Incumbent Mayor Brian Stack will be taking on activist (and schools superintendent in Little Ferry) Frank Scarafile.
In Union City's form of government, candidates run for the five-member Board of Commissioners, and once the five commissioners are chosen, they will select a mayor from among themselves.
Thus, Stack and Scarafile are both on commission tickets.
Stack is running with his "Union City First" slate of commissioners, while Scarafile heads a "Younity" ticket. Although each slate brings five candidates each to the voting booth, residents can vote for any five they choose.
Brian Stack won the hearts of the Union City community as a volunteer and county freeholder who eventually took the mayoralty in 2001 following the resignation of Mayor Rudy Garcia.
Stack cleaned house by adding his present city commissioners, and turned the city's cash deficit into a surplus over the last four years. He is currently the mayor as well as the local assemblyman.
"I feel a lot of our accomplishments have had to do with the quality of life, such as closing down three to four liquor establishments [who had had violations], and there are more police officers on the streets than ever," said Stack last week.
Despite critics' accusations of fewer police out on the street, Stack stands by the fact that there are more officers on the streets today than ever. He says that opponents may be citing a cut in senior officers who were not needed or who retired.
"We have our best people out on the street," said Stack. "When I first came in, there were about nine to 11 captains; now it's down to three."
Since taking office, Stack has reiterated that the doors to City Hall are always open to the residents of Union City.
"Our open door policy in the community has been the most important, and we've been moving office services around the city [for those who can't make it to City Hall]" noted Stack.
Stack on development and other issues
In reference to development in the city, work is currently being done to revise the city's master plan, which determines the future of zoning here. Some feel that projects have been approved that have been too dense.
Recently, Stack appointed 22 residents to the newly formed Master Plan Committee, which includes development experts, who will help revamp the city's outdated plan. He also allocated a $150,000 grant to implement the master plan initiative.
Stack is also looking for ways to have private money to invest in an affordable housing fund to help lower-income residents and seniors.
"One of the greatest benefits is when you see people in the community being able to rent or buy their first home," said Stack.
Stack also made changes to the city's rent protection laws, which include tenants no longer having to pay property tax increases. The maximum annual rent increase was reduced from 5 percent to 3.5 percent, and only 2 percent for senior citizens. And sewage costs will no longer fall on the tenants.
Among some of the more noticeable benefits to the city under the current administration are the renovation and construction of several new parks throughout the city, including Frank X. Clark Park and Duarte Park. Union City First is also proud of the addition of the Union City soccer program, which was organized earlier this year.
"We have had great improvements to several parks, and we also have excellent cultural programs, which are [headed up] by Deputy Director Lucio Fernandez and Commissioner Tilo Rivas," said Stack.
In addition, Union City has seen the rise of the Jose Marti Middle School and the Veterans' Memorial Elementary School, through the administration's partnership with the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation.
Of course, Stack has also been subject to scrutiny over a botched Schools Construction Corporation project, but e-mails from 2004 that he has given to the newspapers show that he tried to stop the situation from happening.
Also on the way are the construction of the new Union City Early Childhood Center and the much-anticipated Union City High School, on the former site of the historic Roosevelt Stadium.
The new school will ultimately unify the city's two current high schools, and house the first of its kind rooftop athletic field and complex.
With his role as and State Assemblyman, Stack is also proud to have brought in millions of dollars worth of grants that have helped to renovate the city streets and traffic lights.
"Union City has come a long way in the last four years," said Stack. "Crime is down and property taxes are stable. Our schools are excelling, our streets are cleaner and we are taking good care of our senior citizens."
A former principal at Emerson High School turned Superintendent of Schools in Little Ferry, Frank Scarafile has been a lifelong resident of Union City, who has become increasing concerned over certain directions the city has taken under the current administration.
"This has been ongoing for the last couple of years when a group of us noticed that some things were not quite right in the community," said Scarafile. Scarafile leads an activist ticket called "Younity."
According to Scarafile, the mayor has been virtually unopposed in his decisions.
Scarafile said that things first began to strike the wrong chord while he was still principal of Emerson High School.
"One of the things that prompted me to leave the Board of Education were the vigilante tactics of certain members who were trying to discredit what I was doing," said Scarafile. "I didn't feel like I was getting a fair shake, and people know why I left [in 2003]."
Scarafile said, "The only job I applied for was Superintendent of Little Ferry, and lo and behold, nine strangers hired me."
Critics have complained that Stack controls most of the boards in Union City, from the Board of Education to the Zoning Board.
"The fact is, we have a mayor that has unprecedented power in running the whole operation in the city," Scarafile said. "Previous mayors have been able to delegate, but this one has a hard time doing that, and that is what is wrong in Union City."
Scarafile on development, recreation, law enforcement
Among some of the emphasized points throughout Younity's campaign have been city overdevelopment, a lack of recreational programming, and law enforcement concerns.
"We're not opposed to redevelopment; we are for rational and responsible redevelopment," said Scarafile. "Their approach is that if we bring in all these new developments it will keep taxes stable, but that's really not the answer [due to the huge increase that would be needed in city services]. We know our property is very valuable [especially with the proximity to New York], but with the decisions made today, the city will be greatly effected over the next four-year term."
According to Scarafile, the city hasn't done enough for recreational programs.
"We feel this is something that can be addressed within the first 100 days of office," said Scarafile. "We would meet with local business people for support to run a fundraiser to supplement the programs, and pass an ordinance that would have new developments coming into the city give a percentage to recreation funding [among other ideas]."
And despite Mayor Stack's claims that there are more police officers than ever patrolling the streets, Scarafile points out that the number of police officers dropped from about 200 to 169 over the last four years. Even if some of that is due to fewer senior officers, he says not enough patrolmen have been hired.
"It's definitely not the fault of the police, but of the politics that gets involved in the process," said Scarafile. "In the last five years he's only brought on about nine officers. Five were from the Hudson County Sheriff's Office, and four new recruits a few months ago."
People are starting to notice Scarafile and the Younity team.
"[Compared] to the previous two years, people have started opening their doors and started talking to us," said Scarafile. "This is why it was [more important than ever] to have at least opposition the current administration for this election, and I found five exceptional individuals who all have their own minds."