Attorney Christopher Campos, 27, is the incumbent in the 4th Ward and is being backed and funded by Mayor David Roberts' Hoboken United ticket.
Campos is a graduate of Hoboken High School and Denison University in Ohio, and he graduated from American University Law School. In February he was admitted to the New Jersey Bar Association. Recently, he got a job with the Hudson County Transportation Management Authority, where he is a manager of transportation development. Before that, he was working for the state Department of Transportation.
Since being elected in a special election in 2001, Campos said that he is particularly proud of an increased police presence in the city's 4th Ward.
"There is still work to be done, but the 4th Ward is a safer place today," he said. Campos took part in negotiations with Hoboken Police Chief Carmen LaBruno to establish a new satellite precinct in the Hoboken Housing Authority that opened in March. This new precinct was not born overnight, and was not established without turmoil. It was the culmination of over a year of often tense, sometimes adversarial, negotiations between the mayor's office, the City Council, LaBruno and Housing Authority officials. But in recent months, fences have been mended, partly due to Campos' efforts. Campos added that he has been successful in using the administration's relationship with state and federal officials to obtain grants, especially a good relationship with state Sen. Bernard Kenny (D-Hoboken) and U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez (D-13th District). Last week, the mayor announced that the city has received a $450,000 state grant for a streetscape project in the 4th Ward.
Another event that Campos is proud of is a Thanksgiving turkey drive that yielded over 300 turkeys to city residents, and a neighborhood Christmas Party that drew hundreds of residents. "We need events like this that bring together the community," Campos said. (The party caused controversy, as Campos' opponent, Tony Soares, complained about the fact that a city bus was used to transport seniors to the party. Campos responded that the party was not a political event.)
Campos said his number one priority for the next three years, if re-elected, is maintaining the city's existing affordable housing stock and adding to it. "We have to maintain the integrity our community," he said. "The only way to do this is to protect and augment our affordable housing stock."
He said that first the city must enforce its rent control laws and make sure all landlords are in compliance. He added that the city also has to be aggressive in negotiating concessions from local developers for affordable housing units. He pointed to a recent agreement with a developer that will yield 90 units of affordable housing on the city's west side.
Campos said that it is healthy for the city to have people of varying income levels living together. "Having families of mixed incomes living in the same developments encourages diversity in our neighborhoods," he said.
He also said that he has a strong record when it comes to improving open space and recreation options for children. The city has started construction on a small park on Jackson Street that is state funded, and this summer the Multi-Service Center, which has a basketball gym and roller hockey rink, will be greatly expanding the hours it is open. "The Multi-Service Center is a jewel in the 4th Ward," said Campos.
He also noted that the Board of Education recently received a $2 million grant to resurface JFK Stadium's field with new turf. That is in addition to Green Acres Grants to resurface the soccer field at Sinatra Park, and to build a skateboard park at Castle Point Park.
But he added that a goal, if re-elected, is to find locations for new ball fields. That is why he supports the Board of Education's plan to use the Cognis Chemical Plants site for several ball fields.
Campos stayed mostly on the issues but did have some criticism of one of his opponents, Councilman Tony Soares. The two former allies have been engaged in public war of words over the past nine months.
"The problem with Soares," said Campos. "Is that he only deals in sound bytes. When a question comes up about where cuts can be made, he has great one-liners, but never has any real solutions."
He also questioned Soares' motivation for running. (Soares is profiled later in this article). "I don't understand what 4th Ward issues he can't address as an at-large councilman," Campos said. "His campaign is purely politically driven, and for his own personal gain, and not the gain of the residents of the 4th Ward."
Sal DeMeo, 54, is running as an independent. A lifelong Hoboken resident, DeMeo is married with three children and lives in a Jefferson Street Building. He is a retired police officer and a part-time musician who plays oldies on his guitar and was once a backup player for the lead singer of the Duprees.
DeMeo graduated from Hoboken High School and went to St. Peter's College and Fairleigh Dickinson, obtaining an associate's degree in humanities. He has been active in the Elks' Club and worked in the school system as a substitute teacher.
