By Ricardo Kaulessar
Who will be the next Bayonne Mayor will be decided by a runoff between incumbent Mark Smith and challenger James Davis on June 10.
Smith, who has been mayor since November 2008, is running for a second four-year term. Before becoming mayor, Smith served In the Bayonne Police Department for 25 years where he rose through the ranks to deputy chief. He is married and has two daughters.
Davis has been on the police force for over 25 years, currently holding the title of captain. His work has included leading a task force from 2007 to 2008 that made a number of arrests while dismantling a burglary and motor vehicle theft ring, and later helping to shut down cocaine distribution network operating partly out of Bayonne. He is married and is the father of three sons.
The River View Observer posed questions to both candidates about dealing with a prolonged campaign season in the Peninsula City, strategies the city’s highest office, and their respective plans for governing their hometown if one of them prevails.
Why do you think you ended up in a runoff with your opponent rather than had won the election outright?
Smith: We always knew this was going to be a challenging race. While we won the popular vote, there’s still some lingering effects from the national recession. People are still struggling. The outcome may have reflected a bit of that. We heard their concerns. Some people are still restless and we need to communicate our plan with them. We’re going to show them that our team has the plan and the ability to continue revitalizing or community.
Davis: When you combat a war chest of $1 million collectively and numerous outside entities attacking from different flanks, I feel making it into the runoff was our first win. I am proud of what our team has accomplished and know our drive will pull us all over the finish line in the end.
What is one advantage that you believe you have over your opponent that will enable you to prevail in the runoff?
Smith: Well to begin with, we have a plan that’s working to bring Bayonne back. The facts support that. We’re going to better communicate the successes we have had and the fact that all the work we have done getting our finances in order are starting to bear fruit. We’ve delivered a zero tax increase this year, property values are up for the first time in nine years, and our bond rating has improved. We have a great story to tell and we’re prepared to get our message out.
Davis: Our team’s honesty and integrity has shined since the first day we announced that we will run for office. We never instilled fear into the citizens of Bayonne like our opponent has. We delivered our message that unity in the City of the Bayonne will prevail.
Do you think you will be able to maintain enough of a cordial relationship with your opponent after the election that you will consult him on any issues if you become mayor?
Smith: I’ve known Jimmy Davis for decades. I’m certainly willing to work with him and anyone else at any time to make our community better.
Davis: After we win, I am sure we will be able to converse civilly and do what is best for the City of Bayonne.
If you win, what will be the first issue(s) you will tackle within the first year of the new term?
Smith: I think we will continue to work our plan to encourage new development on Broadway, the Peninsula and elsewhere in town. Our focus has been on getting Bayonne’s finances under control, controlling municipal expenses and developing more ratables so we can broaden our tax base to provide property tax relief for our citizens. We need to find a way to resolve the teachers’ contract impasse in a way that’s fair to both the teacher and the taxpayer.
Davis: The first issue we will tackle is to review all land sales associated with the Military Ocean Terminal and the revitalization of Broadway.
What is the one major goal that you want to accomplish in the next four years as mayor?
Smith:I grew up in this town. I had a wonderful childhood here. I had the best job in the world working as a policeman. I met my wife and ow we’re raising out daughters here. I want for them, what we had growing up. I want a great community for all of our children. I’m working hard to bring Bayonne back.
In everything that we do, I’ve always had one eye on property taxes. By working to bring city finances under control, limit the growth of city spending and increasing our ratable base, we will finally see property taxes stabilize remain under control. I want to continue to build a great community while taking less money out of homeowners’ and renters’ pockets.
Davis: One major goal is to unify Bayonne and bring back the feeling we had growing up in this great city, to insure quality services to all our residents, and to develop community centers for our senior citizens and our youth.
The River View Observer would like to thank Mayor Mark Smith and Jimmy Davis for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer our five questions.