Thank you for visiting my web site. Here you can contact me with questions about Passaic County sites and services, and connect with this year's Democratic campaigns. 2017 is another important year for Passaic County, New Jersey, and our nation. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “A great democracy has got to be progressive, or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy.” We continue to need your support in 2016 and beyond.
Before you read on, please accept my heartfelt THANKS for your support in 2015, when you helped re-elect me and Hector Lora to the Freehoder Board and brought us a great new team member: Sandi Lazzara. who now serves as the Board's 2017 Freeholder Director.
While you're here, let me tell you more about Passaic County and what your Freeholders do.
My Roles as a Freeholder in Passaic County...
I often get asked the question, "What is a Freeholder?" Simply put, we are Passaic County's legislature and executive, representing 502,000 residents in 16 cities and towns. We are responsible for:
- 247 miles of county roads and 341 bridges
- 13 parks and historic sites
- a community college
- a technical high school
- a long-term health care facility
- law enforcement functions, through the Passaic County Sheriff, County Prosecutor, and our Police Academy and Public Safety Academy
- maintaining the Passaic County Courthouse and other facilities across the county
- programs serving seniors and veterans, children and families
- economic development programs to support business and keep our economic engines running
I have had the privilege of serving on most of our Board's major committees, including as:
- Chair (2014) and member (2015-2016) of the Budget committee, which is responsible for proposing the County's annual budget to the full Board
- Chair (2013, 2016) and member (2015) of the Finance, Administration & Personnel committee, which is responsible for approving all hiring and appropriations of county funds before they are considered by the full Board
- Chair (2015, 2017) and member of the Planning & Economic Development committee, which encourages employment and business growth county-wide and considers programs related to the environment and open space preservation
- Chair (2014) and member (2016-2017) of the Health, Education & Community Service committee, which oversees the County's work in areas from public health and preventive healthcare to mosquito control and the management of Camp Hope in West Milford
- Member (2014, 2017) of the Law & Public Safety committee, overseeing the County's law enforcement functions
- Chair (2017) and member (2013-2014, 2016) of the Energy & Sustainability committee
I've also served from 2013-2016 on the Passaic County Board of Social Services, whose programs provide essential support to our county's neediest children, families, and seniors. While I was there, we launched a first-time initiative to make Social Services more accessible for immigrant communities by publishing information about PCBSS' services for the first time in Arabic, Bengali, and Spanish, as well as English.
... and Beyond
As Passaic County's representative on the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), which oversees $2+ billion in transportation planning and improvements from Ocean County to the New York border, I have had opportunities to bring new outside funding for major Passaic County projects, such as:
- publicly objecting to Governor Christie when he took more than $25 million away from Passaic County in 2013 by diverting road funds allocated to improve the Routes 46/3 interchange to spend in southern New Jersey instead, I catalyzed opposition on the NJTPA Board to further delays in that project, reuslting in ...
- NJTPA's vote to appropriate $239 million in federal dollars to fund a 7-year project to transform the Routes 46/3 interchange from Notch Road to Valley Road in Clifton, Little Falls, and Woodland Park, after six prior funding delays;
- encouraging the allocation of other federal project planning funds to Passaic County, including
- $3.5 million to improve safety on rural roads,
- $250,000 to plan pedestrian and bicycle access to the Great Falls,
- two grants totaling $1,000,000 for access, signage, and other improvements to the Morris Canal Greenway in Clifton and Paterson, and
- $600,000 to study repair or replacement of the Sixth Avenue Bridge from Paterson to Prospect Park and Hawthorne.
Connecting with Constituents
I am always looking for ways to improve communications with our constituents, so regular people can access the information and services they need. For example,
- I worked in bipartisan fashion with Wayne's mayor and township council, to host a public information session on the major county road project at Hamburg Turnpike and Valley Road,
- in cooperation with the Passaic County Advisory Committee on Disability, I hosted a public forum where Surrogate Bernice Toledo and an estate planning attorney helped more than 50 local parents and caregivers understand the topic of "Guardianship and Estate Planning for Parents of Special Needs Children and Adults,”
- the Freeholders began a new tradition of celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, recognizing community leaders and students from across the county,
- I worked with the leadership of the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts of America on a special Freeholders' program to commemorate the 105th Anniversary of Scouting, and
- I was pleased to swear-in two new members to the Board of Social Services, representing the Arab American and Bangladeshi American communities respectively -- an increase in diversity that I hope will help immigrant communities better connect with the support services available to working-class Passaic County residents.
Doing More for Passaic County
As Freeholder, my goal is to build on the good things we're already doing and see where we can do even more. In December 2013, I announced one example: Donating a special food-transportation vehicle to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. When County equipment is ready to go out of service, we can either auction it off or donate the equipment to charity. Most items are either small or unserviceable, but every so often this gives us the chance to do something really special.
Around Christmastime, we had a Meals On Wheels vehicle going out of service. The cost of its upkeep no longer made sense for taxpayers to bear, but it's still functional, with special heated and refrigerated compartments. So I reached out to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which asked us to donate it. When we handed over the keys, the food bank took responsibility for the vehicle, but it will continue to benefit local residents as part of the "Kids Cafe" program, providing hot meals and healthy snacks to hungry children in our area.
Standing Up for What We Believe In
Public service is a chance to stand up for the things you and I believe in. Over the course of the my years on the Freeholder board, I've spoken out:
against anti-immigrant rhetoric with a resolution rebuking Chris Christie and delaring that all are welcome in Passaic County, including Syrian refugees, and working with local congregations and non-profits to help refugee families settle in Paterson and the region
against Governor Christie's attempt to take funds away from Passaic County road projects and spend them elsewhere
about the U.S. Supreme Court's opportunity -- happily realized -- to provide marriage equality to LGBT couples
- to urge Congress to ensure stability and economic growth by solving the Federal Transportation Trust Fund crisis.
To see more of what I've said this year, and follow my future public remarks, please "like" my Facebook page.
As a Board, my colleagues and I also joined a bipartisan effort by many counties, to challenge Governor Christie's plan to hold an unnecessary extra election for U.S. Senate at a cost of $24+ million in 2013. In part because of that pressure, the State committed to reimburse Passaic County its $1.7 million cost for the extra election, and repay other counties as well.
Please help us by sharing this website on Facebook and Twitter, calling or visiting your friends and neighbors to tell them about this year's impotant elections, volunteering with a canvass or phone-bank, and putting a sign on your lawn to show your support for Passaic County's Democratic candidates. You can also donate to our continuing campaign.
As for me, I'll keep working hard every day to earn you support. My colleagues and I will continue to invest in the programs and infrastructure that help Passaic County residents and business reach their highest potential; build effective collaborations with neighboring counties and with our municipalities, increase government's efficiency; and continue to stand up for the things you and I believe in. But, as always, your support is essential.
Thank you! Please keep in touch!