MILLBURN, NJ - TAPinto Millburn and Short Hills asked each of the three candidates the same set of questions to help readers get to know the individuals running in the upcoming primary on June 5. The Q&A's will be published one per day, in alphabetical order. TAPinto Millburn and Short Hills is not a political organization and does not endorse any candidate.
Q&A with Candidate Jodi Rosenberg
1. Please provide a brief description of your background including your profession, your family, how long you have lived in the township.
I have lived in the Township for over two decades. All three of my children (Brandon 19), Jordan (17) and Sydney (13) have lived in the Township since birth and have attended Millburn Township schools. My husband, Daniel, is the General Counsel at Chanel, Inc. and commutes to NYC on the Midtown Direct. Brandon is a rising Junior at University of Michigan, studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Jordan is a rising Senior at Millburn High and Sydney will be a Freshman at Millburn High in September. I have deep roots in this community.
I am an attorney and have my own law firm in downtown Millburn, Jodi Rosenberg Law LLC. I focus on family law, mediation and litigation and real estate transactions.
2. Please provide a description of any public offices you have held. How have you participated in Millburn civic life before now?
I have been serving on the Township Committee since 2015. Prior to being elected, I was a member of the Township’s Community Service Award Committee and Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee. In addition to the Township positions, I am most known for serving as the Leader of the Workmom Group, an active online group for over 1600 busy working moms in the Township. I also spent 6 years as producer of Deerfield Elementary School’s Fifth Grade Musical, among other volunteer roles.
3, What motivated you to run for township committee?
I am running for re-election because there is plenty more work for me to do. In the three years I have served, I have forged relationships with heads of Township departments and am still learning the ropes. Government moves at a much different speed than the private sector and earning the public’s trust takes time. My predecessor on the Township Committee served for 12 years. This is a marathon, not a sprint. This Township will be well served if I finish the work I’ve started, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity.
4. Do you have the endorsement of your party and if not, why do you think you don’t?
Yes, I was unanimously selected by the Republican Party as its candidate.
5. What issues are most important to you and why?
To me, the safety of our residents and visitors will always be a top priority. Our police force is top notch, yet there have been a series of car and home break-ins and we need to remain vigilant. We need to look at whether our police force is adequately staffed and managed. Further, making sure our children have safe routes to school is very important. I have served for the last two years on a joint committee with representatives of the Board of Education and each school to make sure children can get to school safely. I’m proud to say that the Township has been recognized with Bronze status and is eligible for grant money that we had not known about prior to the involvement of this committee.
I want to help revive our struggling downtown business districts. One of the primary reasons I chose Millburn Township as a place to raise my family was its downtown. Having grown up in Marlboro, New Jersey, where we lacked a downtown shopping area, I envisioned that a downtown would add to the feeling of community. When I saw Taylor Park’s Cherry Blossoms in full bloom and great stores and restaurants downtown, I was sold. Now, companies like Amazon have changed the retail landscape and most shopping is online. I want to help fill our storefronts with businesses that offer experiences and services that can’t be purchased online. As the Township Committee liaison to the Downtown Millburn Development Alliance, I am committed to the enhancement of the commercial viability and attractiveness of our downtown business areas. Not only do I want to see our storefronts filled, but I want to see more community involvement centered downtown. We need to encourage our residents to shop locally.
Parking in the Township is another area that can be improved. There are residents who want to use our trains after the morning rush hour who cannot find a parking spot. There are business owners who cannot get temporary parking permits for new employees. There are too many residents and business owners getting parking tickets due to glitches in our new parking system or what some feel is overeager enforcement. We really need to study the model, as it does not seem to be conducive to good customer service. I would like to see waiver of parking fees during other periods than the December holidays. I would like the opportunity to serve on the Parking Committee and help improve communication with residents and business owners about parking-related issues.
6. How do your positions differ from those of your opponents?
I am focused on the welfare of our residents and visitors in general, and that is a many-faceted endeavor. It seems that newcomers to the political scene focus entirely on what to do about our streetscape. There is so much more to being on the Township Committee though.
On a daily basis, I need to respond to the numerous inquiries of residents, advocate with other public entities on behalf of our residents, serve on various committees, take positions on lawsuits involving the Township, and review and comment on legislation. It is a big job and I take it very seriously. Being a lawyer is a huge help and makes poring through legislation and legal pleadings much easier.
