CANDIDATES FOR THE CITY COUNCIL SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS, Candidates A-B
Election day is coming up on Tuesday, November 8th, and voters in Clifton have the opportunity to make big changes to our city council this year. All seven seats are up for grabs and just five of our current members are running, Mayor Anzaldi and Councilman Peter Eagler are not on the ballot.
Members of the Facebook group, Clifton News and Community, submitted questions for the candidates, revealing some of the topics that were of interest to the community. All seventeen candidates responded to the questionnaire and their answers were copied and pasted, exactly as submitted. Due to the large number of candidates, they will be presented in several separate installments.
Following are the first three candidates, alphabetical by last name, and their responses as entered. Candidates who offered their website or Facebook page will be linked to their media page. You can click on their names to take you there.
Fahim Abedrabbo, ballot position #5
Why are you running? Please limit your response to one or two sentences: I believe that Clifton has great potential for positive change with the right council members. We need to fix current city issues and be innovative in the way we think about new issues. We need strong representation, a voice for the citizens, and care for our entire community.
How have you educated yourself on the workings of our City Council and kept up with current issues facing the city? If you are an incumbent, how long have you held a seat on City Council? I have attended and watched the city council meetings. I have worked in government for over 10 years and am current board of education member. I know how government works. The best way to keep current with issues facing the city is to walk through the doors and speak to residents. I am excited to help listen to the feedback. Every part of town has different concerns, and that is what makes up the need for representation.
What is your plan to improve communication and transparency with the citizens of the city? I have noticed success in other municipalities using different types of technology. It goes beyond Facebook and other social media platforms. Citizens look to the government for communication and transparency when it comes not only to local emergencies, but also ordinances, policies, and citizen engagement. The City Manager's Facebook is not going to reach everyone alone. We need to build and expand an application on our phones that allows someone from city hall to send a communication through increased channels and engagement so people can learn about current and new issues and handlings of topics such as flooding, new ordinances, water usage, property tax reminders, and more.
What are your plans to address the flooding problem within our city, which has increased over the years? The flooding issue has to do with increased development. This does not mean that all development is bad, but we need to understand that as you build, water has to go somewhere. I would like to see a report analyzing our sewer systems and how clean it is.
1. Provide education on keeping the drainage system clean
2. I have seen other municipalities create water basins as a way of holding floodwaters
3. Other towns across the country have created more shrubs and greenery in flood place areas, this way the plants can retain some of the water. These are known as rain gardens or sponge cities.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of garbage being picked up only once a week? Pros and cons? Picking up garbage once a week cuts down on the costs, considering the costs resulting in a 45% increase. However, the excess garbage that sits outside might attract stray animals and create a smell. We have all had family gatherings and the garbage discarded becomes more than what we normally expect, what do we do with pick up then? This might become an issue of the quality of life.
I am in favor of the 95 gallon (equivalent to two garbage cans) as long as our able bodied residents can utilize the cans provided by the city. He has worked well with other municipalities in central jersey.
What is your stance on opening legal cannabis businesses in Clifton? How did you arrive at that position? I believe we should not reject all 6 licenses. I would start with being in favor of factory to outsourcing businesses and potentially other licenses as well. We should be able to utilize the tax breaks and revenue for our city. I have studied the six ways of selling cannabis and I have spoken to other elected officials in other municipalities. This is just understanding the greatest benefits of how Clifton can take advantage with the least gamble to our citizens. This will be a long discussion over the coming years, but right now it is to understand that taxes from manufacturing it in the city can offset household property taxes.
Residential use of fireworks - where do you stand on banning all types from residences? The mental and physical health of our neighbors, seniors, and fur friends are important. Fireworks should not be done in the proximity of a residence, particularly when you are not knowledgeable about handling.
Do you plan on tackling the problem of brown water throughout Clifton? How? The issue of brown water is a Passaic Valley Water Commission (PVWC) concern, but we as a town have individuals that represent the city on the PVWC board. While this is a PVWC issue, there is an ordinance for construction oversight so sediments and other dirt do not make their way into our water ways. We need to enforce this further to protect our waters. It is important for residents to let PVWC and officials know when there is brown water. All Clifton residents should have access to clean running water and find ways to ensure that it stays that way.
The city is creating a Civil Rights Committee. How do you envision using such a group, made of volunteers from all sections of Clifton? The Civil Rights Committee (CRC) should be made of people that are interested in serving from different backgrounds as the focus. The CRC needs to be a robust representation of our students, the elderly, religion, cultures, people with disabilities, genders, and more. There should be a mission statement to encompass and meet the purpose and the needs of the CRC.
If you are elected, what are your top TWO priority projects - the things you most want to tackle in your first year? What do you see as the biggest issue facing the current Council? Please limit your response to no more than three sentences per issue. My two top priorities besides public safety, are technology/transparency and quality of life. These are two things that I would like to tackle by application guiding citizens through the work of the municipal administration and analyzing the quality of life in our city such as taxes for service.
