I felt truly honored to participate in last Wednesday's candidates' forum, and would like to thank The Leader for sponsoring the event and allowing each candidate the chance to share their ideas for Westfield. As I articulated at the forum, and am submitting here in case you haven't yet seen it, my platform has two key components:
1. Union County taxes — The Union County Board of Freeholders has increased Westfield’s proportional tax burden to $40 million per year, which represents a $11.2 million increase over the last six years. This increase was purportedly to fund “operations.” Union County has continuously increased its spending and it is disproportionately being funded by Westfield taxpayers.
My plan: First, we will prepare an independent audit on the equalization formula and tax ratios the county tax board imposes each year. Before entering the real estate sector, I audited counties and municipalities and know exactly what questions to ask, making sure we leave no stone unturned. Secondly, we will create a multi-town, bipartisan committee to help devise an action plan. Together we will review county services provided to each town to ensure it is directly equivalent to each town’s tax portion. This will also allow us to see what services could be streamlined, and how we may be able to create synergies by working with other towns on shared services.
2. Downtown shopping district — As is the case all over America, online sales are hurting brick and mortar businesses. And Westfield’s beloved downtown shopping district is no different. But our town council, together with Downtown Westfield Corporation, has done a great job responding to these changing times by making measured changes designed to keep our shopping district vibrant and current. In fact, and as a result of these measures, Westfield’s retail occupancy rate downtown has recently increased from 88 percent to 91 percent — a significant accomplishment. Westfield needs a council that can be agile and can respond to needs as they arise, and before it becomes too late. If elected, I plan to continue this growth.
My plan: Leveraging my professional expertise in real estate finance, I will create a comprehensive strategic marketing plan that is focused on creating a downtown that is dynamic and responds to the desires of today’s consumer. For example, I think downtown could benefit from seasonal offerings and short-term, temporary retail events that will satisfy those consumers constantly looking for something new. Brands worldwide are looking for these types of opportunities, and I will make sure that Westfield is an attractive place for these businesses to invest.
In addition, Westfield has a multitude of interesting and successful home businesses and current retail trends are embracing local, unique businesses. As a community, we can support the growth of many of these businesses by aligning them with the right retail space. Shared work spaces, for example, provide one solution to help small businesses take on space with less overhead costs than going it alone. These homegrown businesses can flourish downtown with the right support and I plan to make that happen.
My passion, commitment, and competency are what Westfield needs to continue pushing it forward. I will work with relentless determination for what is right for you and for Westfield. I am ready to give back as much as Westfield has given me.
I humbly ask for your vote on or before Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Town Council Candidate, 2nd Ward