A Q&A With Essex County Executive Candidates
Candidates answer questions posed by the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area.
EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for Essex County Executive to questions presented by The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area. The candidates were given an equal amount of space for their answers.
Essex County Executive
Candidates - Vote for one (four year term)
Marilynn M. English – Independent, Licensed Mortgage Banker/Broker, former Assistant Vice President at JP Morgan
Herbert Glenn – Republican, Data Entry Clerk, Essex County Corrections
Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. (incumbent) – Democrat, Essex County Executive
What expenses could be reduced or revenue enhancements found so that
Essex County does not have to reduce services to residents in this
tough economic climate?
Ms. English: Eliminate the contracts and jobs to donors. Examples of
this are the miniature golf course costing us $6.6 million and
maintenance of the parks for another $6 million, when we have a fully
staffed Parks Department with a budget of $16 million. Eliminate
County purchases from donors at purchase prices higher than appraised
values (Kip's Castle $5.6 million). We must have accountability for
how our money is spent and why. From my three years of Open Public
Records Act requests, and attendance at Freeholder meetings, it
appears that the entirely Democratic Freeholder Board (the
Legislation) approves whatever Joe DiVincenzo (the Administration)
wants, without discussion. And we, the taxpayers of Essex County are
paying dearly as a result of those votes. As of March 2010, we had
more than $1.1 billion in bond debt. We have been told by the County
Executive, that grants are free. They are not free; we pay for them
through bond debt, principal, interest, sales tax and property tax.
Most of the "things" that the County Executive spends our money on we
do not need. If we eliminate his pet projects, and his jobs and
contracts to donors, we can save millions of dollars.
Mr. Glenn: Essex County has a near $700 million budget, which leaves
plenty of room for cuts without hurting essential services. The
payroll is padded with double dippers, those receiving more than one
public paycheck. I would end the double dipping and reduce the ranks
of the politically connected workforce who are working in county
government just to pad their payroll. We need to reduce the size of
government by changing the compensation structure and developing tasks
that represent more efficient service to the residents. I have already
stated I would take a 20 percent pay cut as county executive and I
would cut top level pay by 10 percent. Work performance has diminished
and morale is abysmal based on the limited opportunity for workers to
expand their talents and increase skill development. Restructuring
priorities starting with administrative and departmental job
descriptions will help to save money. Shared services in law
enforcement, legal services and a master economic development plan to
lower expenses and help escalate low tax incentive for new businesses
should also be challenged. Essex County needs to eliminate the
responsibility of being property managers.
Mr. DiVincenzo: During the last eight years, my administration has
taken proactive steps to reduce the cost of government and create new
revenue sources. We significantly reduced our workforce through
attrition and layoffs to 3,500 in 2010 from 4,200 in 2003, cut
unnecessary contracts and consultants, and worked with County agencies
to do the same. A variety of shared service and inter-local agreements
have created new revenue: $16.7 million by housing federal inmates and
immigration detainees in the Correctional Facility, $350,000 by
housing Passaic and Hudson County inmates in a locked medical unit at
East Orange General Hospital, $5 million by housing Passaic County
juvenile detainees in our Juvenile Detention Facility, and $10 million
by treating Passaic County psychiatric patients at our Hospital
Center. The old Newark Jail was transformed into the LeRoy Smith
Public Safety Building, producing about $1.7 million in annual savings
and rental income from office space. In addition, we operate all our
recreation facilities like businesses; revenue collected this year
will be about $10 million compared with $3 million collected in 2003.
Of particular note is the fact that Turtle Back Zoo has been a
self-sufficient facility, with revenue exceeding operating expenses,
for the last three years.
How do you and your opponents differ on the major issues facing Essex County?
Ms. English: I am representing the people. This "grassroots" effort
began with 4,000 Verona, Cedar Grove and Montclair residents who were
against the deer killing when non-lethal methods were available that
were less expensive and less traumatic. The County Executive, who
initiated the hunt, told us it was "free," but after I researched the
spending on this "alleged free hunt," I found that it cost us more
than $370,000 over three years, when we could have spent $200,000 to
spay/neuter or inoculate. Residents were told lies and even through
the research presented, the elected officials did not care. They voted
the way they were told with only one Councilman actually doing any
research. I have never run for office; both candidates have. I am not
sponsored by a major party, but by average people. People who want to
be able to live peacefully in their towns and enjoy a nature walk and
not have to work two jobs to be able to live in Essex County. I
represent the 4,000 residents who wanted their voices heard and did
not and those others who do not vote because they say "why bother?" I
am representing those people, so their voices will be heard.
