NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios welcomed New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick on Feb. 14, as the Governor hosted mayors from throughout the County for a roundtable discussion on critical issues facing the County’s towns and residents. East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen was there, asking questions about proposed redevelopment in the township.
“I am very excited that you have come here to discuss priorities and how we can build new partnerships with the State while strengthening those that already exist,” said Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios. “Thank you, Governor, for giving all of us the opportunity to have a direct dialogue with you on issues facing our residents.”
Gov. Murphy summarized his Administration’s priorities, such as Infrastructure and transportation funding, education funding and municipal aid, and told those assembled he intended to work with county and local officials to meet his goals.
Murphy then turned the floor over to the mayors, who discussed dozens of topics ranging from land redevelopment and property taxes to affordable housing and traffic.
"I am pleased that the Governor is making an effort to get out to the mayors throughout the state and doing it county by county," said East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen. "Governor Murphy has told us that when we have questions, we should expect an answer. You will always get a response. Mayors may not like the answers, but they will get the information they need to move forward."
Cohen said that Murphy was "not sitting in an ivory tower," but that he was coming out to the people "in the trenches" doing the work of management. Cohen asserted that the meeting was "an opportunity to talk about what was important in our neighborhoods and towns."
"He knows that every mayor doesn't want to get rid of the 2% cap on spending increases within their budgets," said Cohen of Murphy.
Asking questions specifically with regard to East Brunswick, Cohen wanted to know about the status of New Jersey Assembly Bill 1505 which would allow lower rates for liquor licenses. "These licenses are ridiculously expensive, " said Cohen. "If the people of East Brunswick want more small restaurants that serve alcohol, the prices have to change." The Mayor suggested that only chain restaurants can afford the $100,000 cost of a license right now.
"If the prices are lowered, there will be a fund to reimburse those current businesses that have paid the higher price," he said.
Cohen also asked Murphy about the township's desire to increase the use of shared services so that there would be "more overlap and less overhead." He suggested sharing some services within the township, between towns, and at the county level to reduce costs and reduce redundancy in administration and staffing.
Overall, Cohen saw Murphy as "an honorable guy" interested in "fairness."
Echoing that sentiment, Freeholder Director Rios closed the meeting by saying: “This type of face-to-face, direct outreach is so vitally important as we all move forward in serving the people of our towns, the people of Middlesex County and the people of the great State of New Jersey.”