With 85 days until the special municipal election on Nov. 5, Bayonne resident Peter Franco held a kickoff event for his bid for a First Ward Council spot on Aug. 15 at Kuhl’s Tavern on Prospect Avenue.
Incumbent Councilman Neil Carroll, John R. Cupo, and Peter Franco have made it clear to the Bayonne Community News that they’v thrown their hats in the ring. The final list of all nominated candidates won’t be known until the Sept. 3 filing deadline.
Any political observers who frequent Bayonne City Hall meetings have more than likely run into Franco over the years, and might not be surprised to hear about his inaugural election bid.
He first became active as a volunteer for the unsuccessful mayoral campaign run by Anthony Zanowic back in 2014, in an election won by Mayor Jimmy Davis.
Shortly after that, he began attending council meetings frequently, a habit he’s kept up since. He’s been at odds with sitting officials over a plethora of issues over the years.
Not a fan of long-term tax deals
Franco considers the city’s relationship with real estate developers a crux of his platform, and as a resident, he’s certainly gotten into a number of spats with officials over the way the city has overseen burgeoning construction.
“I look at local tax abatements as a subsidy,” Franco said. “The way I see it, the city socializes the risk, and privatizes the profits. Joe DeMarco [former Bayonne business administrator] would always say ‘it’s an investment’ but it’s only an investment if it works, and if residents can still afford to be around to see the benefit.”
Franco said he doesn’t hold a blanket opposition to all developer’s tax abatements. He believes that five- or ten-year deals are workable for specific areas that need to be incentivized, after careful consideration.
But, he said, “We go a little bit overboard on the Gold Coast. We’re giving land away for less than what it would sell in Bayonne proper. Then, we incentivize it for 30 years.”
Franco said the city needs more revenue from the ongoing development boom today, rather than decades from now.
“We have to prepare for the impact on schools, roads, and infrastructure. There are things we need, like a pedestrian bridge over the highway [Rt. 440]. It’s absurd we don’t have one,” Franco said. “The council makes it seem like an impossible task, because they have to work with the state. It’s been five years, and five people have died there. Why can’t we bond for it?”
Franco said that another bottom line for his platform is providing Bayonne residents with tax relief by way of spending cuts. Over the past ten years, Bayonne’s local tax rate has increased 23.8 percent. This year’s biggest budgetary expense was the Bayonne school district.
“For ten years, we’ve seen consecutive tax increases of about two and a half percent,” Franco said. “Folks who’ve been here since the 1980s have had taxes go from $1,700 to $11,000 for example, meanwhile, many are on a fixed income. I don’t think we have enough to show for it.”
Should revaluations be the way they are?
Franco touched upon an issue that’s been frightful for Bayonne residents over the past year— the revaluation.
Currently, Bayonne is undergoing a citywide assessment of all 13,948 land parcels within city limits, where inspectors will determine the true values of homes.
Property taxes will be adjusted accordingly, to distribute the already-existent tax burden more realistically for today’s market rates. A reval hasn’t taken place since 1991.
Many homes in Jersey City’s 2017 reval, the first since the late 1980s, were socked with huge tax hikes, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some Bayonne residents are anticipating similar hikes.
Franco said he’s not averse in the slightest to support changing the model, even if it means hearing more frequently from residents outraged over tax hikes.
“I like the Monmouth [County] model,” Franco said. “Every year, 20 percent of the city is reassessed. It stabilizes everyone’s taxes. Also, those whose property taxes go down won’t have to wait a decade for that relief. I don’t think we should let the situation that’s about to come in December ever happen again.”
Above all else, Franco said that he plans to keep his boots on the ground in a door-to-door campaign. He said he plans to run a clean campaign and reserve any negativity solely for public policy decisions he’s against. He doesn’t anticipate huge turnouts.
“Only 3,700 people came out in the mayor’s race in the First Ward. We’re guessing 2,200 will come out for this election, because we’re buried at the bottom of the ballot. We need to give people a real reason to turn out.”
With a race for the first ward still unfolding, it’s clear that all of the candidates will have much more to say.