I decided to run this year as an Independent after the encouragement from many residents and my desire to make a difference. I believe our residents want someone who is transparent, independent and can bring fresh ideas, and not someone who has been handpicked by an insular governing body. I believe, at the local level, it should not be about party or patronage, but rather about the person who can best serve the residents and solve the issues facing our town.
Warren faces a number of important issues today. We have to do a better job on taxes, improving public safety, and preserving the rural nature of our town with fair and sensible affordable housing.
Our taxes went up almost 4% this year. Resolutions have been approved for hundreds of units of housing under PILOT agreements that provide developers with 30 year tax abatements. These abatements short change our schools, the county, and other areas (open space, library, etc.) causing taxes for the existing base of taxpayers to rise! We need to stop the handouts to developers, do a better job on occupancy for commercial rateables, and reduce costs (like the old municipal building) to lower our taxes.
Warren Township slipped to #29 on the latest list of NJ’s 50 Safest Cities of 2019 from #3 in 2018 according to the report by Safewise released on April 4, 2019. We need to make sure the best technology, equipment and resources are available to, and utilized by, our public safety department so that Warren can return to the top of the list.
We need to preserve Warren’s rural nature. The Township Committee agreed to an affordable housing settlement last October that adds 1,048 new homes. We need to be responsive to, and wisely manage, the concerns about increased traffic, water runoff, school impacts, etc. that will result from an almost 20% increase in households. Also, the next round of affordable housing will be starting soon and we need leadership that is truly transparent, fair, and honest with residents, and provides information so residents can meaningfully participate in the solution and decision process.
As someone who has been attending Township Committee meetings regularly over the past three years (the only candidate that is running who has done so), I have seen how residents have not had the chance to be truly informed about critical issues like affordable housing, East County Park, PILOTs, mini-cell towers, etc..
Affordable housing was a prominent example of how the lack of transparency deprived our residents of the information so they might have meaningfully participated and not be surprised. Our governing body was working on the affordable housing issue for years. Yet however, even if residents attended Township Committee meetings and asked questions, they were unable to learn very much about the specifics, such as locations or what, if any, alternatives that were being considered. When the Township Committee finally decided to hold a special meeting for residents on October 1, 2018, the Township Committee was still guarded about information even though close to 100 concerned residents attended. At a meeting nine days later, the Township Committee, while claiming to listen to residents’ concerns, voted to approve a settlement. Residents didn’t truly have any meaningful input given the limited information and timeframe. The sad reality was that residents were never given an opportunity to meaningfully participate in the decision process and were only told by the Township Committee about the settlement after it was already a done deal. Warren residents are knowledgeable and have expertise that could have been utilized, and had the Township Committee been more transparent, residents would have had the opportunity to comment on, and shape the town’s affordable housing solution. Instead, this was just another example of the Township Committee doing what it thought was best for residents without forthright communication and listening to its residents. Government transparency shows humility in its administration and also allows for accountability.
Residents really should ask themselves whether they want a Township Committee to make decisions that affect their lives without having a true opportunity to learn about critical issues and participate in the solutions.
Furthermore, residents should ask the Township Committee why it will not support a candidate’s forum where residents could learn more about the issues facing our town and the positions of the three candidates running for office. I raised this issue several times at the Township Committee meetings and the Township Committee refused to respond, even though neighboring towns have held candidate’s forums, broadcast such on their public access channel, and even had their high school students involved in its production. When I asked candidate Jolanta Maziarz, after the July Township Committee meeting, whether she’d be willing to participate in a candidate’s forum, she immediately turned to those who appointed her to fill the unexpired term of the position this year, and then stated she would need to check before providing an answer. Informing residents about the issues in a candidate’s forum moderated by a non-partisan group, like the League of Women Voters, is a service to our residents so they can make informed choices about the governing of our town. We need a voice that isn’t going to beholden to the existing members and can be an independent thinker.
What our town needs is someone who has Fresh Ideas, is Independent and Transparent. I believe I am the best candidate that is F.I.T. to serve Warren Township’s residents with integrity. As an 18 year plus resident of Warren, I will use my skills as an attorney and engineer to problem solve the issues facing our town. I believe in being accessible and can be reached by telephone at 908-222-3537, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on twitter at @depinho4warren. Please also visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/depinhoforwarren or website at www.depinhoforwarren.com where you can join the campaign or make a donation. I humbly ask for your vote this November 5th.