UNION COUNTY — Republican Freeholder candidate Ira Geiger believes that his career as a special education teacher will be an asset if he is elected on Nov. 5.
The 34-year-old lifelong Union resident has quietly campaigned in all 21 towns in the county, going door-to-door to hear what residents of each municipality have to say and he came away far wiser for the experience.
“Most people complained that taxes are too high,” he said, but he also suggested there was an easy solution to that problem.
“Its easy: Get rid of both the Union County Improvement Authority and the Union County Utilities Authority, merge the Sheriff and county police and we will save literally millions and millions,” the candidate said. Geiger said during his campaign travels that residents said there was no need for all the departments the county has now and things needed streamlining. However, the freeholder candidate said in his experience the same people who complain will end up voting the Democrat incumbents back in again.
“I was shocked how many people I spoke with were Democrats complaining,” he said, adding that the “one party” rule seemed to be a point of contention with many voters.
As a special education teacher, Geiger said he brings a special understanding to the freeholder table.
“In special education we have something called the Token Rule Economy. This is a psychological tool for rewarding difficult students for good behavior. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t,” said Geiger, adding he strongly believed he can bring everyone in Union County to the table in a fair-minded, responsible manner to make the county successful in meeting resident’s needs.
Geiger also feels strongly about serving as a liaison between the 21 municipalities, all of which have “disparate interest.”
“Union County has a diverse population with equally challenging needs requiring a sense of balance, fairness and diplomacy,” he added. Noting that his education, which includes a Master’s Degree in Special Education, has uniquely prepared him for the task of communicating and interacting with these various communities on a personal, yet professional level.
“Being a freeholder, just like teaching special needs students requires making tough decisions,” Geiger said, adding that he is prepared to make those decisions to benefit residents of the county.
“We cannot continue to spend and borrow money we do not have. It is just plain common sense that we have to live within our means,” Geiger said, but pointed out that the taxpayers of the county have been subject to 15 years of “continuous tax increases.”
Geiger explained that “reckless spending” at the county level led to both decreased services and increased taxes.
“In other words, we have the worst of both worlds. Years of wasteful spending on rock concerts, excess litigation and massive building projects have brought us to where we are now,” the Republican candidate said, adding “those resources could have been applied to Runnells Specialized Hospital to offset the reductions in Medicare and Medicaid and the irresponsible fiscal management of the hospital.”
Geiger also feels all residents of the county should have a direct representative on the freeholder board, which would require the county being divided into wards.
“Currently 11 out of the 21 municipalities comprising 72 percent of the population had wards for direct representation,” he explained, noting that ironically, incumbent freeholder candidates Linda Carter and Granados live in wards where they vote for direct representation at the local level in Plainfield and Elizabeth.
The candidate said residents in many towns pay virtually the same or greater taxes to Union County as they do to their own municipality.
“Residents have complained they have no voice in how their tax dollars are spent. They feel they do not receive value for the money they send to the county,” Geiger said, adding that if they had a directly elected freeholder, instead of at-large representation, that person would ensure they have that voice.
Geiger also questioned a system that has “led to an acrimonious relationship” between the governing body and residents.
“I believe that public records should be made available to the public,” he said, and that people should not have to “sue to get those records.”
Finally Geiger took a stand on the fact former freeholder Dan Sullivan was appointed to serve as the head of two county organizations, the UCIA and UCUA.
“Does it make sense in these economic times when so many talented individuals are available to bypass any hiring process and give the job to a political insider? I don’t believe that is the correct course of action. I would have opened the job up to the large talent pool that resides in Union County,” the freeholder candidate said, mentioning the recent guilty plea in federal court by former county division head of facilities management employee Neil Palmeri “and the whitewash investigation of missing generators during hurricane Sandy.”
Geiger said that because Union County ranks in the top 10 in the nation for property taxes levied and is among one of the most highly taxed in the entire Unite States, they deserve superior representation. “I pledge to provide responsible, effective, open and honest representation to all residents of Union County,” the candidate said.