CANDIDATES FOR THE CITY COUNCIL SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS, Candidates I-K
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 is the fourth set of 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.
Dominic Iannarella, ballot position #12
Why are you running? Please limit your response to one or two sentences: I have lived in Clifton my whole life and loved my experience living here. I want to make sure the City remains a wonderful place to live for my children and other residents.
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 attend the council meetings, review the agendas, research the topics, and contact involved parties and professionals to educate myself.
What is your plan to improve communication and transparency with the citizens of the city? The most important thing is by engaging our citizens. We should have people involved in committees and activities so their voices are heard. I would love to establish neighborhood leaders who will be points of contact with the Council and City Manager for specific issues affecting their respective neighborhoods. Lastly, I believe grassroots outreach is essential. The members of Council should be out in the City listening to their constituents, visiting homes, attending events, and interacting with our citizens so that they see and hear first hand what is happening. This will create a two way street to facilitate a consistent flow of information between the Council and the citizens they serve.
What are your plans to address the flooding problem within our city, which has increased over the years? My plan is to seek Federal and State grants and funding to repair the infrastructure issues that led to flooding. I have reached out to experts on this issue and the consensus is that the problem does not truly arise from overdevelopment, but from a deficient infrastructure that cannot handle the increase in rainfall. Additionally, the other cause is a lack of maintenance on the systems that are meant to alleviate the water that flows through those systems. Addressing these issues will take tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, so the most important step is getting the Federal and State funds that are being given out to address these problems. The money is out there and Clifton needs to get its fair share.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of garbage being picked up only once a week? Pros and cons? The garbage issue is a balancing act between need and cost. While cost would seemingly be lower with one week pick up, there are families that need pickup twice per week. The benefit of multiple days is that it allows our homes to be cleaner and not have garbage sitting around for a week which can attract insects, animals and disease. I say seemingly regarding the cost for one week pick up because there is talk regarding tonnage. If we are charged based on tonnage then arguably the frequency of pickups would not change the overall amount of garbage we produce, so the cost savings on a tonnage basis would be non-existent.
What is your stance on opening legal cannabis businesses in Clifton? How did you arrive at that position? I am against dispensaries in Clifton. I arrived at this position from my time practicing as a defense attorney in Clifton and as the Public Defender. I have seen many drug based DUI's and currently there are too many loopholes in the law to prosecute and prevent these from happening. Additionally, I contacted a neighboring town that has two dispensaries. The projection for tax revenue from a full year with two dispensaries open is only $300,000. That may seem like a great thing, but that is not even one full tax point in Clifton. The benefit of tax dollars will not outweigh the tax expenditures needed like training and hiring officers to be Drug Recognition Experts, or investing in new testing methods if and when they become available. There is potentially value in the manufacturing industry (i.e. cultivation and processing) to produce more tax revenue and be isolated to industrial sections of town. However, I think it is important to take time to make sure the value of these businesses will ultimately outweigh any potential cost. This can only happen through a wait and see approach as to how other municipalities have fared, and as stated, the tax benefit of dispensaries thus far is not there.
Residential use of fireworks - where do you stand on banning all types from residences? They should be banned and only handled by professionals.
Do you plan on tackling the problem of brown water throughout Clifton? How? Yes I plan to address this problem. The best way to address the issue appears to be enforcement of our local ordinance prohibiting unauthorized use of hydrants and replacement/lining of old lines that are prone to issues that create brown water. This will require more teeth to the ordinance like requiring violating contractors to provide water to affected residents or to pay for their bills for the period of interrupted use. Additionally, we should consider prohibiting these parties from being issued permits in the City for probationary periods of time if they aren't following our ordinances. Finally when roads are planned to be paved, we should find a way to coordinate with the water commission to change old lines prior to a new road being poured so that we are addressing the roads and everything beneath them holistically. This will avoid the hesitation voiced by the Executive Director at Tuesday's 9/20 meeting regarding tearing up freshly paved roads. It is important to have the City on the same page with local utility and service providers like the water commission to be sure that work and updates to the infrastructure are being performed in a common sense, cost effective manner.
The city is creating a Civil Rights Committee. How do you envision using such a group, made of volunteers from all sections of Clifton? To me the better question is how the Civil Rights Committee will use the Council. I envision a diverse group of passionate citizens that engage with their section of town and identify ways that the City can be more welcoming and equitable for all people. I would like the Committee to bring those ideas to the Council, and then the Council should take action to make sure these ideas are implemented to the best of their abilities. This Committee and involvement from a diverse group of people across the City is one of the best ways to make sure everyone's voice is heard; and therefore, also the best way to make sure that everyone is represented fairly and served fully by the Council.
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 top two priorities in year one are preventing increases in taxes and doing everything possible to keep our city safe.
The biggest issue facing the current council is the infrastructure issue in the city. We are an aging City as evidenced by recent increases in flooding and brown water problems. We need major funding to address this. The Council needs to work with the City Manager to make sure Clifton gets its fair share of available Federal and State funds so we can modernize our infrastructure to be sustainable for the future.
