Alex Valdez, of Kearny, knows he has an uphill battle to climb. After all, he’s challenging Hudson County Commissioner Albert Cifelli for the Democratic nomination for his West Hudson seat, one Cifelli has sat in since the first day of 1998. And, Valdez acknowledges Cifelli has done a good job representing West Hudson in county government. But the very progressive Democrat Valdez said he was attempting to win the nomination because he believes he can provide more — and in areas where he says Cifelli has not focused as much attention.
We spoke with Valdez Thursday, May 25, on the phone. We heard from his campaign manager a day earlier and we quickly arranged our discussion. Truth be told, it was the last possible day we could have pulled all of this together because of the Memorial Day holiday. And, apparently, someone in the campaign mislabeled an email to The Observer a few weeks ago — and they realized this just in time.
Valdez, a 2010 Kearny High School alum, went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Rutgers University. After getting a graduate degree, Valdez went to work in the non-profit sector. He’s served on several boards and currently works with the International Resolution Commission, a humanitarian-needs organization based in New York City with a global reach.
“For the most part, I am at a desk and have an office job,” Valdez said. “But it isn’t always that way.”
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When the United States of America pulled out of Afghanistan once and for all several years ago, there was a major refugee crisis and Valdez sprang into action to provide aid. Most recently, however, he was flown to Europe where he helped Ukrainian refugees — who were forced out by Russian President V. Vladimir Putin’s war — to get across the border into Poland.
“It was very safe there, fortunately,” he said of his journey to the eastern portion of the continent. “It was a very transformative experience.” Despite this global experience, it’s West Hudson itself that led Valdez to decide to run for Hudson commissioner.
“We need change,” he said. “There are county issues that need to be addressed. Can we sustain the development we’ve seen here? Can pedestrians cross Schuyler Avenue, where my mother lives, safely? Can people cross Passaic Avenue safely? It’s not very affordable to live here anymore and the people deserve better.”
Valdez noted three areas where he believes change is most needed.
The first, the aforementioned affordability of living in West Hudson.
“If the median income is $80,000 in Kearny, and a one-bedroom costs $3,000 a month, how does a working-class person live here?” he asked.
Next, pedestrian safety on county roads.
Valdez says he will work to ensure more is done to keep pedestrians safer on Schuyler and Passaic avenues.
“Have you ever tried to cross Passaic Avenue or Schuyler Avenue?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s impossible. It’s dangerous. And it has to get better. I would rather be proactive rather than reactive.” But he said there isn’t much proactivity, county-wise, in that regard.
Lastly, Valdez said it’s absurd there is only one way to get to the Hudson County seat by public transport (not including taxis or ride sharing) — and that is by the PATH.
“There are no bus lines in East Newark, Harrison or Kearny that go to Jersey City,” he said. “People simply can’t get there. The area needs to be better served by NJ Transit and be more walkable. It isn’t now.” He said he will work to improve this.
In all, while Valdez believes Cifelli has performed well as a commissioner, Valdez said he can — and will — do better and more for West Hudson if he’s elected.
“Too many people from the Kearny HS Class of 2010 are moving elsewhere,” he said. “It’s too expensive to live here, but I believe we can be transformative and make a difference. I’m running not just because it’s fun, but it’s important.”
And he said he believes has will win since it’s an off-off year election.
“Only about 1,300 votes were cast in this district that last time, so why not?” he said.
We’ll know for sure at around 9 o’clock Tuesday night, June 6. Be sure to visit www.theobserver.com for results from the polls.
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.