“Parking Relief is Coming to New Brunswick” Speech

Thank you all for joining me today.  I’m here to tell you that parking relief is coming to New Brunswick!

Now, I’m standing on the block that was once home to the Chardas Restaurant, one of many local businesses that was forced out of our city by a redevelopment regime that has been built on collusion between powerful real estate developers, corrupt politicians, and the New Brunswick Parking Authority.

Chardas opened in the 1930’s and it was the last Hungarian restaurant in New Brunswick when it closed twelve years ago to make way for a 10-story building that a politically-connected developer had promised to build.

Unfortunately for this neighborhood, the promised 10-story building is one of many projects where developers, with the help of my opponent, misled the public to secure valuable real estate, only to break their promises about what they would do with it after this regime had literally destroyed what was there before.

My opponent’s administration told the New York Times that their goal was to provide the owner of Chardas with a new location on or near Somerset Street.  We can add that, too, to the list of broken promises. Chardas never re-opened, and it closed for good on July 2, 2006.

A few months later, John Lynch, Jr., my opponent’s cousin and the former political boss of New Brunswick, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.  One of the people who signed a letter asking the Judge for leniency when he sentenced Boss Lynch was the owner of Lavalette-based AST Development, Robert D’Anton.

AST was the developer whose plans had forced out Chardas and that company went on to build the parking deck that you see behind me, which the Parking Authority had agreed to purchase from them.  However, here, at the former site of Chardas, where AST had promised to provide retail storefronts, office space, and condominiums, they did nothing, they made no investment, and the left behind an ugly eyesore.  They also broke their promise to install a traffic light at this intersection and another on French Street, leaving behind an unsafe situation that has led to numerous crashes.

This lot sat vacant and unutilized for another six years after Chardas closed before the Parking Authority finally paved it over and started charging people to park here in 2012.

So I tell you this story today simply so that you know what we are up against, and how the Lynch-Cahill machine has brought us a string of  broken promises and big businesses that exploit us at the expense of the small businesses that enrich our communities and the taxpayers and residents who call our city home.

This political machine’s schemes typically involve the Parking Authority, either condemning real estate at the behest of powerful developers or borrowing tens of millions of dollars to help those wealthy developers meet their own parking needs, while leaving the needs of our residents unaddressed.

For these reasons and others, I support abolishing the New Brunswick Parking Authority and absorbing its responsibilities, assets, and liabilities into a new Transportation Department, a move that will save taxpayers money and allow us to better address the parking problem, combat the climate crisis, and take control of the NBPA’s out of control debt.

The New Brunswick Parking Authority currently has an outrageous amount of debt: $390,475,000 to be exact.  As your Mayor, I will make it a priority to pay down this debt in a way that protects our people and ensures the next generation is not saddled with major liabilities or undesirable assets.

My opponent’s administration has guaranteed all $390 million of this debt in its entirety, putting taxpayers on the hook for all of it.  My plan to dissolve the NBPA will give us greater control over this debt so that we can avoid a financial crisis that will hurt our taxpayers and our local economy.

I think it’s high time we move on from the old antiquated Parking Authority model and transition into a more comprehensive, sensible, and accountable approach to transportation issues in our city.

Doing this will realize significant cost savings by eliminating redundancies such as the many outside consultants and attorneys that the NBPA currently spends their money on.  This will also enable us to merge payroll and other administrative systems with the city government’s systems, streamlining those operations and allowing us to use the best tools possible to manage our city government efficiently.

By dissolving their parking authority, Jersey City taxpayers have saved approximately $850,000 each year and helped bring more accountability to an important sector of their local government.

And that’s really the key word: accountability.  Under my plan, the New Brunswick Department of Transportation will be led by a Director who will be completely and totally accountable to the Mayor, Council, and the residents of our great City.  No more unelected NBPA Board of Commissioners and no more reckless borrowing.

