PARSIPPANY – Jack Ciattarelli’s “town hall” in this battleground town had just begun this morning when a 58-year-old woman named Jill got right to the point.
She said she’s heard politicians all her life say they would reduce taxes, but nothing ever happens.
How is Ciattarelli going to be different?
The Republican candidate at first joked about them running together. Yep, Jack and Jill would make a good sounding team.
But this is not really a joking matter.
Ciattarelli mentioned his plan to revise the school funding formula. This would redirect state aid from such locales as Hoboken and JerseyCity, which have boomed economically in recent years, to middle class suburban towns like Parsippany.
More state school aid theoretically would reduce how much school districts would need to raise in property taxes.
Still, this is very much a reshifting of school aid; nothing is being cut. And, of course, property taxes could rise in places that get less aid.
The candidate’s second point was more to the point.
Mentioning how the state has 565 distinct municipalities – 70 in Bergen County alone – Ciattarelli logically observed that this leads to “a lot of duplication.”
He’s not breaking any new ground here.
At the same time, Ciattarelli said fixing the problem is up to town officials. In other words, any attempt to merge services or even towns and school districts has to come from local officials themselves.
“I’m not going to force it,” he said.
A cynic would note that this has been the mindset of many other governors, which, naturally enough, is why nothing changes.
The town hall moved on.
More than 200 were jammed into a township rescue squad building to hear Ciattarelli, a nice turnout for a Sunday morning. Just about all were supportive. One guy, apparently on the fence, sported a T-shirt reading “Democrats suck.”
The crowd cheered when the candidate gave his stump speech about revitalizing businesses, lowering taxes and opposing “woke” culture, which he said was symbolized right in Morris County when the Randolph school board stripped Columbus Day from the school calendar. It was eventually reinstated.
But all was not hugs and kisses.
One woman complained about student vaccine mandates at such state colleges as William Paterson. Her general views on the Covid vaccine were obvious when she referred to it as the “death dart.”
Governors have no direct control over day to day doings at colleges. Ciattarelli opposes mandates, although he does urge people to be vaccinated.
His bottom line was that as governor, he would use all the influence he has to oppose the mandate. Ciattarelli acknowledged that his answer probably didn’t make the woman completely satisfied.
More broadly, all know that the election is now less than a month away.
Public polls have Phil Murphy leading by at least 9 points. More partisan polls have the race much closer.
Ciattarelli is ahead in no polls, but he is undaunted.
Recalling how Tom Kean and Christie Whitman won their initial races after being behind, Ciattarelli observed, “We are right where we want to be.”