A second District 31 Assembly Primary Candidate Forum was moderated by Assata Wright and Aaron Morrill at Mary McLeod Bethune Center in Jersey City, and Ray Regalado did not hold back this time around: accusing Angela McKnight and Nick Chiaravalloti of being at the behest of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
It was a another packed room as the issues covered last night were not included were not included in the first forum.
Wright first asked what legislation the candidates would introduce.
Chiaravalloti focused on the best practices of charter schools and incorporating it to K-12, transportation trust funds and living wage for residents of New Jersey.
Joe Conte agreed with Chiaravalloti, and stressed that the district needs fair-paying jobs. If elected, he said he will fight for more funding for public schools, pension funds and protection of the union.
Washington Flores addressed the question by challenging other candidates to give him the formula to help create funding for education. “
To say you can bring more money for education is misleading the public,” said Flores.
He also stressed focusing on the disparity between minority businesses in the community and the amount of work they get from government contracts.
Angela McKnight, the CEO and founder of non-profit group AngelaCARES, stressed her fight for seniors and veterans.
For Matthew Kopko, a Republican candidate, he would mandate police body cameras, create incentives to bring jobs back to Northern Jersey, and legalize marijuana.
Introducing a second chance program for victims of violent crimes would be Jersey City Police Officer Ray Regalado’s first legislation.
As for Jersey City businessman Bruce Alston, he spoke about the need to improve public safety.
“We need help in the urban cities and it is up for us candidates up here to address number one, public safety.”
The candidates were also asked if they would support an expansion of gaming in the 31st district.
Conte compared it to Atlantic City: “They are going to tell us that we are going to have all these jobs, just like they did with all the abated properties downtown but what have we gotten from it?” said Conte. “I’m against it.”
Flores agreed with the expansion, believing it would create more jobs and lower taxes. He mentioned the Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne as an ideal location.
“It’s the perfect piece of land for hotels,” said Flores. He also mentioned adding ferries to and from Manhattan.
McKnight did not answer the question but instead brought up her interest in public safety.
“Do you want to say at least why you’re not?” asked Wright.
McKnight replied, “No, I don’t support it.”
Kopko also did not support the idea. “I don’t think the government should be meddling in these decisions,” he stated succinctly.
He also stated that there is an off track betting facility that exist currently in Bayonne called Winners.
Regalado said he would agree based on contingencies: if the initiative would increase jobs and reduce taxes.
Alston claimed the he is undecided but also mentioned that he does not believe it would lower property taxes.
Chiaravalloti said he would support the concept of gaming if it benefits the local community.
As far as minimum wage, Flores, McKnight, and Alston believe minimum wage should be changed to a living wage.
For Kopko, he took a different approach. “You cannot legislate economic growth and you cannot legislate job growth” answered Kopko.
Regalado, Chiaravalloti and Conte agreed that the minimum wage should be raised to $15.00.
All candidates unanimously agreed parks should not be privatized.
Although all candidates agreed that municipal safety employees should live in the cities they serve, Alston pointed out that Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop would not support this legislation, and neither would the candidates on the HCDO ticket.
“Do not expect Mayor Davis or Mayor Fulop to support that type of legislation,” said Alson, “Because they said their directors would live in Bayonne or Jersey City and they don’t.”
Chiaravalloti replied, “There is this myth that just because you have the support of other elected officials, that you can’t think for yourself.”
After Wright moved to the topic of property taxes, Regalado first addressed Chiaravalloti’s answer regarding HCDO’s control over their candidates.
“It’s not a myth that when the HCDO puts you there, its culture, they put you there, you are going to do what they say,” claimed Regalado.
And while all candidates believed property taxes were too high, different solutions were proposed on how to decrease it.
“Giving a 1 percent tax increase to the millionaires, it would solve a lot of our problems,” said Regalado.
Alston said that it’s about stabilization: “These legislatures will tell you they are going to lower your taxes, it’s not going to happen, not with the problems we have right now.”
Conte brought up tax abatements. “There are properties downtown on the waterfront and they are not paying any taxes, the rest of the city is paying the taxes,” said Conte.
Flores agreed with Conte. “Abatements are just being abused.”
McKnight agreed with her running mate: “There is a lot of money in education that we should look at for taxes.” She also believed that tax abatements should be reviewed and monitored through ‘checks and balances.’”
Kopko called for an audit: “If we get an auditor and special prosecutor looking into every deal and where all the money flows in Trenton and local municipalities there will be a lot of people going to jail and there will be a lot more money in Trenton,” stated Kopko.
“30 year-old abatements should need to be in Ward F, not downtown by the waterfront.”
As for the top three regional transit problems in Northern New Jersey, Chiaravalloti pointed out the issues with the Bayonne Bridge and the NJ Turnpike Authority’s Exit14A.
But for Chiaravalloti, “the Transportation Trust Fund is key.” He mentioned the need to fix the roads, commuter tunnels, and an expansion of Hudson-Bergan Light Rail.
Mcknight agreed with her running mate. “This is why I am so honored to have Nick as my running mate, we complement each other.”
Regalado criticized McKnight for her answer. “Sometimes when you don’t have a good answer, you just agree with your running mate.”