Old Bridge mayor ducking debate & persecuting police

On September 27, Democratic mayoral candidate William “Bill” Cerra requested a live debate and Republican Mayor Owen Henry agreed to meet on Friday, October 23, but the GOP incumbent backed out.

Cerra, a former police captain, says he wanted a live debate to let voters know the truth about matters that are being untruthfully described by his opponent, but the mayor did not explain why he is pulling out of the debate.

“If the mayor is so proud of his record over the last 4 years why won’t he participate in a live unedited debate?,” Cerra asked. “Is he not able to defend his poor decisions over the last four years?”

“A mayor stumbling toward Election Day buried in lies and dodging the media, the latest falsehood depriving all residents of Old Bridge the ability to make an educated decision in the upcoming election,” Cerra said. “To appear on the same stage with me would force him to admit that he came into office with a budget surplus and not a deficit as he has been saying since day one.”

After 33 years on the local police department, Cerra retired and now operates a privately owned real estate development company. He is married and has two adult children.

The Democrat said he was compelled to run for mayor after claims by Henry that a deficit he inherited when he took office required him to lay off 10 police officers.

“We now know that to be untrue,” Cerra said. “The deficit was really a surplus of $7 million according to Fitch Ratings Service [a report issued Oct. 11, 2012]. The layoffs have made the town less safe and led to a startling series of home invasions.”

Cerra said he is also concerned about the rise in taxes.

Old Bridge residents say they are disappointed that the mayor is ducking out instead of standing up for his record.

“If he had any integrity, the Republican mayor would show up and debate,” said Andy Hayworth, a carpenter who lives in the Lawrence Harbor section. “Instead, we are getting our mailboxes packed with lies paid for by GOP special interests. It is the one percent versus the 99 percent and I hope people wake up.”

Henry said crime rates have fallen even though the average number of police officers is down from 99 under the previous Democratic administration to 85 during his tenure. He has not addressed assertions from the New Jersey State Police that more than 70 percent of reported crimes in the community have remained unsolved last year.

Instead, several local police officers are taking fire from the Republican for speaking up on issues in dispute in the campaign.

Bob Brown, a lawyer for Officer Robert Kurzydlowski — a Democrat running for Assembly alongside township employee Dave Merwin — said his client has been targeted for a  politically motivated and potentially illegal Internal Affairs investigation.

Another investigation was launched against Old Bridge Police Officer Vincent Galgano, after the cop wrote a letter to the editor published by newspapers questioning the claims of a township councilman.

“Last time we checked, the first amendment applies to all citizens,” said Charles Sciarra, Galgano’s attorney. “It sounds like it’s just politics 101.”

Sciarra said his client won’t be intimidated by threats to his paycheck.

“Hopefully they back up and this goes away,” Sciarra said. “Otherwise, they’re looking at a lawsuit at some point.”

Cerra is a graduate of Cedar Ridge High School, which merged with Madison Central High to form the present-day Old Bridge High.

He has an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Middlesex Community College and a certificate in labor relations and negotiations from Rutgers University.

He is a gold life member and former vice president of PBA Local 127; previously served for 12 years as president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 22; is a charter member of the Kiwanis Club of Old Bridge; a member of St. Ambrose Knights of Columbus Council 6424; and is a parishioner and volunteer at St. Ambrose Catholic Church.

Cerra also coached Little League for 25 years for the Cheesequake Babe Ruth League and served for 18 years as league vice president.

Republicans Brian Cahill, Anita Greenberg and Debbie Walker are running for three seats on the council. They face Democrats Deborah Marquez, Thomas Galante and Jack Gillick.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.


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