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Top 10 Parsippany Issues for 2013

These topics dominated 2012 and likely will be the major issues facing the town in the coming year.

Politics

Parsippany's Republican Party was rocked when voters sent a reminder that it isn't guaranteed an exclusive hold on every elected position in town. Democrat Jonathan Nelson's election to Town Council sparked anger and raised questions pertinent in 2013: Is GOP unity broken? Will the party be able to once again grab exclusve control of Town Hall? Are Democrats and Independents becoming an unignorable force? Republican Mayor James Barberio has already announced he will seek a second term at Town Hall. Will residents again give him their support? Or will fields, the "leniency letter," the Terry Bradshaw infomercial, a perceived lack of administrative transparency or other issues push voters to another choice? And what other choices are there? 

Police and Crime

The past year presented story after story about burglaries—from incidents involving parked cars and GPS robberies to residential burglaries to, by year's end, a group paying apparent homage to the notorious James Gang. At the same time, Police Chief Anthony DeZenzo insisted that his understaffed department was getting the job done and presented a series of Community Partnership Program events to show citizens all of the positive efforts of the PPD. But many residents weren't buying and railed against the department's focus on promotions at the expense of hiring more rank and file patrol officers to deal with day to day crime and investigations. We suspect police staffing levels—and how this effects crime prevention—will remain on the minds of many citizens in 2013.

Drugs

As 2012 progressed, we saw an increasing number of drug-related stories reporting arrests involving . We also heard stories Parsippany Police would not talk about—tales of drug overdoses affecting the township's youth and rumors of pill-popping high schoolers. Early December opened the doors of communication on the volatile issue, as the Municipal Alliance Committee brought together community leaders to speak candidly on the issue of drug abuse in Parsippany. The topic will remain an important one for the town to address in the new year.

Education

The last year was one filled with conflict for the Parsippany Board of Education. Controversy after controversy, from the athletic fields to teacher contracts to so-called 'secret' emails, made it clear that the board is split between two factions. It's true that most matters were decided unanimously or with near unanimity, but rarely without visible battles, power plays and grandstanding. New board member James Carifi joins the body at the January reorganization, and officers will be chosen. The board then has a huge first task: filling the vacancy left when . Will the school board go with November's fourth-place vote-getter, Alison Cogan? Will it look to Carifi's running mate, Anthony DeIntinis, despite his last-place finish? Or will it go for a former member? And will the eventual choice help usher a new peaceful era that allows members to focus on student performance and the achievement gap between Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools?

Fields of Dreams?

Will 2013 be the year when Parsippany high schoolers get their fields of dreams? A large part of 2012 was spent deliberating a plan put forward by Mayor James Barberio and the town's Recreation Advisory Committee. The mayor's idea was rejected by the Board of Education, which did not want to give up control of the high school athletic fields to the town. Now, the school board is working to hold a referendum to decide whether turf fields and some improvements—more than $7 million worth—can win approval from voters and give township youth fields that put pride in Parsippany.

Economic Development

Vacancy is the word: In terms of commercial vacancies in the township, the number of empty spaces is so high, no one in the administration will discuss the topic. The last year saw the announced departures of prime rateables Realogy and DRS Technologies. Mayor Barberio is working with the Morris County Economic Development Corporation to effect a turnaround. Will those efforts bring major corporations to Parsippany? Perhaps 2013 will tell.

Master Plan

In the coming year, the township will reexamine its master plan, the bueprint that defines the physical character of Parsippany-Troy Hills and how it will be permitted to grow residentially and commercially. Disputes over projects such as a a proposed Krishna temple on Baldwin Road and the plan to grabbed much attention in 2012. It's likely the debate will grow even sharper as Parsippany residents and leaders grapple with a tough question: How much growth is too much—and how much is needed to boost desperately needed economic growth in the township?

Infrastructure

In the past year and a half, Parsippany has weathered three major weather events. The township's , is examining its activities during 2012's Sandy to see where it succeeded and what can be improved if and when the next huge storm comes. In the meantime, town leaders must examine its communications strategies, continue with storm mitigation and preparation efforts and continue to assist still-displaced residents. All eyes are also on the town's new sewer treatment plant to see if new lower rates and rebates are forthcoming for homeowners and businesses.

Housing

Are township apartment renters less worthy than homeowners? That question arose in 2012 as tenants in garden apartments found themselves served with eviction notices—and some say, callous and cruel treatment from housing staff. Their crime, the residents said, was having babies, which put them in violation of the maximum occupancy ordinance. In 2013, leaders will have to consider whether having babies constitutes stacking and, if not, how to help growing families that live in apartments.The mayor will have to decide whether the Housing Division is fulfilling its duties fairly and humanely. And residents will have to decide whether they care about neighbors who live in apartments. 

Jobs

The ongoing economic turndown and the approaching fiscal cliff likely will keep the prospect of finding employment a serious one in Parsippany. Last year, the township saw the loss of major employers and the entrance of smaller ones such as Smashburger and C2 Education. In 2013, jobseeking residents will be on the lookout for new business and job opportunities. The Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce promises to continue its series of job fairs and workplace development seminars to bring together employers and potential employees.

Selene December 29, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Good overview Natalie. I am very dissappointed in the nonsense that prevailed politically in Parsippany, both in Town Hall and the Board of Ed. We really need a new mayor and a new group of council members. The cronyism needs to stop and the only way to do that is vote all incumbents OUT! Clean up time. I believe this philosophy would also work well on the state and national level......
Selene December 29, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Ideally 4 years should be enough to make your mark as an elected official, you are out....if only we could do this in the US Senate.
Mike January 01, 2013 at 04:35 PM
The police department isn't understaffed....it's overpromoted!!!!!
Kenneth Kaplan January 02, 2013 at 01:53 PM
It would be nice if the municipal government and school board could go an entire year without being sued on a personnel matter. Employees need to be treated with respect and understanding to forestall discontent, and when legitimate grievances do arise, they need to be handled effectively on an administrative level in order to avoid costly lawsuits.
clyde donovan January 02, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Exactly correct.
Sick of the trolls January 02, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Glad you approve, "clyde." After all, with your expert opinion on everything, we are now so much better informed. Just be careful, "clyde." Going against the police could land you in trouble. Oh, wait, that's not really your name.
Parsippany Taxpayer January 02, 2013 at 09:41 PM
I am with Selene and Mike -- time to vote the corrupt group of officials that we have out of office. The mayor is the most worthless and incompetent (not to mention out of touch with the voters) official I know. The Intervale rezoning smells of corruption at its finest. There should be the mindset of the officials that they work for the taxpayers -- but they are so out of touch with reality that they might all want to run for Congress as the whole lot of them are worthless that we have in office now.
John Browning January 11, 2013 at 01:36 PM
Parsippany's Republican Party is going to have more troubles. Barberio's continued support of Bloomberg's MAIG organization has already cause several residents to say they will not vote for him regardless of the opponent. If he wants to associate with Bloomberg and Menino he will be judged by the company he keeps and be a typical NJ RINO.

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