I will work with community partners like our city’s hospitals, Rutgers University, NJTransit, and the county government to maximize the usage of our existing parking facilities and, in some cases, transfer these properties to new ownership in order to pay off the NBPA’s massive debt.

NBDOT will also offer its services and technology to other public and  private entities that own parking lots and decks as a way to generate revenue and contribute towards paying down that debt.

I will also pull the city government out of the commercial real estate business.  The NBPA’s recent commercial projects have failed to bring in rental revenue that they were counting on, such as the famous FreshGrocer supermarket, which closed abruptly after failing to pay rent for over a year, and still owes over $1 million to the NBPA.

After that debacle, the NBPA’s prime real estate sat vacant for a year and half before a new tenant moved in.  That tenant has currently fallen behind on their rent, and owes the NBPA $378,984.

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, another NBPA-owned property, shut down abruptly earlier this year, owing the NBPA $82,865.  That space sits vacant to this day, generating no revenue and making it harder for the NBPA to pay down their debt.

Under my administration, we will sell these commercial real estate spaces, and we will use those funds to pay down that massive debt.

So, that’s my vision for transitioning away from that old model and avoiding what could be a pending financial crisis.  Now here’s what you can expect from the new model: the New Brunswick Department of Transportation.

In contrast to the NBPA, the NBDOT will be comprehensive in its vision, and it will bring a fresh new focus to solving the parking problem, and tackling other challenges like improving our bus system, making the streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, upgrading our antiquated taxi service, and repairing our roadways.

I’ve been listening to the community’s concerns about parking–the shortage of spaces, the expensive rates, the frequent tickets, the confusing rules, and the lack of solutions to any of these problems.

First and foremost, the NBDOT will be able to tackle the parking problem in a new way.  As the candidate who will put our residents and their needs first, I am committed to addressing this parking problem in a way that prioritizes our residents and their ability to park in their own neighborhoods.

So, I’m proud to announce that for the first time in history, the city government of New Brunswick will strategically invest in properties for the purpose of providing affordable off-street surface parking for residents in neighborhoods where parking demand outstrips the supply.  It will be just like the lot that we are in today, except that it will actually be for the people of this city.

And by the way, these lots will be well-lit, safe places, and they’ll be built using permeable pavement that will reduce the negative effects of stormwater runoff, including flooding.

So, for a modest monthly fee, you’ll soon be able to have a guaranteed parking space in your neighborhood, so that when you come home late and see that all of the spaces on your street are gone, you’ll still have a safe place to park near your home.

And that’s just the beginning of my new approach to our parking problem.

My administration will also support an immediate 33% decrease in the rates at every parking meter in New Brunswick, bringing us back to the days when a quarter could buy just 15 minutes of parking.  This is a common sense move to send the message that New Brunswick wants to encourage visitors to come and patronize our great businesses.

We will also end the ward-based parking permit system that discriminates against residents of smaller wards and segregates our communities for no good reason.  Down Plum Street, one of the homes that I used to live in here in the Fifth Ward, is 88 Plum Street. The only problem was that Hamilton Street is the dividing line between the Fifth and Sixth Wards, so even though we could see Hartwell Street from our porches, we would get a ticket if we ever parked there.  It’s just one of the many confusing rules about our existing permit system and because the Fifth Ward is the smallest, it only has about 12 blocks of parking where the permit is good. By contrast, a Sixth Ward permit covers a much larger geographic area, including several dozen blocks where the parking permit is very valuable, including areas directly adjacent to the Rutgers campus.

This inconsistency must stop, and by re-working this system in a way that allows residents of any ward to park in other wards, it will help our residents be more connected with one other.

My administration will also fight to limit alternate side parking regulations to only the period of May 15 to August 31 so that we are not exacerbating the parking crunch that is caused when Rutgers University is in session.

Currently, these rules are in effect from April to October, but during the school year, it is nearly impossible for residents to park their car legally during the days when those alternate side rules are in effect.  The end result is that a lot of people get tickets, the street sweepers can’t do their job, and the whole thing is just an exercise in futility.

