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SO 2011 2015


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SO 2011 2015

  1. 1. 2011-2015 in South Orange Below is an informal guide arranged by subject area, in no particular order, of key points in South Orange throughout my term in office. The progress made, and example we set as a government wasn’t due to one person, one idea or one accomplishment. Rather, it was due to an organizational commitment towards doing better -strategically - not politically, and all of those involved committed significant time and effort towards that overarching goal. This is not meant to be perfectly objective, and my voice and opinion is reflected, in a mostly minimal and intermittent way throughout. This document is more of a reflection and a consolidation of notes meant to help illuminate things I thought/think were important, although I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest this document might be without some errors or omissions. This doesn’t speak on behalf of anyone other than me. This was updated March 2017. It also needs to be noted upfront that none of this could have been accomplished without the hard work of many of governing body members and of those who came before us, South Orange’s hard-working administration and staff, dedicated community groups and volunteers, partners outside of South Orange in other governments and stakeholders, and of course the people who live, do business, go to school and visit South Orange. And personally, I couldn’t have contributed to any of this success without supportive family, friends, colleagues, peers, advisors, and others who believe in supporting and working with those who are committed to reinvesting in the future success of public institutions. - Alex Jump to Finances & Budget 2 Public Safety 4 Preparedness 6 Transparency, Good Government and Organizational Development 8 Technology 15 Transportation, Planning and Sustainability 16 Economic Development 17 Arts, Culture and Recreation 19 Additional areas of importance 21
  2. 2. Finances & Budget 1. We successfully stabilized South Orange's municipal budget and tax impact 1. I introduced, and we adopted, four consecutive budgets with the lowest tax rate increases in over a decade (2011: 1.6%, 2012: 1.7%, 2013: 1.6%, 2014, 1.1%), even while continuing to invest in key program areas and set up future governing bodies for financial success. 2. We successfully uncovered additional sources of revenue for the municipal budget. Including: 1. Redevelopment revenue​: Smart redevelopment is one of the best areas of potential new revenue for any municipal government; finding ways to take existing spaces and create greater value from them, either financially, for the community, or both. For example, the Third and Valley project is built on what was public land and primarily commuter parking. Not only did the Village receive over one million dollars in value for the sale of the land, which was used to build a critically needed new headquarters for the volunteer South Orange Rescue Squad, but we replaced and added to the number parking spaces available in the new building’s garage, and, importantly, the original PILOT contribution was nearly $600,000 per year, with automatic cost-increases built-in. All of which was new money, and all of those residents are now new potential shoppers in our downtown, living feet away from the CBD and train station. 2. IT Department consulting​: South Orange began providing IT support and consulting services to Maplewood, the town next door. We replaced their previous IT support vendor with a contract for services that not only saved Maplewood money and provided local high-quality IT support services, but generated tens of thousands of dollars a year in revenue for South Orange, which allowed for reinvestment back into IT and other municipal functions 3. Grant-writing:​ We pursued and were able to find new one-time (and some ongoing) revenue through more focused grant-writing activities, which were sourced from county, state and federal government, as well as private and nonprofit sources, including over $700,000 from FEMA for the fire department, $1 million for the river greenway and bike path, and many more (see below) 3. We greatly improved financial and budget transparency 1. In 2012, we released South Orange’s ~$33 million budget, for the first time, in a more user-friendly format. This started by placing an editable Excel spreadsheet online, where residents could edit and manipulate the cells with budget-lines and see what impact different amounts would have on the overall budget, individual assessments, etc 2. In 2013, we took this a step further, and through the software OpenGov, provided the public with an innovative online tool that allowed people to explore the budget data in an even more user-friendly, visual format, making South Orange one of
  3. 3. the most financially transparent municipal governments in the state. Hundreds of community members accessed the tool when it was launched, and South Orange received widespread support and accolades for its use 3. In 2014, ​five years of budget data​ was integrated into the online tool, providing community members with unprecedented access to the municipal budget and ability to see year-to-year changes by department and program area, more than any town in New Jersey made available at the time 4. In 2015, based on case-studies from other municipal governments, and trying to find ways to increase citizen input beyond the discussion space provided through South Orange’s Citizen Budget Advisory Committee, before I left office, I added a citizen-guided budget line to the municipal budget, which would allow community members to vote on the spending for a small project-focused pot of money. We also expanded