Democrat Derek Armstead: The Change Linden Needs

Thank You!

We find ourselves waiting until additional ballots may be counted, but the non-final result is that Derek Armstead is 175 votes behind Mayor Richard Gerbounka and the two candidates for City Council President are tied.

More details will be available once provisional ballots are counted on Friday, but our unending gratitude belongs to you, the voters who gave us this opportunity to serve.  Pray for us, and know that whatever the result, we will continue fighting for what is right.

Mayoral Campaign Coverage


Two familiar faces on the political scene are looking to serve as Linden’s mayor for the next four years.
Mayor Richard Gerbounka, an independent and former councilman, is seeking re-election to his second four-year mayoral term. He is being challenged by Democratic 4th Ward Councilman Derek Armstead, who is seeking his first citywide office.
Gerbounka and Armstead share similar views as they work to stabilize taxes in a city which recently saw a $344 municipal tax increase for the average homeowner.
“I’m trying to stabilize taxes,” said Gerbounka, adding municipal taxes have increased 14 percent in the last year.
“It’s not the industrial town it was,” he said referring to General Motors and other industries which once paid the bulk of city taxes but have since left Linden.
As mayor, Gerbounka has worked to cut spending by reducing the number of city employees and attracting new revenues.
“We have far too many employees,” said Gerbounka of the 679 employees including 98 part-timers and 50 school crossing guards. There are 531 full-time city employees.
He said 42 positions have been eliminated through attrition, along with eight part-time positions, for a savings of $3.7 million.
Gerbounka said the city’s fire department was heavily staffed, with 123 firefighters at four firehouses. Plainfield, which has a larger population, has 103 firefighters at three firehouses, he said.
Approval was recently granted to lay off seven firefighters and eliminate five vacant positions in the fire department. All city department heads have been asked to cut 10 percent from their budgets.
Gerbounka said he is not looking to fill nine vacant positions in the police department, even though it will impact the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.
“The primary factor has to be staffing in the street,” Gerbounka said.
Efforts also are under way to create one garage for police, fire, and public works department vehicles.
To generate revenues, Gerbounka is looking to move forward with plans for a coal-degasification plant to generate electricity, use real-estate brokers to find occupants for stores, and attract more restaurants to the downtown.
Gerbounka is also looking to change the city’s form of government from the Wildwood Act, in which the mayor doesn’t prepare the budget or have veto powers, to the more modern 1950 Faulkner Act, in which the mayor would.
“I have no say over a $95 million budget,” he said, adding policies are made by the council committee chair. Under the Faulkner Act, the mayor and business administrator work together. He’s also like to see the city’s 10-ward system reduced.
Armstead said changing the form of government is where he and Gerbounka part ways.
“I think the form of government is fine. We’re a unique form of government with 11 council members,” said Armstead, who feels that makes for more representation.
By switching to at-large council members, there would be members with roots in particular wards.
“We don’t need to have a powerful figure in town,” said Armstead. “We need to elect leaders and build consensus and get results.
Armstead, who has served on council for 17 years, said if he and council president candidate James Moore are elected, they would work together as a team. Armstead said he would give up job working for Union County.
Armstead said he knows the tax impact felt by other city residents. He’s seen taxes on his two-family house increase from $8,000 in 2004 to $14,000.
To increase revenues, Armstead would focus on the polluted land in the city’s industrial section and convert it for use in “green” industry such as manufacturing solar panels or other clean technology.
“Linden wants to be known as the green capital of the world,” said Armstead, who also plans to go after the executives of the companies with plants left in the city’s industrial area to get them to clean up their properties.
He wants to get private investors to develop the area around the Linden Train Station, to create a Soho-type district just a 25-minute train ride from New York City.
“The downtown area on Wood Avenue is never going to be what it was, with shopping malls in Elizabeth and Linden. We have to look to create something else,” said Armstead, who would like to see a “transit village.”
Armstead also is looking to reduce crime, especially robberies by street gangs involved in drug trafficking. He’d like to persuade the Legislature to make it mandatory for first responders like police and firefighters to live in the town they serve. He said police officers wouldn’t condone crime in their neighborhoods.
“If you have stock in the town, the town will do better,” said Armstead, who would also like teachers and city employees to live in town.
“If you get a paycheck in town, this town is good enough to live in.”

Council Campaign Coverage

October 26, 2010

Linden mayor hopes to lead difficult election sweep


During the past four years Mayor Richard Gerbounka, an independent, has complained about working with a hostile Democrat-controlled City Council.

Gerbounka is hoping to turn that tide in Tuesday’s election by winning re-election and sweeping one independent incumbent and three political newcomers in on his coat tails.

It won’t be easy.

Democratic Councilman Derek Armstead, who defeated council President Robert Bunk in the June Democratic mayoral primary, is battling Gerbounka for the mayor’s seat while also hoping to bring two Democratic incumbents and three newcomers with him.

Gerbounka and independent council president candidate John Miliano, the city’s former police chief for 22 years, are both seeking four-year terms. Also running with Gerbounka are City Council candidates Brian Krupski, 2nd Ward; Councilman Joe Harvanik, 3rd Ward; and Davin Russo, 5th Ward.

