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Meet the Paramus NJ Candidates for Mayor

Two long-time residents with deep roots in Paramus are vying for the seat of mayor in November, as Longtime mayor Richard LaBarbiera has decided not to run again.

Democratic candidate MariaElena Bellinger and Republican candidate Chris DiPiazza, both incumbent council members, will face off in the upcoming election.

Local politics in Paramus have been tense since 2020. A standoff over 10 police hires, including LaBarbiera’s son, lasted 10 months and was launched three separate lawsuits as votes to hire the new officers were blocked by the then divided party council. Republicans believed the inclusion of LaBarbiera’s son, Vicent, was nepotism, although the borough does not have an anti-nepotism law on the books. officers were finally hired at the end of 2020 after a judge gave LaBarbiera the go-ahead to break the tie.

The split party board became a Republican majority in 2021, with Bellinger and LaBarbiera remaining the only Democrats. The Republican majority blocked the renewal of the contract then Borough Administrator Joseph D’Arco, who had served for 12 years. In February, Republicans said they wanted to hire Hector Olmo, the Wallington administrator and a Republican adviser from Cresskill.

Olmo was hired in March after a month of searching after LaBarbiera questioned that there had been no proper search for candidates and that the choice, he believed, had been negotiated outside of Borough Hall. Republican borough council members, on the other hand, decried his decision not to fill the soon-to-be vacant post. Both sides would later use social media to accuse each other of playing politics.

Bellinger asked for a survey last month Olmo after learning that work had been done on his personal car by borough employees and questioned the legality of the work.

DiPiazza Overview an anti-nepotism order in June in response to the police hiring situation, a move Democrats are questioning during the campaign season.

DiPiazza, a lifelong Paramus resident, was elected as a city councilor in 2017 and re-elected in 2020. He said he wanted to run for mayor to be a young community leader and “continue to serve in the best interest.” of Paramus”.

“I love calling Paramus home and meeting the locals,” said DiPiazza, 30. “We have a diverse population. There are a lot of people like me where this is all they’ve ever called home and there are residents where this is their first place to live in America. It’s it is up to us at the local level to ensure that local government and services operate as transparently as possible.

Bellinger, who spent 11 years on Paramus Borough Council, is also a longtime resident who has become firmly rooted in the local community, raising her children in the home she grew up in, teaching 17 at the Paramus public school and supervising the high school. women’s volleyball team.

“It was another way to do more for my community, which is what got me involved in the council,” Bellinger said. “I never got involved for political purposes, it was always about giving back to my city. This next step available now is still a way for me to serve and represent my city.

As a volleyball coach, Bellinger tried to instill in her players the following lesson: “don’t complain about the results if you are not willing to put in the work to improve it”. Now she is following her own advice in her bid for mayor. The borough has never had a woman as mayor and she would like to make her voice heard, especially among the younger generation.

Holly Tedesco-Santos, far left, administers the oath of office to Council Member MariaElena Bellinger during the Paramus Reorganization Meeting Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at Paramus Borough Hall.

Fiscal responsibility

Drawing inspiration from his small-business family and having studied business management and finance at Seton Hall, DiPiazza believes the borough should also be run like a business. He would like to see a cultural shift in Borough Hall and ensure all departments are on the same page, understanding that they are in the service industry working together to achieve the same goals, DiPiazza said.

“As the leader of the city, we need to find a way to run day-to-day operations as efficiently as possible by saving taxpayers as much money as possible without sacrificing good services and programs,” DiPiazza said.

Reducing the tax burden on residents would be one of Bellinger’s main goals if elected mayor. It’s important to find the balance between protecting residential communities while protecting the commercial sector which is a “crucial source of revenue”, Bellinger said. She said there is a “way to resist overdevelopment” while preventing skyrocketing property taxes.

“It gets harder and harder with the driving costs,” Bellinger said. “That’s certainly a concern. In my time [on the council], there were many times with overages and different avenues where we were able to provide and deliver lump sum taxes for most of my tenure. It’s something I’m proud of and something my administration would strive to continue to do.”

Supporting First Responders

Supporting first responders was something Bellinger said he had a clear record of supporting. When she ran for her first term on council, she came on a platform to properly recruit and support borough police, Bellinger said. She said she was happy to run with John Tabor, a firefighter who worked for 33 years, and retired police captain Mark Distler.

She said Paramus Republicans instituted a hiring freeze at the time, but she would ‘keep her promise’ to fight to restore cut programs, like a DARE program, and work with the police chief at the time to establish a “park and walk” to strengthen police-community relations.

“It was something that I was proud to think about in the meantime to find a compromise or a solution,” Bellinger said.

Under this program, the police would park their cars and walk through schools to familiarize themselves with the buildings. Today, there are far more police officers than before, and the DARE program is now called the LEAD program, which is making a comeback.

Working with the police department as crime increases in Paramus is also at the forefront of DiPiazza’s mind. Crime is not just happening in the borough’s malls, but there is also an increase in stolen cars.

“We need to continue to work with our law enforcement and give them the tools, whether it’s resources or personnel, by hiring new people and giving them the tools they need,” DiPiazza said. “This is the first time I’ve heard residents talk about it when I’m going door to door, it’s certainly a concern and rightly so. I feel like every week someone’s car gets stolen or there’s a home burglary.

Improve the community

Making sure areas of the city have proper zoning to grow the community and working with local businesses was another thing DiPiazza wants to focus on if elected.

“If our residents and residential neighborhoods are our heartbeat, then Route 17 and Route 4 are our lungs,” DiPiazza said. “We have to work together because one hand feeds the other. Not only do we want it to be a great place to live, but part of that great place to live is the low tax base that comes with thriving trade corridors.

Restoring trust in government was another major goal of Bellinger’s campaign. She would like to broadcast council meetings and give residents the opportunity to have a say in their local government despite a busy schedule.

“I think residents need to have faith in their government and I think transparency is key to that,” Bellinger said. “I want to promote the transparency and trust that I think our residents deserve.”

DiPiazza, who has worked as a basketball coach for the borough’s recreation programs, said he would like to see more investment in the recreation department and for the construction of a recreation center “funded by the private and non-tax-funded sector” for local children. . He believes the borough would be a good home for a center similar to the Boys and Girls Club or YMCA.

“Kids these days don’t necessarily have places to go or hang out, so they have trouble online,” DiPiazza said. “If they have a place where they can go after school, pick up a basketball, pick up a soccer ball, they could hang out together.”

John Smith

The author John Smith