our explanations for municipal budgeting, and took care to ensure that members of the community, whether through the Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee, or elsewhere, had the chance to give feedback 4. Further steps we took in South Orange to be more fiscally responsible 1. In 2012 we studied and ultimately decided to restructure and consolidate some of the long-growing municipal debt, which had reached over $50 million. This allowed us, for example, to take advantage of better interest rates, creating cost savings which not only started a year later, but will last for the life of the bond repayments 2. We removed the Village from an old Essex County Improvement Authority (ECIA) loan program. This was a county-wide loan program which most towns in Essex County had been a part of at one point, it split the administrative costs to save each town money in bonding for longer term capital projects. But it turned out that South Orange was the last town still in the program, and shouldering all of the administrative costs which previously had been split. By removing ourselves from that program we were able to eliminate pointless administrative costs. 3. We more diligently sought grants from private and public sources, for example in 2013-2014 the $700,000 we received from the federal government for a much-needed new ladder truck for our Fire Department
  4. 4. Public Safety 1. We supported our police and saw four years of consistent crime reduction 1. From 2011 - 2015, total crimes in South Orange, as compiled in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, fell over 40%. 2. We provided our police with more and better technology to support them being able to do their jobs. 1. We bought and installed additional Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs), both in mobile installations on patrol vehicles and at key fixed locations. 2. We overhauled the aging Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and Records Management System (RMS), one of the more central parts to helping support an efficient police dispatch and work place. 3. We initiated a total overhaul, one of the most advanced in the State of New Jersey, of the entire analog public safety and municipal radio system to New Jersey’s new, digital “P-25” network, an innovative state/local partnership that reduces initial and ongoing capital costs to maintain the radio system for the local government, improves reliability and interoperability and provides key safety features for public safety employees. 4. We began only purchasing new police vehicles only with All-Wheel Drive, which provide a significant increase in the available vehicle resources during storms, reducing the need for larger SUV’s and vehicle tire chains, which not only improves 911 response times and reliability during emergencies, but reduces the damage from the more common RWD chains on most vehicles have on the road surface. 5. Based on feedback from our detectives, we invested in a high-speed redundant fiber network, which provided greater bandwidth for the police to be able to more quickly access security and video footage from patrol cars or other sources, cutting down the response times for detectives working new crimes, and providing better quality and more reliable video to the department for further investigations. 6. We provided support in advancing high-performing officers to supervisor positions, which has previously seen delays in their consideration for non-organizationally relevant reasons from prior elected officials. 7. I started working with the SOPD, before my election, to employ cutting-edge social media tracking and analytics to help reduce problems related to large crowds and gatherings that had begun to happen and caused property damage and injuries in the downtown. They eventually grew their ability at using these tools and joined a federal task force to assist in supporting and contributing towards better ways to use the internet and social media to prevent and solve crime.
  5. 5. 3. We helped grow and support Neighborhood Watch programs. 1. Under citizen-directed leadership, South Orange saw the expansion of Neighborhood Watch programs, groups which consistently met with and were supported by the South Orange Police Department. The neighborhood watch coordinator was given additional access to crime alerts from the PD, and the community members - residents, business owners and students - who participated played in a key role in helping reduce crime in South Orange 4. We improved the faltering working relationship between the University and South Orange, especially in regards to public safety. 1. We setup regular meetings between SHU and municipal leadership, resulting in better allocation of public safety resources, especially during peak-times when students were in South Orange. 2. The University increased their direct financial and logistical support for the South Orange Rescue Squad, which provides primary and backup EMS services to the University community and hadn’t been properly financially supported in the past. 3. Our municipal departments and campus public safety trained and collaborated together, whether it was SHU’s support in helping plan full-scale training exercises or South Orange sending firefighters up to campus to work with the University’s emergency preparedness programs on fire safety. 4. SOPD and SHU public safety worked together on key issues on a more regular basis, including pedestrian safety and planning out the installation of interoperable security cameras adjacent to campus. 5. We successfully coordinated switching over our emergency medical dispatching system when our previous provider (Atlantic Health’s CenCom) closed on short-notice and also implementing IAmResponding digital paging and SMS alert dispatching software.
