WAYNE, NJ – November 5 is Election Day and all six Wayne Township Ward seats are up for election this cycle. On September 26, the League of Women Voters held their candidates forum at the Wayne Town Hall. During the forum, all the candidates in attendance answered seven questions that came from the audience.
This is the third in a series of seven articles summarizing the answers given by each of the candidates in attendance, as well as answers obtained exclusively by TAPinto Wayne from candidates who could not participate at the live event.
Participating at The Forum:
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Al Sadowski
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Dianne Douthat
- Republican incumbent, President of the Council Franco Mazzei
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Karen Dowizc-Haas
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Joe Scuralli
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Ken Tahan
- Budget Hawk challenger, Candidate Christian Smith
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Aileen Rivera
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Fran Ritter
Did Not Participate
Could not attend:
- Ward One Republican incumbent, Councilman Rich Jasterzbski
Not allowed to participate because of League of Women Voter “empty chair debate” rules:
- Ward One Democrat challenger, Candidate Arlene Sullivan
- Ward Six Republican incumbent, Councilman Jonathan Ettman
Though all three candidates who could not participate in the forum were invited to provide answers to the seven questions to TAPinto Wayne, only the Democrat Ward One candidate, Arlene Sullivan, did so. Her answers will be a part of this series.
What would be your plans for economic development and bringing in businesses to the empty commercial spaces in Wayne?
** The word ‘rateable’ is used often by the candidates. It is a municipal government term for a source of tax revenue. A commercial rateable is a business/commercial property owner, while a residential rateable is a residential property owner who pays property taxes.
“It’s about the permitting process”, said Ward Four Budget Hawk Candidate Christian Smith who started first on this question. “Here in Wayne for small businesses or, heck, even if you’re going to do an extension on your house, the permitting process is just brutal.”
Smith continued: “Contractors don’t want to work in Wayne. I would make it a lot less bureaucratic and open up small business to our town.”
The Republican Incumbent from Ward Four, Joe Scuralli started with: “Having businesses in town is very important because we want the businesses to pay the taxes, so residents pay less.”
Scuralli then gave a positive view of Wayne’s economic situation, saying: “Wayne has been doing a fantastic job bringing in businesses. It’s unbelievable how much investment is being attracted here, nationally and internationally. In my Ward, we have a Whole Foods coming, and there are many other instances of development: Maggie’s Town Tavern, Reloaderz New Jersey, PF Changs, Shake Shack.”
“This is a successful town; it attracts businesses,” said Scuralli. “There is no economic malaise in Wayne because people want to do business here, and we have a population with disposable income. We are well on the way to outdoing any economic development we’ve had in the past.”
Ken Tahan, the Democrat Candidate for Ward Four started with a question: “What happened to our Economic Development Commission?” His answer: “No agenda; no minutes; nothing. Totally defunct.”
Tahan went on: “If elected, I will revive the Economic Development Commission to proactively plan for the long-term. We have to think long-term in Wayne. No more strip malls, when we have vacancies in our malls as is.”
“Let’s look at a downtown Wayne,” said Tahan, “where we have a place to come for drinks, eat food, mingle, have a desert or coffee. We also need a campaign to bring in large accounts, with a formalized marketing plan to attract businesses. It will help to increase the rateables on our commercial properties and help to stabilize or decrease residential rateables.”
“I, too, would revive Wayne Economic Development Commission,” said Fran Ritter, the Ward Five Democrat Candidate. “Bringing businesses to Wayne cannot be a one man show.”
Ritter the went on to attack Rivera: “I don’t know what my opponent is talking about as she’s touting her achievements in bringing new business to Wayne.”
“When you take one business that anchors one shopping center in Ward Five and put it in another one in Ward Five, you haven’t changed the game,” said Ritter in admonishment. “You’ve actually taken away the anchor store that will depress one shopping center and put it in another, which is behind the Preakness Shopping Center. This is cannibalization and its actually a bad thing,” she said.
Ritter finished with: “We need to use all of the resources in Wayne: We have amazing business leaders in Wayne. We have amazing concerned citizens in Wayne, and we have to make use of them on this Commission.”
“First of all, I want to tell my opponent that this is not a one man show,” said Aileen Rivera, the Republican Councilwoman from Ward Five. “There is a process for everything,” she said explaining that businesses must go in front of the Planning Board or the Zoning Board. “Each case is different; it’s unique.”