They will be challenged by Armstead, who is running with Democratic council president candidate James Moore. Also running on the Democratic line are Councilman Richard Koziol, 2nd Ward; Peter A. Brown Jr., 3rd Ward; Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling, 5th Ward; and Councilman Jack Sheehy, 7th Ward, who is unopposed.

Miliano said salaries are the biggest part of the city’s budget and that’s where cuts have to be made. An advocate for public safety, he said the fiscal pain has to be shared.

He said contracts may need to be reopened. If he were still on the force, Miliano said, he would prefer a salary cut to layoffs.

With businesses reluctant to invest, he said the city may have to foster deals between land owners and developers.

Moore, who recently retired, bought his two-bedroom ranch home 30 years ago and now pays $250 a week, or $12,000 a year, in taxes, which is higher than his mortgage.

He questions the council’s decision to build a new library and replace or renovate four firehouses at the same time when the projects could have been stretched out.

To stabilize taxes, Moore wants to review the city’s table of organization and seek assistance from the state Department of Community Affairs.

Koziol, who served on a city consolidation committee, recommended consolidating the recreation, public works and municipal garage, which all had similar functions, so that personnel could be cross-trained and services could be enhanced.

Koziol said every department is going to be affected. He said layoff plans should be structured so there is an incentive to consolidate and budgets have to be built from zero up, not based on what was spent the previous year.

Krupski said the city can’t spend money that it doesn’t have and he’d like to look at how city funds are spent. Krupski said he feels sorry for elderly residents on fixed incomes who can’t afford the increased property taxes.

He said people can’t afford to raise families in the city. He’s seen the taxes on his home increase from about $4,600 to $7,100 in just a few years.

Harvanik said Linden has too many employees. “We have to start cutting back,” said Harvanik, who supported the recent layoff of seven firefighters and elimination of five vacant firefighter positions. He said every department is being asked to reduce budgets by at least 10 percent.

The city may also have to consider charging for the disposal of appliances, he said.

Brown said the council should lead by example and take salary cuts. Council members get about $17,000 annually, with the council president getting about $19,000. They also get health benefits, which Brown said he wouldn’t take, adding that he also wouldn’t accept the $4,000 given to council members who don’t take health package.

He would like to see a cap on salaries, noting that many city employees make more than $100,000. He’s concerned about fire department promotions at a time when firefighters were being laid off. Employees should pay a share of health benefits, he said.

Cosby-Hurling has seen an increase in crime in her ward, especially daytime burglaries. She’d like to increase the police presence and expand the neighborhood watch program.

She also wants to review the city’s employee list because she believes it’s too top-heavy. She’d also like the state Civil Service Commission to look at some job descriptions.

Russo is concerned about how city employees spend their working hours. He said garbage truck start rolling at 6:30 a.m. and yet about a half-hour later he often sees workers at a deli, something he feels workers could have done before work or during their breaks. He said it doesn’t show gratitude when other workers are facing layoffs.

He thinks the city’s available industrial land might be redeveloped to reduce the tax burden and bring jobs.

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No increased retirement age.

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Social Security is strong for the long term and the national retirement system is not contributing to the deficit. People who say otherwise are not telling the truth.

As part of the Strengthen Social Security…Don’t Cut It coalition, Linden Democrats are opposing any plans for benefit cuts and pledging to fight moves for raising the retirement age.

  • Tell Congress: Hands off Social Security!
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  • Issues

    Derek Armstead — Democrat for Mayor — and James Moore — Democrat for Council President — have a plan for creating jobs plus non-tax city revenue, smart transit oriented development in downtown, illegal handgun & crime reduction strategy, streamlined government operations without losing Linden’s community connection.

    Turning polluted land into new industrial plants for manufacturing solar panels & electric cars would create good jobs plus generate a new non-tax source of revenue for the city. Working with global corporations that currently operate here, Linden can leverage financing to take the lead in clean technology manufacturing and market products that are dearly needed.

    Our train station is an asset that has been neglected, even as neighboring communities have used their rail depot as a foundation for redevelopment funded by private investors. We can no longer wait something to happen while unemployed homeowners face foreclosure. Armstead & Moore will take action to get development moving.

    Crime is always a serious concern, but easy access to deadly illegal handguns has helped to rapidly threaten quiet neighborhoods with tragic consequences. Street gangs are no longer a teen phemonenon, but a new and violent form of organized crime centered on drug trafficking. To respond to these twin dangers, Armstead & Moore will apply their unique abilities to making us safe.

    Linden has a uniquely localized form of government, with eleven council members, ten selected from small neighborhoods. A centrally-controlled dictatorship could be more efficient, but it would not be more democratic and might not actually work better. We do not need to change the form of government, we need to elect leaders who can exert leadership, build a consensus and get results.

    There are no easy answers, but Americans know we do not improve things by throwing away democracy or waiting for some future political success.

    Linden needs leadership now to develop creative solutions to urgent problems, such as high taxes, unemployment and crime. Derek Armstead, James Moore and their Democratic Team are the change Linden needs.

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