  6. 6. Preparedness 1. Our municipal government effectively responded to some of the worst storms to ever hit our region, including Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy and several record-setting snowstorms. 1. Each storm severely challenged municipal, county, state and federal resources, and each storm was met with incredibly effective and well-coordinated municipal responses from police, fire, public works, EMS, building/code, health and much more. 2. Community members routinely rated municipal communication and response after storms as bad as Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy as very good/excellent. 2. We significantly upgraded our emergency communications technology and work processes 1. We replaced an outdated and unreliable emergency communication system (“Reverse 911” type system) with a new, cutting-edge, redundant and more widely used platform called Everbridge, which greatly improved the speed that we could communicate to the community during emergencies and the reliability and technical support of this system. 2. In the municipal government and the Office of Emergency Management, we created better communication workflows, training additional employees on using the communications platform and overall, increasing the clarity, reliability and redundancy of all of our communication methods through more standardized workflows, templates and processes. 3. The municipal website, which pre-2011 had been operating off of a server without backup power in the municipal building itself, and went down several times during power outages and storms, often when the website was needed most, was moved to a fully redundant facility with over 99.99% uptime and better technical support. 4. We moved our in-house Exchange email system, which was based on the same non-redundant servers, and had outages, some of which for 12 or 24-hour periods during emergencies, to a cloud-based enterprise level hosting by Google which experienced no noticeable downtime. 3. We improved South Orange's citizen readiness 1. We grew our Community Emergency Response Team, in close collaboration with Seton Hall university. CERT programs train citizens to be first-responders in large-scale disasters through a 20-hour training program managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. I personally taught hundreds of students, staff and faculty the disaster medical operations program at Seton Hall, in a close partnership that helped grow and support both programs.
  7. 7. 2. We provided greater support for the volunteer South Orange Rescue Squad and its members, many of whom live in South Orange and act as first responders and backup crews during major emergencies. 3. We invited local organizations to be more active participants in helping spread information or inform us of what was happening during emergencies, helping to develop better community partners over time. 4. We met with dozens of neighborhood and community groups after storms such as Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy to talk about readiness, sign more people into communications platforms and generally engage with community members about emergencies and storm preparedness. 4. We completed a number of critical overhauls in the municipal Office of Emergency Management 1. We invested more time in creating our capital infrastructure plans to ensure that we were building redundant backup power into new municipal building construction. 2. We performed a significant update and overhaul to the state-mandated municipal Emergency Operations Plan. 3. We worked with Seton Hall University to use federal grants funds to perform a full-scale active shooter training exercise on campus, with nearly a dozen public safety agencies in the area participating. We also performed several TTX (tabletop exercises) with Seton Hall as well. 4. We implemented a digital ID system, that provides greater security and interoperability during emergencies, putting South Orange on the cutting-edge of state and federal preparedness ID regulations.
  8. 8. Transparency, Good Government and Organizational Development 1. We made the municipal budget significantly more transparent (see above). 2. We provide more opportunities for engagement and interaction with the public. 1. I created an annual “State of the Village” address to provide, in-person once per year updates to the community, spotlight individual officials, employees and departments responsible for progress and rally the community around our accomplishments as well as our challenges. 2. For the first time in South Orange, I formalized open office hours for the chief executive position. I provided approximately 400 open office hours to over 150-200 community members throughout the four year period of time, helping to create an unprecedented level of access for community members to their government. 3. We provided more routine online updates, both from me personally, and from the Village, putting more frequent and comprehensive posts with information to the website, including pages which collected histories of meetings, minutes and links to make it easier for community members to quickly view records pertaining to a given subject or issue. 4. I recorded and provided short video summaries online, which were eventually replaced with written summaries, put out right after the Board meetings by village staff so that residents could access information about what happened during the meeting without waiting two weeks for the minutes to be approved or relying on any one individual elected official. 5. We provided more opportunity for updates during Board meetings. I restructured the meetings so that instead of having one “public comment” period towards the end of the meeting, which would often be more than three hours after the meeting began, we had one public comment period at the beginning of the meeting and one at the end. 6. We provided social media updates, using both Facebook and Twitter by town through new official accounts, and by myself through my own accounts, to get more information out, which we were able to measure as having successfully tied more community members to information during major storms, for instance. 7. We starting providing email updates, through a consolidation of existing municipal email lists. There had been several instances of elected officials sending out emails through political mailing lists, which both offered “government” updates and prompted community members to donate or support a particular political party or cause. We helped mitigate the confusion and impropriety of those kinds of updates by beginning an institutionalized, staff-led email update program.
