Since the summer I have knocked on the doors of thousands of residents in Scotch Plains to get a sense of what in town they’re happy about and what can be improved. Because you can never stop improving things, I never run out of things to discuss.
You may be surprised to hear that despite our political divisions nationally, when it comes to Scotch Plains, our Democrats, Republicans, and Independents usually agree on the good things we’ve achieved. For example, since my running mate Ted Spera and I were elected in 2016, we have had a municipal tax increase of less than 1% on average over four years, achieved a AAA bond rating, improved town services like growing our police force and adding a second branch pickup in the fall, and revitalized our Office of Emergency Management to ensure residents are fully informed during storms and emergencies.
Residents very much want to hear how we’re doing with COVID cases and seem to appreciate the transparency and communication we’re brought to this issue, as well as the support we’ve shown local businesses since March. Leading residents and businesses through this safely and getting us back to normal is a top priority of ours for the next four years.
But most often, residents have questions about downtown redevelopment. When I explain that our plan is not unnecessary development, or change simply for the sake of change, but a community-guided effort to incorporate our court-mandated affordable housing units into a reenergized and more exciting downtown, they understand. Scotch Plains has had 35 years of failed attempts to redevelop our downtown and bring in more ratables to stabilize our tax base.
Since founding the downtown redevelopment committee (SPDRC) in 2017 I have provided the vision, leadership, and perseverance to get the needed ordinances in place to make smart redevelopment happen. We have passed ordinances to prohibit overdevelopment and keep our quality of life, and we have successfully negotiated with our developer to maintain a reasonable building height that everyone on our Council is comfortable with. And most importantly, we have made clear that no plan will move forward that is not financially responsible. I am committed to make the redevelopment of our downtown a success for the benefit of all town residents.
I have tried to be the most accessible Mayor in the history of the town. If you call my township number, it rings on my personal cell phone, and I have always turned down the annual stipend offered to the Mayor. I have no political bosses who tell me who to appoint or how to vote; my only political bosses are you, the residents. Whether you agree with me or not on a particular issue, I hope you understand that everything I do, I do because I love Scotch Plains, and I want to keep it the best town in New Jersey, if not the country.
If you like the direction the town is heading, I humbly ask you to vote for me and my running mate, Councilman Ted Spera, in Column B.
Mayor Al Smith