1. What about your background would make you a good County Executive?
I have dedicated my entire adult life to public service. I served on the Jersey City Police Department for more than 25 years, starting as a patrolman; then as a detective; later as a sergeant, and then finally as a lieutenant. I am a consensus builder. As a member of the JCPD, I worked closely with community groups, civic leaders and ordinary citizens throughout the city to foster good relations between the citizenry and those sworn to protect and serve.
I have served alongside our current County Executive Tom DeGise since he took office in 2002. As Tom’s chief of staff, I have stood shoulder to shoulder with him to deliver progress on key priorities like public education, parks and open space, economic development, and senior and veterans services, to name a few.
In addition to my executive experience, over the past 21 years, I have worked closely with the mayors and council members of all 12 Hudson County municipalities, from Bayonne to North Bergen; from Hoboken to Harrison. Our job in county government is to work with local elected officials to assist them in any way we can – making sure our county parks are pristine; taking care of our vital county roads; providing essential funding for local arts organizations, for example. I also built excellent relationships with our state legislative delegation, United States Senators and Members of Congress, and Governor. This has served Hudson County well. We are partners in the truest sense of the word.
Lastly, I have served on the Hudson County Schools of Technology Board of Education for 18 years and as President for the past 16 years. During my tenure, I spearheaded construction of a new state-of-the-art High Tech High School campus in Secaucus. I also have been a leader in the creation of Liberty Science Center High School, a world-class magnet STEM academy that will be part of SciTech Scity, a major hub of learning and innovation being created near the Liberty Science Center. In addition, I have worked with stakeholders on the considerable expansion of our terrific Hudson County Community College.
All this experience will serve me well should I be fortunate enough to be elected Hudson County Executive.
2. How does your background inform how you would approach your job?
During my time with JCPD and the County, I have always sought to work with others and be a bridge builder. I have found that the best way to solve complex problems is to seek input from all stakeholders to find common ground whenever possible. We have accomplished much by listening to divergent points of view and working to build consensus. As Hudson County Executive, I will continue this approach on issues important to the residents of our 12 varied municipalities.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.” This is a credo I have always taken to heart. Even when there are diverging opinions, I always seek to work with people in a cooperative, civil manner, which some may find unbelievable given Hudson County’s reputation for sharp elbows.
Moreover, I have a wealth of experience from my time at JCPD and the County in managing large budgets and dealing with a substantial, diverse workforce. I understand the intricacies of budgeting and I have always been successful in getting the most out of people’s talents. These skills will allow me to hit the ground running on Day One of my administration.
3. Some people believe that “the line” is unfair and illegal. What is your position on it?
First, let’s address the “legal” question. There is no doubt that the manner in which candidates are selected in Hudson County is legal. In New Jersey and many other states, parties have a right to choose their candidates in a method of their choosing as primaries are intramural contests, as opposed to general elections.
At the ground level, each party has a “County Committee” made up of one man and woman from each electoral district in every municipality. (For example, Jersey City has 190 electoral districts in its six wards. Hence, there are 380 voting members of the Jersey City Democratic Committee.) All the members of the municipal committees in the 12 Hudson County municipalities make up the voting members of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. These committee people are elected in the same primary elections that occur on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June.
It is the committee members who decide who the “organizational” candidates are. Of course, an opposing group can decide to run their own county committee candidates. If a majority of the opposition’s candidates win, they would then get to decide which candidates are on the organizational “slate” or “line.”
Numerous critiques of our primary system express dissatisfaction with the way ballots are constructed. Examples provided in scholarly articles speak of candidates being placed in undesirable spots on the ballot where they will be difficult to find. This is not the case in Hudson County. Slates or lines of candidates are organized in adjacent columns. In fact, my opponent and her running mates blindly chose the supposedly more desirable Column “A.” The candidates I am running with are on Column “B.” My opponent chose not to put together a complete ticket of candidates for State Senate and Assembly or in all County Commission districts or county committee districts. It is true that incomplete slates generally do not fare as well as complete slates, but again, this was my opponent’s choice.
I do not believe that any of the forgoing could be considered “unfair.”
4. Can you tell us about specific causes you’ve worked on in Jersey City?
As a lifelong resident of Jersey City, I care deeply about my hometown. As a member of the Jersey City Police Department for more than 25 years, I was committed to ensuring the well-being of every resident of the city. It was an honor to work with people from all walks of life to make our city safer and a better place to live.
