Sayreville Mayor’s State of the Borough January 2015
Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. Let me begin by saying that I am both honored and humbled to serve as the mayor of this great community.
I take my oath and duties seriously, knowing it is the responsibility of the Mayor and Council to provide service to you, the residents of our community, in the most efficient and economically prudent and responsible way. I pledge that I will continue to perform those duties with the highest standards of ethics, and to treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve.
In local government the call for new programs, new services, parks, new buildings, etc. is always there. These needs and wants must be balanced with the residents’ ability to pay. 20% of the people living in Sayreville are retired and living on fixed income. This income does not rise to meet inflation. This is the generation who raised their families here and contributed to the community--working, volunteering, helping their neighbors, coaching our young sports teams, while building this Borough to be the wonderful place they call home.
Their life, their friends, and their families are here and they do not want to move away. A great many of their children and grandchildren have chosen to also stay and raise their families here, which is a testament to the good lives and memories they have lived in Sayreville. The lives of this “in-between generation” are filled with their children’s activities, travel teams, and all the things of daily life, while coping with the stress of making a living, paying the mortgage, and trying to plan for retirement. They, too, need relief.
We are a community of middle-class people who work hard, pay our bills, and play by the rules. We are financially conservative people who have worked for what we have and don’t ask for handouts from anyone. Our goal is to hold on to what we have built, and to make do with what we have. Your local government must recognize this and act accordingly in the use of the money you pay in taxes.
I am proud to say that one of the hallmarks of my Administration – the redevelopment of the National Lead site – is about to bear fruit. Working closely with the state, we have made sure there is state money to fund the construction of Parkway ramps to the site. Folks, this project is real and moving forward very quickly.
It has been a long road, and it all began with the vision of a former freeholder director who had the vision, arranged the initial $32 million in county money to get the project started and he stayed with it until his passing.
I have fond memories of picking up Freeholder Director Dave B. Crabiel at his home in Milltown, driving him to the St. Stan’s Carnival and introducing him to everyone and anyone by saying, “This is Dave Crabiel, our Freeholder running for re-election. He’s a friend of Sayreville, he’s a friend of mine, and I’m voting for him.” Dave Crabiel was indeed a true friend of Sayreville, and a proud Democrat. I am proud Republican, and I was proud to always vote for my friend, and yours.
Dave would introduce me as “Kennedy O’Brien - the Mayor of Sayreville and a proud Crabiel Republican.” Together we worked for the betterment of Sayreville. When we cut the ribbon on those new Parkway ramps, I will say a little prayer for my friend, who deserves so much of the credit.
With the development of National Lead, which is one of the largest redevelopments on the East Coast of the United States, whose construction costs will be in the billions of dollars and, when completed, will generate over $20 million of new tax revenue flowing into Sayreville each year. It is certainly good news for taxpayers, as I have been saying this project is the boost Sayreville needs to remain affordable.
But we need to be more vigilant than ever, making sure everything is transparent. I now require all Land Use Boards and Commissions to televise all their meetings. The Planning Board has for a number of years. My requirement now includes our Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Sayreville Economic and Redevelopment Commission – both of which will be closely involved in the redevelopment of National Lead. We must remain vigilant – ensuring possible scoundrels waiting in the shadows stay away from all this money coming to our town.
We all teach our children right from wrong. We should also expect that our local leaders already know the difference, and our standards of ethics and integrity must always be beyond reproach. It is not enough to merely be legal, the standards must be unquestionably moral and ethical, without a hint of doubt. To use a phrase from a time gone by, everything our leaders do must pass the “stink test.”
