River Edge—The forum for the 38th LD was held at Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge. Moderated by Stanley Goodman, Chair of the Government Relations & Public Policy Committee of the JCRC, the panel featured opening and closing statements, with the six candidates addressimg Mr. Goodman’s six questions. The panelists were Republicans Fernando Alonso for the Senate, and Joan Fragala and Joseph Scarpa III for the Assembly. The Democratic incumbents were Robert Gordon for the Senate, and Timothy Eustace for the Assembly. New to the Democratic ticket was Joe Lagana for the Assembly.
Sen. Gordon spoke about property tax relief, generating more jobs, improving our schools, and community safety. He said that this represents his constituents’ values. He has delivered in each of these areas by sponsoring and voting for effective legislation. He doesn’t just talk, he gets action. He worked on a bi-partisan basis to pass the state’s budget. And his office has served more than 1,000 constituents this year who had a wide range of problems. Sen. Gordon specified that we especially need property tax relief for seniors and small businesses. And we must return funding for schools, which has been cut 40% under the current administration.
Mr. Alonso spoke next. He pledged to make democracy work. He then outlined his background to explain his goals. He is a first generation American and first in his family to graduate college and law school. He now holds licenses to practice in New Jersey, New York, D.C., and before the Supreme Court. He credits his hard-working mother for focusing him on getting a good education. He wants to make higher education accessible to more people. He said that he teaches his students at Fairleigh-Dickenson to work for “tikkun olam.”
Assemblyman Eustace is former mayor of Maywood and Assembly member for the past two years. He is a businessman who served as president of his Chamber of Commerce for many years and believes we need a higher minimum wage so that all workers can afford the basics and live safely. He cited polls that show that 90% of the public want sensible gun laws that promote safety for all. He plans to work on reducing property taxes and reduce flooding in this area.
Ms. Fragala is a native of Lodi where she taught special ed. students and rose to principal of the high school. She characterizes her constituents as hard-working people who want opportunities for their children through education and family support. Her first order of business would be to pass the governor’s bill to reduce property taxes by 10 percent. She said that New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation. Politicians continually raise taxes even though it hurts small businesses and economic growth. Education, however, gives students a chance to advance.
Mr. Lagana, Chairman of the Paramus Town Council, said he is running for his two young daughters. His parents came to America about 40 years ago. Three of their children graduated college, one law school, and one runs a successful business. He regrets that, under current economic conditions, the middle class is shrinking and the population living below the poverty level is increasing. He advocates raising the minimum wage, reducing taxes on seniors, and investing in infrastructure. As Council President he has led the Council to reduce municipal costs without any layoffs. He wants to “fight for the American dream” for everyone.
Mr. Scarpa was once an aide to an assemblyman from the 38th Legislative District. He has twice been elected mayor of Rochelle Park. They have the lowest property taxes in the 38th LD and have made the town better. They have recovered from four devastating storms.
Mr. Goodman then drew the candidates’ attention to the problems of our one million seniors. Which number is expected to grow steadily. He asked what they would do to foster aging in place, which has proven to be cost-effective and beneficial to seniors. He pointed to a pilot program in Mercer County which awaits funding in the State Senate.
Mr. Scarpa said he was not familiar with this program. Mr. Alonso spoke about his aging mother, who like many her age suffer from more and more ailments. The community needs to support its seniors, and he will support the concept of funding aging in place. Ms. Fragala advocated that we need to find funds to help seniors shop, socialize, and obtain health supplies and support services. Her father is in his 90s. All agreed we must support the seniors’ quality of life.
For a detailed article about this panel visit www.jewishlinkbc.com
By Stephen Tencer