West Orange Mayoral final Debate—Now the Residents Will Decide

By Owen Petrie | Essex County Politics
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on October 29, 2014

Eldridge Hawkins West Orange Mayoral Debate 

Photos taken at Mayoral debate. From left: Mayoral Robert D. Parisi, Rodolfo Rodriguez, Joe Krakoviak and Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. 


WEST ORANGE—West Orange mayoral aspirant, Eldridge Hawkins, showed his experience and drew on several clear distinctions between he and incumbent mayor, Robert Parisi, and Republican challengers, councilman Joe Krakoviak, and businessman Rodolfo Rodriguez.
The debate, sponsored by Rutgers University and “All Politics Are Local,” radio show, was held at Elmwood West United Presbyterian Church in West Orange on Oct. 27.
The claim against mayor Parisi in the previous debates has been that, while affable and in some cases, charismatic, he has been on the defensive, rarely touting whatever his administration’s accomplishments may be, but rather extolling his ability to maintain the status quo. That paradigm did not shift on Monday at the United Presbyterian Church.

While keeping with his theme that it is far tougher to govern than to run for office, Parisi assailed what he characterized as his opponents’ political naiveté.
Mayor Parisi wasn't the only one with a bulls eye on his back. Rodriguez asked very pointedly why the residents of West Orange should consider voting for Hawkins, a former one-term mayor of neighboring Orange Township.

Hawkins said that "the right business decisions are not always the best political decisions." 

While mayor, Eldridge Hawkins was appointed Chairman of the Management Reform Committee for the NJ League of Municipalities, a position designed to shape statewide policy decisions that impact local residents. 

In that capacity he addressed  statewide bipartisan pension and healthcare reform. He said he angered the well funded special interest groups but he would never sacrifice his own integrity, let alone the well-being and best interest of his constituents on the altar of convenience or political survival. It was a decision that cost him his job as mayor of Orange and it is a decision he said he would make again, each and every time.

Hawkins got in his own jabs, as well. After mayor Parisi stated that educationally, West Orange would "never be Millburn or Livingston," because it was not "a homogeneous society" Hawkins said that Parisi's attitude was endemic of his administration and particularly his lack of leadership. He said that mayor Parisi's low bar for success is why West Orange has lagged behind  other townships in the area.

The former orange Mayor said that redevelopment, taxes, and crime have been abysmal under Parisi's stewardship.

He added that his own track record for winning millions of dollars for redevelopment, lowering crime, and fostering civic pride under his leadership dwarfs Parisi's efforts or lack thereof on behalf of West Orange.

Parisi responded that when it comes to winning bids on requests for proposals, you win and you lose some. He explained that he had applied for grants several times but had been unsuccessful.
In regard to redevelopment, Krakoviak offered no specific plan; Rodriquez wants to see outdoor eateries such as the sidewalk cafes in Europe or curbside dining areas in Montclair; Hawkins vision is to redevelop the abandoned Edison battery factory to recruit businesses and create a center focused on science, engineering and mathematics to anchor downtown. Mayor  Parisi said he frequently shops downtown and disagrees with the other candidates that downtown is suffering and stands firm in his position to move forward with a developer to build housing.

Of the myriad issues facing West Orange voters, the facilitation and generation of downtown business provides a glimpse into the glaring distinctions between the candidates.
Election day is Tuesday November 4th.

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commented 2014-10-30 07:52:51 -0700
Anyone else find it amusing that all of the candidate photos are candid/bad except for EH?