Home>Articles>Democratic mayor challenges Murphy on ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to COVID-19

Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello.

Democratic mayor challenges Murphy on ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to COVID-19

By Mayor Joseph Signorello III, July 11 2020 6:14 pm

OPINION

The governor and I have weirdly similar backgrounds. In 2017, we were political neophytes, we decided to get engaged in politics (or at least more directly), we both come from financial services, we both lived and worked in Germany, and we both skipped a few steps in the political process. Since then, what’s pretty evident has become more so. While I respect many of his views as a Democrat, he is not in touch with the average NJ voter.

I’m not pushing the panic button yet, but here’s the reality:

Trump wins = NJ GOP is still shot for another four years, no matter what.

Biden wins = Murphy probably still scores another four years, but man, will he not help the ticket.

It’s all become clear to me via COVID-19. As a mayor, I’m left scratching my head at the “one-size-fits-all” approach he took to address COVID when our neighboring states took regional or county-by-county strategies. I’m scratching my head at how he thinks it’s a good look for him to protest in Westfield and Hillside, defying his own orders. I’ve had your back, Governor, and you continue to give skeptics fodder to criticize you and our party. Clear-as-mud executive orders and last-minute changes pissed off people for Memorial Day, graduation, and now, July 4th. Now I’m fighting off a mutiny from my business community. Thanks, man, no good deed goes unpunished.

But there’s a more significant issue that looms over the Murphy tenure, and this what I’m shocked he hasn’t done as a private-sector guy — he has done nothing to make voters feel better about property taxes. The tragedy is it’s not like property tax relief isn’t on our mind as Democrats — for many of us, it is. As a perfect example, I’m a big proponent of much of what’s in Senate President Sweeney’s Path to Progress. Still, it feels like the movement has stalled for any genuine structural reforms to alleviate the tax burden in the Garden State.

How does all this relate to COVID? Because we now have the perfect chance and reason to make progress on some of the cost issues we have as a state — we have a legitimate, urgent need for reforms (I think you call this political air cover in the biz). What do we do? We — wait for it — provide, meh, a bond or some cuts here and there…¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It’s malpractice. There’s nothing wrong with being a Democrat who believes that government services can help people and build a better state — that doesn’t mean that all government spending is right, that doesn’t mean we don’t have fat to cut, and that doesn’t mean we can’t spend our dollars smarter. We have NJ’s fiscal body open. Let’s make some repairs. You see Murphy isn’t wrong – NJ will never be a haven for low tax lovers—but most of us accept that (although boy-howdy is the GOP gonna have fun with his quote from Glassboro from last year). We just want to feel like we’re getting bang for the buck. I contend that—amongst many other things—duplicative and overlapping services from QuickChekland to Wawa turf is a big part of us not getting that. We should be addressing this—right now.

Governor, I mean no harm, but we’re from NJ, so consider this some tough love. And, relax Dems, we will be fine this year because as much as the NJ GOP tries to maneuver with/around Trump he’s going to cost them as much if not more than we saw in 2018 (at least in NJ) any Doug Steinhardt quotes to the contrary are just wishful thinking or saving face for the troops. That said, we need to get our act together fast for 2021, especially if we’ve got President Biden. Because here’s the thing: when we get another R Governor, and that will exist at some point, he/she is going to take out a hacksaw instead of what we need—a scalpel. The sad part is, if Governor Murphy is half the businessman I’m pretty sure he is, I trust him to responsibly reform government in NJ vs. whatever nonsense Ayn Rand fantasies the GOP could cook up.

Many purple areas have turned blue because of Trump, not because we’re necessarily knocking it out of the park as a party, and mark my words, those purple areas will focus on bread and butter issues when there’s a more sane leader of the free world. My fellow Democrats, do not fall into the trap of confusing Trump disdain for Democrat support. If we’re lucky and Biden is in the White House in 2021, it’s back to reality.

Joseph Signorello is the Democratic mayor of Roselle Park.  He was the first elected official in the state to endorse Pete Buttigieg for president.

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