Now, this will require changes to our city’s stormwater management plan, and as a committed advocate for our environment, I’ll ensure that appropriate mitigating measures are put in place to compensate for these needed changes.

Additionally, the NBDOT will institute a superior program for employee parking and parking validation for our businesses, one that will make it easier to do business in our crowded downtown and across the city.  The Parking Authority’s current program for nighttime employee parking is a resounding failure, with a total of zero customers currently on board. And I know first-hand many restaurant workers who struggle every day just to find places to park while they work and I’ve talked directly with them about the solutions they would like to see.  As someone committed to working people and easing their struggles, I will expand this program to cover additional parking garages so that workers are able to park near their place they work at an affordable rate. I will also explore several ways to incentivize businesses to offer parking validation at their locations, including bulk discounts, which I know is something they are asking for.

Finally, my administration will require developers to pay a fee if and when they receive parking variances that allow them to build less parking than what is required by our city’s standards.  Currently, when our land use boards grant these variances, there are often negative consequences for neighborhoods and developers get a valuable benefit at no cost. Under my plan, these developers would be required to pay a fee for each required parking space that they avoid building through the variance process.  This would be similar to how things are done in Edison Township and other New Jersey municipalities. Ultimately, doing so will generate revenue to support the operations of the NBDOT and my administration’s efforts to enhance public transportation so that we can work towards a society that includes robust public transit systems, and one that is less reliant on private automobiles.  It will also ensure that developers pay their fair share for infrastructure improvements that are needed as a result of their projects.

Before I wrap up, I just want to say that these are all changes that can be made.  We can abolish the New Brunswick Parking Authority. If Jersey City can do it, so can we.  If Montclair can do it, so can we. If Bloomfield can do it, so can we.

We can also create those surface parking lots for residents and lower the cost of metered parking to help our businesses thrive.  We can also reform the city’s ward-based permit parking system. We can also establish better employee parking and parking validation programs.  We can also scale back those alternate side parking rules. And we can require developers to pay when they don’t build enough parking. These are all things we can do.

But the only way we can do these things is if we work together and elect new leadership that will put the people of this great city first.

Together, we can make these changes.  Together, we will make these change. Together, we will take our city back and we will give power to the people of New Brunswick!

Thank you so much everyone.  Have a wonderful day.

Charlie’s Labor Day Speech

On Labor Day 2018, Charlie Kratovil made a special speech celebrating the successful defeat of the proposed privatization of New Brunswick’s 9-1-1 dispatchers, and announced his plans to raise the wages of municipal employees, including our crossing guards, over the next three years.

Here’s the full text of Charlie’s remarks:

Thank you, New Brunswick. Welcome everyone. Thank you for coming out. I want to start out by wishing you all a very happy Labor Day! We’re here on this special day to celebrate the working people whose contributions make our city, our country, and our society so great. I really want to–for all of you–to thank you for taking time out of your day to be here on this holiday. Of course, today also marks the unofficial beginning of the traditional campaign season, and I’m pleased to report we’ve already scored a number of victories as we continue building the movement for change here in New Brunswick, and now that things are picking up, we’ll be doing a lot more events like this one.

So today we should also take some time to reflect on the contributions that working people make to our society day in and day out, and to acknowledge the many milestones of progress that the labor movement has achieved here, progress that we all benefit from.

Now, we’re here in front of the Rutgers University Public Safety Building to celebrate the first success of this campaign. When I declared my candidacy for Mayor almost three months ago, you may remember that I was opposed to the city government’s proposal to privatize our 9-1-1 dispatch service. I explained to the City Council that this move would have a long-term detrimental impact on public safety. I reiterated my suggestion to them that they should consider working with Rutgers to keep this important public service in the public sector and keep it based in our city. And I lobbied our Police Director to do exactly that. Well, the city ultimately took my advice. The dispatchers became Rutgers employees, and as of last week, the City of New Brunswick’s 9-1-1 calls are now being fielded at the state-of-the-art facility right behind me. So, that’s our first victory to be proud of.

