“Charlie For Change” is committed to victory over the political machine in November.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Charlie Kratovil, an award-winning journalist and longtime community organizer, announced his campaign for mayor of the City of New Brunswick.
Kratovil, who is running as an independent, has lived in New Brunswick for the past 18 years and is a 2009 graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Kratovil advocates for New Brunswick’s underrepresented communities, city employees, and children, pushing for transparency in government, fighting against corruption, and for equity and accessibility for all.
Kratovil said this campaign will be focused on three critical issues: making New Brunswick affordable, preventing crime and gun violence, and combating the climate crisis. He has promised to serve full-time as Mayor, with no side jobs or businesses, unlike the 31-year part-time incumbent Mayor. He also promised to advocate for and abide by a two-term limit for the Mayor’s Office.
“I am the only candidate in this race with a real platform to address the needs of New Brunswick residents,” said Kratovil. “Together, we can make history by uniting behind our residents, meeting their basic needs, and forcing the political establishment out of power once and for all.”
Campaign manager Amber Saravia stated: “Charlie always puts New Brunswick first. He empowers the people of New Brunswick by promoting sustainability and cooperation. He addresses the issues which cause harm to everyday people, especially the disenfranchised. His leadership inspires me each and every day. I’m honored and excited to be his campaign manager.”
This is Kratovil’s second run for Mayor. In his 2018 campaign, Kratovil received more votes than any challenger to the political machine since 1992, and the voter turnout was the highest for any Mayor’s race here since 1982. Kratovil’s first campaign also helped usher in positive changes like improved compensation and support for the city’s crossing guards. Due to his consistent efforts to improve public transportation in New Brunswick, four new bus shelters have been erected in the city, with more on the way, and the county government borrowed one of his ideas from the last campaign, creating a Transportation Department to develop a comprehensive approach to improving transit.
The full text of the speech is available below:
Hello, New Brunswick. It is so great to be here with you. My name is Charlie Kratovil and I’m running to be your next Mayor.
As I look across the crowd today, I am reminded of what makes me love this city: the people. It goes without saying that the past couple of years have been really hard for everyone, but today we see a bright future ahead, because people from all over are uniting together, and taking yet another step towards a better New Brunswick.
Now, I’ll never forget when I moved here. I was lost. When I came to Rutgers, I was looking for a new place to call home. I moved around a lot as a kid, and I never really had a city or a town that felt like home. I was a first-year student here, and I didn’t like living in the Piscataway dormitory where I had been placed. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. I wasn’t really plugged in to any community and I didn’t feel like it didn’t feel like it was my home. I was actually thinking of dropping out. So, right before my final exams, I took a long trip, talked with good friends, and I came up with a plan. And part of that plan was to get a job, and get my own place here in New Brunswick, and so I did. I became a delivery driver. I quickly learned all the streets, all the shortcuts, all the neighborhoods, all the businesses. My first apartment was on Hamilton Street, and I just loved being part of a community that was bigger than just a school, a community where I could get to know people of different ages, from different countries, different economic situations. And I recognized almost immediately that this was a great place to live, that it was because of the people, and I had found my home that I was looking for.
So, fifteen New Brunswick apartments later, I settled down on Suydam Street, where I’ve been living since 2014. And I can say with confidence, the only reason I’m still here is because of the community, those people who helped me out when I needed help, who were there for me when I couldn’t afford to keep living here. There was always someone willing to share their success with me, even though they didn’t have to. They’d open their homes when I didn’t have stable housing, get me a hot meal when I couldn’t afford to feed myself. They’d give me rides all over the county, or even let me borrow their vehicle so I could just get to work to make enough to survive.
And I look back on those years, and I remember how tough it was just to stay in this city. Because of the cost of housing, the cost of transportation, the parking tickets, it was a constant struggle. And the more I learned about the systems in place, and how they can oppress good people, the more I learned I wasn’t the only one struggling. In fact, there were a lot of people who had it worse than I did, people who needed help and couldn’t get it. And thanks to my community, and my privilege, I was able to survive here, and thank God I’m OK now. I have a stable place to live, I have love in my life, and I have a city that I can call home.
So, I’ve consistently committed myself to giving back to the city that gave me so much, to helping the most vulnerable survive here, and empowering the people through organizing, through education, and through exercising those democratic rights that Americans fought and died for–to protect and preserve. I’ve seen firsthand the power that can come from collective action, from attending and speaking at government meetings, organizing protests and marches, and running for elected office. As the saying goes, you only live once, so I’m determined to use all my rights to raise awareness, expose corruption, and help others learn how to help themselves. That’s why I started a community newspaper, that’s why I fought to win an elected school board here, and that’s why I work every day very hard fighting for clean air, clean water, and a clean government, because the people of New Brunswick deserve nothing less than that.
Now, a lot has changed in the past four years. Because of our work, we’ve seen some positive things change. Last time I ran, we won improved compensation the city’s crossing guards, got bus shelters installed in key locations to help people who needed shelter when they’re waiting for the bus. I’m also pleased to say that the New Brunswick Parking Authority has not borrowed any more money to build parking decks. After I made it a key issue in the last campaign, the Parking Authority has stopped their spending spree, changed its leadership, and cut its total debt by more than 40%.
But, of course, these changes are not enough. In the past four years, we’ve seen a huge increase in homelessness, a scourge of gun violence, steep increases in the cost of living. People feel unsafe on the streets, and in their own homes. Instead of making this a city that people would call home for the long-term, it seems many New Brunswickers today view success as getting out of New Brunswick. We must do better. This city has so much potential, but we need a leader with a vision for how to make the change we need.