Rivera continued: “Wayne Hills is being revitalized with a Shoprite and retail stores. We have commercial businesses in the Preakness Shopping Center which is going through a great revitalization. We have Planet Fitness, McDonalds, Maggies, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Firehouse Subs. Wayne Township is doing great!” she said. “These businesses that are coming into our town bring in revenue and are a positive rateable.”
Ward Two Republican Incumbent Councilman Al Sadowski spoke next saying: “Commercial rateables are preferred to residential rateables. We often say that residential is a negative rateable. With all of the services each resident requires, they far out rank the taxes that are being collected for them.”
“When Avalon Bay wanted to build high-density housing along Totowa Road, I was an outspoken critic of that, as were many of our citizens,” said Sadowski. “As a result, we don’t have housing at that location, instead we have an over 400,000 square foot warehouse from the parent company of Gucci there. So, instead of a housing development that would burden the schools and our roads, we now have a business that’s going to bring jobs to the area.”
Sadowski went on, saying: “There are a lot of other opportunities like that. Buffalo Wild Wings just opened up in a flourishing Willowbrook Mall. Whole foods came to Wayne, and they are very selective about where they choose to go, and they chose to come here, because Wayne is a great place to live and raise a family.”
Dianne Douthat, the Ward Two Democrat Candidate talked about how in walking Ward Two, she’s talked with small business owners and large business executives who told her: ‘There’s too much red tape for businesses in Wayne.’ It’s really hard to open up a business in Wayne. And, yes, I heard from contractors who live in Wayne who say that the permit process in Wayne is absolutely draconian.”
“Let’s make it easier. Let’s streamline the process and get rid of some of the red tape, she said. “And, let’s stop the back-room deals. Residents feel like they are not finding out about things until it’s a done deal. People in town shouldn’t feel that way.
Douthat finished with: “We need to work with the county and the state to improve our business climate and develop our empty storefronts to increase our rateables, lower our property taxes, and also preserve our green spaces in that way.”
Republican Franco Mazzei of Ward Three and the current President of the Wayne Town Council spoke matter-of-factly: “The businesses are coming to Wayne. The list is long and growing: LightBridge Academy, The Marshall’s property, Brightview Senior Community, Wayne Bristol Assisted Living, Carmax, Hilton, Cinemark Theatres, PF Changs, Buffalo Wild Wings, Primrose Child Care Center, Electronics Expo, NJ Energy Corporation, Bank of America, Learning Express, Yardhouse Restaurant.”
“We have retail, we have childcare, we have senior-assisted living, serving all aspects of our community,” The Council President said.
“Businesses want to come to Wayne. The Wayne Business Commercial Area is thriving thanks to these businesses recognizing the opportunity that rests with the 55,000 residents of our great town,” said Mazzei.
When it was Ward Three Democrat Candidate, Karen Dowicz-Haas time to speak, she said: “Business cycles, they go up and they go down and its human nature to want to take credit for the boom years but if they do, those same people have to take blame for the bust and nobody ever wants to do that.”
She continued: “I think we need a comprehensive economic development strategy with a plan that can be evaluated and measured so we know what works best, not only when times are good but also when times are tough. We need to know what seeds have been planted. We need an activity report, or at the very least a call sheet that shows what people have been working on.
“We must have plans for resilience in case of economic downturn or natural disaster,” said Haas. “Residents need to know what you’re doing to help businesses in our town.” She finished by asking a rhetorical question: “Has the town spoken to the Preakness shopping center owner, for example? Are you going to wait another twenty years for the shopping center landlord to do something about the IHOP?”
In her emailed answers to TAPinto Wayne, Ward One Candidate Arlene Sullivan wrote: “Wayne is a wonderful town, that is why we all live here but we need development that is right for all of us and that can only be done when we can see the big picture.”
“You can’t construct something without a plan,” wrote Sullivan. “There is a Master Plan that was reviewed and signed off by the town council in 2010; we desperately need to review it again – sites that were cited as congested then have only grown worse due to the indiscriminate building that has been allowed to take place – especially in Ward 1.”
Sullivan also mentioned the absence of any news or notices from the Economic Development Committee and wrote that she believes a position should be created “for the sole purpose of bringing in businesses, specifically for the empty, abandoned spaces throughout Wayne.
“When Clifton lost Hoffman LaRoche, it was a big setback but they went out and brought in a medical facility among other things and are in better shape than before,” wrote Sullivan. “Our present council has done nothing to replace the empty Toys R Us space for example. They take credit for businesses coming into Willowbrook but that is the result of the landlord’s efforts.
Amazon was looking for applications from towns for their warehouses – Wayne never applied.”