The eight dispatchers who wanted to keep their positions have transitioned to Rutgers employment without missing a single day of work or losing their benefits. By all accounts, this partnership is a success and its implementation is a big win for the community and for our movement. I want to thank my opponent and his administration for making the right decision here. They deserve the credit for negotiating and implementing this shared services agreement. However, I have to take issue with my opponent’s campaign for their false accusations about this development.

As I like to say, video does not lie and you can go to the city’s website and watch for yourself as I propose a 9-1-1 dispatch partnership with Rutgers University at the April 18 City Council meeting.

So you can understand why I was confused to see my opponent’s campaign issue a tweet, one of his first tweets ever, calling my statements about our successful advocacy as “false” and “misinformation.”

I want to reiterate that, no matter what my opponent’s PR team says, this partnership is a victory for our movement, the first of many on the campaign trail and something that ought to be celebrated by all involved.

We have one former New Brunswick dispatcher who went from being an hourly employee to becoming a salaried staff member here at our state university, and seven other dispatchers who became Rutgers staff. These workers received an average raise of $593 to their annual salaries and because they remain in the public sector, they were able to stay in the state pension system.

But, of course, this victory is about more than just those workers. Most importantly, the people of New Brunswick can count on the fact that when they call 9-1-1 to report an emergency, the call will be handled by someone who knows the area, knows it well, and is working in a facility based right here in our community. I’m sure you can imagine why it’s important that our 9-1-1 dispatchers know the difference between Bishop Street, just one block that way, and Bishop Place, which is almost a mile away on a completely different campus. Because we defeated this attempt at privatization, when seconds count, no time will be wasted by connecting your emergency call to a private out-of-state corporation whose workers may not be qualified or familiar with complex geography our great city.

And so as we celebrate this success, I want you to know that it’s just the first of many new partnerships that you can expect to see between the city government here and the largest institution that calls New Brunswick home. If you elect me, we’ll work with partners like Rutgers to develop creative, common-sense solutions that will save taxpayers money, improve the services we offer to the public, and as an advocate for working people, you can count on me to make sure that our public workers are always protected in these partnerships.

The other reason we’re here today is because I’m proud to announce that I will support immediately raising the wages of our lowest-paid city government workers to combat poverty and runaway inequality, to improve the city’s ability to recruit and retain quality staff, and to show solidarity with campaigns to raise the minimum wage for all workers.

Now, I believe everyone working here in New Jersey deserves a living wage. It’s an expensive state to live in and our city is no exception. In fact, it’s especially expensive to live here in New Brunswick. So, I pledge to you today that I will do everything I can to advance the cause of working people here in New Brunswick–not just our city workers, but all working people.

I was disappointed to learn that my opponent heads an operation that pays some of its workers just $8.60 per hour, not a penny more than New Jersey’s bare minimum wage. This, even after he supported the election of Governor Phil Murphy, who has proudly shared his vision for a $15 an hour statewide minimum wage.

Now, that’s a vision that I personally share. But New Brunswick’s government is not setting a good example or practicing what they preach. In fact, they continue to pay workers wages far below what it costs to live here, and therefore, they are part of the problem.

In recent months, the city has failed to heed requests from the community to increase the pay for our city’s crossing guards. Community advocate Danielle Moore has repeatedly asked them to increase that rate to ensure that we have enough guards for the new school year and the new opening of the Robeson Elementary School. But they have declined and dismissed this suggestion.

As of July 1, there were nearly 150 city employees who earned less than $15 per hour, including 50 crossing guards who work hard to keep our kids safe at some very dangerous intersections here. Now, I’ve joined Danielle at City Council meetings, Board of Education meetings, and Traffic Commission meetings where she has been pushing for those crossing guards to get a raise, specifically so that we are not short-staffed when school starts later this week. These calls have been met with responses like, “We’ll take that under advisement.”