This begins my 16th year as Mayor of Sayreville, and there has never been a hint of financial scandal. The National Lead redevelopment project has been, and continues to be, a bi-partisan effort by the State of New Jersey, Middlesex County, the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, the Sayreville Economic and Redevelopment Agency, the Sayreville Planning and Zoning Boards, the Sayreville Mayor and Council, and many highly qualified professionals. Recently, in the State of New York, one of the three most powerful political leaders was arrested by the Federal Prosecutor on charges of bribery and corruption. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of the State of New York is quoted by a close confidant as bragging about how he figured out how to make money from his elected office. To ensure that no elected official ever does that in Sayreville, I am asking - in a bi-partisan manner, and in the best interests of our Borough - for the introduction and passage of a Borough Ordinance that would prohibit local political leaders and elected officials from representing applicants before borough land use boards, as well as SERA. I think we can all agree this is the right and ethical thing to do.
When I think of volunteers, I think of all the volunteers who came together in October 2013 to respond to Hurricane Sandy. We are now coming to the end of resolving the terrible devastation wrought on our Borough. There was enormous financial destruction incurred by many of our friends, even the destruction of whole neighborhoods.
This spring, in the Weber Avenue community and elsewhere, they will not hear the laughing and playing neighborhood children that many of us will. Sandy came and destroyed property, prompting many to leave, but it never damaged the will, strength and commitment to community that is Sayreville.
When we think of our community’s fortitude, there was no subject this year that brought a stronger reaction and emotion than our football team. We cannot hide from it, sweep it under the rug. We can’t and we didn’t. We faced the issue. More importantly, Sayreville had a brand new Superintendent who rose to the challenge, stood for what he believed to be in the best interest of our children, and was supported by a Board of Education who recognized the seriousness of the situation. They had chosen a very good leader in Dr. Labbe. In the very beginning Dr. Labbe called me to discuss this.
The result of the conversation was although it affected the entire town it was something which needed to be addressed by Dr. Labbe and the Board of Education. I pledged to Dr. Labbe that I would not interfere, I would not issue public comment.
It was the right decision then and, in hindsight, I would not have made a different one. We learn, we rebuild, we move forward. To that end, I was pleased to form the Coalition of Sayreville Leaders, comprised of Maureen Jenkins, Mayor Zagata, Mayor McCormack, Father Ryan, Rev. Bullock, Father Murphy, myself and a bi-partisan team of religious and community leaders, all of whom carried out our mission to help heal Sayreville.
Sayreville’s greatest wealth is in its volunteers, whether it be through churches, schools, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, VFW, American Legion, youth sports, Knights of Columbus, boards and commissions. This year I would like to single out and personally thank and recognize Maureen Jenkins, whose thoughtfulness and compassion, particularly for our children, had the initiative to put together the candlelight walk at Kennedy Park, which was the first of many steps to begin the healing process in Sayreville.
Sayreville is recovering, and we are proud to see that we remain Sayreville Strong.
Sayreville has the finest workforce in the state of New Jersey. Dedicated residents are working for the borough; they are career employees. Each has a story of his or her own, but today I would like to single out a municipal employee: our long term Chief Financial Officer Wayne Kronowski, who ensures our finances remain very stable. Unlike many towns, Sayreville enjoys one of the best credit ratings a town can have.
Sayreville has great employees whose career is to bring services to our residents in a stable, consistent, reliable effort all the while bringing them in at a reasonable cost. Many residents aren’t aware of the huge cost savings we have with our volunteer Fire and First Aid, and they are most appreciated. Our heartfelt thanks as well to everyone who volunteers to serve on Sayreville’s various Boards and commissions.
The people of Sayreville have lived through a Great Depression, two World Wars, the Korean War, the Viet Nam war, and the wars in the Middle East. With stoic determination, a tradition of service in our country’s military, our consistent practice of our individual faiths, and our absolute belief in America, we have stood the test of time, and have again and again held true to our values. We have continued to make Sayreville this wonderful community in which to live, raise our families, help our neighbors, and grow old together. And so the cycle of life continues, and we will weather difficult times as always and come out better on the other side.
I ask in your prayers tonight that you ask God to continue to bless our country and to protect our troops at home and abroad.
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