Please visit FahimforClifton.com for more on the issues that I talk about.
The biggest issue facing the current council is working together and the lack of consensus. You do not always have to agree, but there should be sense of professional decorum and respect for the office.
Tafari Anderson, ballot position #11
Why are you running? Please limit your response to one or two sentences: My primary reason for running is to make Clifton a safe place to live and an affordable place to raise a family. We will work aggressively to resolve all issues affecting our standard of living, including safety and affordability. They are the core pillars of a successful community which must be maintained.
How have you educated yourself on the workings of our City Council and kept up with current issues facing the city? If you are an incumbent, how long have you held a seat on City Council? I utilize multiple sources to keep up-to-date on the issues. The Council meetings and the agenda items serves as my primary source of information. I also find it important to peruse the content in the different social media groups, such as the Clifton News & Community, Clifton Journal and the Merchant Magazine to gather additional details from the community.
What is your plan to improve communication and transparency with the citizens of the city? During my tenure on the Board of Education, I have always advocated for a transparent government and open communication with our citizens. When given the opportunity to serve on the city council the advocacy work will continue. As a technologist, I believe that it is important that the city council look at means to improve communication using modern means as well as automating processes to lower cost. As the legislative body, it is imperative that the city council update the city’s master plan with community input that will serve as a living document for years to come.
What are your plans to address the flooding problem within our city, which has increased over the years? We have a major infrastructure problem here in the City of Clifton that requires a third-party assessment from an engineering firm. However, these issues steam from the overdevelopment that has been ignored by both the planning and zoning board. On day one, I will hold the line on all new major developments and request that the city council establish a new strategic plan. One that will prioritize redevelopment instead of overdevelopment, establishing more open space, updated zoning laws, and a committee that will bring all utility companies to the table.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of garbage being picked up only once a week? Pros and cons? As a council member, I would vote against this recommendation on day one and I urge the current council to table this matter for further discussions. This will create a major standard of living issue throughout Clifton for many families. Additional options should be explored such as, but not limited to shared services, a self-managed program as many other municipalities of explored or alternatively placing the garbage contract out for a competitive bid.
What is your stance on opening legal cannabis businesses in Clifton? How did you arrive at that position? I am not opposed to this potential stream of revenue, but I would like to recommend additional parameters to put in place so we are able to keep our younger population at bay. This is law and many families are utilizing cannabis for medicinal purposes where traditional medicine has failed. While knocking on doors, many citizens have shared their frustrations having to drive to neighboring towns to make purchases. I believe with 300 individuals dying daily from fentanyl overdose, legal cannabis is a safer alternative. Additionally, Clifton is missing out on an opportunity for well needed funding.
Residential use of fireworks - where do you stand on banning all types from residences? This is a major quality of life and safety issue. The legislature needs to address this issue as lifting the ban on fireworks has created a nuisance issue. As a proponent for smaller government and less regulations, it is unfortunate, but this is an issue that must be addressed as fireworks in Clifton and neighboring towns are out of control. When elected, I will propose policy to address this matter and will seek support on the county-level or neighboring towns to enforce the noise ordinance.
Do you plan on tackling the problem of brown water throughout Clifton? How?
Water is life and this is unacceptable. This has been an ongoing complaint at many council meeting without a plan of action to address this quality of life issue for many families on both sides of main avenue. On day one, I will motion the council to follow the lead of the City of Newark to petition the federal and state government for fiscal aid to address this matter before Clifton becomes another Flint.
The city is creating a Civil Rights Committee. How do you envision using such a group, made of volunteers from all sections of Clifton? I believe that this is an excellent idea and one that will showcase the amazing diversity of Clifton. I envision this committee building a brighter and stronger community by working with elected officials to bring issues affecting their neighborhoods, have open and productive dialogue to make recommendations that represent all the citizens of Clifton best interest.
If you are elected, what are your top TWO priority projects - the things you most want to tackle in your first year? What do you see as the biggest issue facing the current Council? Please limit your response to no more than three sentences per issue. When elected with your help, I believe that the first two things that needs to be done are requesting a forensic audit of the city’s finances and a strategic plan before any funding is committed to any future projects. I believe safety is imperative and we need to prioritize the need to fully fund our police department. Also, I will look to stabilize taxes to make Clifton an affordable place for families to live.
Dana Beltran, ballot position #3
Why are you running? Please limit your response to one or two sentences: I am running to bring the city into this century. Currently the only ideas considered are old and tried, we need fresh blood might as well be me!