  9. 9. 8. All of us strove to be generally accessible to citizens, coordinating attendance at local meetings, community groups and neighborhood associations, to ensure that all community members had multiple ways to interact with members of their government. 9. We strove to provide detailed, length, but most importantly, comprehensive issue explanations, on topics which more commonly would be done in one-off transactional ways. This helped improved the public’s access to the full-scale of information on issues such as water quality, redevelopment, infrastructure repair and street paving, and much more. 3. I used executive authority to curtail unethical governing practices and instances of government and legislative outreach 1. In 2011, I halted the enforcement of an ordinance which was deemed unconstitutional by municipal counsel and supported by New Jersey case law, an ordinance that overly-regulated through fees and applications, political speech and lawn signs, when governing body member failed to repeal it 2. I instituted strict administrative accountability and workflows, reducing instances of individual legislative members breaking state statute and municipal governing protocols by doing things such as individually and without accountability directing municipal staff on personal or individual projects, using private email to do public business or withholding information or documents from public records requests. 3. I instituted technology-based workflows and soft accountability which helped reduced the instances of illegal and improper (non-publicly noticed) governing body meetings via email 4. We re-invested into using more clear legislative committee structures tied with more thorough administrative oversight to better organize the two branches of local government 5. We upgraded our “anti-pay to play” ordinance to make it more effective at preventing conflicts of interest in procurement 6. I created a more strict accountability for whether governing body agenda items were allowed to be discussed in closed session versus requiring discussion in public 7. We clarified a number of important lines and rules which had been blurred by some members using public resources to forward political causes, for example, using email addresses collecting through municipal government accounts on political/fundraising email lists. 4. We made the governing body meetings more transparent and efficient 1. I doubled the number of public comment periods available to members of the public at governing body meetings (see above). 2. We reduced the amount of time spent in closed-door “executive session” meetings, both by enforcing a stricter definition of what could be discussed behind closed-doors, but also moved the closed portion before the public meetings to create a hard stop at 30 minutes, rather than having the closed
  10. 10. portion after the meeting, which often went past midnight or later in a more open-ended format. 3. I required that governing body members submit agenda items through an itemized submission form, which provided more information to staff to prepare background on issues, allowed the public to have access to more information when the agenda was released before the meeting and better informed other members about topics and timing of the upcoming meetings. 4. We created a better workflow based on this new agenda process. Through a several month study used a data-enabled webform for new agenda items, members were found to submit nearly 9 out of 10 items as “Urgent,” the findings of which helped to create a more organized process for submitting and scheduling items for discussion. 5. We created annual goal-setting meeting process where members of the public could observe or comment on the governing body going through a difficult prioritization process of their goals, helping bring members on the same and flesh out staff capacities while creating more institutional, not political, accountability. 5. I lobbied for, which ultimately did not pass, a comprehensive local ordinance which codified many of the best practices that we were already doing, and would have created a stricter legal oversight mechanism for accountability on those issues. 1. This ordinance, which was worked on with feedback from a number of open government organizations including the Sunlight Foundation and the New Jersey based Citizens Campaign, was ultimately the foundation for a “Model Ordinance” from the Citizens Campaign, where a template and instructions were provided as a resource for local governments interested in taking steps to improve their transparency. 6. We improved the process that we used to answer Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests. 1. We made information about requests themselves and all the previous answers, available online to any member of the public so that people could see prior requests without having to file a new one. 2. We also used more secure document creation processes, such as watermarking individual pages in request responses, which cut down on frivolous or politically motivated requests which for a period of time took up significant staff resources. 7. We improved citizen privacy 1. Through executive regulation, I appended a disclaimer to all outbound email messages from any municipal account that warned the recipient that the interaction was matter of public record and subject to the New Jersey Open Public Records Act. Many citizens believe that they can request confidentiality in communication with elected officials, which is actually not the case, in that municipal officials in NJ do not have the discretion to decide what’s confidential and what’s not.
  11. 11. 2. We lobbied the state for more comprehensive and better privacy-protecting to the state’s aging Open Public Records Act, which currently makes sensitive personal information available to any member of the public without a government being able to redact such information. 8. We invested time in better human resources, employee morale and a more strategic hiring and development plan 1. We did significant staff re-organizing and hiring. From 2011 to 2015, we executed comprehensive hiring processes, bringing new people into key leadership positions, such as: i. Hired a new Business Administrator ii. Created and hired for the position of Deputy Business Administrator, formed from an existing clerical position iii. Hired a new Municipal Clerk iv. Hired a new Deputy Clerk v. Appointed a new IT Director vi. Promoted a new Fire Chief vii. Promoted a new Police Chief viii. Promoted a new Public Works Director ix. Hired a new municipal prosecutor x. And several more 2. We re-instituted a number of important employee relation program that had been cut previously for cost-savings, including creating employee holiday parties, taking advantage of local recreational resources to reward our hard-working staff. 3. We explored performance-based systems for compensating high-performing employees, even in our civil service environment. 4. We instituted more diligent and personalized performance reviews and professional development resources for municipal employees, based on their goals to help create more mobility within the organization and in the public sector in general. 5. We created a working environment that allowed employees to take ownership of new ideas and successes, subjected them to less low-value meetings (all department heads were previously required to attend all governing body meetings) and generally improved the community’s spaces for positive interaction with staff. 6. We created health and wellness programs that staff could take advantage of, improving long-term health insurance costs for the Village and the resources that staff had to find ways to be healthier. 9. After Hurricane Irene, which flooded large areas of South Orange, and completely destroyed the break rooms in our Department of Public Works, we collected furniture and appliance donations for the Department, which had not seen the sitting chief executive ever visit their headquarters post-storm, building public support for hard working employees and raising employee morale.
