While most eyes are on Washington, DC and our Senate and House races, this November there will also be county elections. Counties take the third highest chunk out of your NJ taxes, after the State and district school taxes. However, they have a large budget, provide essential services, and should be held accountable for their priorities, policies and spending. You have your say on what they do by becoming involved, knowledgeable, and voting.
I happen to live in Bergen County, the state’s largest county with a population of 948,000 people, 70 municipalities, and a 2018 budget of $528 million which funds, in descending dollar amount, Employee Benefits, Administration, Sheriff’s Department, Capital Improvements and Education. For the last two years it has managed to provide new/expanded services without increasing its budget.
Today Bergen County officials are overwhelmingly Democratic. Its three congressmen, 15 State legislators, County Executive, seven members of the Board of Freeholders, Sheriff, Clerk, and Surrogate are all Democrats. It was not always so. It was not until 2012 with Tracy Zur (D) and Steve Tanelli (D) winning their election that the Freeholder Board entered into Democratic control. It was not until 2015 when James Tedesco (D) defeated Kathy Donovan (R) to become County Executive.
In November the three above-mentioned Democrats are again up for re-election. They were at a Teaneck “Meet & Greet” event on Thursday. (See photo above.) County Executive Jim Tedesco, a former councilman, mayor, and freeholder is particularly proud of fulfilling his pledge to create the New Bridge Medical Center (formerly known as Bergen Pines Hospital) realigning the County Police under the Sheriff’s Department, restoring $7.5 million in education funding, and increasing shared services. Freeholder Tracy Zur, a life-long Bergen resident with three children, is particularly concerned about homeless veterans, young adults with special needs, opioid crisis and mental health. Steve Tanelli speaks about the importance of controlling taxes and spending, open space and the fact that the county is now going in the right direction.
The Republican challengers are for County Executive: Norman Schmelz and for Freeholder Board: Hector Olmo and Eric Kulmala. They will have rough sledding in Bergen County where in 2016 Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump 231,211 to 175,529, and where in 2017 Phil Murphy defeated Kim Guadagno 129,265 to 94,904.
Why are county elections important? It’s your money they are spending and it affects your daily life. By getting involved and voting you have an opportunity to voice your opinion and vote for what you believe in. It holds county officials accountable for their behavior while in office, and it prevents a minority from dictating the policies of a majority.
What’s happening in your county?