Mr. Glenn: Spending. My opponent and I differ with the type of
priorities that are being targeted not helping to build communities or
developing small businesses. It is more like spending money because we
have it. We need a real economic engine developed. The current system
of political welfare; supplementing the payroll for elected officials
is unacceptable. We must target duel pay, overtime pay and no-show pay
while redirecting priorities from creating luxury parks to creating
jobs and sustaining communities with limited services.
Mr. DiVincenzo: Essex County is where I was born, raised and decided
to stay and raise my family. Throughout my life, I have always been
committed to serving the public.
For the last eight years, you probably have seen the words "Putting
Essex County First" on flyers, signs, billboards, letters, the Web and
county facilities. These words are the slogan of my administration,
but they have a deeper, special meaning that drives my staff and me
every day. Putting Essex County First reminds and motivates us that it
is you, the residents of Essex County, whom we serve.
Essex County today is very different from the place I inherited eight
years ago. High ethical standards are maintained. Long unfinished
projects that were under litigation or neglected (Correctional
Facility, Historic Courthouse, Hospital Center, Juvenile Detention
Facility, historic Parks System) are now models for the State and
institutions that we all can look to with pride.
I truly enjoy serving our residents as their County Executive. It is a
job I take seriously and to which I have tirelessly dedicated myself.
The public trust is a special trust and I remain committed to honoring
the trust the people of Essex have placed in me.
What is the prime issue facing Essex County?
Ms. English: Too many issues … high property taxes due to out of
control spending, especially on non-essential things. Pay to play
should be banned and donations capped at $25. I believe this is the
primary cause of our high taxes and outrageous bond debt. If Joe D did
not have to pay back all of his donors with contracts and/or jobs, we
would probably not be in the financial mess we are in. I believe that
prior to spending any money, there should be discussions and the issue
researched for the best and least expensive options. I believe that
residents should have a say in how their money is spent and their
input should be welcome and respected. I believe that the needs and
wants of the residents should be paramount. Our elected officials need
to remember that WE THE PEOPLE pay their salaries and elected them and
they should be accountable to us, not to each other. Please visit our
website www.wethepeopleofessex.com for back up and additional
information. Thank you and please vote on election day ... your voice
will be heard.
Mr. Glenn: Property taxes. I believe that the prime issue facing Essex
County is that people cannot bear the weight of increasing property
taxes for what amounts to few essential services. We need to cut the
fat and make sure our commitment is to the people who enjoy living in
Essex. We need new ideas and better leadership. Both correctional
detention centers are used as hotel-like facilities housing arrests
without enough involvement or plans for rehabilitation. We pay two
drug treatment centers to detain law breakers while providing multiple
cells in reserve for federal and immigrant detainees. The county parks
are deteriorating. Our social services are diminishing. The vocational
education system is being strangled with risky ideas of consolidation,
causing over-spending for expensive lawyers. Construction jobs are not
hiring local residents and there is a lack of enforcing county
ordinances. We lack the efficiency that will help improve the
lifestyle of our residents. www.herbglennforcountyexec.com
Mr. DiVincenzo: Controlling the budget is our priority. My Directors
and Fiscal Officers have kept the cost of government down while
maintaining services. We limited annual property tax increases to 3.17
percent over 8 years, the second lowest average percentage of New
Jersey's 21 counties, and restructured debt to reduce the impact on
the annual budget without extending the payments. We reduced our
workforce, eliminated unnecessary expenses, and successfully lobbied
the State for our fair share of Green Acres grants for our parks and
aid for our vocational schools. These actions earned us six bond
rating increases since 2003, our highest rating in a generation.
We are focusing on the future, lobbying for more changes. The State
recently mandated that union employees pay a portion of their health
care and prescription coverage, which we had proposed three years ago.
We are continuing negotiations with our unions to reduce holidays and
accept zero percent salary increases for 2009 and 2010, lobbying to
have the Sheriff's Office schedule shifts 24/7 to reduce overtime, for
the State to reform the arbitration process so emphasis is placed on
local governments' budget constraints, and to have the Attorney
General's Office assume responsibility of all County Prosecutor's
MISSION STATEMENT: The League of Women Voters®, a nonpartisan
political organization, encourages the informed and active
participation of citizens in government and influences public policy
through education and advocacy.
The Montclair Area League, which encompasses the communities of
Bloomfield, The Caldwells, Cedar Grove, Clifton, Essex Fells, Glen
Ridge, Little Falls, Montclair, Verona and West Orange, needs members
(men and women) to act as observers at meetings of their local school
boards and municipalities and to report back issues that can be
explored in candidates' forums and questionnaires or that may become
the basis for League studies. To become a member or learn more, visit
the LWV-Montclair Area website at www.montclairarea.nj.lwvnet.org.