Now, contrary to the stagnant status quo, my administration will introduce an ordinance to raise the wages of these city employees to at least $15 per hour within three years. Those who are currently earning $12.50 or more per hour, including all of our crossing guards, will immediately be given raises that will lift their wages to $15 or more per hour. Under this proposal, all city workers currently paid less than $20/hour will receive at least some raise every year for all three years to show our appreciation for their work.

I’m honored today to be joined by Stephanie Hart, one of our hardest-working crossing guards. Miss Stephanie is an excellent crossing guard who has been with the city since April of 2014 and I know how hard she work because she works on my block, at the corner of Suydam and Throop, just a few blocks from here, and she really does an excellent job keeping that intersection safe for the hundreds of pedestrians and thousands of cars that pass through every shift. But this hard-working public employee is paid $13.50 an hour after more than four years of service to New Brunswick.

Under the current ordinance, she’s on track to get a raise to $14.50 next April and then she’d have to work the job another four years before she finally gets paid $15 an hour for her time. Under my plan, she’ll be immediately given a raise to $15 per hour, and then a $.50 raise each year for the next two years because she deserves it and so do our crossing guards.

Now, all of our city workers will be earning at least $12 an hour once this ordinance is adopted immediately. In year two, they’ll all be earning at least $13.50, and by year three, I’m proud to say that all of our city workers will be earning no less than $15 for every hour that they serve the public.

Now, this compares favorably to the Governor’s proposal for raising the statewide minimum wage, which includes a four-year phase-in process that has not yet begun. For our public workers here in New Brunswick, we will do it in three years, with no exceptions and no carve-outs. This will set the best possible example for other communities and for our state government so we can get the strongest bill passed to raise wages for all of our workers as soon as possible.

I will also be recommending that the New Brunswick Parking Authority immediately follow a similar plan for phasing in raises for its lowest wage workers, 55 of whom made less than $15 per hour as of July 1. At the same time, we will begin the work to abolish that agency and transition its core functions into a new Transportation Department that will be more comprehensive and more directly accountable to the residents of New Brunswick. This transition will also save our city money, much like it did in Jersey City. And along with other cost savings measures like combining our Police and Fire Departments into a unified Public Safety Department, these moves will enable us to fund these important and appropriate wage increases without creating a budget imbalance or necessitating a raise in taxes.

Now, let me just say that is only the beginning, the first of many announcements about the my policies and vision for a better New Brunswick, a New Brunswick that doesn’t have a 36% poverty rate, a New Brunswick where everyone has the opportunity to make a good living and to afford to make their home here. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be meeting with advocates for working people and the many unions that represent workers here to discuss other ways that we can advance these important causes and make our city a leader in labor and you can expect to hear a lot more from me and our campaign as we move forward.

Later this month, I will be detailing my plans to bring New Brunswick’s neighborhoods the parking relief that we so desperately need, and how we can eliminate our problematic Parking Authority for good. I hope you’ll be able to join us for that. Thank you so much for being here today. Have a wonderful Labor Day, everyone. God bless.

Charlie Sits Down For Bilingual Interview With Carlos Ramirez

Carlos Ramirez is just 16 years old, but he’s already made a name for himself as one of the most fearless and determined reporters covering New Brunswick.

After getting his start as a journalist working at New Brunswick Today, the bilingual publication that Charlie launched in 2011, Carlos created his own popular news page on Facebook and he continues to be one of the top reporters at New Brunswick Today.

On July 15, Charlie sat down for a live interview with Carlos, who asked him serious questions about the issues facing the Hub City and translated all of the questions and answers into Spanish for his audience.

Watch the full interview below:

EN VIVO: Entrevista con Charlie Kratovil, candidato a la alcaldia de New Brunswick.

Posted by Carlos Ramírez Nj Noticias on Sunday, July 15, 2018