SOMERVILLE, NJ - Borough Council candidate Jason Kraska has mapped out his neighborhood clean-up plan, an ambitious 18-week undertaking that will target a neighborhood each week in the 2.5-mile square borough beginning June 28 through the week preceding election day in November.
One week ago Kraska announced his plans to run again for a job he last held three years ago, vowing to throw the trusted political campaign playbook out the window in favor of a non-traditional approach:
Here's a portion of the e-mail he sent to friends and supporters:
"For me this is not about Democrat or Republican. This is not about the left or the right or being liberal or being conservative. This is about one thing and one thing only. “What is best for the Borough of Somerville?”
"You will not hear attacks on other candidates. You will not hear political sound bites. You will not hear empty promises. What will you hear? You will hear what I have done, what I want to do, and how we can do it. Straight simple and to the point.
"In past campaigns I have walked the town, knocked on your doors, held meet and greets, all of which I enjoyed, but not this year. This year I am going with an idea I got from the great men and women of “Just Another Day Inc.”
"Each week I will clean a different neighborhood of town, I will post where I will be on Facebook and Instagram. If you want to join me to help clean the town up great. If you want to ask me questions while we pick up trash even better! Regardless if I win or lose, Somerville will be a little bit cleaner.
"In past campaigns we held fundraisers and solicited donations, but not this year! I told you this year is going to be different. This year I ask that anyone who has the means and would have donated to the campaign please donate to one of the many organizations that Somerville has that help our residents directly.
Week One of his clean-up campaign will target an area adjacent to Adamsvillle Road in the eastern section of the borough; Week Two will target streets in the neighborhood behind Van DerVeer School, known to long-time residents as "The Maze."
Each week, he will announce the specific date, time and location for volunteers to meet on his Facebook page. Kraska is targeting Saturday mornings each week, but will be flexible because of the weather.
"We don't want to be out cleaning during a thunderstorm," he said.
Kraska created a map with shaded colors and numbers to designate each of the neighborhoods that will be targeted during the 18-week campaign; it is posted on his Facebook page, with a legend on the left-hand side of the map listing the dates and neighborhoods.
Kraska will supply trash bags, latex gloves for safety and water to keep everyone hydrated. He will also provide rakes, shovels and other tools if necessary, but expects that most of the garbage will consist of discarded cans, bottles, rotting newspaper and advertising circulars in plastic bags and cigarette butts. He anticipates spending 2-3 hours in each neighborhood. Volunteers just need to show up and be willing to work, he said.
The clean-up will be limited to streets, sidewalks and public areas; however, if a resident reaches out and asks for some help on their property, Kraska and his crew of volunteers will oblige.
"If anyone needs help with anything I'll be more than happy to help, just let us know," Kraska said.
He'll take care of the recycling and refuse, and will weigh the trash bags each week to measure the campaign's impact, with an update each week.
The clean-up campaign mimics a program sponsored by one of Kraska's classmates at Somerville High School.
Marques L. Jackson, an entrepreneur and owner of the Just Another Day clothing line, organized groups that ventured into the neighborhoods to clean up trash for three months last year.
"His idea was 'we're just not a business, we should be giving back,' " Kraska said. "I went out with him, it was great; that's where the idea came from."
Kraska will be helped by his Republican running mate, Hank Werner who ran unsuccessfully for Borough Council in 2018 and again last year.
Former mayor and Somerset County Freeholder Brian Gallagher has also signed on to help, according to Kraska.
Kraska is a lifelong Somerville resident and graduate of Somerville High School and Lock Haven University. He was a member of Somerville Borough Council from March, 2015 through December, 2017, He was appointed to a vacant seat in March, 2015 and ran successfully to complete the final two years of that term in November, 2015.
He ran unsuccessfully in 2017 for reelection, and again in 2018 but was defeated both times.
He and Werner will be running against Democratic incumbents Granville Brady and Fred Wied.
The Primary election will be held July 7.
Werner was a law enforcement officer beginning in March of 1990, first with Raritan Borough, then as a NJ Transit officer, and retired last year from the Bernards Township Police Department after serving on the force since 1994.
Link to Kraska's Facebook page using his first and last name in the "search" box.