7. Do you believe Millburn has a cohesive community and, if not, what steps could be taken to improve this?
This is an excellent question. I believe on the whole we are a very cohesive community and I am proud to raise my three children here. One example is the recent dedication of a batting cage facility at Gero Park to the Township by friends and family of a 20 year old resident who died in 2016. I was honored to be able to accept the facility on behalf of the Township. Seeing the community of residents come together and make this project happen was a beautiful example of our cohesive community.
We are also a diverse community and I am involved in efforts to help educate our residents to embrace our diversity. I am on a task force of the Millburn Municipal Alliance Committee and we recently put on a program entitled “Talking To Your Children about Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Religion.” I believe it is important that a representative of the Township Committee is involved in embracing our diverse community, and I hope to set an example for others to follow.
8. What is your opinion of the Complete Streets plan and what would you propose to address the problems it has created?
My first year on the Township Committee was in 2015 and the Complete Streets policy was already in the planning and design phase. The plan had been fully vetted by all Township departments (Police, Fire, Building and Public Works), an Ad Hoc Committee and members of the public. Our vote on the project was unanimous.
Prior to construction, which included adding a necessary crosswalk and reducing speed limits on Millburn Avenue, I observed a middle school boy get hit by a car while crossing Millburn Avenue. I believe that if the crosswalk had been in place, the boy would have crossed safely. At that point, I was grateful the project was about to begin.
Like any renovation, Phase 1 took longer and cost more than planned. However, the Township looks fresher and we have won awards and continue to receive accolades.
I can’t say I love every aspect of the project as built. More significantly, I cannot ignore the numerous residents who have pointed out the flaws in Phase 1.
People are upset that cars move more slowly through our business district. However, pedestrians are more likely to survive if hit at lower speeds. Further, we want people driving in cars to observe and frequent the great offerings we have in our business districts.
I do not like how the flex parking looks as built. It is unwieldy for many. I’m torn whether removing it makes fiscal sense, while at the same time hearing many merchants and residents who suffered during construction ask us to return to the original curbing. I continue to seek for a creative solution that will benefit the vast majority and we have asked our engineers to present other alternatives.
9. What is your proposal to lower property taxes?
Last December, residents stormed Town Hall to prepay property taxes in order to take advantage of the final year of the full deductibility. Many prepaid even though they would not realize much savings. This shows how important it is for our residents to pay the lowest property taxes possible. What most do not realize is how small the municipal portion is compared to what we have to collect for the County and the Board of Education. Yet, the only portion I can help control while on the Township Committee is the municipal portion. Nevertheless, I continue to monitor the spending of our government on non-essential improvements while still ensuring that our residents continue to get the great services to which they are accustomed. For example, while other municipalities do not provide trash pickup for their residents, this is not something I would recommend in order to lower property taxes. I continue to explore sharing services wherever possible. We looked into sharing services with our municipal court and are looking into sharing other services with other municipalities. In sum, I continue to look for ways to lower our taxes while still maintaining the quality of life we all want.
10. What do you think of the fact that town’s teachers are working without a contract and do you have suggestions to resolve the obstacles to coming to agreement?
On a personal level, my child will be affected by the lack of a contract, because the teachers are refusing to write letters of recommendation to colleges for rising seniors at MHS. Accordingly, I would like to see this issue resolved. However, the Township Committee and Board of Education are two separate bodies charged with different, albeit very important tasks and it is not appropriate for me to tell the elected members of the BOE how to handle this issue.
11. Do you believe that the town’s residents are sufficiently involved in the management of the town and, if not, how this could be improved?
Our Township’s daily management is handled under the capable hands of our full-time Business Administrator, Alexander McDonald. He oversees every department, including Police, Fire, Building, Public Works and the Municipal Court. The members of the TC are elected to make policyand enact legislation to effectuate that policy. Our residents are invited to participate in various Boards and Commissions, including the Planning and Zoning Boards and Recreation Commission. Sadly, despite all the voices we hear in opposition to some of our policies, we often do not have enough volunteers willing to serve. Those who cannot commit to volunteering are encouraged to reach out to the members of the TC at meetings or through correspondence to share their views and notify us of any issues we may not have considered.
Editor's Note: In the interest of full transparency, Jonathan Sym, owner of TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills, is a Republican Committeeman in Millburn Township. Mr. Sym has no involvement with any election coverage on TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills.