A profile of Ruiz ran in the Reporter two weeks ago, and can be read at www.hudsonreporter.com.
Silverio "Sal" Vega is seeking his fourth term as Freeholder of the 7th District, which encompasses all of West New York, Weehawken and Guttenberg.
Vega is a Commissioner for West New York, where he has served as Public Safety Director since 1995. Previously, Vega was the director of the Department of Revenue and Finance, from 1991 to 1995.
"One of the things I would like to continue to do is keeping the taxes as stable as they have been for the last six years," Vega said.
Vega and fellow freeholders succeeded in opening up the budget process to include input not just from the board, but from municipal officials such as the mayor. The budget process now also includes thorough financial reports of the districts, in order to provide each with adequate funding from the budget.
Vega, who has served as the Chairman of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, has been an advocate in the county for education, and said that he is proud of the growth within the district. "[We have seen] the growth of our community colleges, especially with the expansions on the new North Hudson campus [at 49th Street and Kennedy Boulevard]," Vega said.
He added that the new North Hudson campus could be completed by 2007 or 2008.
Vega and fellow freeholders have created programs for continuing education in the district, and giving residents the opportunities to take advantage of these programs through grants.
One such grant is the Hudson County Governmental Scholarship Fund, which was established three years ago and is sponsored by the County Executive and the Board of Freeholders. The full scholarship covers students for two years of community college, and is available to seniors coming out of high school, students planning to go to community college, and students already attending community college.
"We have been working to expand eligibility for the grants," Vega said. "The people chosen each year have a [story] that is moving and a desire to educate themselves."
Vega also hopes to continue to support and expand the Hudson County Schools of Technology (HCST) through the Board of Freeholders.
"What I would like is to see the school evolve to the point where they have a brand new campus," Vega said. "I think we need to build a central facility to accommodate the needs of the county."
The HCST run programs out of facilities in North Bergen and Jersey City. Unfortunately, the state budget is considering halting funding for continuing education.
"First, we as a Board of Freeholders and as citizens need to [fight] and show the state that there are things that should not be touched," Vega said. "I would like to say I'm a champion for education; we have a very strong legislative team in Hudson County, starting with the Speaker of the Assembly."
Over the next term, Vega said he will support the search for new educational programs that benefit the residents of Hudson County, and strive for a healthy and stable county budget.
Freeholder Tilo Rivas is the incumbent Democratic candidate of the 6th District, which encompasses all of Union City, but he will actually be seeking his first full term as Hudson County Freeholder. Rivas is also the Commissioner of Public Affairs for Union City.
Rivas was first elected to the Board of Hudson County Freeholders in a special election in January of 2004, to finish the term of former Freeholder Brian Stack, the current mayor of Union City. Stack was elected as State Assemblyman for the 33rd District that year.
A full term for Hudson County Freeholders is a period of three years.
"As freeholders, we try to keep taxes low in Union City," Rivas said. "[During my term as freeholder], I voted no on tax increases in the county, which would affect Union City drastically. Union City is my main concern and county as well."
As Commissioner of Public Affairs, one of Rivas' focuses for Union City has been the safety of its residents. In a city that has often been referred to as the most congested in America, Union City has had its fair share of traffic problems and concerns over pedestrian safety.
Rivas' latest proposals include rearranging traffic configurations at busy intersections, such as at 32nd Street and Kennedy Boulevard.
"On 32nd Street it's really congested, and it's hard for pedestrians to safely cross. We have a lot of senior citizens from both North Bergen and Union City in that area," Rivas said. "It's a mess and it's been a mess for a long time."
Rivas said he also wants to make 35th Street a right-turn-only street.
In continuing his focus on public safety, Rivas is also pushing for a pedestrian overpass to be built across Manhattan Avenue to Washington Park.
"Those are the projects I'm really emphasizing to make sure people can walk across without problems, especially our children and senior citizens," Rivas said. "I really care about the safety of our seniors in the area."
Rivas is also trying to find more space for the Union City Little League, which practices in a designated section of Washington Park that is shared with Jersey City near Paterson Plank Road.
"Since we're overcrowded on this side, [we have] to try to talk to the right person to see if the little league can use the other side of Paterson Plank Road, which is the Jersey City side," Rivas said.
Rivas has also been trying to preserve and create recreational space, and improve community recreational areas. His ideas include supplemental lighting for added safety at night.
While his focus is Union City, he said that his initiatives also apply to county issues, because many of the surrounding municipalities face similar dilemmas.
"I think it's very important no matter what I consider [on the board], that it is positive and good for the whole county," Rivas said.
As the incumbent freeholder, Rivas feels he is well-suited to meet the city's needs, from education issues to repairs of city and county roads, because these are the details and concerns he deals with on a daily basis as commissioner of Union City.
"There are a lot of things that we are doing at the county level, and I think it's beneficial to the community that we are all on the same page right now," Rivas said. "I know the needs of needs of Union City, and since I know the needs of Union City, I know what to push for in the county."
Dual elected positions
A question that has been posed to many of the incumbent candidates has been whether holding dual elected positions allows officials to properly fulfill duties in either position. The resounding response from the incumbent candidates, including Vega and Rivas, is that municipal positions have been a benefit on both the state and county levels of government.
"I think the two are interlocked, and it's the decision of the individual if they feel they can do both or not," Vega said. "I think it's helped me tremendously, because I bring an insight [from the municipal level] to the county." Rivas said that holding the two positions shouldn't be grounds for disqualification.
"We are part of a very dynamic team here in Hudson County," Rivas said. "I'm a commissioner in Union City and I'm a freeholder in the county, and I feel I am more dynamic now because I do both jobs."