CRANFORD, N.J. — The Township Committee’s Jan. 2 reorganization meeting attracted a host of political luminaries to start off the election year, led by Gov. Phil Murphy, Rep. Tom Malinowski and the man running to replace him, New Jersey Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr.
Also present were Assembly Minority Whip Nancy Munoz and Union County Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski.
Murphy was on hand to swear in Patrick Giblin for his second term as mayor and newly elected Kathleen Miller Prunty as deputy mayor.
Mary O’Connor, the only Republican on the five-member council, was sworn in as commissioner of public affairs by Munoz.
The benches on both sides of the room were filled to capacity for the swearing-in of the new committee, which saw Prunty take the seat vacated by Ann Dooley, who did not seek re-election. This was the only change on the committee. Prunty and O’Connor, who retained her seat, defeated Democrat Brian Andrews and Republican Philip Siliato in November.
Kean took his time to address issues that affect several towns in the area, but particularly Cranford.
“We’ve done so much together on issues of affordability, but we have to continue to work together on issues like the one-seat ride that is so important to everybody along the Raritan Valley Line,” Kean said referring to the NJ Transit spur line and its direct travel into Manhattan.
“We’ve got to work on issues like making sure that the cell tower is stopped. And we need to make sure that we continue to work on issues related to flood control and all those other issues they impact our homes and our families. It’s an honor to engage in this fight with everyone here tonight, and I wish you the very best on a healthy New Year.”
Local officials learned in October that the latest plan to mitigate flooding along the Rahway River had been recommended for discontinuation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Kean’s mention of a cell tower referred to Union County College’s application before the Cranford zoning board to allow Verizon to construct a 140-foot pole on the western side of the campus, a project opposed by many neighbors in the area.
Malinowski, too, highlighted the one-seat ride issue, which some have said would usher in a boon for towns such as Cranford, which sits on the Raritan Valley Line but is a stop that necessitates changing trains in Newark to get in and out of New York City.
“There are also issues and challenges that we have worked on together. State Sen. Kean mentioned some of them: the issue with the power lines, the problem with flooding that we have been working very, very hard with the mayor on in the last year. And of course, the issue of one-seat ride.
“Governor, you knew you could not come to Cranford and not hear those three words.”
Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi noted the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which extended the right to vote to women.
“I mentioned to our two newly elected women that I’m always pleased to see women gain election and reelection,” she said. “2020, as you may know, is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women the vote. So, we still are not equal in terms of representation, but we move closer with every election.”
Murphy addressed both Malinowski’s and Kean’s remarks about NJ Transit, which has been suffering from an avalanche of public scorn over its reliability.
“By the way, we will fix NJ Transit if it kills me, and it might,” Murphy said. “This is not a time for politics; this is a time to celebrate service and delivering for our constituents, regardless of which side of the aisle.
“You folks set the bar. You check your egos and you check your partisan passion at the door. You come in and you serve the residents of this extraordinary community. … We are here to serve. We can always agree, at the end of the day, this is a room full — this is a state full — of folks who are in this for the right reasons and delivering everything they can to their constituents.”