Yes, we’re still talking about this. Investment in West Orange through redevelopment and other means is a critical component of growth to meet the changing needs of current and future residents. We must seek transparency from our leaders about the township changes being negotiated and planned, and the efforts we employ to generate interest in what we offer for businesses and developers. In scenarios where redevelopment zoning and even PILOT programs make sense, the cost/benefit analysis should be clearly communicated, and opinions from the community should be solicited. We can do better at considering each individual situation as part of a comprehensive strategy that moves us toward a common goal.
I have long advocated for the reintroduction of a township planner. Not only would this skilled professional steer our broader commercial investment goals, but s/he would serve to attract and market our township to firms that share mutual objectives, and to shepherd these businesses through township procedures. More than a year ago, the council majority approved the addition of an “economic development specialist” into our budget, but nothing has happened since.
High taxes are a stressor for all residents of West Orange. For some, this alone has forced them to relocate. I recognize that, as residents, we benefit from many services the tax revenue covers, and do not advocate a reduction in these services. I do believe we must shift our thinking to be more fiscally responsible, and non-contractual expenses need a close analysis to evaluate feasibility or alternate modes of payment, such as grants. We can do better at exploring creative ideas to meet our needs and focusing on a long-term, holistic strategy, when building our budget.
Transparency and Accountability
These two words are used so casually they’ve become cliché. But unfortunately, they remain issues in the way we govern in West Orange. We can do better at keeping our community apprised of new development plans and welcoming and encouraging resident feedback in those plans. I seek to serve this community as a
representative of those who live here.
Words are easy. When our leaders commit to a position, action should follow. Too often I’ve witnessed things fall through the cracks. We can do better at keeping our Council Members accountable to what they’ve promised, and our Council members can do better at keeping the Administration accountable. “Government moves slow” is not a valid excuse for inactivity.
Change is positive. The people that make up our community are a diverse group, ranging in age, religion, race, profession, and income, with a variety of different interests and talents. We can do better at creating an inclusive community where we value innovative ideas and new thinking. One way to accomplish active participation and new voices is to institute term limits. Today’s West Orange is not the same as the town that existed when I was young, or even 20 years ago. It’s time we embrace new faces and fresh perspectives.