Though there was strong disagreement from time to time, Mayor Mark Smith, Police Capt. James Davis, and businessman Anthony Zanowic were respectful of each other, and no fireworks were set off; nor were any politically fatal mistakes made. The trio appeared before a panel of publishers, editors, and staff writers of the Bayonne Community News and the Reporter newspaper chain.
Topics included many of the myriad issues brought up in the 2014 race thus far: taxes, the teachers’ contract, development at the former Military Ocean Terminal, the revitalization of the Broadway shopping district, rent control, and dirty political campaigning.
Smith said his campaign had been victimized by the latter, while Davis contended he was the focal point of such politicking. All three candidates said they had not indulged in that type of activity thus far, and vowed not to use such methods during the campaign’s final weeks.
In their opening remarks, each candidate highlighted the main reasons they should be elected to a four-year term on May 13.
Davis said that in an administration led by him there would be more transparency in government, with public records more easily accessed by the public, even from their computers at home.
“You should be able to walk into city hall to get the information [any day],” he said, instead of having to file lawsuits to get documents and thereby increasing the public’s mistrust of government.
“Government needs to answer” to the people, Davis said.
Zanowic said that he liked Davis’s platform of transparency but that it was he who was espousing it early in the campaign, until Davis hijacked it. Zanowic also said that he would bring more fiscal responsibility to the post, and not repeat “the mistakes of the last six years” in land sales and other areas, referring to what he says was a sweetheart deal for the Port Authority for acreage at the former MOTBY.
Smith said that upon taking on the mayoralty he had walked into a “gaping hole,” a ditch dug by his predecessors. He said he remedied the city’s problems by streamlining government and ridding Bayonne of “overlapping autonomous agencies.”
The mayor said the decisions made then are now yielding results, citing Bayonne’s designation by New Jersey Business as one of the “hot spots” in the state.
“It’s the first time in a generation the bond rating has been raised,” Smith said.
In their closing remarks, the candidates continued those arguments.
“I make no bones about it, five years ago we walked into a difficult situation,” said Smith. He pledged that if re-elected he would continue to attract developers and retail businesses that want to come to the city to reach the goal of making Bayonne “the Gem of Hudson County.”
Zanowic asked voters a question often asked by challengers about the incumbent in any race.
“Is Bayonne better off now than it was six years ago?” If not, he urged them to cast their ballots for him.
He also cautioned about burdening the city’s infrastructure, citing the figure of 21,000 people housed per square mile in Bayonne.
Davis, who has focused his campaign strongly on support of a teachers’ contract and who courted the teachers’ endorsement, said,
“This election is about the future; our teachers’ and our children’s future,” adding that an elected school board should be part of that landscape.
“Longevity in our school board breeds corruption,” he said.
Davis said that more diversity was good, and added that “everyone has a right to sit at the table.”
The debate will be posted on the Bayonne Community News website, hudsonreporter.com, for public viewing.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.