  12. 12. 10. In response to resident complains about speeding and pedestrian safety along several main routes, we created a system of complaint and solution evaluation via a more comprehensive traffic and speeding plan that hadn’t existed before. 11. We engaged the public and took initial steps to modernize our form of government. 1. South Orange is required, every ten years to re-apply to the state legislature for approval to continue using the form of government we have, some of which is unique and positive, some of which is a hinderance to best-practice governance. 2. For example, we put on a public ballot questions such as whether future governing bodies should receive a stipend for their service (all were unpaid), which actually passed, as did several other changes that helped lay the groundwork to modernizing the government. 12. We better organized professional support and staffing services 1. To assist in the significant workload for new development and planning, we secured a redevelopment attorney and firm to provide specialized advice, as well as seeking a new planning firm. 2. We worked with a specialized bond counsel to help us consolidate and refinance our debt. 13. We ended the delay of repairs to municipal infrastructure and invested time and resources in improving municipal properties and historic buildings through short-term fixes and a long-term capital infrastructure plan. 1. We began - now underway - plans to renovate South Orange Village Hall, a downtown center point on the National Register of Historic Places, and entirely dilapidated. These plans had been delayed for more than twelve years under two previous administrations. 2. We renovated and created a longer-term plan to further improve the police headquarters, which had a number of public safety and health violations and had fallen into dangerous disrepair over the prior decade. 3. We worked with the South Orange Public Library to help support plans for renovating both of their buildings, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. 4. We worked with New Jersey Transit to renovate their primary train station, which had fallen into disrepair, also which is a historic building. 5. We performed key repairs on several other municipal buildings, including the recreation and cultural affairs complex, the secondary fire house and public works facilities. 14. We took a more evidence-based and pragmatic approach to sharing and regionalizing municipal services 1. We stopped a dangerous and inefficient fire department merger that had begun under the prior administration without the proper public safety stakeholders included or studies performed, which would’ve lessened service quality, removed local control, and increased costs to South Orange residents. 2. We re-formed the “Shared Services Committee” with neighboring Maplewood.
  13. 13. 3. We restarted strategic discussions about regionalizing or sharing municipal services, many of which we ended up successfully sharing, ranging from health, animal control, IT, code enforcement and more. 15. We significantly improved our civic space and citizen involvement 1. We saw an increase in volunteers on more than two dozen different committees, which were tasked with active projects relating to redevelopment, urban and sustainable planning, public safety, municipal finances, business revitalization and more. 2. We created better and more empowering committee structures, which helped turn many local government committees from social gathering, to project-centered working groups adding significant and measurable valuable to the municipal government and community. 3. One of the most pervasive negative influences in South Orange’s civic space, was an anonymous online message board, which provided a loudspeaker for people who did not register under real names, who created multiple fake accounts and generally provided misinformation and bullied and attack, often with personal details, people who spoke against the small but vocal group of peoples’ opinion. I effectively marginalized this community, being the first elected official in South Orange since that message board’s inception, to actively and publicly confront their misinformation, both providing numbers other spaces for community members to more productively interact with each other and with us, and reducing the disproportionate influence several people had in the civic and political process. 4. We created an online public voting platform built on Peak Democracy, currently being implemented to help gain feedback from members of the public. 5. When I left office in 2015, there were more community members, from more diverse areas of the community actively contributing towards work, even if it was critical work, on behalf of the municipal government and towards a shared goal of improving the community, than in 2011 when I started. 6. I created the “Village President for a Day” program after a particularly inspiring conversation with an elementary school student, helping bring young students from local public schools into governing body meetings and getting to interact with different areas of the government. 7. We created an innovative working group called the “Public Information and Marketing Committee” a working groups comprised of marketing and PR professionals, who worked with us in designing a number of successful outreach, branding and community engagement programs. 16. We significantly raised the profile of South Orange in the media 1. Throughout my four years, we significantly raised the profile of South Orange. Part was due, in the early days, to my young age and the interest around that, but it grew to be about the innovative policies and programs that we were working on and the unique community that we served. My profile in other parts of the country allowed me to draw attention to the incredible cultural and
