Madison Democrats cite their values at ‘summer social’

Showing solidarity at a July 19 backyard “summer social” in Madison are Democratic candidates for office; seated in front, from left, are Madison Planning Board member Rachel Ehrlich, a candidate for the Borough Council; Councilwoman Maureen Byrne, seeking a second term, and Morris County Freeholder candidate Cara Parmigiani, and standing behind them are Michael Thompson, left, candidate for Morris County Surrogate, and Mayor Robert Conley, running for a third term.

Read the article on the Madison Eagle website.

MADISON – Last year it was the rain. This year it was the heat and humidity.

But just as the rains didn’t dampen spirits in 2018, the heat didn’t stop supporters of Madison Mayor Robert Conley, running for re-election, and Councilwoman Maureen Byrne and Madison Planning Board member Rachel Ehrlich, candidates for the Borough Council, from turning out in force for a July 19 backyard “summer social” held at Byrne’s Albright Circle home. Also lending their support for the Madison candidates were Democratic candidates Michael Thompson for Morris County Surrogate and Cara Parmigiani for Morris County Freeholder.

The mayor’s office, for a four-year term, and two seats on the Borough Council, both for three-year terms, are on Madison’s election ballot in November. Mayor Conley, of Brittin Street, is being challenged by former Republican Councilman Robert Catalanello of Woodland Road. For the Borough Council, incumbent Councilwoman Byrne, of Albright Circle, and Ehrlich, of Kings Road, will face off in the fall with the Republican ticket of incumbent Councilman Patrick Rowe of of Pine Avenue and Kathy Dailey of West End Avenue.

‘Every Voice’

After thanking everyone for venturing out on a very warm evening July 19, Mayor Conley thanked Ann and Herm Huber for chairing the event and for the Byrnes for being “such gracious hosts.”

The mayor then noted that “it is most appropriate that we held this year’s event on Albright Circle, which was named for Madison’s first mayor, James P. Albright. If I am reelected this year, I will become the first Madison mayor since Mayor Albright to serve the community for more than eight years.” Conley, who previously served for three terms on the Borough Council, was elected to his first four-year term as mayor in November 2011 and re-elected in November 2015.

Conley then explained why he believes he has been successful as mayor and why there have been so many bipartisan 6-0 votes on the council.

“Unlike my present opponent, I believe that the role of a mayor is one of a facilitator and not as an instigator,” the incumbent observed. “The council is the governing body, and it is my job to ensure that every voice is heard in the council chambers and that everyone’s concerns are considered before a decision is made.

“Everywhere I go in the state, I am told that Madison is a model of a well-run municipality,” Conley said. “Representatives of other towns say that they are envious as to how we have brought our fiscal house in order; that we have such an excellent administration; and that we have a great spirit of volunteerism in the community. We certainly have a lot to be proud of.”

‘Social Equity’

In her remarks, Rachel Ehrlich introduced herself by stating, “Many of you know that my family and I are relative newcomers to Madison. In this campaign, I hope to connect with young, busy families like ours, who may have sat out local elections up until now, but are ready to use their voice and get involved.

“You probably know less about my career as an architect and the professional experience that has driven me to step forward and run for office,” Ehrlich told the gathering.

“My specialty is the design and construction of affordable housing — high-quality, energy-efficient, and gracious homes for low- and middle-income families, for our workforce, for seniors, and special-needs populations.

“In my 15 years of experience,” Ehrlich said, “I’ve drawn from my passion for service and my focus on the environment — both the built environment and the natural environment. My work has combined two goals: building the social equity and value that we create by reinvesting in our communities, and pushing the potential of building design and science to help lower energy costs and shift to a new, sustainable model for the economy and the environment.

“Here in Madison,” Ehrlich said, “we have the opportunity to build on our successes in affordable housing and environmental stewardship. We also have an obligation to plan for a future that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

“As a councilwoman, I will focus on street safety, prudent infrastructure investments, and the preservation of the residential scale and character of our neighborhoods. I look forward to continuing conversations in Madison about climate change and how we can take meaningful collective action to face this threat to our security.”

‘Make A Difference’

In her comments, Councilwoman Byrne stated that “Madison is a diverse community. Bob has spent most of his life here while Rachel is new to Madison, but she is also someone who immediately got involved in the community and currently serves as a valuable member of our Planning Board.

“I grew up in Jersey City but have lived in Madison for 25 years,” Byrne noted. “When I first ran for the Borough Council in 2014, my father, who was active in Hudson County politics, asked me why I was running: ‘How much do they pay you?’ ‘Do you get a car?’ ‘Do you get an assistant?’ After getting answers of ‘Nothing,’ ‘No,’ and ‘No,’ he then asked me again, ‘So why are you running?’

“I responded, ‘Because serving on the council would give me the opportunity to contribute even more than I do now to the community. I believe that I can make a difference.’ And I believe that I have,” Byrne said.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my first term on the Borough Council. We have a great council and a great administration. We plan effectively for our future. Before Bob was elected mayor, the council didn’t do a very good job of planning, and we have been playing catch-up ever since. But we are in great shape now. We are investing in our infrastructure, services have been increased, and this year there was a zero percent increase in our municipal tax rate. And we increased the electric utility dividend,” Byrne pointed out.

The dividends on electric bills are possible because Madison is one of only nine municipalities in New Jersey that operate their own electric utilities; the others are Butler, Lavallette, Milltown, Park Ridge, Pemberton, Seaside Heights, South River and Vineland.

When the electric utility revenues generate sufficient “free balance,” or surplus, in its accounts, Madison officials convert the dollar amount into a percent kilowatt hour credit for a performance adjustment that is returned to ratepayers in their electric utility bills.

“We want this kind of quality municipal government to continue,” Byrne said, “so please help to give Bob another four years as mayor and me three more on the council. And please also help us to elect Rachel Ehrlich to a first term on the council. I am very excited to have her running and hope that she is elected to join us on the council, where she can bring her knowledge, great ideas, and energy to help make Madison an even better place to live in the coming years.”