East Windsor Township Council Candidate Profile: TJ Berdzik
Patch posed a series of questions to each candidate.
Name: TJ Berdzik
Running for: Four year term
Why are you running for Township Council?
I believe that the current East Windsor Township Council needs diversity of thought, background and life experiences. The current council votes on a unanimous basis in virtually every single vote. Just last year, the council voted unanimous in 255 out of 256 votes. I have been attending council meetings for most of the year and during these meetings, unfortunately, there is no discussion, no debate and no differing views or opinions. The newest member of the Council Peter Yeager has quickly fallen lock step with the other council members. One would expect John Zoller, the new candidate to follow suit. This is an opportunity for the voters of East Windsor to vote for positive change and get some new blood with new ideas on the Township Council.
I have lived in the town for almost eight and a half years and I am raising a family here with my wife. We have no intentions of moving but want to make this community the best it can be. Like other hardworking families in the town, we are concerned with the alarming increase in property taxes since we have moved here and I have taken note of the many houses for sale and shuttered businesses in the town. It is no secret that property values are lower here because of our high tax rates and lower ratables. We need to bring fiscal sense and discipline to this town and East Windsor needs to be viewed as a business friendly location where jobs can be created.
What are three issues most important to you and why?
I believe the township is ill served by a council controlled by one party that votes as a block with no open discussion, no debate and no disagreement. For the past 14 years, East Windsor has been controlled by one party. Our council votes as a unanimous block. Just last year, 255 out of 256 votes were unopposed. During council meetings, there is no debate, no discussion, and no disagreement. Where has this rubber stamp take us over the past 10 years? Since 2000, spending is up 54%, roughly 2 times inflation. Total property tax raised by the town is up 169%. I will openly question resolutions, ask for explanations and offer different ideas. Open collaboration works in the business world, why not East Windsor?
In addition to open governance, I believe that East Windsor must put taxpayers first. If we are to control municipal taxes while maintaining the current level of services, we must use our resources more efficiently. In conversations with council members in surrounding towns, East Windsor is described as a town not open to discussion. We have several services that we can and should contract or share in order to realize cost savings from economies of scale. We cannot be closed to negotiation with anyone. For example, our courts are losing nearly $100k per year. Our traffic ticket volume is down 40% over the past 3 years. We have a capacity utilization problem. Hightstown’s court was flooded during the recent hurricane and temporarily relocated to Robbinsville. Robbinsville’s court is located in a trailer while the town considers affordable options for a new municipal complex. It looks to me like we have two towns to either side of us that we should engage in negotiations. I have seen several services that should undergo this type of business style analysis in order to capture costs savings for our town. Our taxpayers could use the break.
Finally, I am concerned with the local business environment in East Windsor. All one has to do is drive down Rt-130 and look at all of the empty storefronts. We have a plethora of vacant store spaces and empty lots following the closing of Genuardis, Super Fresh, the Minute Maid plant, the pull out of Kohl’s, etc. Hamilton, Cranbury and Robbinsville are attracting business investment. Why is our town not viewed as being business friendly? While the council is pushing solar panels and open space, the town should be cutting red tape, and being more accommodating to our business community if we are to attract and retain current businesses, grow jobs and reduce taxes.
Why should residents vote for you?
I am a business man and bring a unique perspective in terms of analyzing budgets, identifying problems and offering solutions. In my 14 year career, I have been a business owner, an entrepreneur, and a financial analyst, among other things, in the fast paced world of finance. Currently, I head distressed equities trading for StockCross Financial Services. I have learned valuable skills which can be easily applied in the local government setting.
I am in this race because I want to make a difference in the community and I want the voices of many residents of East Windsor which have gone unheard to be finally heard. I have many good ideas that will promote smart growth for businesses and better manage our finances so we are poised for success in the future and not burdened with debt obligations we cannot meet as a community.