State Senator (D-33)/Union City Mayor Brian Stack discussed prioritizing funding for the Jersey City Board of Education, the rationale of the Palisades Cliffs Protection Act, and his feelings on the Hudson County Democratic Organization party line during an interview with HCV.
While competition in the 33rd Legislative District is once again looking sparse ahead of the June 8th primary, Stack, along with his legislative running mates – Assembly members Annette Chaparro and Raj Mukherji – formally kicked off their re-election bids on Friday.
Stack said after the event, where they announced endorsements from several of the state’s top elected leaders, that he never assumes any election is a sure thing.
“I think it’s always important that people know that we need their support and we don’t take it for granted and that’s one of the reasons I always do it this way,” he said.
One of the biggest issues related to his district is school funding, particularly in Jersey City: whose BOE lost $71 million in state aid this year with their preliminary $814 million budget coming with just under a $1,000 annual tax increase.
He said that situation is a high priority for his team and that they are already working to improve this difficult set of circumstances.
“I’ve been meeting with the various groups in Jersey City, some of the board of education members, to really look and see where we can help them and bring more money in. John, the way that money’s being taken away right now is unfair,” Stack explained.
“I realize Jersey City has seen a lot of growth, but it’s gonna take time and I think you can’t just cut them the way they’ve been cut – they need to be weened little by little – you can’t hit people with massive tax increases. It’s never a good time for a tax increase John, but this would definitely be the wrong time.”
He continued that he has upcoming meetings scheduled with Gov. Phil Murphy (D), as well as officials from the New Jersey Department of Education, to try and make some head way in this matter.
On another note, in a joint effort with state Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco, Stack is sponsoring the Palisades Cliffs Protection Act.
While the Hoboken City Council approved a resolution opposing the measure in January, with 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher being the most vocal critic of the legislation, Stack (as Sacco did in December) said the goal here is not to hinder Hoboken development.
“We all have to recognize our neighbors and I think Hoboken has to do that. I think some of the council members realize that in Hoboken. Maybe the councilwoman doesn’t agree with us on that, I just think blocking the views along the Palisades is the wrong thing to do,” Stack rationalized.
“I think Hoboken’s residents are not looking for gigantic buildings: they did surveys in the past in Hoboken, I think the average survey was saying they were looking at a six- or a seven-story building. Hoboken’s very congested, I’m not interfering in Hoboken’s business, but I have to protect the interests of everyone from Jersey City all the way up the Englewood Cliffs.”
He also revealed that a second piece of related legislation is on its way, which would potentially creates a board – similar to the New Jersey Highlands Council – that would evaluate projects along the cliffs as they come in.
Stack, a former freeholder and state assemblyman, was elected to the state senate in 2007 in an off the line bid against then-West New York Mayor and Assemblyman Sal Vega.
He joins Bill O’Dea and Anthony Romano in being one of the few local dignitaries to overcome the challenges created by not running with the blessing of the local Democratic party in the past two decades or so.
There is currently a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of party lines on ballots across New Jersey and while he, Chaparro, and Mukherji will run on the line this year, Stack indicated that he thinks some politicians place too much emphasis on it.
“I know most elected officials will duck the question, I thought a lot about it: I think the line is wherever the mayors in that legislative district are is really what sets the line. I’m not really a concerned person about whether I’m on the line, off the line,” he began.
” … I know there’s this big issue in New Jersey with the progressives about the line: look, wherever I am on the ballot, I’m gonna make sure I educate people that’s where I am, and if they want you, they’ll find you. I think there’s too much emphasis on the line, I really do.”