Action speaks louder than words. Want to know what someone stands for? Look at their record of results. In almost six years as a Passaic County Freeholder, I have demonstrated a commitment to fiscal responsibility, economic development, and standing up for the vulnerable (particularly children with disabilities) and for the American values of inclusion and opportunity.
I am particularly proud of my record of results on these issues:
Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Development
- In four my six years on the Passaic County Board of Freeholders, including all three years of my current term, we held our county tax levy increase down below the state-wide 2% cap. In 2017, we didn’t increase county taxes at all – a zero increase in the County tax levy. Smart, conservative budgeting has enabled us to achieve this savings for constituents without cuts to county services – and, in fact, saving taxpayer dollars on huge cost drivers, like employee health care.
- When I became I Freeholder, I spoke to local business owners and realized that our Department of Economic Development department was being underutilized by the business community. So I spearheaded an effort to bring our Economic Development staff out to local business associations to offer training and information, and used social media to be sure business owners know about the services and resources available through the Department and its partners like the Small Business Development Center at William Paterson University.
- My work and advocacy for the County on transportation and infrastructure (see below) has enabled us to win tens of millions of dollars to improve roads, bridges, mass transit, and bicycle and pedestrian safety in Passaic County. Those federal dollars enable us to do more for residents without increasing the county tax burden.
I’ve made sure that government served the needs of an increasingly diverse community, including by:
- Connecting parents of children with disabilities with state and County professionals, including our County Sheriff, Surrogate, and Human Services staff , so parents know what resources are available and who to talk to about their families’ needs.
- Opening the Passaic County Technical Institute’s pool to children with autism-spectrum disorders so they can learn to swim and train for local Special Olympic teams.
- Having information on county aid to working families translated to Arabic, Bengali and Spanish, and pedestrian safety information released in Gujarati, so that immigrant communities access the services and information they need without language being a barrier.
- Recruiting a diverse group of new members for Passaic County’s volunteer boards and commissions, so we can benefit from many communities’ perspectives on key issues and county services.
- Using social media to engage and notify constituents of county programs, available social services, and emergency issues like road closures.
As Passaic County’s representative on the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), a regional transportation panel that handles $2 billion per year in federally-funded infrastructure programs in Northern New Jersey, I have been an advocate for the transportation needs that affect everyone who lives in or travels through the county. Among other things, I have:
- At my very first NJTPA meeting, stood up to Governor Christie to avoid a seventh delay in the important $200M+ project to improve traffic flow and safety in the Routes 46/3 interchange near Montclair State University in Woodland Park and Little Falls. This project was supposed to be finished by 2011, but when I became a Freeholder in 2013 it was still on the drawing board. Now construction is progressing, and the project will increase safety and speed residents’ commutes for years to come.
- Advocated and received more than $1 million in federal grants to preserve and expand the Morris Canal Greenway as open space for recreation and historic tourism.
- Launched the North Jersey Rail Coalition, advocating the development of commuter rail to connect Passaic, Morris, and Sussex Counties to economic centers in Bergen County and ultimately to New York City by connecting with the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.
- Advocated and received more than $11 million for road safety improvements, including rural road safety in towns like Bloomingdale, North Haledon, and Wayne
- Sought and received funding for bicycle and pedestrian safety too – all part of the most comprehensive Complete Streets plan in the State of New Jersey.
- Improved local business’ ability to ship goods westward by pushing completion of the Two Bridges Road project connecting Wayne’s West Belt to Morris County and I-80 West.
I am constantly working to make sure that projects large and small, like the Gateway Tunnel project and its essential “Bergen Loop” element, are having every possible positive effect on our region. Projects like these, and a host of other small streetscape and road safety projects, drive growth for businesses and improve quality of life for residents and commuters in Passaic County and our neighbors.
Standing up for American Values
- I am proud to have spoken out and organized my colleagues to stand up against anti-American rhetoric, including rebuking President Donald Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban and Gov. Chris Christie’s rejection of Syrian refugee children. When refugees families were settled in our area, I worked with local congregations, nonprofit organizations, and my colleagues to provide winter clothing, housewares, and toys for them; more than 100 children and their parents received the things they needed for their first winter in the U.S.
- I am a long-time ally on LGBT rights. I supported marriage equality when New Jersey’s legislature was debating it, and served as general counsel to N.J. United For Marriage. This effort was especially personal to me as someone whose marriage was once illegal, because my wife and I are of different races.
- On immigration, I worked with my colleagues to pass the first county-level “Fair and Welcoming” policy in New Jersey, and have been an advocate for the rights of Dreamers – children brought to this country who grew up here and are Americans in everything but their papers.
- Since my earliest days as a lawyer, I have worked to protect voting rights, including as part of the legal team challenging the Republican party’s racially-targeted voter suppression tactics. I train lawyers about citizens’ rights to vote without intimidation on Election Day, and speak at churches and community organizations so everyone understands their rights and the voting process.
What’s more, I’ve worked across the aisle to get things done – not by sacrificing my principles, but by finding and working together on the issues that unite us. We need more representatives who bring that attitude to their work, to overcome partisan gridlock. Governing isn’t about scoring political points: good governing is about earning our constituents’ support by serving them. I hope my track record of making County government more accessible, efficient, and responsive has earned yours.