In these past four years we’ve also seen attempts to subvert and even cancel elections, and it’s worth noting that these antidemocratic machinations have come from both of the two major political parties. These parties are out of touch with the people of New Brunswick. They do not address our concerns, they do not offer solutions, and they do not serve the people of this city. That’s why I’m proud to be running as the only independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.
It is time for a change. After 31 years of the same oppressive, self-serving approach to government, where public officials are elusive, evasive, and ineffective, we need a full-time Mayor, and one that shows up at the Council meetings. Unlike the incumbent, I will commit to serve the residents full-time, with no side jobs or businesses. This city needs someone who can make at least that much of a commitment. I also promise that I won’t overstay my welcome in City Hall. I promise to advocate for and abide by a two-term limit so that democracy can flourish, and young people with new ideas can get their chance to move our city forward.
Once again, I am the only candidate in this race with a real platform to address the needs of New Brunswick residents. Together, we can make history by uniting behind our residents, meeting their basic needs, and forcing the political establishment out of power once and for all.
If elected, I will make the city more affordable by adopting an inclusionary zoning ordinance that will create more affordable housing for renters and homeowners. We learned a lot from the last US Census, including the fact that New Brunswick has the lowest percentage of homeowners of any city in our state, and those numbers are moving in the wrong direction. According to the city’s own master plan, from 2010 to 2019 the percentage of owner-occupied housing units decreased by 28%. This is one effect of the extreme gentrification brought upon us through collusion between big corporations and the current administration.
I also haven’t forgotten how hard and how expensive it is to get by without a vehicle here. That’s why I’m renewing my commitment to bring New Brunswick a better bus system, one that will be free of charge to both residents and visitors, creating a better experience for all who come to our city, connecting our neighborhoods to jobs and educational opportunities. I’ll also modernize and improve our other transit options by creating a Transportation Department that will take a comprehensive approach to making our streets and our intersections safer for all, cutting down vehicle pollution, and finally solving the parking problems that still plagues so many of our neighborhoods.
But perhaps the biggest crisis we’re facing in New Brunswick right now is the violence in our streets. We need our police to be more proactive, more transparent, and more accountable. It’s not OK for the Police Director to be missing in action, absent from every single City Council meeting, never interacting with the general public, and refusing to tell us what he is doing about this crisis.
My heart breaks thinking of the families who are devastated every time there’s a murder. I know many of these families through my work at the newspaper, and they are good people who don’t deserve this trauma. They deserve so much better. But the approach of our current administration has been callous. Can you think of any other city where there was a mass shooting and the Mayor remained silent on it? Something’s not right here.
Last year, the Mayor’s Office issued a false statement smearing victims of gun violence, implying that they had it coming, or did something to deserve to die. Only after months of advocacy did they retract that statement, and they still have not publicly apologized to the families, or acknowledged who exactly it was that wrote this disgusting statement and published it on our city website as a form of damage control.
The police also shut down their online crime mapping tool last year, deepening their secrecy at a time when the public needed transparency the most. They’ve refused to provide legally required information under the state’s Open Public Records Act, and that’s why tomorrow I’ll be appearing before the New Jersey Appellate Division Court, with my attorney, fighting against the city’s lack of transparency when it comes to violent crimes. It seems the police don’t think the public has a right to know what weapons are being used on our streets. I think that the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one, and the public can plainly see that New Brunswick has a problem with violence, and not only gun violence, but crimes committed with other weapons, too. So we’ll be asking the Appellate Court to require New Brunswick’s government to comply with requests made under that law, over a year ago seeking this kind of information, the same kind of information that the Legislature deemed must be released upon request within 24 hours or as soon as practicable. It shouldn’t take over a year, and an Appellate Court case to get this basic information, but I won’t stop fighting until our police department is transparent, accountable, and proactive in preventing violent crimes, and protecting the people of New Brunswick. That’s their job.
I will be more concerned about getting real results for the people, improving public safety and quality of life, rather than focusing on spin and slander. This campaign is about putting people first and that includes all victims of violence and their families. Rest assured I stand with you, and I promise to make this city safe for everyone. And so just like you live only once, we only get one planet to live on. It’s a truly beautiful place. But it’s up to us to preserve it for future generations, and tragically we’ve already seen the devastating and fatal impacts of the climate crisis. More flooding and devastation is in our future if we don’t stop polluting our air, our water, and our climate, and take affirmative steps to reverse the damage that’s already been done. If we don’t do that, we will regret it deeply, and the next generation will pay the price for it.
That’s why we need to stop building fossil fuel power plants today. I was shocked to learn in 2018 that there’s a plan afoot to build a massive gas power plant just a few miles from here, in Woodbridge. As soon as I learned about it, I was against it and I began fighting against it. I went to the Planning Board. I sued the Planning Board to try to stop it, and now I’m fighting every day to try to get the Governor to stop it. We need to reverse course in many ways. There have been mistakes that have been made, problems that are obvious, and we know what the solutions are. We just need the political will to execute those solutions, and deliver for the people.
So I’m asking all of you to join me in this campaign, a campaign about the issues that matter most to the residents of New Brunswick: making our city safe and affordable, and protecting our air, water, and climate for future generations. If you’re registered to vote, I hope you will vote for me. If you’re not registered to vote, register today. If you can’t vote, please consider volunteering with the campaign and helping others who might not be aware of these things to make a difference. If you can’t even make it to New Brunswick, consider making a donation, or sharing our posts on social media. There’s a role for everyone to play here. This campaign is about uniting New Brunswick and empowering our neighborhoods. Together, we can and will win. Thank you all so much.