It's hard to believe that it's been more than a year since I was sworn-in as a Passaic County Freeholder. Thank you again for all your help and support that made our victory in 2012 possible. Since I took my oath in January 2013, I have tried to stand up for you, for all my constituents, and for the principles we hold dear. It has been a fascinating and exciting year, and I want to share some highlights with you.
My Roles as a Freeholder
On the campaign trail, I often got to answer the question, "What is a Freeholder?" Simply put, we are Passaic County's legislature and executive, representing 501,000 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 long-term care facility
- a technical high school
- programs serving seniors and veterans, children and families
- programs supporting the businesses that keep our economic engines running
Now I get to answer the more specific question, "What do you do on the Freeholder board?"
In 2013, as a Freeholder,
- I chaired the Finance, Administration & Personnel committee, which is responsible for approving appropriations of county funds before they are considered by the full Board.
- I served on the Planning & Economic Development committee, which encourages employment and business growth county-wide and considers programs related to the environment and open space preservation.
- I am 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'm also on the Board of Social Services, whose programs provide essential support to Passaic County's neediest children, families, and seniors.
With our 2014 reorganization came changes in my committee assignments. My new assignments are:
- Chair of the Budget Committee,
- Chair of the Health, Education & Community Service Committee,
- Member of the Law & Public Safety Committee, and
- Member of the Energy & Sustainability Committee.
I also continue to serve Passaic County on the NJTPA and Board of Social Services.
2013 was also a chance to improve communications with our constituents, so regularpeople can access the information and services they need. 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. The Board held its first annual celebration of Asian Pacific American History Month, recognizing community leaders and great students from across the county. 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 and Beyond
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 year, I've spoken out:
- 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 last spring to provide marriage equality to LGBT couples
- with an Op-Ed supporting all Passaic County residents' right to vote without intimidation
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 part because of that pressure, the State committed to reimburse Passaic County $1.7 million, and repay other counties as well.
I am looking forward to my "sophomore year" as a Freeholder. I hope to seize the opportunities that 2014 gives us to do more for Passaic County residents, build effective collaborations with neighboring counties, and continue to stand up for the things you and I believe in. As always, your support will be essential. Please contact me by e-mail, by phone, on Facebook or Twitter, or in person to share your ideas and insights. And, if you can, join us on for our next major fund-raiser on March 7.
Thank you for visiting my website, and best wishes in 2014! You can always use the Contact page to communicate with me, and the Volunteer page to get involved in Democratic campaigns in Passaic County. Please keep in touch!