Welcome Assemblyman John McKeon, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Freeholder John Krikus, Mayor Paul Smith, along with your fellow Council members from Union Beach, Charles Cocuzza and Victor Tuberion, Past Mayors and Council members, family, friends and residents of Madison.
Thank you to Dr. Vincent Esposito, for your five years of service to Madison.
And thanks again to Don Links for his service to our residents, I’m sorry he couldn’t be with us today but I thank all of those who were here to recognize Don on December 10.
Welcome back Astri, you took a break to recharge your batteries, I look forward to you picking up where you left off.
And welcome to Ben Wolkowitz, while you may be the rookie at the table, but I know you have spent the last few months getting up to speed and you are ready for the task at hand.
Welcome back to our returning Council members, Jeannie Tsukamoto, Rob Catalanello, Bob Landrigan and Carmela Vitale.
Last night the New Year was welcomed in with the 80-year old fire horn. This was brought back through the work of the Hartley Dodge Memorial Trustees and the expertise and dedication of our Construction Officer Russ Brown. But what really made this event so special, was the fact that the horn was powered by a universal sigh of relief that 2012 was over.
As the Madison Eagle called the weeks after Hurricane Sandy the worst and best of times, the 2012 was much the same. We had our challenges but every time Madison came out stronger.
This is not to bring back bad memories but emphasize what a great community we live in, Madison was thrown for a loop last February. What we saw over the next few weeks is part of what makes us stand out. In a council meeting that had to be moved to accommodate the crowd, we saw residents who showed nothing but respect. We also saw an elected body, who recognized a mistake and made things right. Washington should take note that the only pledge that should be made to voters is to listen and to act in the best interests of their constituents.
As we weathered that storm little did we know what would happen on the anniversary of 2011’s Halloween storm.
Super storm Sandy hit New Jersey with force and destruction that we have never seen before and hopefully will never see again. Again out of the devastation we saw Madison at its best. Within the first week we had neighbors opening up their homes to those without heat, residents sharing generators with those without power, volunteers putting in endless hours, our Department of Public Works and Electric Department doing everything possible to our town back together again. And when Madison was made whole, we didn’t stop there. Initially we provided support to our neighboring towns, helping to restore their power. Then we partnered with Union Beach, a community that has put our Sandy damages into perspective. While we had lost our power, they lost their homes. This partnership will continue in 2013.
As we talk about dealing with adversity we cannot forget our colleague and friend Don Links. As ALS attacked his body he never turned his back on his mission, to continue to work, to volunteer for Madison especially as it related to his goal to work on the sports complex at the Madison Recreation Center. He is an inspiration to us all. And as you will hear shortly he wants to continue this work as a member of the Recreation Advisory Committee.
Also in the year we just said farewell to, we lost some our most dedicated residents, Mayor Glenn Head, who also provided leadership to Board of Education. Mayor Ralph Engelsman, who wrote the book on consensus building. Joe Mezzacca, whose legal expertise and caring approach guided Madison for years. Joe DeMarzo, who literally built our town with quality that became a sales pitch in real estate listing, “DeMarzo Built” Barbara Valk, who founded the Madison Eagle Christmas Fund and who served on the on the Madison Housing Authority for 35 years; many of those years as its chair. She dedicated her life to taking care of those who are less fortunate. And just as we entered this holiday season we lost Irv Valkys, who shared Barbara’s passion for providing affordable housing, Irv serve on the Housing Authority for 25 years and also was the treasurer for Madison Little League for decades. These were volunteers and public servants who raised the bar.
Another area where we stand out is in our cooperation with the Board of Education with the redevelopment of the Green Village Road School property The two elected bodies have worked closely to maximize the value of the property through a development that we will all be proud of. We all look forward to bringing this to closure in 2013 with the sale of the property
2012 saw our kickoff of the Chief Executive Council for Madison. The Council is based on the mission to network, discuss leadership best practices, find areas of potential collaboration, and identify ways to support Madison's corporate neighbors along with bringing along our next generation of leaders. Co-chairs Stephen H. Rusckowski, CEO of Quest Diagnostics and Vivian Bull, interim President of Drew University and I were joined by almost 20 other CEOs who live or work in Madison. Within eight hours of the adjournment of the meeting, progress on the first initiative of the Council was underway. The Union Beach Partnership was kicked off with $10,000 anonymous donation from a Executive Council member. Support followed with a truck loads of lumber from several donors including Investors Bank. Martin Heller reached out to the Jewish Federation of MetroWest who then provided support in the way of cash, lumber, beds, hands on volunteers. All of this rose out of our kickoff one hour meeting, can you imagine what is on the horizon for this group?
As we look back on 2012 we cannot avoid thinking about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our heart goes out to the families of Newtown, Connecticut, those who lost their children, and those whose lives will never be the same as this tragedy unfolded in their quiet town. This served as a reminder of how vulnerable we are and that no one is safe. As a community and as a nation we must do all that is possible to prevent this senseless violence. Today I signed a pledge joining Mayors against Gun Violence, a nation-wide effort including Mayors Bloomberg and Booker. Rob Catalanello will be presenting a resolution at our January 14 meeting urging Congress to make the New Jersey gun control laws the laws for the nation. Rob will be quick to point out that he is a member of the NRA, while I’m a member of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. We are together on this because enough is enough.
As we look forward, we hope that the year 2013 brings us better luck and of course we have better control of our luck with hard work. Here are a few of the tasks I hope that we can tackle in 2013. Last year as I laid out the goals for 2012 I may have been a bit ambitious, so a few of these may sound familiar.
We have our new fields at the Madison Recreation Complex. If you haven’t seen it in action please make a point to visit it this spring on Saturday morning. It is a site to behold with so many concurrent activities serving not only our recreation programs but also, because of the location, providing top notch facilities for Madison High School.. The construction is completed including a beautiful field house but much work remains as we have made a promise that these fields would be built through a partnership. We have the dedicated volunteers of the Madison Athletic Foundation working on fundraising through a agreement with the Borough, albeit as I described to several recently a partnership founded on eggshells. To move the fundraising even further and to move off of the eggshells, I have asked Rob Catalanello to lead a committee to solidify this partnership so we can achieve our common goals, raise funds, retire debt and effectively manage the facility. Rob accepted this task without hesitation. Thank you.
A holdover from last year is developing a comprehensive strategic plan for Madison. Our two new members of the Council ran on a platform that emphasized the need for long-range planning. I will hold you to that promise and I expect you to do the same for me. Over the next two months we will develop the planning process, understanding that this is a monumental task that will keep many volunteers and staff busy for the coming year.
As we go into 2013, we will be continuing our Town Hall Meetings, with the goal of one a quarter. The meetings held in 2012 were very helpful and with a planning process in place they will allow for broader involvement from residents.
Shortly you will be hearing the names of the volunteers who will be appointed to the Borough committees, but they represent just the tip of the volunteer iceberg. We expect a lot from our committees but we don’t always give them the tools to get the job done. With that in mind we will hold the first annual committee chair and leadership meeting no later than the first week of February. We will cover how run effective meetings, responsibilities of chairs and of course in a common theme, their committee’s role in strategic planning.
Of course the immediate goal is that on this New Year’s Day we have football games to watch and Twilight Zone marathons to fall asleep to. So with that in mind let’s get to the business at hand. To all of you, I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year.