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Candidates Answer Questions On Taxes, Controversial Issues

Candidates talked about their backgrounds and viewpoints

With just over 30 days until Election Day 2012, six local candidates talked about their positions to a crowd of over 50 people at Tuesday evening’s Candidates Night, hosted by the Mahwah Tea Party. According to Tea Party organizers, all candidates for Mahwah mayor, Mahwah town council and Bergen County freeholder were invited to attend the event.

Each was given five minutes to share his or her background and viewpoints, and five minutes to answer audience questions.

Current Mayor Bill Laforet, who is running for the spot against township DPW Superintendent Ed Sinclair, spoke about “trying to get the same or better services for lower costs,” during his first one-year term. He touted a 1.75 percent tax increase this year and AAA bond rating in the township, saying his policies focus on low taxes.

Laforet also addressed some controversial decisions made during his year in office, namely a proposal to privatize the township’s recycling department, which was voted down by the town council, and what he called an effort to “improve the response times” of the Mahwah Ambulance Corps. He called his unsuccessful DPW plan an attempt to “work harder for taxpayers’ dollars.” Laforet spoke positively of the ambulance corps issue, saying it led to more efficient procedures in the department and better response times, which he said was “entirely thanks to the ambulance volunteers.”

Sinclair did not attend the event due to a scheduling conflict.

Four of the five candidates running for three spots on the township council attended the event. Candidate Todd VanDuren was not able to attend, Tea Party members said.

Current Councilman John Roth spoke about what he’s done in the past eight years as a councilman, and previously on the Board of Education and on the Mahwah Planning Board. Roth spoke of his negotiations with Cablevision on behalf of the township, proposal to change banking services and budget negotiations “through three different mayors.” All of that, he said, has allowed him to “save the township in excess of $1 million” during his time in office.

Roth explained why he was against the recycling privatization proposal, saying he “couldn’t be sold on the [proposed] savings" when analyzing the proposal to cut several township employees and pay for a private recycling firm.

Roth also brought one of his campaign signs to demonstrate his opposition to a recent proposal to limit the posting of temporary signs in the public right-of-way. “This represents my right and yours to free speech,” he said of the sign. “It is part of Americana, it’s part of our town.”

Steve Sbarra, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the council last year, spoke of his experience as a volunteer in the township’s sports programs, 20 years experiences working “in the corporate world,” and experience as a local small business owner – Sbarra opened a Sports Clips franchise in Wyckoff last year.

Sbarra spoke of mending the “divide” in current local government. “We’ve had a divided council on the DPW issue, and a divided council on the sign ordinance,” he said. Over the past two years, Sbarra said he has felt council members have been politically motivated in certain votes. “We need to address every issue fairly, not politically,” he said.

Sbarra also explained his campaign position that he will try to reduce taxes, but not at the expense of any services offered by the township.

Current Councilwoman Lisa DiGiulio spoke of her 24 years on the township council, and time served as a volunteer with many other organizations in Mahwah, including the ambulance corps. She opposes, she said, the Crossroads mall development, privatizing the ambulance corps and privatizing the recycling department. “Laying people off is a band-aid, and I’m not a band-aid person,” she said.

DiGiulio said she believed the biggest issue for elected officials this year will be taxes. She called the current contract negotiations with township worker unions and the upcoming budget process a “great opportunity” to look at restructuring departments and eliminating scaled  “bonuses” in DPW and police department contracts.

Election newcomer Jonathan Marcus spoke of his history in the township, much of which is connected to volunteer work at Ramapo College. Marcus serves on the college’s ‘Strategic Planning Task Force,’ which is planning for the school’s next five years, and on the Board of Governors, which he said “raises millions of dollars every year,” for the college. “I’d like to see the [town’s] partnership with the college grow,” he said. Marcus also spoke of his professional experiences as a lawyer for both large law firms and a ‘Big 4’ tax company.

“I believe in small government,” he said, and in the taxpayer “getting the best band for their buck. The government serves us, we do not serve the government.”

Marcus also focused on the “young family perspective” he said he would bring to the council. “I believe in planning,” he said. “I want to make this town a place my daughters [will be proud] to live in and be able to live in when they grow up.”

Former Mahwah Councilman and current Bergen County Freeholder Rob Hermansen was the only freeholder candidate to attend the meeting. He spoke of actions taken during his time in that office, namely helping reduce county tax increases from 8% to 0% and 1.8% in the past two years, and putting the county budget online to make it more accessible.

Hermansen also explained his opposition to the proposed merger of the county police and sheriff departments. “There is no plan, and I don’t ever do anything without a plan,” he said. “I’m not going to promise taxpayers we can save them money and then find out afterward we couldn’t.”

