By frank Capece
Marc Krauss, a Republican Committeeman running for re-election in Springfield, knows, better than most, the axiom “all politics are local.” Campaigning last Sunday on Evergreen Avenue in his township, he faced the normal pleas over high taxes, an occasional reference to the township’s long-stagnant downtown, and some personal gripes.
Krauss approaches the task for re-election with the precision expected of a longtime military man, something that helps define his life.
At almost every door, his mantra was to remind, or usually inform, residents of the million-dollar-plus savings gained by shopping the township’s health plan. He was careful to detail the relatively small portion of residents’ tax bill that is actually the local township’s responsibility. He also reminded residents of the big jump in the school district’s ratings, according to New Jersey Monthly.
Krauss listened politely to a critic of the local police, and responded with details of the personnel changes in a department that has been in a state of controversy for years.
Another resident spoke positively about a plan to cut down on the recycling days in an effort to save money.
When the county government was the target of criticism for wasteful spending, Krauss readily agreed, but repeated, far too often, that party politics don’t play a major role at the local level.
“The truth is that, without crossover Democratic votes, we wouldn’t be victorious,” he said.
He acknowledged the frequent, positive references to his running mate, Jerry Fernandez.
At each door Krauss was patient. There was not the usual candidate’s rush to cover a lot of ground. When a neighbor pitched for a wheelchair ramp, he pulled out his camera phone, promising to raise the issue on Monday.
A retired Army colonel who now works on procurement issues, Krauss laughed easily when asked how aSpringfieldresident can be a graduate of theUniversityofNebraska.
“I gained my degree while in the military,” he said.
That military experience also included a stint in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Krauss was poised and ready for that most common of gripes: taxes. It was not a hostile audience, but there were concerns.
“The simple truth is that my taxes have continued to rise while my house value has declined,” said one resident.
Krauss’ response included a description of the complexity of public contracts, and the state-mandated, 2-percent cap. This was generally received with nods of understanding.
Krauss enjoyed meeting with one family who immediately recognized him from the sports in which both their children participate.
Another witty neighbor opened his door and, without missing a beat, said, “OK, what are you gonna do for me?”
When the lack of improvement in the Springfield’s weak downtown is raised, Krauss spoke about new revitalization efforts, including a financial stake by business owners.
One resident asked, “I don’t expect Springfield to be either Millburn or Westfield, but could we at least try to compete with Kenilworth?”
Only one resident asked whether there will be any debates. Actually, there will be two debates between the four candidates for the two seats. In their handout, the Republicans list “downtown redevelopment and revitalization” as their No. 1 issue.
In a neighborhood with a mix of older houses — from when Springfield was a farm town — and newer houses, manicured lawns are the common feature. While houses aren’t luxurious, late-model imports are parked in many driveways. Garages serve as storage facilities rather than places to put cars.
When Krauss stops to take a water break, he reflects, “You know I really enjoy the public service and the give and take with the people.” This is pretty obvious.