By Ron Leir
NORTH ARLINGTON –
A pair of septuagenarians will square off against each other for the borough’s highest office in this year’s municipal election in North Arlington.
It’ll be Democratic incumbent Peter Massa, seeking a third term, facing Republican Councilman Joseph Bianchi for mayor.
This is Bianchi’s first try for the mayoralty. Since his 3-year term on the council runs through 2016, he can reclaim his seat if he’s unsuccessful in the mayoralty race.
Bianchi’s GOP running mates for Borough Council will be incumbent Dan Pronti, a retired cop who works now as a realtor, and newcomer Kerry Anne Cruz, a realtor, while, on the Democratic side, Massa’s ticket will include incumbent Councilman Mark Yampaglia, an attorney, and Dan Castro, who ran unsuccessfully in 2013.
Currently, the Borough Council is evenly divided, politically, with the mayor voting to break ties, thereby giving Dems the edge.
Asked about Bianchi’s credentials, Gary Burns, president of local county Republican committee, said: “He’s been reelected several times. In 2013, he was elected to his third term on the council. He’s got lots of experience in government. Now it’s time for him to move up.”
Bianchi, a local volunteer firefighter and owner of a barber shop, said: “I was born here in 1941. I went to Washington School and North Arlington High School. I’ve spent my whole life here. Nobody knows more about the town than I do.”
“I can help this town a lot,” Bianchi said. He pledged to try to “stabilize taxes, work on our streets, and do away with our old, old trees that are totally destroying our sidewalks.”
Bianchi said he’d “model myself after Lyndhurst” in adapting the neighboring township’s strategy to “plant new types of trees whose roots grow straight down” without spreading out and uprooting sidewalks. He said he’d also “work with North Arlington High School and Queen of Peace to make our town more child-friendly.”
And he said he’d promote a good working relationship with the Police Department to ensure adequate protection for residents.
Nick Antonicello Sr., chairman of the local Dems county committee, told NA Today.net that, “The Democratic Party is squarely behind Mayor Pete, Mark and Dan. … The Democratic ticket is competent, qualified and ready to serve the homeowners and tenants of North Arlington.”
Massa told NA Today. net that he pledged to focus on redevelopment and local infrastructure if re-elected.
“The winter has been hard on our streets and I want to resurface and pave,” Massa said. “Fixing potholes will be another priority moving forward.”
Massa challenged his GOP opponent to debate the issues during the municipal campaign.
While making her first bid for elective office, Republican Kerry Anne Cruz cut her teeth on public campaigning by taking an active role in advocating for the Board of Education referendum March 12, 2013, asking for voters’ permission to borrow $3.38 million to upgrade its Foley Field athletic complex. The measure passed and the project is now in process.
Cruz, who grew up in Kearny and has lived in North Arlington the past 17 years, said she hopes that the borough and BOE “may be getting along better to get things done,” especially since “I have a son who will be going into eighth-grade.” An improved high school athletic complex, coupled with “more places for recreation for our children,” can be big selling points for getting more people to move to the borough, she said.
“I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times my son is practicing 9 [o’clock] at night because we don’t have enough fields,” Cruz said. As a council member, Cruz said she’d investigate the possibility of snagging state and/or federal grants to acquire additional playing spaces.
Her running mate, Dan Pronti, was appointed to the council last November for one year to fill the unexpired term of Steve Tanelli, who was elected county freeholder. Now he’s seeking a full 3-year term. His top priority, if elected, would be to form a “community safety committee” to arrange for extra crossing guards, crosswalks, stop signs and brighter lights, as needed.
North Arlington has about 2,300 registered Democrats and about 1,700 registered Republicans. In last year’s council election, however, the GOP hacked away at the Dems’ 4-2 majority by capturing the seat previously held by Peter Norcia.