CLARK, NJ – It’s an election year for three Clark Township council positions and the mayor’s seat.  Incumbent Republicans Angel Albanese, Al Barr and Bill Smith face challenges from Democrats Jerry Fogle, Michele Miller and Patrick Murphy.  Republican mayor Sal Bonaccorso, seeking reelection to a fifth term, is challenged by Democrat Dario Valdivia.

TAPinto Clark will profile each of the candidates in the days leading up to Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 with a series entitled "Five Questions with..."  Look for a new profile every three days.  This is the third profile in the series:

Name:    Michele Miller

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Current Occupation:  Assistant Personnel Officer, Union County Division of Social Services

Education:  High School, some college courses

Family: John Miller (spouse); Alex, 25; Zack 22 (sons)

Years Lived in Clark:  17

1. Property taxes never go out of style.  Discuss the state of property taxes in Clark.

Out of control property taxes have become a way of life in Clark.  The mayor and council have allowed spending to double on their watch and have had no concerns about passing that cost on to us.  That is unacceptable.  Residents in Clark deserve elected officials who will fight to cut costs and seek outside revenue, in the form of grants, from the county, state and federal government.  There is no excuse for the current mayor and council to continually squeeze the residents of this town dry.

2. Discuss the services the Township of Clark provides its citizens.  What does the township do well? What can it do better?  What impact will you have on township services?

I am constantly in awe of our first responders.  Clark’s police, fire and EMT’s are first rate and I commend their service.  Our Recreation and Library programs are outstanding.  There is something for everyone, no matter what age or interests. 

Should I to be fortunate enough to be elected to the Council, I would push for a comprehensive assessment of traffic in town to give our police the data they need to help ease congestion on our roadways and encourage safer speeds from our motorists where necessary.  Speeding is a big issue, and not just on the main roads.  Our police have to enforce speed limits.  Another idea may be to install small solar powered speed signs on the main roads to ensure that drivers are aware when they are exceeding the speed limit.

3. The Westfield Avenue corridor is a concern to businesses and residents.   What do you think can and should be done along Westfield Avenue and how can you shape its future?

The town should examine the feasibility of a downtown corporation or redevelopment authority to remake the Westfield Avenue corridor into a vibrant, pedestrian friendly area that will be appealing to our residents and attract customers from throughout the area.  This entity could assist in soliciting businesses to buy the old A&P property, and open a business that would be appealing to our citizens.  There should be some uniformity to the area, using planters, etc.

4. Crime increasingly hits close to home. Car break-ins, personal attacks, shop-lifting and drug use are in the headlines.  What is your view of crime in Clark?  As an elected official, what impact can you have on crime conditions in the township?

First, let me say that the Clark Police have done an excellent job in maintaining the safety of our residents.  Crime is not confined to our municipal borders.  We need leadership on this issue to help our police officers not only catch the perpetrators of criminal activity, but stop it before it occurs.  I would push for proactive partnerships with the Union County Police and surrounding towns, as well as encourage the creation of neighborhood watches.   In addition, I would press for grants and other outside resources to add additional officers, if it is determined that such a step would be useful.

5. Why do you feel you deserve the job?  What qualifies you for it?

No one ‘deserves’ an elected office.  It is up to each of us to articulate our vision for Clark and leave it to our residents to determine if they are satisfied with the way things are in our town, or if they believe it is time for a new direction.

I feel I am qualified for this position because of my years of experience representing management in personnel-related issues.  I’ve always managed to maintain a respectful relationship with the unions representing our employees.  I listen to both sides of any issue and will always try to resolve issues before they escalate into conflicts.  If elected to the Clark Township Council, I would apply this experience to balance representing the best interests of the citizens, while protecting the integrity of our town.

Just as I have always had an open door policy at work, I would always make myself available to any citizen in need.  If I don’t know the answer, I will get the answer.  If a policy needs to be updated, I will advocate to get it done.   Integrity is a big part of who I am.  I don’t need to be popular among my peers.  If I see an injustice, I will speak up and work to change it. 

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