  14. 14. socio-economic diversity of our community, to our cutting-edge investments in technology and in generating revenue from business consulting services to other governments, to the significant redevelopment potential in the community, to the sustainability work that we had done, to our interest and efforts towards better citizen engagement and much more. 2. South Orange was written about and profiled in hundreds of websites and news outlets over the years, including dozens in national news outlets. The positive press has continued still, creating an excitement about the community that didn’t exist to the same degree beforehand
  15. 15. Technology 1. We implemented an online and mobile based 311 service request system (SOConnect), that allowed community members to submit service requests or complaints directly to the departments responsible, instead of going through the more common process of a local legislator, and allowed the Village to collect data on service requests to use as a benchmarking process for future improvements 2. We improved our social media use (see above) 3. Before I left office, we began the process of updating South Orange’s outdated website to one that was mobile-responsive, and allowed for a more efficient workflow of keeping it up to date and would better provide organized access to information for community members 4. We invested in new technology at PD (see above) 5. We invested in new emergency communication technology (see above) 6. We switched to Google apps instead of microsoft exchange (see above) 7. We upgraded our entire document management system - Laserfiche - and trained staff on using it to the best of what the software was capable of, making South Orange’s document management and retention system one of the best in the state (which won accolades in the industry) 8. We upgraded the software for compiling our governing body’s agenda, which in addition to previously mentioned workflow updates, made more information more easily available to the public, reducing staff time spent on it, and improving access, through the use of Novus Agenda software 9. We began putting all of the videos for our governing body meetings on YouTube to make them most accessible as possible. We also started plans to make those videos synced to the agenda and more available for community members who wanted to find just one discussion item, rather than sift through hours of videos to find an item
  16. 16. Transportation, Planning and Sustainability 1. We made it more possible and less expensive for community members to use non-personal vehicle transportation and reduce car ownership a. We continued to support and expand our fleet of biodiesel jitney buses which commuters used to get to the train station b. We brought car-sharing to South Orange, not just to improve transit access, but also to make it less expensive to live in South Orange. Car-sharing programs can reduce some family’s need for a first or second car, saving people more than $5,000 per year in car, insurance and parking costs. i. It was an example of good government: After speaking on a panel in Washington, DC for POLITICO about government technology, on which also was the President of ZipCar, I pitched them opening up in South Orange. Several months later, we cut the ribbon on two new ZipCars (the company rented the reserved spaces from the South Parking Authority at more than 100% of what the coin-operated totals could be), which was later added to with a third car because of demand 2. We installed, with financial support from a grant from Sustainable Jersey, a row of electric vehicle chargers in downtown South Orange. 3. We studied, with community groups, and decided to implement a complete streets program, in addition to continuing our work on renovating a bike path that ran the length of the town, which was primarily grant funded, and provides several miles of pedestrian/bike paths. 4. We completed our first LEED (Gold) redevelopment project - Third and Valley 5. We continued to support and grow citizen-driven sustainability efforts, including for home-based solar power, river/park cleanups, complete streets and bicycle use 6. We introduced and passed several ordinances to improve sustainability practices, including updating permeable surface regulations, requiring bicycle racks on new construction and incentivizing green building 7. We re-joined Sustainable Jersey’s “Green Team” program
  17. 17. Economic Development 1. We created a value of community-led, comprehensive, smart planning and development which respects our community, history and character 1. We created a culture of citizen-first development, where potential redevelopers were required to have conversations, facilitated by the Village government, with community members and groups, and ultimately had to meet the goals that we help set for neighborhoods, to be able to develop in South Orange, a comprehensive engagement process rarely replicated in New Jersey or elsewhere 2. We helped set a new culture of collaboration on land use boards, which are often some of the least efficient or most oppositional meeting spaces, which if left, can discourage economic investment. We brought in new members and provided more efficient workflows to reduce the time and money for individuals investing more in improving properties 3. We created the statutory framework for, and introduced a historical preservation association to set guidelines on historical building and renovations in the historic neighborhoods in South Orange 2. We started, completed and begin exploring a number of important redevelopment projects: 1. Third and Valley​: South Orange’s largest recent redevelopment, mentioned above, brought in Jonathan Rose Companies to their first project in New Jersey in a $64 million LEED project 2. Gaslight​: Completed under vested plans on a property that had been a vacant eyesore directly in the center of the downtown for over ten years, this 60-unit key downtown residential, parking and retail space was completed in under two years, adorned with local artists and murals, and the property owner has become an active participant in support downtown activities 3. NJ Transit​: We extensively studied, and started working with NJ Transit in anticipating a redevelopment project in the parking lot to South Orange’s main train station, adding parking, residential and retail along Church Street and South Orange Ave. 4. Vose/South Orange Ave​: We signed conditional redevelopment agreements to begin working with private property owners to study the development potential on/around the old Blockbuster store on the corner of Vose and South Orange Avenue through a cooperative development that would include both private and public stakeholders 5. Fourth and Valley​: We began looking at preliminary proposals to a redevelopment project on Fourth Street and Valley, next to the new Third and Valley project. Property owners had coordinated and were interested in exploring selling, and the area is potentially prime for additional higher-density housing
