Gerbounka: Don’t Blame Me

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Mayor Richard Gerbounka

LINDEN — Mayor Richard Gerbounka disputed the impression that he unilaterally cancelled the city’s annual Halloween parade, as some readers may have interpreted from a story on the front page of last week’s NJTODAY.NET.

“That was a decision that was unanimously approved by the council and I supported it,” said Gerbounka.  “I’ll take as much blame or credit as anyone else but that’s not something I did unilaterally.”

As the election approaches, Gerbounka said he did not want voters to hold him solely responsible for the decision to call off the event, which has been held annually for the past 60 years.

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The Mayor, who is being challenged by Democratic Councilman Derek Armstead in the Nov. 2 election, also pointed out that only ten police positions are being eliminated.

Last week’s article quoted Armstead as saying, “This is not the time to lay off 20 police officers or a dozen firefighters.”

While there are plans to layoff 12 firefighters, Gerbounka said the police are being removed through attrition, which means as officers retire they are not being replaced.

Although Gerbounka and his Democratic opponent have agreed on the most controversial issues in recent years, such as attorney expenses, a skate park and the proposed coal burning carbon sequestration plant, differences are surfacing as voters form their choices.

Armstead was among four members of the City Council who voted against the budget that included the 14 percent municipal property tax hike.

Democratic Councilman Derek Armstead (right), shown here with his Council President running mate, former Councilman James Moore, is running for Mayor

“We need to refocus our priorities, because many of these proposed cuts will end up costing taxpayers much more in the long run,” said Armstead.

Gerbounka has said that his office does not have enough power to control taxes, and he has called for a change in the city’s form of government to address that. Armstead opposes altering the system now in place, which he claims gives voters more influence in local affairs than any other city in New Jersey.

While Gerbounka expressed confidence that he would be re-elected, he said he is “not resting on our laurels” and has sent mail to voters seeking support.

By contrast, Armstead says he has not raised enough money to compete with Gerbounka’s media campaign but he has logged almost 200 miles in his door to door campaign effort and he says Linden voters want a change.


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