Charlie’s Campaign Kickoff Speech

On June 6, 2018, Charlie kicked off this historic campaign with a little help from his friends outside of New Brunswick City Hall:

Full text of the speech:

Thank you, New Brunswick.  My name is Charlie and I want to be your next Mayor.  I’m running because you deserve a full-time Mayor who will focus 100% on cleaning up this city.

Now, I want to tell you how I’m going to do that, but before I get started, I need to thank some very important people.  So, first of all, thanks to all our speakers–my good friends Jad, Teresa, and Khahlidra–who you just heard from. I literally would not be a candidate for this office if it was not for my family’s help.  They were out there gathering the signatures that I needed to get my name on the ballot, so I want to thank my mother and father, my sisters who could not join us today, and I’ve just been tremendously blessed to have a great family supporting me for every day of my 32 years on this Earth.  My parents raised me right, along with my sisters, and they’ve all helped to inspire me, educate me, and make me strive to be the best person I can be.

I also must thank some of the people who took a chance on me and didn’t have to.  Harry Pozycki and Jim Walsh are two great men who taught me how to be a community organizer, how to empower others, and most important, how to be constructive and how to be effective.  So I’m tremendously thankful to both of them, and of course to my journalism mentor Joe Malinconico for showing me how to cover hard news in a big city and do it the right way, putting the people first.

So for the past fourteen years that I’ve lived in this great city, I wouldn’t have been able to survive without great friends, some of those people like Sean Monahan and Amy Braunstein, and everybody else who let me crash at their place when I was struggling to make a living, struggling to survive here.  And it’s not easy to make it here, but thanks to great people like those, I’ve not only survived, but I’ve grown and become a better person and better citizen, and I want to thank them for that opportunity.

And finally, I want to thank all of you, not just those who signed my petitions or those who are sure that you’re going to vote for me in November, but literally every single person who is hearing this today or watching this out there.  You know, there’s still signs out at some of the city limits here that say, “New Brunswick: Where The People Make the Difference,” and I gotta say that that really hits the nail on the head. New Brunswick has a lot going for it, but so do a lot of other places.  Yeah, we’ve got a rich history, we’ve got some big businesses, a wonderful state university, and much more. But the reason I’m still here isn’t those things, it’s you.

The people of New Brunswick are truly what makes this a great community to live in, to work in, to study in, to visit, to start a newspaper–it’s a very exciting place to do that–and hopefully to run for elected office in.  And I look forward to meeting as many residents as possible over the next five months, and I hope that we can build a strong connection based on honest debate and discussion, a connection that will last well beyond November 6th, and one that will endure even if we don’t agree about an issue or an election.  So, thank you New Brunswick for always keeping things exciting, for giving me a reason to put roots down here and to call this place my home, and giving me a passion for fighting for justice for everyone who needs support from someone else.

So, let’s get down to it.  What am I going to do if you elect me to be your next Mayor?

Well, I’m going to focus on several key areas, and I can see them on that sign right there: “Clean Water, Clean Air, Clean Government.”  We also need clean streets and finally, a real commitment to the people who need our support the most. That includes our working families, our renters, our immigrant population, and our homeless brothers and sisters.  There’s so much more we can do, and I’m going to fight for the people who need that support the most. There’s been far too long that we haven’t had real solutions to these problems and I know that we can do better and I will work full-time to make it better.

Now, we need to move our city forward and one way that we can do that is by creating a free, robust, user-friendly public transportation system.  My plans, which have already been presented to Rutgers University and the New Brunswick Traffic Commission right upstairs will make it easier for those of us without cars to connect to employment opportunities, educational opportunities, shopping destinations including places to buy healthy food that we need to feed our families, and also our hospitals and medical facilities, getting people to doctor’s appointments.  These are all important transportation needs.

My plans have been well received by those entities, but we must continue to push for their implementation regardless of the outcome of this election.  We must insist on zero-emissions electric buses for that system, we must insist that every bus be accessible to our disabled brothers and sisters, and we must insist that there be a common sense, centralized method for getting the information about this system out there, one that’s simple, bilingual, and uses GPS technology to tell you when the next bus is coming.

Now, this is just one way that we can helping ease the traffic and parking problems here, make it easier for people who can’t afford a car to survive in this city, and most importantly, make the air we breathe cleaner by eliminating pollution from our mass transit system.

But that’s just one way.  Before we get to the next point, I need to discuss kind of like the elephant in the room, the elephant in the city… it’s the New Brunswick Parking Authority.  We need to put an end to the New Brunswick Parking Authority. It’s why we don’t already have a good public transportation system here in New Brunswick. You guys know the expression: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Well, in New Brunswick, all we have is a parking authority, so every transportation problem, it looks like the solution is to build another parking deck and borrow millions of dollars to do it.