In an interview, DeMeo said that his motto is to "clean up, restore and maintain." He said he wants to attack the city's problems. He said city has a history of doling out building variances to developers. "People gripe about development," he said, "but they continue to interpret the zoning codes too loosely, creating their own quagmire."
The same is true with the city's stock of affordable housing units, he added. He said the city is well within its rights to require developers to have affordable units in their developments, but as of yet have not taken advantage of that opportunity, which just makes the situation worse.
DeMeo said that if the city were to enforce and tighten the zoning laws it has in place, people's concerns about development would be alleviated.
On the topic of the budget, DeMeo said that he finds it troubling that the city consistently introduces the budget entirely too late in the fiscal year, which handcuffs the city's ability to makes cuts and curb spending. The 2003 budget, for example, was passed at the end of January, even though it was due last summer, when the fiscal year begins.
DeMeo also said that the city is continually overspending. "Even in a faltering economy, Hoboken has decided to overspend its budget," he said. "We need a freeze on salaries for about three years, excluding the city's minimum wage employees. The [employees] making $90,000 and above could most definitely live with it."
On the issue of traffic, DeMeo said that Hoboken is an urban area, and with that comes congestion.
"It's time to confront reality and face the fact that we live in a congested city," he said. "Hoboken has become developed into this little gem, but you do have to take the good with the bad and deal with some inconveniences."
DeMeo is well aware of the difficulty of running as an independent up against well-funded and well-organized political machines. He said that he does not take financial contributions and does not have a war chest. He is only relying on word of mouth for his support.
While he understands the obstacles he is up against, DeMeo also believes that there are advantages to staying independent. "I think it is very important to have independent members [on the City Council]," he said. "Someone who is an independent is going to be less likely to just go along with the crowd." He added that because he is not tied to a political group and campaign contributors, he will be able to make impartial, non-partisan, objective decisions.
Anthony Mussara, 36, a life-long 4th Ward resident, is running with the Hoboken First organization. He is employed by the Board of Education as the head of the maintenance department at Hoboken High School. Although he has been involved in several campaigns, this is his first time running for office.
He is a co-founder of the Civic Association for the Puerto Rican Parade of Hoboken. The association was established in 1994. He is also the founder of the Hispanic Democratic Civic Association and is an active member of the Knights of Columbus.
During an interview, Mussara said that his first priority is recreation options for the children of the 4th Ward. "Right now there aren't enough recreation options for kids," said Mussara from his Jackson Street headquarters, which doubles as an after-school community center. Since February he has been holding weekend barbecues with pizza and hamburgers for neighborhood children. He also pledged Thursday that win or lose, he will maintain the space as a community center after the election.
But he said the city needs to make a much larger commitment to recreation options in the 4th Ward. Thursday he called for a new community center in the neighborhood with a pool, basketball, and volleyball courts among other activities.
He also said that developers of new projects should help foot the bill for recreation facilities.
"What are we getting out of all of this new development?" he asked. "I don't think we're getting nearly enough. Developers should be required to contribute at least 10 cents per square foot to a recreation fund."
He also said that the city needs to do a better job of communicating with the residents of the 4th Ward. He said if elected, he will push for monthly community meetings and for a city newsletter.
To bring the community closer together, he suggested holding two annual 4th Ward festivals that could be held in cooperation with the Hoboken Housing Authority. He added the bi-annual fair could double as a fundraiser for programs for city children.
On the topic of parking, he said that the City Council should contact local condo owners to see if they have extra spaces for local residents.
"You look at these buildings and their garages are half empty," he said. "If they are not utilizing these spaces, city residents should able to."
He said that pursuing a public private partnership with these property owners could provide some parking relief to the neighborhood where he lives.
Mussara also had some criticism for the current administration and the incumbent candidate, Christopher Campos. "It seems like he [Campos] is trying to serve the people in City Hall, when he should be serving the people on the streets," he said. Mussara pointed to the recent city announcement of $450,000 in state grants to improve the streetscape for several 4th Ward streets. He said that putting up Victorian light poles is an awfully superficial project to score political points.
"He should be focusing on projects that a really important," he said. "What we really need are things like a bowling alley or movie theaters in the same neighborhood where all of are children are."
