“I thought I would need time to get my name out into the public,” he said, during an interview last week. He is among three candidates who have announced for the mayoral position, including Mayor Mark Smith and Police Captain James Davis.
Although he grew up on Armstrong Avenue in Jersey City, Zanowic has lived in Bayonne for the last 41 years, and currently is the manager of Hudson Lanes bowling alleys where he has been very active in working with various community groups, especially those involved with helping the disabled.
This is his second run for public office. In 2010, he ran as an independent candidate for the House of Representatives.
“I did that to make a point,” he said. “I knew it was an uphill fight. But I wanted to get involved. I had no funding and yet I wound up with 2 percent of the vote. I was down about it at the time. My goal was to get 5 percent. I found out later that I was among the three or four independents in the county who got as much as 2 percent.”
He said he announced for mayor in July in order to get some traction.
“I wanted to force Mayor Smith to declare early,” he said. “There were a lot of rumors that he was not going to run. I wanted to set the pace and get some name recognition.”
Although not yet ready to announce it, Zanowic said he will be running with a full slate of council candidates—three ward seats and two at large.
One thing that encouraged Zanowic to run was talk of dissatisfaction with the direction in which some people believed the Smith administration was taking the city.
“Many people want a change and lower taxes,” he said. “One of my plans is to make government more efficient.”
While Zanowic acknowledged Smith’s restructuring of municipal government, this, he said, was largely shifting pieces and not real downsizing.
Zanowic said he was asked to run for mayor by people who offered their support.
“They wanted another alternative to Smith and those who oppose Smith,” he said. “Some of those people have already been rejected by voters or were part of the problem in the past.”
Zanowic said he believes his experiences running a business are similar to those of a mayor, such as finding the right people to do the job and delegating authority.
He said dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis has allowed him to deal with many of the same situations, from problem solving to dealing with customer disputes. Business is different from government in some aspects, but many of the fundamentals are the same.
“I’ve worn a lot of different hats,” he said.
He is running on a platform that includes lowering taxes, streamlining government, and doing away with mismanagement. He points to the City of Chicago, where a number of public/private partnerships were undertaken that allowed the city to maintain control of operations while a private entity dealt with day-to-day operations.
“I think this idea is workable in Bayonne,” he said.
Zanowic, who is a graduate of Bayonne High School and New Jersey City University, said he is encouraged by some of the changes going on in nearby Jersey City under newly elected mayor, Steve Fulop. Zanowic hopes to discuss possible joint ventures for improving safety.
Crime is another big issue, he said, noting that crimes against retailers often go unreported when they are not solved, and that some merchants are concerned.
Improving business along the Broadway shopping corridor is also on his agenda, noting that people no longer come to Broadway to shop as they did in the past.
“We need to find ways to bring people back to Broadway and bring in business where people want to shop,” he said. “This might take tax abatements or other incentives.”
Zanowic said he has already raised money and purchased political signs. His campaign will follow many of the tried-and-true methods used successfully over the years, such as going door to door. He has already used social media and will likely begin traditional media advertising in the future.
He said he supports the teachers in their struggle to get a contract.
“The teachers should not have to wait four years to get a fair contract,” he said.
Zanowic said he also supports an elected rather than an appointed school board, noting that this would make the school board much more accountable to the public.
Zanowic said he has looked at rent control, another hot issue in the city. He said it should be maintained but modified to allow owners to upgrade.
A very big issue in his platform is the concept of transparency in government. People should be allowed access to government information without a lot of red tape.
“My administration will be fully transparent,” he said. “Taxpayers have a right to know what their government is doing.”
Running with a campaign slogan “A better Bayonne,” Zanowic said voters should ask one question: “After six years under the Smith Administration are they better off today? If not, then they deserve a change.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.