  18. 18. 6. Orange Lawn Tennis Club​: We worked with the local tennis club and local citizens and community groups to help support the design of plans for small-scale multi-unit redevelopment at the tennis club, directly adjacent to a number of historic residential areas in a way that met everyone’s needs 3. We built the first on-site downtown affordable housing - with community support 1. At Third and Valley, we built the first onsite income-restricted affordable housing in downtown South Orange, providing 23 units for people who otherwise would not have been able to afford to live in a walkable downtown with such incredible schools and transit access. There were approximately 1,200 applications for those 23 income-restricted units. 4. We turned our Main Street downtown Organization into the South Orange Village Center Alliance by creating a Business/Special Improvement District 1. A move that was largely supported by the business community, and has been a key player in improving the cleanliness of the downtown, coordinating more cost-effective snow shoveling in the winter, supporting a series of Friday and Saturday night concerts all summer, hosting a farmer’s market, and providing a key forum for businesses to give feedback on how the municipal government could be better support them. i. This policy discussion space resulted in a number of positive changes, including the Village doubling the number of businesses with outdoor dining, by taking recommendations of business owners into account when creating new laws 5. We explored innovative housing and small business ideas 1. Such as looking at creating affordable housing specific for veterans, and even potentially including a small-business incubator or coworking spaces for veterans who were starting their own business 6. We saw a resurgence of private economic development in buildings and properties 1. Especially in the downtown, partially spawned by the increased redevelopment activities the Village facilitated, and partially due to the better support that the new improvement district provided in the forms of grants and recruiting local talent to help businesses on various aspects of storefront improvements 7. We started to better organize our planning and growth documents 1. We stopped adding addendum plans onto our outdated Master Plan, opting to set aside money, which is now being used for this purpose, to update the municipal master plan, which had last seen a major update in the 1970s, and had been added to piecemeal since then 8. We took a more active role in recruiting new businesses to the downtown 1. Coordinating efforts with residents, online and in person, including myself personally on a number of occasions touring potential business owners in the downtown, which resulted in a number of key new businesses that have opened and become core downtown destinations, some in long-vacant spaces, such as Ricalton’s in the old “Stuffed Shirt” location
  19. 19. Arts, Culture and Recreation 1. We continued to support a community and culture often described as one of the most uniquely diverse and well-integrated communities in the United States 1. We were able to continue to support key community stakeholders, such as the Community Coalition on Race, who worked for decades on issues of racial and economic integration, which were at risk of losing funding as the result of a politically motivated biases 2. We instituted and supported a number of programs, especially in our police department, that helped bring government and community, especially communities of color, closer together 3. By building new on-site affordable housing with community support, we could help ensure the future economic and social viability of a community in a region which is seeing continuing cost increases 2. We continued to create fun and economically advantageous local events, often bringing local TV media attention or new visitors to the community. Events such as: 1. We held the first food-truck festival in South Orange, bringing in a half dozen food trucks from nearby cities in what is now a central outdoor community event, where South Orange’s secondary business district is closed to vehicle traffic, and outdoor music and other activities are provided 2. We created “Play Day,” a uniquely fun day, where the entire downtown is closed and games for people of all ages are provided, along with local restaurants, vendors and community groups 3. We created a historic recreation softball game, played on a field on which Babe Ruth played, where players wear vintage uniforms and play for public causes 4. We grew the "Downtown after sundown” program, which provides two different live music stages downtown every Friday and Saturday night for the entire summer 5. We supported "Concerts in the park” which were larger (several thousand people) concerts in our park, bringing in 6. We grew “National Night Out” events, which are local events part of a national program to help provide opportunities for public safety and law enforcement to interact with the community in a setting with music, games and music 7. We created "Movies under the Stars," where we host community members outdoors in the downtown recreation fields to watch movies on an outdoor screen during the summer 3. We significantly grew the quality and revenue for the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), which in 2016 was rated as the best small performing arts center in New Jersey
