom units and one and a half for three-bedroom units.
As a resident of the First Ward his entire life, Franco said he is well aware of the flooding issue, even during moderate storms. He said the city needs to do more such as increasing the maintenance on tide gates.
While the Hudson Bergen Light Rail has been a benefit for Bayonne, it is often overcrowded during rush hour, he said.
“People going to Jersey City from 45th Street sometimes have to take the train to 8th street in order to get a seat going back the other way,” Franco said. “This will only get worse as new development comes online. There are 10,000 new units approved. NJ Transit has to increase service. This will mean expanding the infrastructure.”
Franco also supports doing away with the honor system where riders buy tickets that may never get checked.
New development will also have an impact on schools. While Mayor Jimmy Davis has proposed a plan to build new schools to replace the aging buildings currently in use, Franco said this is the wrong approach.
“We need to increase capacity and use money we have to create more classrooms,” he said.
To help fund the schools, Franco wants to dedicate more money from abated property.
“I want 20 percent from abatements to go to the schools, rather than the 10 percent abatements currently give,” he said.
Franco is not opposed to all abatements as long as they provide a community benefit, but he said these should be no longer than five to ten years.
“And you cannot suspend the affordable housing requirement on any abatement,” he said.
To curb the influence big developers have on local politicians, Franco is proposing a strict pay to play regulation similar to the one currently operating in Hoboken, where contributions are limited to $500.
“This would include contributions from political action committees,” he said.
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