This upcoming Garwood Council election in 2020 poses the question of how have our local elected officials listened to the needs of their citizens? As Finance Chair for the last two years, this year I was so enthusiastic when I, along with the Finance Committee, presented in early March an ambitious long-range vision that followed through with our various departments’ 5-year capital plans and moved forward with thoughtful initiatives designed to make local government work more efficiently and effectively. As we have seen in many facets of our lives, COVID-19 clearly had other plans. We had to cut nearly $200,000 from the introduced budget that included $79,000 in anticipated revenues and $113,000 in cuts that eliminated salary increases for well-deserving employees as well as slashed purchasing plans of equipment and programs. While this was not ideal, it resulted in a zero dollar increase on the average household from the municipal portion of the bill. This was a direct result of listening to the needs and concerns of Garwood citizens.
Councilman Russ Graham, who has distinguished himself as someone who is not afraid to ask the tough questions over his two year tenure, dove into every line item with thoughtful discourse and meaningful clarifications to make sure that each expenditure was justified. He has personally called me and brought to my attention areas of the budget that I may have overlooked respectfully holding us accountable for every dollar we spent as he personally understood the economic struggles of his community and neighbors. Russ, who is no stranger to service, has devoted years to the Navy after signing up on his 18th birthday as well as to the Garwood Board of Education before joining the Council in 2019. His attention to detail is admirable as he has a way of finding creative ways of getting things accomplished such as finding a contractor to remove the rusted flag pole in front of Borough Hall, while leaving the concrete base intact to significantly reduce the cost of a full replacement. If there is a reasonable way to save money, Russ will surely find that path.
I am also thrilled to share my excitement for Vincent Kearney who is running on the ticket with Russ. Vinnie, one of the co-founders of Garwood Live, has been instrumental in making all public meetings more accessible to residents by watching on Facebook. Whether it has been conducting Q & A sessions with the Mayor and select Council members to dive deeper into the budget numbers or making Planning Board and Board of Education meetings more transparent, Vinnie has literally been one of the most devoted volunteers in our town. His selfless commitment of countless hours has provided a forum that directly connects residents to the people they elected. This has resulted in a more robust response from the Mayor and Council to Garwood citizens’ needs and concerns. His experience and successful career as an officer in the Sheriff’s Department shows his discipline, understanding of the law, and strong character. Vinnie’s Garwood Live platform makes it easy to dispute the lies of the most recent Republican mailer and add context to appropriate expenditures to improve our town, like paving roads, repairing sidewalks, and ensuring our departments have safe, proper equipment. While their website contains literally zero backup documentation for their claims, one can easily come to their own unbiased conclusion by watching these meetings on Garwood Live.
Both Russ and Vinnie understand the importance of listening, debating, and independently coming to a decision that is best for our town. These two have a history of volunteerism throughout their time here in Garwood that shows their undeniable commitment to this town. Therefore, I strongly endorse the re-election of Russ Graham and the election of Vincent Kearney for Garwood Borough Council.
Councilman Marc Lazarow, Finance Chair