Interview with West Orange Mayoral Candidate Rodolfo Rodriguez

Monday, 06 October 2014 14:33 Local Talk News Editor


West Orange has a heated battle going on to determine who will lead the city going forward. The four people vying to be the mayor once the November election is over are incumbent Robert Parisi, former Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., current Councilman Joe Krakoviak, and interviewee Rodolfo Rodriguez, who ran for city council two years ago.

Dhiren Shah: In 2012, you unsuccessfully ran for city council. Why are you running for mayor this time?

Rodolfo Rodriguez: To be honest with you, we thought that the council position is not doing anything. We have Krakoviak there and he’s not doing anything. So I figure as mayor, I could definitely make a difference. The whole team decided that was the best thing to do, because we can definitely meet all our goals. Any candidate that runs in the state of New Jersey runs on taxes. We have the highest taxes in the nation. West Orange is #7 in the state. We have to find out why, what can we do, to change that. We know that the school system is taking 61.2 percent, and each student comes out to 21K. We have been suggesting for years to our town to stimulate businesses to come here.

You may wonder what those businesses have to do with schools and all that, but businesses don’t send kids to school. It’s really something good, but the actual administration is not doing good. For you to get a permit to remodel your own building, it takes from 1 to 20 business days, which is about a month. It takes another 1 to 20 business days for an inspector to come and give the permit. There are only two inspectors here; there should be one for business. Most businesses are not allowed to bring anything to the sidewalks. I don’t see why not. You see it in Montclair, Orange, East Orange, South Orange, Livingston; they’re all allowed to bring stuff to the sidewalk. Businesses like to show what they’re selling. West Orange doesn’t allow that.

DS: You supported moving the election to November. What are the advantages?

RR: We feel that, number one, it saves the town more than $80,000. Councilman Krakoviak voted no. Why would you say “no” to saving the town $80,000 and combining the elections? It makes no sense. You don’t want to save the taxpayers money? It’s all about their money. Most of our income comes in from home property taxes.

DS: What drives you to be involved in West Orange politics?

RR: I think West Orange is a beautiful town. I know I have a lot to give, and I want to keep it that way or make it better. It’s like a community job. You can’t live on $14,000 or $24,000. That’s why it’s a part-time job.

DS: How can you balance out your full-time job and the job of mayor?

RR: My (full-time) job is very flexible. I only work Monday to Friday. I’m a manager.

DS: What is the biggest issue in the city right now?

RR: Taxes. To me, the second biggest issue is the downtown redevelopment. The third is Pleasant Valley Way accidents. Too many accidents. We had 138 in one year, and we’re working on it. If I become mayor, I’m going to do four things for Pleasant Valley Way. 1. Reduce the speed limit. 2. Speed bumps. 3. Cameras. 4. Increase the police presence. We have five synagogues, more than 3,000 students, and five nursing homes. 138 accidents in one year, and a few days ago there were two in one hour. That is something that we have to take care of.

DS: What can be done with the Edison project on Main Street, where over $6 million was committed?

RR: I disagree with the making of over 600 apartments, because it’s going to become a project. That street is already congested in the evening. If you make 600 apartments, that’s going to bring at least 300 students, and our schools are already overpopulated. I suggest businesses, and I’m sure the redeveloper would have no problem with that. Most importantly, I disagree with having our taxpayers give redevelopers money; they should bring their own money.

DS: What is your take on the mayor addressing education?

RR: I believe the mayor could do more. They’re wasting too much money, and from what I understand, the high school is #143 in the suburban area. It should be among the ten best because they spend money like the best one. If the schools are good, our home property values will stay put. When schools go down, home property values go down.

DS: Crime has gone up in West Orange. How would you fix this as mayor?

RR: I have been saying that we should increase the police department back to 122 officers.

DS: Where would you find the money to do this?

RR: In the same place they find money to do fireworks. Fireworks aren’t important. They’re one time a year, but it’s not important. It’s a waste of money. We should cut wasted money, and not services.

DS: What can you offer the people of West Orange that the other candidates cannot?

RR: Bringing in businesses and working with businesses. I’m the only candidate with a business in town. The whole point is to revive West Orange. Look at Turtle Back Zoo. It brings people from all over, but they don’t come down here.

Hawkins was a failure in Orange. Krakoviak has been a failure as a councilman because he has accomplished nothing. I think Mayor Parisi inherited most of his problems, and I consider him my biggest competitor.

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