Town Council Candidates Question 2: Biggest Problem

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Verona’s got problems. That’s not a slam or a slight; every entity has them, from municipal government to state and national governments, from public companies to private corporations and nonprofits. The question is, are we acknowledging them and are we putting a plan in place to deal with them? That’s at the heart of the second question we asked each of the five candidates running for one of the three open seats on the Verona Town Council this May 11:

What’s the biggest problem that Verona needs to solve in the next 4 years?

While MyVeronaNJ.com published its full interview of each candidate on a page specifically for that candidate, we thought it might also help readers to gather the answers to each of the common questions in a separate post. You can read all the answers to Question Two here, and zero in on a specific answer by clicking on a candidate’s name in the list below, which is ordered by their position on the ballot.

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Cynthia Holland
Jason Hyndman
Christopher Tamburro
Jack McEvoy
Michael Nochimson

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#FFEC33″ class=”” size=””]We’re not prepared for the future[/perfectpullquote]

Cynthia Holland:: I would say that the biggest biggest issue is really the fact that we’re not prepared. We’re not prepared for the future. We have an outdated Master Plan, so we don’t have a plan for the future. Right now, the plan that we have is outdated. I’d really like us to re-examine that Master Plan. We don’t have asset management plans. Our utility infrastructure is out of date. We aren’t planning for the future, we don’t have utility systems in place today that can accommodate our current needs. We really need to be planning for those things and taking sustainable actions going forward based on those plans. I would really like to be part of that solution, because I think I bring a unique skill set that others on the Council don’t currently have. Neither do any of the other candidates, because I do have this environmental and utility background with a particular focus on infrastructure. Read more Cynthia Holland answers here.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#FFEC33″ class=”” size=””]The state isn’t going to fix affordable housing anytime soon[/perfectpullquote]

Jason Hyndman: I think the problem that I am truly aware of as a member of the Planning Board and a land use and development attorney, and as someone who’s been paying attention to what’s going on with affordable housing, a big issue is going back to our Master Plan and looking at how we’re going to comply with the next round of affordable housing, which is coming up very shortly. So while we’re going to get a bit of respite in the next six to eight months once the settlement agreement is finalized, we have to get right back into the business of planning for the next round. It’s going to come up very quickly, and all of these things that people feel upset or frustrated about the process and impacts that some of these affordable housing mechanisms and these developments have had on their day-to-day lives, that’s going to be right back in play because unfortunately, the state isn’t going to fix this anytime soon, especially now in an election year for the governor. So we are going to be back where we were in 2015, trying to figure out what our obligations are going to be, because we won’t have that number. More likely than not we’re going to have to litigate or someone’s going to have to litigate to figure out what our obligation is going to be. That’s why I see my role, if I’m elected to Town Council, to be someone who can shepherd us through that process, knowing enough about the process to anticipate where our obligations might fall so we can put ourselves in positions that will not play catch up once we do get that number. Read more Jason Hyndman answers here.

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[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#FFEC33″ class=”” size=””]It’s going to be really important over the next four years to build better on a culture that we’ve all known and loved[/perfectpullquote]

Christopher Tamburro: I think the next four years will probably be a lot about development. But at the same time, I don’t know if this is necessarily something I would classify as a problem, but maybe an opportunity. As a result of the real estate market and the pandemic and new building in town, we have seen a pretty interesting demographic shift in town, where we have people who have lived in Verona for their entire lives. We have young families moving in and buying homes. We have a lot of people moving from cities and more urban environments and coming to the suburbs. We have a much larger renter population than we’ve always had with the addition of the Annin Flag buildings and White Rock Road. So as a result of talking to people around town one of the things that I’m starting to notice is that it’s going to be really important over the next four years to build better on a culture that we’ve all known and loved. I came into Verona 13 years ago as a teacher, and I moved into Verona because I fell in love with the town. I lived in Caldwell for a little while after moving from Morris County, and then moved into Verona because I really loved the town. I really loved the spirit of it. I think that’s something that we want to make sure continues. We really want to make sure that everybody who lives in town, whether you are a very experienced resident and have a long tenure, living in a house that you have spent a lot of time working on or you are the newest renter or you are a single person or a person with children, whatever neighborhood you might live in, that we’re able to really bring Verona together and hear from more people. There are groups that, by nature and their needs, like people with children are definitely more active and the schools and recreation. But we also have more than 9,000 that don’t have children and so how do we do that? I really want to bring more people into government who are normally connected, they don’t really have those linkage groups, they may not be a civic organization or a school, but we have a lot of people that are coming to town with really valuable insight, we have a lot of people that have lived in town for a long time with valuable insight. I’d like to really bridge all of that and really develop unity in town that we can use in order to continue to make Verona one of the best places to live in New Jersey. Read more Christopher Tamburro answers here.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#FFEC33″ class=”” size=””]Some of our pipes are 100 years old, they’re original to the neighborhoods that they’re in[/perfectpullquote]

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Jack McEvoy: In the next four years, there’s quite a few that should be addressed. We have an aging infrastructure–our stormwater pipes underground, our sewer pipes underground, wastewater and even our water supply piping underground. Some of our pipes are 100 years old, they’re original to the neighborhoods that they’re in. Little by little we have been trying to solve that, but that entails ripping up the roadways when we do it, incorporating that into roadway replacement. We do a replacement every 20 years–every road in town gets redone. I know this year Lynwood is getting done; next year, Ann Street, Cypress and Willow are on the docket for a new waterline. There are constantly water main breaks there. I think that really is number one, but that’s going to be a time-lapse thing of more than four years. I will say one thing that needs to be addressed if we look at all of our institutions in town. I think our major one is our police station. We have a growing police force, we’ve added four or five new officers and in the last, I think, four or five years. The facility there is original to this town, so their locker rooms need to be upgraded; I think our jail facility would even need to be upgraded. That’s one that I will be focusing on. I think we need to upgrade our police offices and facilities. Read more Jack McEvoy answers here.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#FFEC33″ class=”” size=””]The greatest problem, I believe, is the lacking of our downtown[/perfectpullquote]

Michael Nochimson: The greatest problem, I believe, is the lacking of our downtown. We have some wonderful anchor stores and families who’ve been downtown for years, whether it’s Jacks or Ariane’s or Eight Hills or Hillcrest or Miele’s, but we’ve lost a lot of businesses, and some of the quality of the businesses that are being attracted are at a lower scale. We need to invest in our downtown, and my platform is really based on bringing back downtown in Verona. And the only way to do that is really with creative ideas, which you’ve seen on my website: Walk/Roll Verona, Eat Verona, Shop Verona and Enjoy Verona. But it’s got to be fully inclusive, and we have to spend money and improve the flavor of the downtown. We have to make it more upscale, and we have to boost its image, but we also have to welcome our residents to want to come downtown and you only do that when you have clean sidewalks, weedless sidewalks, banners that are changed seasonally, and well-lit streets. Beautiful garbage cans, those Bigbelly garbage cans that I talk about that are solar powered. You change the look of our downtown, you change the look of the avenue. You turn heads and you welcome people because you turn it into a showcase. And a few years down the road, even someone like yourself, Virginia, may say I want to open up an office in a building downtown as restaurants decide to open up and we have more choices. When the township focuses on the downtown and makes an investment, others will follow. In the years to come so it really needs to be a significant investment to raise the level of our downtown to a level where we’re proud of it. And we walk it, we stroll it, we roll it and we enjoy it.Read more Michael Nochimson answers here.

The full interviews with each candidate are here:

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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