West Orange, NJ - (Editor's Note: Adam Kraemer has announced his candidacy for Essex County Executive. We are publishing his release under Essex County News for that reason. The candidate's opinions are his own.)
Essex County is home to about 775,000 people. We are one the most overtaxed and over-governed jurisdictions in the state and nation. The average household makes about $55,000.00 a year and pays about $10,000.00 a year in property taxes. Essex county currently has a de-facto one party rule via a political clubhouse. All nine Freeholders, the Surrogate, The Register of Mortgages and Deeds, The Clerk, The Sheriff, and The County Executive all come from the Democratic Party. Also, they were all elected on the regular Democratic Party Line in the primary. Hence all fourteen county elected officials come from one political party and one political club.
When I was in high school, we referred to this type of rule as the Politburo and that was part of the failed Soviet Union. I want to end this type of rule in Essex County. This is not only a point of frustration to Republicans but free thinking independents, and free thinking Democrats as well. We need a change in who leads the county and how it is led.
The current county executive puts his picture on all sorts of government buildings like the Codey Arena. Funny how in the former Soviet Union that was done as well. I will be more humble and less photogenic. The current county executive has a government pension and a salary at the same time. Most of our elected leaders in this county have other government jobs or other government pensions. I think someone from the free enterprise system would offer a healthy change.
The county spends about $750 million a year plus more spending via authorities it controls. We also have 22 municipal governments that cumulatively spend hundreds of millions dollar on top of that. We don't need more local government spending--we need to reduce and spend the taxpayers money wisdom and a sense of frugality. So, I am running on the theory of less and smarter governance. We have too many no bid and one bid contracts in Essex County. Too much of the county business is done on a who-you-know and who-you-are politically connected basis as opposed to running things on merit and wise price points favorable to taxpayers..
The county welfare office needs reform. Controls need to be improved so the system is not gamed by people who don't truly need the services of the welfare office. The grants the welfare office issues to nonprofit entities need to be well monitored to make sure the money truly helps those who are in need of help. Also, more needs to be done to transform the welfare office to an office that ultimately helps people to be self sufficient as opposed to retaining people as long-term welfare clients.
The county jails are expanding. We need to reserve the jails for the truly violent felons of Essex County and not import prisoners form other jurisdictions. Unfortunately, we have more than enough criminals here already. I am convinced that if we did true cost accounting the importing of prisoners is not making money for the county. Also from a moral perspective I would prefer that Essex County be in the prison business only to the extent that it is truly necessary for public safety.
Intelligent improvement of our road network is needed. Better coordination of transportation projects between the county, state, and towns can help our citizens maneuver around at a lower cost to taxpayers. Also, I would lobby our state government to end the prevailing wage in public construction rules so we can contract out road work and fair price. Our state law makes it so the person fixing potholes on Essex County Roads get over $50.00 an hour. This is something Essex County needs help from Trenton to change.
The government is not transparent. Contract and governmental actions need to be clearly posted on the county web-site so the public can interact intelligently with the County Executive and the Board of Chosen Freeholders before polices start.
The county needs to take the lead in better coordination of the 22 municipal police forces and the sheriffs office. Crime does not follow neatly to municipal boundaries and we can combat crime smarter at reasonable cost to the taxpayers.
The open space bonding has to stop funding parking lots and needs to be used to maintain improve and in some cases increase open space.
I think providing recreational venues for our citizens is a good thing. However, turning public land in to high-priced dining facilities for politically-connected restaurant owners and making mini-golf courses is something that free enterprise should do, not the government. Businesses could do more and better things for the citizens of Essex County if government was smaller, less obtrusive, and less taxing.
In fact, I would even be open to the idea of eliminating county government and dividing the necessary parts of it between the municipalities and state if limited governnment is more beneficial.
The county needs to be part of improving Essex County College so young people starting out in life and older people in need of vocational skill have a place that can truly provide opportunities. We have to make sure politics and political patronage stays out of the college.
I am running to make Essex County a better, more affordable place to live and a better place to do business, so our citizens can have economic opportunities. To achieve this may mean shrinking government to reduce our onerous taxation rate.
I hope to make the government complex in downtown Newark the property and pride of the people of this great county and not the spoils of a political club house.
(Adam Kraemer is a fifth-generation resident of Essex County. He is a former resident of Newark and Maplewood. He currently lives in West Orange with his wife and triplets. He is a graduate of Columbia High School (Maplewood- South Orange Public Schools) and Colgate University. He earned two masters degrees from Columbia Teachers College. He has experience in education and in business.)