Now, earlier today, I visited the Finance Director and he gave me a document here that shows the total debt of the New Brunswick Parking Authority: $396 million dollars–and a half-million dollars.  So, just to put that in perspective the Parking Authority is paying $12 million just towards interest. Think about what could be done with $12 million. Think about what could be done to our downtown if we didn’t have so many parking decks, if we had a different agenda, one that focused more on pedestrians, bicycles, taxis, and other forms of transit that would help people get from point A to point B in a healthier way without having to have everyone own their own car and find a place to keep it 24×7.

Now, you might say thank God that the Parking Authority is an autonomous agency and that the City government is not on the hook for that insane debt.  But, unfortunately, ever since the Mayor’s first term back in the 90’s, the city government has guaranteed every single dollar of the Parking Authority’s debt.  That means that if, heaven forbid, we shift to a less car-centric society and the demand for parking in these enormous monstrosities goes down, the city’s taxpayers will be the ones that have to face the day of reckoning, likely long after the responsible parties have left office.

Now, if elected, I promise to support the immediate dissolution of the New Brunswick Parking Authority.  We wouldn’t be the first city to do it. We would be following in the footsteps of Jersey City, the second most-populated city in the state, which saved almost a million dollars per year by getting rid of their Parking Authority, and other communities like Bloomfield and Montclair, that saw the light, that want to move their cities forward in a direction that’s more comprehensive, not just parking, but more than that.

So, I promise to create a Transportation Department, with a director that will report directly to me and whose mission will be to develop comprehensive solutions to the parking and transportation problems that are inflicting harm on the residents and businesses here.  They are only seeing the costs go up and that is not a solution. I talk to many business owners and many residents who say that the cost of parking fines and the sheer cost of just paying for parking is forcing them out of New Brunswick.

There are a lot of people that would want to come to New Brunswick, but they are turned off by our extremely high cost of parking.  We can do better. We need a new strategy, a new way to go about it and I’m ready to bring that vision. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and I’ve researched what other cities are doing and I can tell you first-hand that we are long overdue for a change in how our authorities work, not only the Parking Authority but also the New Brunswick Housing Authority.  Some of you may be familiar with some of the scandals that we’ve uncovered at New Brunswick Today at that authority.

We can’t have the same people doing the same things over and over again and expect a different result.  A very smart man said that’s the definition of insanity. We need a change, we need to shake things up and I’m the person to do it.  So, I hope that you will support me.

I want to tell you about a couple other things that I will promise you.  So, first of all, I promise that if there’s ever a problem with the drinking water, everyone will be informed immediately.  No more cover-ups, no more criminal schemes. We’ve got to put the people first and be transparent about our problems. The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem, and that wasn’t going on until it was exposed and that was unacceptable.

I also promise to create an anti-corruption task force that’s going to clean up our government, investigate allegations of misconduct in the entire city: all departments here, both the authorities, and anything else that comes to our attention.  We’re going to install GPS tracking devices in all of the city-owned vehicles to prevent misuse and abuse of that privilege.

We’re going to separate the Housing Authority from the Redevelopment Authority.  It’s never made sense for those two things to be together and we need the Housing Authority to stay true to its mission of supporting affordable housing and not getting in bed with the developers.

I will also advocate for and abide by a two-term limit for all officials at the municipal level.  So many of the problems we’ve had could be solved by getting fresh faces and new blood in the system, and I will practice what I preach.  I will not serve more than two terms.

I will also support civilian review of the New Brunswick Police Department.  I know first hand that you cannot trust an investigation when the person investigating has a conflict, when the person investigating is investigating their co-workers or their friends.  We need civilians to be investigating allegations of police misconduct like they have in the country’s largest city, in New York City. There’s a civilian review board there where people are paid to do those investigations, and they do an honorable job.  We need that here in New Brunswick and we need it now, we need it yesterday.

I also promise to reject any application for a long-term tax exemption that does not provide funding to our school system. Just this past month alone, the City Council approved one deal that is costing the school system $39 million over the next 30 years.  That is horrible. Our schools are an investment in the future. The children of today are going to be the ones who look after this place after we’re long gone, and if they can’t get a good education because we wanted to give a developer a gift to entice them to build a building, well then we’re not thinking about the future.  We’re thinking about the present. And we need to think about the future and the children of today and make sure that our schools are funded and that developers pay their fair share. The people of New Brunswick end up picking up the slack when the City Council approves deals like this. I promise I will veto any deal that does not have funding for the schools.

And the last thing that I promise is perhaps the most important.  I promise all of you here today and anyone watching at home that I will serve full-time as Mayor.  With no side jobs, no conflicts of interest, I will be 100% dedicated to this city and the people of this city.  You can count on it.

Thank you for your support.  Please tell your friends. The name of the game is register to vote.  We need to get people registered. Have a great day everyone.