2017 HOBOKEN MAYORAL CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE — Michael DeFusco
Can you please tell our readers your name (as it appears on the ballot), and how long you’ve lived in Hoboken?
My name is Michael DeFusco and I have lived in Hoboken for the last 13 years.
We recently saw a political campaign ad from 1981 that cites, “potholes,” “lack of recreation,” “sewers that cannot hold a simple rainfall,” “overworked police force,” and “enormous profits” for developers as being major issues facing Hoboken. Yet here we are—36 years later—having a lot of the same discussions. Why should voters have any faith in your campaign promises?
Hoboken voters could not be blamed for losing faith in the same kinds of establishment politicians who have been running our city for decades. Whether they’ve come from one community or another, they’ve been united in their inability to fix these issues. I’m running as a political outsider and a private sector professional who will bring new energy to solve problems, as well as new ideas to envision our city’s future. We can get back to basics and fill potholes by making our streets a priority, work to end neighborhood flooding by investing in our infrastructure, and hold developers accountable by making them contribute to a dedicated infrastructure fund. We can also look to the future by attracting innovative new businesses, building a European-style market in our train terminal and creating a regional tech-hub, and use these new ideas to diversify our tax base and provide the funding to solve problems without overburdening residents. This is exactly what my campaign for Mayor is about.
Aside from the aforementioned issues, what else does the City of Hoboken need to address, and how will your administration do it?
I believe our city’s finances must be addressed, as we are heading toward a looming disaster if we do not change course from the current administration’s record that includes an 88% increase in municipal debt, $8.3 million in unbudgeted liabilities owed to our water operator and an absolute mess on Washington Street that seems to get worse by the day. My campaign has put out specific solutions to get our finances back in order and restore balance. I also think we need to completely overhaul how our city works with small businesses by updating our zoning map, which dates back to the 1980s, to incentivize more mom and pop shops and corner stores. We can also look to the future by making changes to encourage innovative new businesses like tech co-working spaces, urban wineries and breweries, hydroponic gardens, coffee roasters and more, especially in our industrial northwest.
This campaign to date has certainly been spirited, some might even say divisive. Yet win or lose, many of the candidates will still be actively involved with the administration of Hoboken after November 7th. With that in mind, how would your Mayoral administration work to move ahead the projects and services that Hoboken residents need?
I have a demonstrated history of working with all sides of our city’s political divide to get things done for my constituents. I’ve been an outsider and a political independent on the City Council, and as Mayor I will work with anyone who shares in a vision of making Hoboken work better for residents.
Everyone’s a critic. There’s no shortage of negative feedback on Hoboken’s various social media platforms—meanwhile voter turnout for municipal elections is routinely low. How would you encourage effective civic involvement in Hoboken?
Civic engagement and activism is what got me started in local government, when shortly after moving to Hoboken a development project threatened my new neighborhood. That event sparked a passion for public service that has led me to this point of running for Mayor. I believe we need to do more to encourage the same kind of activism among young people, and our campaign has done a tremendous amount to outreach to millennials, college students and others who are too often left out of the process. That will continue when I’m Mayor.
What do you feel is the chief criticism of your candidacy, and how would you answer that criticism?
My critics generally acknowledge that I have good ideas for Hoboken, but they question if they are feasible. The answer to those questions is yes, because we need to look at our city comprehensively and holistically, and find ways to say yes to good ideas, not no. We actually can make investments in our infrastructure if we create new city revenue streams, and that can be accomplished if we modernize our outdated zoning laws, and we can do that if we have new leadership in city hall.
Say you win… congratulations. In four years, why would the people of Hoboken re-elect you?
I believe that my administration would be able to deliver on our promises, but even when we fall short we will do so honestly and openly and show residents the respect they deserve by not sugarcoating tough situations and not hiding the truth. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and running a city like Hoboken will be the same, but I believe the residents will be able to trust that we are working as hard as we can for them.
What’s the very first thing you’ll do after being sworn in?
One of my first actions will be to return Observer Highway to four lanes of traffic, to ease major traffic congestion that has been caused by an ill-conceived change that added an extra-wide bike lane and cut the road down to two lanes. This is a commonsense measure we can take immediately.
Last but not least, why you?
I’m the only candidate for Mayor who has a private sector background, who takes public transit to my job in Manhattan every day and who really understands the day to day lives of most Hoboken residents. I’m running to represent everyone and justify the faith that so many neighbors and friends have shown in me by supporting this campaign, and I can promise that I will never be outworked or out hustled in that effort.