Frank Kasper, ballot position #15
Why are you running? Please limit your response to one or two sentences: I am running for the City Council because I would like to give back to my community with new ideas to help the town.
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 attending the Council meetings for quite some time now. I have also been speaking to the citizens of Clifton, the city manager, and various members of the Council.
What is your plan to improve communication and transparency with the citizens of the city? Our citizens obtain information through a variety of means. Many people watch the council meetings, read the Clifton Journal and Clifton Magazine, and utilize social media to find out what is going on in town. Robocalls are also effective, but can be a costly means of distributing information. If elected, I would like to offer times where citizens can come talk to me. I also think City Council forums that can be broadcast on social media, as well as our cable station will also be beneficial. A social media component can be essential in helping with communication.
What are your plans to address the flooding problem within our city, which has increased over the years? I attended the Third River Flooding meeting. I was able to listen to the engineer's report on the flooding. Things like this take time to fix. I will obtain information that I need for the engineer and other sources to help make an informed decision on the proper route to go in order to help elevate the flooding situation.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of garbage being picked up only once a week? Pros and cons? I do see the pros and cons of moving garbage pickup to once a week. I am a single person that does not produce lots of garbage, so pick up once a week for me would be fine. Some pros I see are: you only have to put your garbage out once a week and a possible savings in garbage collection. Cons of this are: you have to make an appointment for bulk pickup and a large family may need more than the one garbage can provided,
What is your stance on opening legal cannabis businesses in Clifton? How did you arrive at that position? After speaking with both people who are in favor and against opening a cannabis business, at this point, I do not think we should have one in Clifton. That does not mean that I do not think we can't open one eventually.One of my concerns is that people will get behind the wheel while under the influence and cause a major accident where deaths can occur. I do understand that there is a tax revenue, but surrounding towns, from the information I obtained, are not even receiving 1 tax point in revenue.
Residential use of fireworks - where do you stand on banning all types from residences? I do have a concern of residents lighting off their own fireworks. Not only can they be a nuisance for their neighbors, but also affects their pets. I would like to place a ban on all types of fireworks.
Do you plan on tackling the problem of brown water throughout Clifton? How?
I would like to work in conjunction with the Passaic Valley Water Commission in order to help resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Our citizens should not have to worry about water that they cannot drink, take a shower with, or doing laundry.
The city is creating a Civil Rights Committee. How do you envision using such a group, made of volunteers from all sections of Clifton? If elected, I would love to be the liaison for the Civil Rights Committee. I think this committee will be beneficial for our city because it will be made up of people from a variety of backgrounds meeting together to come up with ways to help our city. The greatest part about living in Clifton is its diversity, so I am happy that we now have a committee like this. I would take part in the meetings and bring back the suggestions to the Council so we can make improvements on how we can make our city more inclusive.
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. Two priorities I would like to focus on are: the flooding issue and development. On flooding, I would like to work with the engineers to find the best solutions to resolve the problems. Nothing can be resolved over night, but our citizens cannot continue to experience flooding in their homes. I would also like to keep informed on the development in town. We have to ensure that any development we approve does not cause any problems with flooding or overcrowding.
Joe Kolodziej, ballot position #2
Why are you running? Please limit your response to one or two sentences: Friends and neighbors have asked me to run, because over the past four years the city council has devolved into personality conflicts that inhibit good policy decisions and wasted taxpayer money on legal fees over petty lawsuits. I am running to bring professionalism back to the council and encourage compromise among colleagues to make decisions. Compromise is a virtue to be cultivated, not a weakness to be despised.
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 am a Certified Municipal Finance Officer with over 10 years of experience in municipal government. I have served 7 years on our Board of Education; and I have served on the City Council chairing subcommittees such as Bond Advisory, Economic Development, and Clifton Action Committee. I watch the city council and zoning board meetings, and also take continuing education in city management and finance to maintain my CMFO license through NJ State.
What is your plan to improve communication and transparency with the citizens of the city? In 2018 I voted for a budget to fund a communications director to support the use of social media to improve interaction with our residents. By 2019, the city stopped using all of its social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) as well as email and text messaging, and the funding was cut. We need to invest in areas like communications if we are to improve our ability to keep the public informed on issues and activities, especially in light of the loss of local news which used to be a huge resource for cities and towns to communicate with the public. Now, with the rise of social media, it is up to cities to do their own PR, and approach it strategically. The city has a lot of great programs through Recreation, the Health Department, the Arts and Senior Centers, but there are still too many residents who aren't aware, especially new residents. And in a time of emergency, we need more thorough systems to make sure all residents are reached. There are many examples of towns that do this very well, we don't have to reinvent the wheel, we just need to prioritize it and fund it with experienced professionals.
What are your plans to address the flooding problem within our city, which has increased over the years? The State of New Jersey has recognized the strain on our infrastructure that is caused by climate change and has begun to require towns to implement policies and practices to address flooding issues that are plaguing most towns. This runs the gamut from budgeting regular maintenance of storm sewers, creating long term capital planning for repairs or replacement, and establishing policies to require an impact assessment for development and redevelopment. The State has drawn up the road map, as a member of the council I would support the expansion of our engineering department to meet these demands as well as adopting policies and ordinances that will achieve the goals of bringing our 20th century infrastructure up to 21st century standards.