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ref October 03, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Lisa DiGiulio = A+ John Roth = A+ Steve Sbarra = A+ Johnathon Marcus = C Mayor = D-
NJR October 03, 2012 at 11:17 AM
ref.....(really Robbie Hermansen) How come you didn't give yourself a grade?
Garypads October 03, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Hummmm, Could "ref" be John Roth in hiding? Or is it Hermansen? If it's either they lost my vote, and they should loose every other vote in town. Writing on the Patch, hiding who they really are is so typical of dirty politics, I, for one, am sick of it.
Richard Levine October 03, 2012 at 12:07 PM
What really grinds my gears is the talk that they limited the tax increases to under 2%. They really need to really roll back the larges increases of the past few years. When they say they limited it to 2%, it is not really true since in a market of collapsing home values, they revalued my modest, historic home by overe 9%. What a bummer! Again they only take into consideration what makes them sort of look good. They really need to cut back everywhere, including the BOE---our sacred cow?
ref October 03, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Wrong again Danny Boy
Hank October 03, 2012 at 01:22 PM
I actually know who ref is....he is not any of those people. He's just a regular person
ref October 03, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Andy good morning,Mr.Hermansen was not graded in my post simply because I was relating to the Mahwah candidates,but since you broched the subject Mr.Hermansen does infact rate an A+
Steven Sbarra October 03, 2012 at 02:58 PM
First of all I would like to thank the organizers of the Mahwah Tea Party for putting this event together and giving the candidates a forum to introduce themselves and their views. It was good to see the 50 or so people come out to the meeting but unfortunately I wish there was more interest in this important township election. The next opportunity to hear the council candidates will be on Wednesday October 10th in the Senior Center in the Municipal Complex starting at 7:30 PM. The following Wednesday, the Mayorial candidates will have their night. Please come out and listen to all of the candidates as this year's vote will shape the future of the town for the next four years. As for last night, I think all of the candidates did a great job in getting their message out, Jessica has done a wonderful and accurate job in capturing what was said. Congratulations to all who participated.
Sandy October 03, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I would like to come to meetings, but I work night shift 7p-7a and am unable to do so
Robin Larsen October 04, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Just a point of clarification, Mr. Sinclair did speak before the Tea Party at a previous meeting.
Eileen Rite October 04, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Lisa DiGiulio "... opposes the Crossroads mall development (income producing asset), privatizing the ambulance corps (a ticking time-bomb) and privatizing the recycling department (another income producing asset). “Laying people off is a band-aid, and I’m not a band-aid person,” DiGuilio is right, she's no band-aid. She's the fiscal equivalent of Typhoid Mary!
Concerned Parent/Taxpayer October 04, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Mr. Roth must be commended for many things that he has done in the past. At this point, the things are too far in the past, so i choose to look at the more recent incidents when making my decision this November. I remember his time as Council President in which he belittled anyone who disagreed with his line of thinking. Don't forget, he refused to let the crossroads decision to go to referendum. He voted to approve the zoning for the Crossroads.
GG October 08, 2012 at 02:05 AM
It's true. On March 31, 2011, Roth ignored the public, consisting of over 400 people speaking out against the mall. He voted in favor of changing the zoning to allow retail at Crossroads that same night. He also voted against a referendum to see what the majority of the public opinion is on the Crossroads issue. I will remember this when I vote for council members in November.
Hank October 08, 2012 at 02:41 AM
GG he did not ignore the public. The referendum was just about 50/50. It showed your organization did not have the clout you thought you had. No politician fears a stop the mall person anymore.
Andy Schmidt October 08, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Hank - that would all be good and true if you were referring to Mr. Alderisio, the ONLY person who DID vote against the ballot and also voted against the repeal. However, your explanation doesn't work when 3 switched sides in August, suddenly voting to add the referendum to the ballot after all, and on September 1 two voted to rescind the Crossroads rezoning ordinance (1 was absent). >> No politician fears a stop the mall << No one can read other people's mind. Whatever the motivation, but that flip-flopping to appease popular opinion has DIRECTLY lead to 3 law suits against the town (2 by entities opposing the rezoning after they voted FOR it, and 1 by the developer after they voted to REPEAL it). Of that group, Mr. Roth's seat is the only one coming up for re-election this year - the others will have to face voters in 2 years. If his support for the mall was so firm, that the repeal was unnecessary (avoiding the 3rd lawsuit), and if his support for the mall turned out to be still subject to debate/revision, then he should have deferred voting for the rezoning until the referendum results were in - thus saving the township the first 2 lawsuits. I am NOT blaming council members for their assessment of the mall - but I will remember those 3 council members who first thought they were above the public's will and proceeded with a vote -- and then rescinded the ordinance when the tide turned against them.

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