The Great Big Debate in Bergen: Tedesco Versus Caliguire

Bergen County with more than 900,000 people is larger population wise than some states.  Statistical trivia, perhaps, but it does make the race for county executive a bit more interesting.

After all, the head man gets to preside over a region that has more people than, among a few others, Wyoming and North Dakota.  Those are the facts, although you probably never confused Route 17 with the Grand Tetons.

Not all that many years ago, Bergen was solidly Republican. No more.

Democrats control all aspects of county government, but that achievement is being tested this fall.

Republican Todd Caliguire is challenging Democrat James Tedesco, who has been county executive for eight years. Caliguire is a known figure in Bergen County Republican politics, but not for the right reasons. He did serve as a freeholder, but his record also shows losses for various offices, including an unsuccessful try for the party’s gubernatorial nod in 2005.

During a LWV-sponsored debate a few days ago, Caliguire used his opening statement to raise an argument Republicans have been making all over the country. Crime is rising and school children are being “indoctrinated” with inappropriate lessons on sex and gender.

His point was understandable.

However, county government has virtually nothing to do with local public schools. Tedesco eventually pointed out that curriculum decisions are largely the province of school boards in the county’s many, many municipalities.

As for crime, Caliguire pledged to do what he could to stop the county prosecutor from releasing dangerous criminals soon after their arrest. This gets into bail reform, which is really far too complicated to be discussed in 60-second fragments.

Bail reform in New Jersey, which took place in 2017, was a bipartisan endeavor involving Republican Gov. Chris Christie and legislative Democrats. One must acknowledge that crime began increasing during – and after – the 2020 pandemic. That was at least three years after bail laws were reformed.

Tedesco, for his part, said nothing about crime other than a need for people to feel safe.

Caliguire, as all challengers are wont to do, hit Tedesco over “political cronyism” and rising costs.

Watch politics for a while and you learn that there’s always “cronyism,”  It’s bad when the other party does it, but OK when your party does it.

Money, though, is another matter.

Tedesco said the county’s tax rate is the second lowest in the state and that over the last six years, taxes have increased only three times.

Caliguire pointed out that no tax increase this year, an election year, was merely a longstanding political move. He said that under Tedesco’s watch, the total amount of property taxes to support county government has risen by about $70 million.

The challenger also sought to score points by highlighting how long it takes the county to fix the roads. Reaching back into history, Caliguire said it’s taking longer to correct a Route 17 bottleneck than it did for the U.S. to put a man on the moon.

A philosophical disagreement was over the environment.

Asked about coping with climate change, Caliguire said whatever the county does should not cost taxpayers.

Tedesco talked about what the county is doing – moving to clean energy, efficient lighting and expanding the number of electric car charging stations. He criticized his opponent for not taking the problem seriously.

Not true, Caliguire retorted. He said his point was that he doesn’t want to increase costs.

Tedesco said in his opening statement that he had “restored civility” to county government.

Hard to know what he really meant by that, but while there was occasional sparring, the debate was mostly polite.

Perhaps that was civility.

(Visited 2,108 times, 1 visits today)

One response to “The Great Big Debate in Bergen: Tedesco Versus Caliguire”

  1. Someone needs to ask Saint Tedesco about turning One Bergen County Plaza into his own personal office building even though it is a PUBLIC COUNTY building! He has allowed all the employee’s to take over the entire “VISITORS” parking lot! Key word being VISITORS! Every single handicapped parking space (which was increased to over 30 parking spots) is used by the employee’s instead! Simply because they don’t want to fight the traffic in the parking garage at the end of the day! Talk about arrogance! When you complain to his office he informs you they are “entitled” to those parking spots! If however they were even minutely disabled as they claim to be they certainly wouldn’t be working full time for decades. It is the exact same cars in the spots every single day and I can assure you each and every single employee has no problem WALKING! Those of us who’re truly handicapped are now forced to park on the 4th floor of the parking garage and walk down and THEN across into the building! Not only has he taken over the visitors parking lot he’s also reserved all the indoor parking spaces in the garage albeit the top floor! The man is the embodiment of malfeasance and cronyism and needs to be voted OUT OF OFFICE!! Never before was anyone allowed to park in the visitors parking lot for more than two hours! It is criminal that those of us who are truly handicapped cannot park anywhere! The man is a disgrace and has no regard for anyone other than himself!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News From Around the Web

The Political Landscape