In my role as Chief of Staff to the County Executive, I have overseen significant improvements to Lincoln and Washington Parks, which are treasured by residents as urban refuges for recreation and enjoyment. In addition, I have played a pivotal role in making the new Frank Guarini Justice Center a reality. Although this is a county project, it will be a much-welcomed addition to the area. Once the complex is completed, the Hudson County Administration Building will be razed, and a new Jersey City municipal park will take its place. I was intimately involved in the negotiations between the County and City that will allow the City to take possession of that invaluable piece of real estate for a new park.
I was also instrumental in providing monetary support to the We Are One New Jersey Hudson County Center, located on Bergen Avenue in Jersey City. We Are One provides U.S. citizenship application guidance, voter registration, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application and renewal assistance, understanding of workplace rights and notary services. The goal of the center is to build stronger communities by educating and engaging new Americans to become active participants in our Democracy. Services are provided at low- or no cost. Hudson County has contributed $500,000 to We Are One for it to undertake its critical mission. Many clients of We Are One are Jersey City residents.
I have committed to working to enact a Vision Zero plan that has been so successful in reducing unnecessary pedestrian and cyclist deaths in other places where it has been enacted. This is critical in a place like Jersey City, where an increasing number of people are walking and biking. Making roads safer for walkers and bikers, as well as establishing dedicated bike lanes where possible, will encourage people to leave their cars at home and walk or bike. The County is currently in talks with the NJ Department of Transportation about extending the bike lane on Bergen Ave. to get it closer to the Journal Square PATH station. All of these efforts will reduce carbon and particulate emissions that are particularly harmful to urban residents, especially our children.
5. What do you feel are the most important issues to Jersey City residents going forward and what would you do to address them?
1) Create More Affordable Housing – First, the County Executive and Commissioners need to partner with community-based organizations to accurately identify resident needs and opinions because community engagement can be more effective by leveraging partnerships between different sectors, including other governments, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and individuals in need of affordable housing. Secondly, the County must prioritize transit-oriented development and affordable housing growth by taking a multifaceted approach to community development and engage the private sector and our municipal partners to leverage resources. The County should look at including tax incentives that encourage the development of affordable housing and a grant program for first-time homeowners, perhaps run by a non-profit in conjunction with the County. In addition, since there is so little unoccupied land in Hudson County and virtually no County-owned land that could be utilized to build affordable housing, the County should think about promoting scattered site development through the acquisition and rehabilitation of abandoned and debilitated properties by a Land Bank. These are common sense measures I will consider as County Executive.
2) Enhance Public Safety – This country is awash in illegal guns as well as military-style semi-automatic weapons, whose only purpose is to kill people. This is absurd and completely unacceptable. As County Executive, I will use my position to speak out on this issue and to work with our state legislators, governor, and federal representatives to ensure that Jersey Citizens and all Hudson County residents and New Jerseyans are safe from the scourge of senseless gun violence. To this end, in 2022 I organized the “Walk for Safety” in conjunction with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence at Lincoln Park to raise awareness of this epidemic.
3) Increase Transportation Options – It’s a fact that many of our residents rely their cars and trucks and as we move from vehicles running on fossil fuels to electric vehicles, this will continue to be the case. That said, more and more people are walking and biking for recreation and to get to work. And this is a very good thing. We need to all work together to ensure the safety of all people – walkers, bikers and drivers. And we can do that.
As County Executive, I pledge to work with all stakeholders to enact innovative solutions so that we can all coexist safely. I am committed to working to enact a Vision Zero plan that has been so successful in reducing unnecessary pedestrian and cyclist deaths in places like our neighbor across the Hudson.
I am committed to work with NJ Transit to undertake a comprehensive formal study of BRT -Bus Rapid Transit – on our county roads. This is not a simple undertaking, but we are committed to a full evaluation. Dedicated rights-of-way, pre-ticketing and platform level boarding are all things that can reduce trip length, alleviate traffic congestion, and make bus travel a much more attractive transportation option. We depend on our busses, and we need to improve the system. This will take cooperation from NJ Transit, but I pledge to run point on this issue.
In addition, we know that bike lanes encourage more people to bike. I pledge to undertake a study of our County roads to see where bike lanes are feasible and safe. In this vein, the County is working with the Port Authority to provide resources for additional bike parking. We know that more and more people are using bikes for commuting and recreation, and we are committed to working with the PA to remedy the situation.
6. Do you support the plan proposed for Liberty State Park by the Paul Fireman backed groups “Liberty State Park for All” and “The People’s Park?’
I do not support any large-scale commercial development at Liberty State Park.
7. Are Jersey City property taxes too low, about right or too high?
Based on the most recent revaluation, my hope is that Jersey City municipal taxes are fair and equitable.
8. Is there anything else our readers should know about you?
I am a compassionate, dedicated human being, consensus builder and problem solver. I am a “doer,” not a talker.