What are your thoughts on the possibility of garbage being picked up only once a week? Pros and cons? Garbage contracts are changing dramatically in the past few years, and the State is requiring more oversight over how the contracts can be bid. Once a week garbage pick up would save money because it will reduce labor costs and fuel costs. But this would require an investment in trash cans in order to ensure we don't create any health issues with garbage potentially sitting longer at people's homes. Given the size of the investment and the prediction that the current garbage service will increase by as much as 125% based on similar towns, I am surprised the city isn't exploring expanding the DPW to provide the service through the city the way Montclair picks up garbage.
What is your stance on opening legal cannabis businesses in Clifton? How did you arrive at that position? I am not opposed to legal cannabis businesses for any of the 6 business licenses as a cultivator, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer, or delivery. The town I work in has a medical and recreation retail facility and plans for 2 additional recreational retailers. However, in its first year it will generate revenue that will be less than half a percent of the total city revenue. That said, Clifton's commercial sales for retailers, especially along the Route 3 corridor, outperform retailers' stores nationwide so one may argue that cannabis retail could generate a much larger revenue stream for Clifton compared to other cities, depending on where its located. But the decision to allow cannabis businesses shouldn't be based on revenue alone for the city, it needs to include protecting the quality of life concerns in the areas that will host a cannabis business. If the Council is split, a compromise that could be considered is putting it up as a non-binding referendum for the voters to decide.
Residential use of fireworks - where do you stand on banning all types from residences? I recognize that we need to enact ordinances that will allow the city to enforce common sense use that will protect the quality of life issues that arise from irresponsible residents who do not respect their neighbors right to the quiet enjoyment of their property. And equally important, we need to provide the funding to the departments that are charged with enforcing these laws that protect our quality of life.
Do you plan on tackling the problem of brown water throughout Clifton? How?
The water system serving Clifton is owned by the Passaic Valley Water Commission, a State agency owned by Clifton, Paterson, and Passaic. Addressing the aging water delivery infrastructure that is nearing the end of its useful life is a current priority at PVWC. That said, the recent spike in brown water was traced to multiple PSE&G and Clifton' contractors as well as the Clifton DPW illegally using fire hydrants to support their activities. As discussed at the meeting with PVWC on 9/20, Clifton needs to do a better job of enforcing the existing ordinances that prohibit this practice because it releases sediment into residential lines and can also break pipes in worse case scenarios. It would be my suggestion that the city utilize the police outside duty officers already on project sites as required for traffic control to prevent contractors from breaking the law, and fining who do break the law. That should prevent a recurrence of the most recent spike that was seen in a broader area of the city. In addition, the city can request other interim remediation efforts such as more frequent regular maintenance flushing and a more cooperative approach to fire hydrant testing that is conducted throughout the year. PVWC has embarked on the priority of replacing all lead pipes in the 3 owner cities that is a documented health hazard and it is not just water mains but supply lines to homes. It is currently analyzing and testing the location of miles of cast iron infrastructure that are the main contributor to sediment in our water.
The city is creating a Civil Rights Committee. How do you envision using such a group, made of volunteers from all sections of Clifton? It would appear the Civil Rights Committee was created based on the Clifton Action Committee model seeking input from all our sections of town. I would expect the Civil Rights Committee to operate the same way and allow for the identification of common themes that need to be addressed at a citywide level. Diversity is a strength and Clifton is one of the most diverse community in the State if not the nation. It takes work and commitment to maintain and grow this strength and this newly formed committee will help create a framework for securing the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all our residents. The committee should also serve as a conduit for communication to our various neighborhoods so the flow is not simply complaints from individual sections but the dissemination of policies and practices into our neighborhoods that foster mutual respect and cultural understanding to utilize our diversity as a strength.
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. The biggest issue facing the current Council is its inability to work together. We need 7 council members who will check their egos at the door and work for us without a narcissistic need to get credit. There are many priorities from four years of neglect due to this aforementioned bickering and fighting. In addition to the communication issue that all the candidates were asked, two other priorities should be improved intergovernmental relations and addressing our aging infrastructure. Improved intergovernmental relations with the County and the School Board allows us to expand shared services and save tax dollars. Examples of successful cooperative efforts are the Passaic County Sheriff Department transporting prisoners allowing our police to spend their time patrol our streets or the joint use of school facilities for recreational purposes that with better cooperation can translate into after school care to help working parents. Our aging infrastructure for both sanitary sewers and storm water sewers are reaching the end of their useful life and climate change is exasperating the vulnerability of an aging system. We see this in sewage backup into homes or flooding throughout the city when severe weather causes flooding even in neighborhoods that never experienced such flooding or water in basements. We need to develop a long term capital projects plan in a multi-year fiscally responsible way that will adequately address flooding issue that will be increasingly common in the 21st century but keeps Clifton an affordable place to live. If the Council's focus are likes on Facebook or making each other look bad, we will never accomplish these goals.
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.