SOUTH AMBOY – On Tuesday, South Amboy residents will elect three members of the City Council, in a race that is overshadowed by the 4-way mayoral campaign. Democrats City Councilmen Joseph Connors and Donald Applegate and new comer Michael Gross say progress has been excellent, even with hardships imposed by the recession.
Republicans nominated only two City Council candidates. David J. Longenhagen was also endorsed by the South Amboy Tea Party organization, but the group declined to back another GOP contender, Saverio Sagliocco.
As in many municipalities across the state, taxes represent the largest issue facing the city, according to candidates. Connors says residents in South Amboy saw their taxes rise an average of 38 percent last year and another 12 percent this year because state officials are “robbing” the cities. He rejected the notion that planning ahead could have staved off massive tax hikes to fill budget holes caused by reductions in state aid and new unfunded mandates.
“South Amboy is not the only city that experienced millions of dollars in cost increases and revenue reductions imposed by the state,” said the Democrat. “Show me haw you can plan for being mugged.” He said there are a number of major projects in the works in South Amboy, such as plans for a ferry and new housing and business development, all of which he argued will help keep taxes stable and need an experienced hand to guide them.
Sagliocco’s campaign has accused incumbents of using ‘monopoly money’ to fill budget gaps, but the Republican said that he probably would have voted the same way if he had been on the council. The city’s workforce has dropped from 125 to a current personnel roster of just 65.
Longenhagen takes a more radical conservative approach, saying that taxpayer can no longer afford to be bathed in comfort by local government. Sagliocco and Longenhagen have also made the point that if any of the independents were elected mayor, they would be crippled and completely ineffective if the council remains entirely Democratic.
“My goal is to see the redevelopment plans through so that we can stabilize our tax base and hopefully lower the cost to homeowners,” said Connors, who is also a member of the city’s Planning Board.
Sagliocco, a retired Navy officer, wants to attract commercial development instead of the mixed-use investments the O’Leary administration has won. “A trucking company or warehousing or something like that would bring in jobs and tax revenue, but you wouldn’t have the infrastructure or school costs that residential real-estate development would have,” said Sagliocco.
Sagliocco also said he does not agree with mayoral candidate Mary O’Connor’s call for industrial use because pollution and economics both make that unreasonable.
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