South Orange’s next village president will have to address the village’s looming budget gap for the 2012 fiscal year while promoting the development of vacant lots, filling empty storefronts and improving public safety according to candidate Janine Bauer.
Bauer, an 18-year resident of South Orange, plans to use her professional background to accomplish her goals. She is an attorney, specializing in environmental issues and has served as a former prosecutor, a director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a member of the South Orange planning board and is currently a member of the South Orange Board of Trustees.
Bauer believes she will be able to work to lower the looming $12 million budget gap facing South Orange by continuing to reduce the Village’s overall operating budget and outsourcing and sharing services.
She and her Pure-Progress ticket point to their success at working to share services with Maplewood saving the Village over $200,000. Describing herself as “fiscally conservative,” Bauer said she believes South Orange will be able to balance their budget while remaining within the 2 percent property tax cap.
Development is one of Bauer’s top priorities and she hopes to organize downtown businesses, restaurants and SOPAC as a special improvement district, branded as a destination of its own. She also believes that increasing parking will help attract businesses to South Orange’s vacant retail spaces.
“The biggest problem is our high rent,” Bauer said. “Stores don’t have the overhead to afford our rents and so they will go to malls where they have the high traffic to guarantee they can afford the high rents. Until we have more parking and larger footprints, it will be a problem.”
If elected, Bauer plans to work with landlords and hire a business recruitment specialist to evaluate the market demands of South Orange to bring new businesses to the Village and meet the needs of the community.
On her third issue, public safety, Bauer said “We need to make sure that our policemen and women have the technology to communicate with residents to help reduce and prevent crimes,” particularly in the border areas where burglaries and assaults have become prevalent.
“As a former prosecutor, I understand the criminal process; I understand recidivism, and I want to make sure that we reduce crime,” she said. “The same people tend to commit crimes. I would work to put victims on the stand and explain why people deserve to be put away for longer. Our neighbors will understand that crime in South Orange will not be tolerated.”
When asked about last year’s proposed levying of a student fee on Seton Hall students to help cover the use of Villages services, Bauer said “the student fees bill is not going anywhere.”
“Students should understand that they present unique demands to municipalities, but I cannot think of any particular demand that is so significant to justify adding $50 to a student’s term bill,” Bauer said.
She also hopes to increase Seton Hall’s ties with the South Orange community by increasing institutional partnerships between the University and the Village, such as Seton Hall’s investment in SOPAC.
“I think Seton Hall is an integral part of South Orange and it should be a bigger part of it. I think Seton Hall is a little cloistered and that it likes being that way. We need to figure out ways to make it more integral,” she said.
Brenden Higashi can be reached at email@example.com.