How have you educated yourself on the workings of our City Council and kept up with current issues facing the city? If you are an incumbent, how long have you held a seat on City Council? I have been involved in city government since my election to the BOE nearly 3.5 years ago. Being on the BOE we are naturally familiar with many things going on within the city and council. Many of the decisions we make as well as the decisions the council makes affect each other so it is crucial to pay attention. As it pertains to the issues facing the city I am very present in all the facebook groups within the city which I view as a modern day town square. I make it a point to always offer commentary on all pressing issues and when I have felt so impassioned I have spoken at council meetings about some of the issues.
What is your plan to improve communication and transparency with the citizens of the city? First things first comments need to be allowed on the city run facebook page. Blocking all comments is not how a democracy should operate. The city council and manager should embrace this free platform to hear feedback from citizens both positive and negative. Also i would love to see a city app that would be able to notify citizens with phone notifications to all the goings on road closures emergencies etc. Reverse 911 is great but also very intrusive with the phone call most people would prefer a text or passive notification for a non emergency announcements.
What are your plans to address the flooding problem within our city, which has increased over the years? We should be going to the federal level (army core of engineers etc) to do studies about what we can do to fix the problem we have created with over development and deforestation. There may be grants available to fix or mediate some of the affected areas. There will be no quick or cheap resolution but we need to start working on this. With climate change these incidents are only going to get worse if we dont map out a plan.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of garbage being picked up only once a week? Pros and cons? I am fine with the garbage being picked up once a week but I believe we should only do this if we go with the uniform large bins and give people the option of being able to purchase additional large uniform garbage bins at a low cost if citizens feel they need more storage.
What is your stance on opening legal cannabis businesses in Clifton? How did you arrive at that position? I am pro issuing all 6 licenses for the legal cannabis industry. I believe personally there is no difference between allowing legal liquor to operate within city limits and allowing legal cannabis. Legal cannabis by the facts will have a far smaller negative impact than alcohol does. Alcohol sales do not have a tax benefit while legal cannabis can have a large impact if we allow all 6 licenses. The reasons against the licenses that ive heard from 6 of the current council members who are against it are all based on them being against its use which like it or not it is LEGAL IN NEW JERSEY! They believe not allowing the licenses will somehow change that fact. The only thing it does is force citizens who choose to partake in cannabis to drive to any city around us and then drive back into town to use it.
Residential use of fireworks - where do you stand on banning all types from residences? They already are banned surface to air. The only state wide legal fire works are ground based. The problem is there is no way to enforce the ban on the big fireworks. The police simply do not have the man power or bandwidth to do anything about this on a regular basis and unless someone is putting on a full display by the time the police arrive they will be done shooting them off. If a specific residence becomes a regular issue i believe a summons should be issued but a ban isnt going to solve any issues unfortunately. I am not sure a ban would even be legal since state wide the ground fire works are legal.
Do you plan on tackling the problem of brown water throughout Clifton? How?
I think its time for an independent investigation. I personally believe the PVWC is lying to us. Its been too many years with too many different explanations. Once a year or biannually to have brown water when they are flushing the hydrants is normal, near constant year round brown water is not! If they have to give you a special chemical to get the brown out of your clothing what do you think that brown water is doing to your hair skin and insides??? I can tell you one thing nothing good! If we dont find a solution soon i worry about the long term health effects our citizens are going to suffer.
The city is creating a Civil Rights Committee. How do you envision using such a group, made of volunteers from all sections of Clifton? I think the civil rights commission will be a great asset to use when making decisions that could affect different demographics within the city. It is never good to assume how a protected group may feel when a decision is made that may affect them differently than the rest of the population. It'll be essential to use this group also to identify and prioritize areas of improvement for the city. It is easy for everyone to live in their own little world and think everything is fine but this commission will be a great way to check in all the other worlds coexisting in our great city. Also when issues do arise because naturally they will from time to time this will be a great citizen based liaison group to quickly identify and rectify the issues.
If you are elected, what are your top TWO priority projects - the things you most want to tackle in your first year? What do you see as the biggest issue facing the current Council? Please limit your response to no more than three sentences per issue. Priority projects for me would be 1) fix the brown water situation. It is a basic right as a citizen of the united stated to have safe clean drinking water. If we can’t supply the absolute basics to our citizens in clifton we need to reevaluate our priorities. 2) Improve communications within the city which will lead to higher quality of life for our citizens. Most of the complaints and feelings of disenfranchisement come from lack of accurate and pertinent information dissemination. People feel the city that cares no longer cares about them and that needs to change!
The biggest issue facing the current council is the inability to work together. In a perfect world I would love to see 7 new people elected that have no prior histories with each other and could start with a clean slate with their only personal agendas being to improve this great city we all call home.
My slogan is "off to work we go" because together we have alot of work to get done but by working together nothing is impossible!
The Clifton Democrats Club is hosting a Candidates’ Forum at City Hall on Wednesday, October 12 at 7 pm. This will give the community a chance to hear the candidates speak live. This event is open to the public.