The NJ League of Women Voters hosted an electoral forum at the Riviera Towers on Boulevard East, where Commissioner Count Wiley, Tony DeFino, Juan Espinal and Pat Cullen participated in the event. Neither Mayor Felix Roque, nor a representative from his slate, were in attendance.
Wiley predictably gave a passionate answer when asked how he would keep West New York government open and honest.
Another hot button issue was whether or not it was a worthwhile idea to convert West New York to a mayor council government.
Cullen and Espinal felt the change would be a positive one for West New York, while Wiley and DeFino felt that a town’s problems comes down to the leader: not the form of government.
As far as tax abatements go, DeFino questioned why tax abatements aren’t reserved for commercial developments.
Cullen, who has taken a hard stance against tax abatements for years, said that the Albio Sires, Sal Vega and Roque administrations have gotten it wrong: as tax abatements should only be given to industrial areas.
Espinal, a retired Washington D.C. cop, consistently said the town needs a stronger police presence throughout the evening, at one point suggesting forming neighborhood watch-type of groups to provide surveillance for parks.
Although the other three candidates disagreed, he also later said a charter school would make a positive impact on West New York’s education system.
In his closing statement, DeFino said that voters should not be gun shy about selecting a split ticket on Election Day, as they should simply pick whoever they feel are the five best candidates out there.
Pablo Fonseca, Roque’s campaign manager, said that his team knocked on 500 doors last night, “taking our message directly to the voters” prior to attending a fundraiser at Las Palmas hosted by Gabriel Rodriguez.
He noted that Roque was only at the event “for five minutes” as he continues to spend time with his deathly ill mother.
He also said he would not address the criticisms raised by the candidates at the forum, again pointing to the mayor’s track record that includes a decrease in crime and a lower unemployment rate.
He concluded by saying “we’re 11 days from victory.”