WEST ORANGE, NJ - (Editor's Note:This is the seventh and last in a series of interviews with candidates for Township Council. Each candidate was asked the same four questions. Susan McCartney is an incumbent seeking re-election.)
How long have you lived in West Orange and what type of community involvement have you had?
Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself to The Alternative Press subscribers, who appreciate objective, comprehensive community coverage.
December 1, 2014, will mark 40 years married to my childhood sweetheart Joe McCartney. We purchased our Gregory area home in 1981. We raised three children: Joseph, (who lives in Rhode Island with his wife Candace and my three beautiful grandchildren); Kate, (who lives in Long Valley, NJ her husband Nick Turalksi and my adorable six month old grandson); and Hannah (who lives at home and works as a Teacher's Aide at First Mountain Preschool).
My community involvement began 30 years ago on the corner of Gilbert Place and Club Boulevard in the playground adjacent to Roosevelt Middle School. Strewn broken glass, dilapidated playground equipment and a tired fence serving no purpose introduced me to the Police Department's Broken Window Theory, to recognize the urgent need to renovate a space to restore public safety and pride in the neighborhood. Assembling a group of parents, we met with the Department of Recreation to discuss public safety concerns. Improvement and upgrades were successfully achieved and formulated a coalition of neighbors, now life-long friends, before we even knew the importance of a Neighborhood Watch Group. Those early years the attendance of my three children in West Orange Public Schools and my participation in the Gregory PTA, coaching the MTL running team, supporting Parents Advocating for Students in Special Education and serving as a Catechist at St. Joseph's School for 24 years.
Professionally, I was a Training Manager at NJ Bell (Verizon) while attaining a Master's Degree in Administration and Education. Upon receiving my Masters, my graduate thesis was published by Harper Collins, taking me in an entirely different direction. I became an adjunct professor at Montclair State University and Seton Hall University. With confidence and these credentials, I decided to lease space to renovate and establish First Mountain Preschool in a vacant building purchased by Ohr Torah Congregation on Pleasant Valley Way. This fateful decision-making process introduced me to Municipal Land Use and the Township Planning Department.
First Mountain Preschool opened in 1997. I immediately joined the West Orange Chamber of Commerce and was nominated to the Board of Trustees. My first initiative for the Chamber created the Chamber Spotlight, highlighting businesses on our local access channels. I am so pleased with the success of the Chamber Social Networking Events. All business owners, municipal employees, residents, clergy, Board of Education members, parents and teachers, Edison National Historical Park Rangers, PTAs and local community organization members* are e-vited to introduce their product or service, and to announce their community events and ideas. Year after year, this Chamber Social Networking initiative proves to be a wonderfully successful venue that promotes cohesive community partnerships.
Are you running with a mayoral candidate, and if so, why?
I am not running WITH a mayoral candidate, though I do support the re-election campaign for Robert Parisi.
Many characteristics that I have come to respect and internalize in my Town Council seat can be attributed to the community-mindedness of our current Mayor Robert Parisi. Setting an example on never losing sight of aiming toward a zero percent municipal tax increase, which has been the case since 2008.
For a few specific reasons why I support the re-election of Mayor Parisi:
I supported and voted to adopt the Parisi Administration's Energy Aggregation Plan realizing a $2.1 million dollar savings within the 21 month contract.
I advocated for and voted to adopt the Single Stream Waste / Recycling contract, saving over $2 million dollars over the life of the 5 year contract. Plus, the recent County aggregation on the tipping fee rate, saving an additional $125,000.
Mayor Parisi presented a $700,000. health benefits aggregate (HIF) saving a reduced cost on employee health benefits without sacrificing employee benefits coverage; and, working to produce a 0% increase in the municipal portion of our tax bill four out the last 5 years.
What qualifications do you possess to be elected to township council?
The demographics of our town is predominately made up of single-family homes owned by an educated 86% of our population. If education is considered a particular qualification than this seems to hold true for all of our 2014 Town Council candidates. I think a proven record on the ability to utilize good decision-making skills and resources for the community would serve as a qualification. I would hope the fact that I have worked with all Township Departments to implement ideas that have produced town-wide tax-savings, conservation policies while garnering cooperative partnerships that will continue to work together to strengthen our community would be considered a qualification.
What do you consider to be the three most important issues facing the municipal government, and what are your solutions?
I seek re-election to continue to work on long-term improvements that work to secure the quality of life we have come to expect in our community: balance the municipal budget while maintaining public safety and our aging infrastructure; while maintaining the essential services we have come to rely upon in our community.
Get the frustrating, yet shovel-ready Main Street Redevelopment project started. The Township is projected to garner over $600,000. In revenue per year through the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) schedule.
Five percent of the revenue goes to the County; 95 percent of that revenue comes directly back to the Township. This differs from our property tax bill with approximately 60 percent supporting the school system; 25 percent toward the municipal budget and 15 percent to the County.
Two ordinances I have worked to reactivate are the Environmental Commission and the Economic Development Commission.
After years of serving on the Energy Commission and as the Sustainable Jersey Coordinator for West Orange, I have raised the level on environmentally sensitive issues in our community that have a direct impact on our property tax bill: reducing the cost of hauling our waste through a single-stream system helps reduce the tonnage tipping fees, further reducing the tipping fees by participating in the County’s aggregate by achieving the Sustainable Jersey Bronze Level of certification; and working with the Energy/Environmental Commission’s educational outreach programs for grants and community involvement.
Since 1997 I have owned and operated a business on Pleasant Valley Way. For 18 years I have been a West Orange Chamber of Commerce member. I currently serve as the Chamber Vice President.
A successful partnership developed between the Township, Chamber and DWOA producing the Township’s Shop WO Property Tax Credit Card, providing a direct credit on your tax bill by shopping in local participating businesses. I extended the shop & stay local campaign by expanding the Township’s shuttle service to include shopping at both the Essex Green Plaza and K-Mart/Whole Foods Plaza for our senior citizens.
By reactivating the Economic Development Commission, additional members of the community not necessarily business owners, would work in conjunction with the Chamber to broaden the scope of recruiting and promoting businesses in Town.