Democrats went on the offensive Tuesday at a candidates forum, attacking the Republican incumbents for what they claim is old-school thinking, a lack of emergency preparedness, and a failure to encourage businesses to come to Wayne.
Victor Alfieri, James Jorgensen, and Bethania Marranzini-Marmolejo said one of their priorities if elected would be to find a way to encourage commercial development in town. They are running for three, three-year at large council terms.
“We need to get more creative,” Alfieri said. “This old-school way of thinking isn’t going to work anymore.”
The three Democratic candidates blasted their opponents and a plan that Mayor Chris Vergano helped develop. The plan would have allowed several commercial properties, including the Wayne Hills Mall, to be redeveloped with commercial and residential elements. Vergano said during his candidates forum that the plan would be placed on hold until the town hears what is latest affordable housing obligation is. They said their opponents haven’t done enough to encourage economic growth in town and lower taxes.
“These people don’t understand and we’re no longer the best town in Passaic County,” Maranzini-Marmolejo said. “They don’t love Wayne.”
Republican incumbent Joe Schweighardt disagreed. He said that officials have done “a very good job” stabilizing taxes. His running mates Richard Jasterzbski said James Jimenez said the town relying more on volunteers and officials managing expenses has helped too. The council approved the lowest average municipal tax increase in a decade this year, $59. The other Republican candidates are Lonni Miller-Ryan and James Jimenez.
Of the nine council positions, Republicans hold eight, including the three at large spots. Fifth Ward Councilman Chris McIntyre is the lone Democrat.
The Democrats said additional resources and money need to be dedicated to marketing the township and its commercial properties. Alfieri said the council needs to take more a proactive role in that marketing process.
“I believe we should become a nine-person sales force,” Alfieri said.
Republicans touted the fact that Wayne has a AAA from Moody’s. The rating comes with a negative outlook though from the corporation due to the increasing amount of tax appeals. The town lost $27 million of its $5.5 billion tax base last year.
Vacant businesses dot the commercial landscape, especially the 1st Ward.
Gary Marchese and Richard Jasterzbski are running to represent the 1st Ward. Both said they are against constructing high-density housing but acknowledged that the 1st Ward needs an influx of new commercial development.
Marchese and his running mates said that the town must implement a better plan of action before and during the next emergency like Super storm Sandy. Republicans said that the town is better prepared for such a disaster. The town is in the process of linking the Wayne Public School District's emergency communication system into its own.