When he attended Seton Hall University and got a degree in communications, he thought he might become a journalist. But life, he said, steered him in a different direction.
In seeking the 3rd Ward council seat, LaPelusa hopes he can help focus the city's attention on both the issues residents face in the northern part of the city and on critical issues such as the increasing taxes every resident faces.
Since the deadline for filing petitions isn't until March 16, LaPelusa does not yet know who he will oppose in the May 9 election. Although current 3rd Ward Councilman Vincent Lo Re is likely to run, he has not yet announced whether he will seek re-election in the 3rd Ward or run for one of the two citywide at-large council seats.
Although this is LaPelusa's first campaign for municipal office, he has run successfully for Democratic committeeman in the 3rd Ward's 11th District for three years.
In other towns, election to the school board would be the next logical step. But since Bayonne has an appointed board, the next step for LaPelusa is the City Council.
"While I took out petition forms to run for mayor and an at-large council seat, I decided to run for 3rd Ward," he said.
Perhaps the overriding reason for his running has to do with what he sees as high taxes.
"I feel - as a business owner - I can make a contribution to the council, and apply my experiences," he said. "I think I have the ability to get along with anybody and honestly feel that I can help bring business-like changes to the way the city operates. And I believe that changes are needed."
LaPelusa said he is concerned about the city's need to issue bonds to balance the budget, and said he believes the city needs to look more closely at what it is spending and how to curb it before it goes out to bond.
The city has undertaken a five-year financial plan that would bond $20 million each year to be paid back when the sale of land at the former Military Ocean Terminal is conducted.
"We shouldn't have to bond to cover the budget," LaPelusa said.
He wouldn't give specific ways he would cut the budget, but said that last year's Budget Review Committee had made more than 50 suggestions that were not implemented.
"Our leaders have to make tough decisions," he said. "I think I have the experience based on my business background to help them."
'Tighten our belts'
LaPelusa said if elected, he would work with other council members and the administration to do away with waste.
"We have to tighten our belts more," he said. "We have to find out where we can make cuts. And a good leader knows that while cuts might hurt, they benefit the taxpayer who pays all the bills."
He said he would not support a five-year plan that did not include an austerity plan to cut expenses.
"If I had to take out a loan to pay my expenses, I would have to cut back somewhere such as not going out for lunches," he said.
He also said a five-year plan should not increase future taxes.
One of his concerns is the late introduction and passing of the municipal budget. Every year, the city passes its budget nine months late, so that the government has little or no opportunity to effectively cut since the money is already spent.
LaPelusa said benefits of development at the former Military Ocean Terminal depend upon a lot of factors, including the market rates at the time of development so that the financial benefit is based on assumption about the future.
"The builder could stop and plans could change," he said. "Nothing is set in stone. So it is not always easy to figure out what the city will get because it is not concrete."
LaPelusa started knocking on doors in the 3rd Ward to campaign right after he picked up the petition forms.
"I always thought I could make a difference," he said, citing his participation in various civic organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and his work as a lector at St. Vincent de Paul, where he also teaches CCD classes. "I have received a very positive response."
es and crime
While taxes dominate the interest of people he has talked to, crime is also a concern.
"We have seen a rise in crime, and police presence in the 3rd Ward is very important," he said.
LaPelusa also said he would refrain from making cuts in emergency service such as the fire department, even though both police and fire make up a large percent of the municipal budget.
When asked about his position on development in Bayonne, LaPelusa said he believed that a disputed development on North Street should be allowed to move ahead, and that the city should not take the property using eminent domain.
"Eminent domain is for property that has not been maintained, not for taking over property that has received all its approvals to develop," he said.
He also would like to see more commercial development at the former Military Ocean Terminal and less residential, saying that the commercial development would require less city services.
Along with crime and taxes, parking is an issue in the 3rd Ward especially in the Broadway shopping district.
"We have one municipal parking lot on 33rd Street," he said. "I would like to see more developed near Broadway uptown."
While southern Broadway has the Bergen Point Merchants' Association and midtown has the Town Center Management Corporation, uptown lacks a business association to fight for the needs of that area, and he would support a move by business people there to organize one.
In running for office, LaPelusa is trying to avoid being seen as a typical politician, and if anything, said he is seeking to change the way the council looks at things.
He said he would walk the neighborhood, meeting people regularly so that they can raise any concerns with him. "Many people don't know who their councilperson is, if I am elected, they will," he said.