  20. 20. 1. The construction had been poorly financed by previous administrations, leaving over $11 million of debt on the new performing arts center’s balance sheet, questionable community support for a project that was seen as not performing well and low attendance. The Village took ownership of the debt onto the municipal balance sheets, which improved the financial outlook of the center, assured a strong working relationship between the municipal government and SOPAC, and ultimately allowed for new grants that provided key financial support 2. We received the first “NJ State Council on the Arts” grant for SOPAC in its history, opening it up to numerous new funding sources (that grant is a gateway grant for arts funding). Every year since grants to SOPAC have continued to grow. 3. We improved the management structure of the organization, doing a slate of new hirings and re-organization based on personality profiles of different management positions and a comprehensive hiring process, which ended up producing incredibly productive results in SOPAC’s productivity, and record-attendance by South Orange community members and outside visitors 4. South Orange’s process was seen as a model, and since then, I’ve been inviting to speak on many panels and workshops about the program that we did to help provide support for the center 4. We supported a number of other community-focused initiatives, including 1. Working with the SOPAC, we started a program where each year, a series of local artist painted pianos are placed around town for members of the public to play “#SOPianos” 2. After gaining feedback from community members, we extended the season on recreation resources such as the public pool and other outdoor recreation facilities 3. We worked with community and law enforcement stakeholders from the local high school to allow for the hosting of us a “Senior Prom Showcase” which had been canceled previously due to safety concerns 4. Supporting arts and culture performances such as “Giants of Jazz” and “Jazz in the loft” 5. I successfully threw out the first pitch for three years for the South Orange/Maplewood Little League, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and unsuccessfully threw out one first pitch, 2011.
  21. 21. Additional areas of importance 1. We finally ended a long, expensive, dangerous, and problematic relationship with a corrupt water commission. a. This new change, switching from East Orange Water Commission to NJ American Water, took place in January of 2017, and was almost literally universally support by community members, who had been criminally defrauded by billing practices by the commission, received generally poor water quality, and had to face several instances of contamination violations and improper cleanups b. We spent over five years in legal action with the Commission, arising out of any number of problems created from their lack of professional performance or accountability both in billing/administrative and operations. c. Our legal actions resulted in uncovering severe criminal wrongdoing, evidence of which was provided to the New Jersey Attorney General who filed charges that two members of the water commission were found guilty of several felony counts, including tampering with public documents to hide contamination violations in the public water supply 2. We expanded public and free health fairs for community members 3. We advocated for issues that were important to our community members, such as: 1. Marriage equality.​ South Orange has a long track record of being a diverse and an LGBT friendly community. In addition for personally and institutionally advocating for a legal framework which would grant the same rights to people regardless of the sex of their partner, in 2013, along with several others mayors around New Jersey, I opened our town at midnight on the first day the New Jersey State Supreme Court allowed us to perform same-sex marriages, to do so, and ushered in a flood of new marriages for South Orange residents who finally could have the same rights as the rest of the community. 2. Better transit access. ​We worked with NJ Transit to continue to advocate for better mass transit access for a community which saw over 4,000 people per day commute into midtown NYC. South Orange was the first “Transit Village” in New Jersey, and we worked with closely with stakeholders to continue that development, even among state budget cuts. When service was cut to residents, we lobbied, and worked with county, state and federal stakeholders to reverse course and continue to provide high service levels for our community 3. Zoning equity​: We successfully fought state legislation which would’ve allowed universities to be exempt from local zoning laws. We worked with county, state and federal stakeholders to do this, and I did a statewide editorial board for the Star-Ledger to help in that.
  22. 22. 4. Better state ethics laws​. We lobbied and worked with state legislators and other stakeholders to update significantly outdated laws that regulate public meetings and public records. 5. Utility preparedness. ​From storms such as Hurricanes and Irene and Sandy, we saw directly how unprepared utility companies were to properly manage the restoration process, communicate with customers and government partners and more. We passed resolutions urging accountability from the state legislature and governor, got nearly a dozen other towns to do the same, and I attended a number of meetings with utility company stakeholders, county, state and federal government representatives, and others, to attempt to hold utility companies to a higher standard of preparedness, technology use, interoperability and communication practices. 6. Homelessness prevention.​ We worked with county and state stakeholder to attempt to address, on a more coordinated regional level, the significant problems that our areas faced with the number of chronically homeless individuals who didn’t have access to proper facilities
  23. 23. Finances & Budget 1 Public Safety 3 Preparedness 5 Transparency, Good Government and Organizational Development 6 Technology 12 Transportation, Planning and Sustainability 13 Economic Development 14 Arts, Culture and Recreation 16 Additional areas of importance 18