For the first time in more than a decade, there will be a contested Democratic primary election in the Town of Kearny for the mayoral and four council nominations.
On Monday morning, April 5, Mayor Alberto G. Santos submitted nominating petitions to run for re-election to continue serving as mayor and on his ticket are all incumbents – First Ward Councilwoman Marytrine DeCastro, Second Ward Councilman Richard Konopka, Third Ward Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle and Fourth Ward Councilman Gerald Ficeto.
The Santos team says it has an impeccable track record of promoting good and honest local government, and is committed to continuing the progress the community has seen with their leadership and in making Kearny among the best places to live in New Jersey.
“Kearny is the home of an incredibly diverse community and it has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve this town,” Santos, the mayor since Jan. 1, 2000, said. “In the past four years alone, we’ve witnessed our small but mighty community rally together to fight against injustices to help our neighbors in their time of need (in the fight to close the Keegan Landfill and during the COVID-19 pandemic.) Kearny is now experiencing its own rebirth and along with my running mates, we look forward to continue serving our community with honesty, integrity and compassion.”
Santos is seeking his eighth term as mayor. He currently serves as the clerk to the Hudson County Board of Commissioners (formerly Chosen Freeholders.)
During his most recent term, Santos led a grassroots movement to permanently close the Keegan Landfill that was releasing unsafe toxins – Hydrogen Sulfide – into the air. He saw to completion renovations at the Gunnell Oval Municipal, which includes modern turf playing surfaces, a new stormwater-management system to reduce flooding, two field houses, a playground, volleyball court, outdoor fitness area, tennis courts, basketball courts and a skatepark.
His says his administration’s commitment to thoughtful financial planning has resulted in municipal taxes remaining stable.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Santos says he has worked to keep Kearny residents safe and healthy. Most recently, he lobbied county and state officials to open a municipal vaccination site at Kearny High School. His advocacy has led to an increased allocation of doses each week to serve the residents of Kearny directly in their own community.
THE SANTOS COUNCIL CANDIDTES
DeCastro is a lifelong resident of Kearny, a registered nurse and product of the Kearny School District. She is the mom of two sons, Jordan and Chad, and volunteers with multiple organizations including the Kearny Recreation Department, Harrison Lions International and the Passaic River Cleanup. She is a member of the Portuguese Cultural Association.
Konopka has been a resident of Kearny for 25 years and has lived in the Second Ward since 1998. He is the husband of Nelia and father to Jacob, Joshua and Richard Jr. He currently works for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission. Outside serving on the council, he enjoys spending time with family and volunteering with Kearny Recreation programs.
Doyle currently serves as the Council President and has lived in Kearny for 50+ years. She is actively involved in almost every local organization, including the Kearny Domestic Violence Task Force, Project Graduation, the Women’s Club of Arlington, American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 99 and the Kearny Optimist Club. She was married to the late Norman A. Doyle Jr. and is the mother of Megan and Norman III and grandmother of Ryan and Kelsey.
Ficeto is a lifelong resident of Kearny, retired music teacher and is currently the Director of Bands and Small Ensembles at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. He is a founding member of the West Hudson Arts & Theater Co., where he continues to serve as president, a volunteer softball and basketball coach and director of the Pioneer Boys of America Drum and Bugle Corp.
The Santos ticket has not yet released a platform of goals for a new term.
Santos’s team, meanwhile, will face a challenge from five newcomers, headed by local realtor Sydney J. Ferreira, who will challenge Santos for mayor. His ticket includes candidates Kristin Jean McBrinn in the first Ward, Lexi Campos in the Second Ward, Kristen Grimaldi in the Third Ward and Steph Galarza in the Fourth Ward.
Since Ferreira’s petitions were accepted and he became an official candidate for mayor, he has taken to social media to what he says is “bring light to several town issues,” including snow removal, parking, safety, potholes and Payments in Lieu of Taxes.
His team also released a complete platform of what his first term as mayor would include.
However, the platform does not include one specific way he and his team would accomplish a series of generalized, typical campaign platforms challengers often proffer.
The Observer, in response to Ferreira’s platform announcement, sent him a series of questions to learn, specifically, how he plans to accomplish his platform. The campaign did not respond to the questions. The platform and the unanswered questions (in italic) are listed below.
We have to address our financial spending and high tax rates.
How will you address financial spending and high taxes? What will you do differently that will rein in spending and keep taxes flat or lower them?
We have to support our existing small businesses and encourage more entrepreneurs to invest in our town by setting up shop here.
How do you plan to support existing small businesses? Tax breaks? Anyone can encourage folks to set up shop here – how will you do this? What would a business owner get incentive-wise? This is generally the role of the UEZ – do you believe the UEZ is not functioning properly?
We have to make fair development deals that benefit our residents more than the big developers.
How, to now, have the development deals been unfair? Explain your view of PILOTS and why they’re unnecessary.
We have to address parking, traffic, congestion, and environmental concerns.
How will you address these concerns specifically in ways they haven’t yet been addressed? Will you buy property to make parking lots? Build parking garages? What are the “environmental concerns?”
We should follow the example of some of our neighboring communities, when it comes to snow removal, street cleaning and repairs, developments, infrastructure, recreation centers, and community events. Working hand-in-hand, creating partnerships, and forging alliances with our neighbors, we can come up with solutions together to combat our common problems, providing a higher quality of life for our residents.
Which communities are you referencing? How have they done it right where Kearny has done it wrong?
We must reform Town Hall and make it work for the people again. Our current governing body is out of touch and complacent, because they have gone unchallenged and uncontested for so long. As we have recently witnessed, our leadership is not very proactive; they tend to react only after an issue is brought to their attention or a bigger problem arises. In order to hold our leaders accountable, we must encourage citizen involvement and embrace competitive elections.
Where does Town Hall need reform? How is it not working for people now? How will you be proactive, specifically, where they’ve been ‘reactive?’ And lastly, are you suggesting those in Town Halal are working for themselves and not the people in Kearny?
Finally, we must bring civility back to politics. We will invite friends and foes, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, all different cultures and races… Everyone will have a seat at the table. We will discuss the issues, come up with solutions, and implement them together.
Where have you seen incivility in Kearny? When you say you want to bring civility back to politics, do you actually mean bringing it back to government? Are you suggesting there are races or underrepresented groups in Kearny who have been forgotten or who have not been allowed to participate in town government?
I am fully confident in our abilities to address every issue set forth in this ambitious agenda, including putting our tax dollars to work in a prudent fashion, advocating for small businesses, improving quality of life for our residents, and giving a voice back to the people. However, we can only accomplish all of this, if we are willing to set aside our differences and finally rise up, together as one, to demand the change Kearny deserves.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.