On the topic of development and taxes, he said that "smart growth" should be encouraged, which is development used only for tax relief. He added that proceeds from new development should not be used for new spending or to hire new employees.
He also said that he will insist that a representative number of local residents get jobs from local development projects.
Anthony "Tony" Soares
At-large Councilman Tony Soares, 39, is Hoboken Alliance's 4th Ward candidate. If he wins, he will shift from an at-large seat to the 4th Ward seat. If not, he still is able to retain his at-large chair until 2005. He was one of the founding members of the Mayor David Roberts' Hoboken United organization and served as council president in Mayor Roberts' first year in office, but has since broken with Roberts over what he perceives as Roberts' "unwillingness to keep his promises."
When he was introduced as a Hoboken Alliance candidate in February, he expressed his reasons for splitting with Roberts. "In the last two years, [Roberts'] administration and Chris Campos have done nothing to make the 4th Ward a better place for kids to play, to go to school, to walk safely across Monroe Street, to keep basements from flooding, or take an active, positive role to make things better for families in our public housing."
Before running for office, Soares was a hard-working community activist. In, 1990, he was appointed to be the national spokesman for the "Little People of America," a support group for people with Dwarfism. The 4' 2" Soares was born with a form of dwarfism known as Achondroplasia.
After graduating from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, Soares co-founded "The Concerned Citizens of Kearny," a local activist group concerned with overdevelopment. There, he became a strong advocate for Mt. Laurel (affordable) housing.
When he moved to Hoboken in 1991, he became a Member of The Coalition for a Better Waterfront. He later joined the Quality of Life Coalition.
On Tuesday, Soares said that there are several issues specific to the 4th Ward that he would like to address as 4th Ward councilman.
"The 4th Ward must remain diverse, safe and livable," said Soares.
On the issue of affordable housing, he would like to work with large developers and small homeowners so they will accept Section 8 vouchers in their market-rate and rent stabilized units.
He would also like to "fight" to make the Hoboken Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners all residents, and for HHA employees to come from the projects. He said that he would work closely with the Housing Authority's executive director to make the Housing Authority a better place. Soares added that if elected in the 4th, he will establish a drop-in office on the grounds of the Housing Authority to open up lines of communication between him, the residents and the city government.
He would also like to see the city immediately designate the Pino's towing site on Jackson Street as a "redevelopment zone" for a park and affordable housing. Local developers recently got Planning Board approvals to build 204 units of market-rate housing on that site. He said the advantage of declaring it a redevelopment zone is that affordable housing would be added and they could set "living wage" minimums for the area. Living wages are minimums that can be set above the minimum hourly rate.
When it comes to economic development in the 4th Ward, he would like to designate a small professional business zone, which would allow those who can't afford the waterfront rents to still operate professional services in the city. He would also like to add zoning and redevelopment designations that allow developers to provide basic local retail, such as delis, restaurants, clothing basics and a local bank.
On the issue of traffic and pedestrian safety, Soares said that there should be zero tolerance for people who park in crosswalks. He would like to see curbs on street corners built out so that parking on the corners is impossible. He would like to replace every missing stop sign, crosswalk marker and street sign, of which there are several in the 4th Ward. And he would add speed humps, rumble strips, and "traffic calmers" near all senior buildings, schools and playgrounds and would like to investigate traffic lights at dangerous and congested intersections. Soares will also like to create a bike and jogging path around the city.
When it comes to the city's parking problem, he said he is in favor of developing a public/private partnership with parking lot owners to build "resident only" parking.
While Soares spent most of his interview talking about 4th Ward issues, he did address Chris Campos, his former ally and now opponent. "My biggest criticism of [Campos] is that as the chairman of the city's Finance Committee, he supports a budget that has a $12 million structural deficit," he said. Soares has been a critic of Roberts' budget, which is up $10 million from two years ago. Soares recently voted against $1.3 million in emergency appropriations to the budget. He also said that as the chair of the Affordable Housing Committee on the council, Campos has not called a single meeting in the past 12 months. Soares is also a member of that committee.
He also criticized Campos for recently taking a county job. "He's seen more often than not at photo ops and press conferences during the work day, just days after starting his second payroll position," he said.