Editor's note: As we count down to election day November 5, The Alternative Press of Summit continues a series of profiles on candidates running for local and district office. Similar to the ongoing Meet The Leaders series, the objective is to provide our readers the opportunity to hear from the candidates regarding their background, their motivation for seeking public office, and their take on our present and future outlook. In order to keep the format consistent, The Alternative Press presents each individual with the same five questions. We publish their answers unedited.
Today - Summit Common Council - Ward 2 - Mike Vernotico
Background / Biography
I was born in Newark and my family moved here in the 1950’s. I was raised on Lafayette Avenue. I was graduated from Summit High and Princeton University. I attended Princeton on three academic scholarships and earned three varsity letters in football. I am trained and educated in Architecture and Engineering with a specialty I planning. I worked for a number of architectural firms and financial institutions before moving into real estate development. I am now a principal in Landmark MVM Realty Advisors. I married Joanne some 42 years ago at St. Theresa’s. We live on Blackburn Road with our dog K.B., who won First Place at the PAL Pet Show Small Dog Category!
What led you to pursue a position in public office?
It originally started with the city wanting to widen my street. The vote on the introduction was unanimous for the project. I led my neighbors and a large section of the town in opposing the plan. The governing body then unanimously rejected the plan
I am seeking office today for a number of reasons. First and foremost, moving here changed my life enormously. I want to return the favor and ensure that this community is the great place for our children that it was for me. I believe this governing body is out of touch with our residents and has made a number of significantly bad decisions. It has been about politics with them. With me, it is about Community Service.
What are the biggest challenges facing Summit?
Clearly the loss of Merck will be a major challenge. I have proposed an action plan to change the zoning to give Merck flexibility in the sale of the property. As a real estate developer, I know how to do this. Secondly is the downtown. If elected, I will be the only member of the governing body with real estate experience. We need to develop a new approach in attracting ratables. Thirdly is the rising crime rate. The governing body has cut the Police and the Fire Department budgets making us less safe while crime is on the rise. Lastly, while not a function of the Council, we need to support our Board of Education to assure that our children receive an outstanding education.
What are the biggest opportunities for Summit?
We have ample opportunities to bring in new ratables to offset property taxes. The Broad Street, Morris Avenue and River Road corridors are potentials for significant redevelopment opportunities. We need to revise the current zoning put in place by the governing body to attract ratables. Many of our houses can and will be upgraded which will increase the value thereby producing more tax revenue. We need expeditious approvals of building permits. Lastly, we can make our schools as good as any towns.
What would be on your "to do list", if elected?
Number one is to get rid of the $800,000 parking plan and its parking ambassadors funded with our tax dollars. It is hurting the downtown thereby driving down values and tax revenues. Stop the wasteful $650,000 plan to beautify Deforest Avenue. Prevent the $15 million taxpayer funded parking garage on the post office lot. Restore cuts to Police and Fire. Revise a number of zoning ordinances to enhance new ratables, not deter them. Lastly, establish a home for disabled veterans as a means of meeting our COAH obligations.
What are five words to describe Summit?