Response to Candidate Questionnaire by Vic DeLuca
Response by Candidate for Maplewood Township Committee:
to South Mountain Peace Action Candidate Questionnaire
Question #1 Over the past two years, federal spending on the war and occupation of Iraq has cost South Orange and Maplewood taxpayers an estimated $62.5 million. The cost to South Orange has been about $27.6 million, the cost to Maplewood, about $34.9 million. Given local tax burdens and shortfalls in state and federal assistance, should a Trustee or Township Committee member address this issue with constituents and with our Congressional delegation and President? How would you do this?
REPLY BY VIC DELUCA:
For the past 35 years, I have been a peace and social justice activist, working against the escalation of the military budget at the expense of human needs. I have marched, rallied, petitioned, lobbied elected officials and written letters in opposition to wars and what I believe to be the wrong spending priorities of the federal government. The government’s emphasis on the military deprives our community with needed financial resources.
Yes, as a member of the Township Committee I would and should address issues of war and the military budget because it affects each and every Maplewood resident. That is why in February 2003 while Mayor, I introduced and voted for the resolution put forth by South Mountain Peace Action urging the President and Congress to refrain from war and to allow the UN to continue inspections for weapons of mass destruction. The resolution passed 3 to 2 with Mr. Profeta and Mr. Grodman voting against it. At that time, I believe it was wrong to go to war in Iraq and we now know how the President used false information and intelligence to make his case. I wish more towns across the country had joined Maplewood in this call.
The top issue I hear from voters is high property taxes. I believe that a shift in the spending priorities of the federal government from the war and the military budget would help reduce property taxes. Our local school taxes would go down if our district received full funding for the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. On the Township side, more federal funding could enhance our library, health, police and fire services. A federally funded program to move us toward alternative energy sources would not only reduce government costs but improve environmental conditions.
I propose that each year the Township report to the citizens through the quarterly newsletter and the municipal web site the amount of funding the federal government provides for federally mandated programs and the actual cost to Maplewood residents. In this report, I also want to list services and programs that could be expanded or initiated if more federal dollars were provided to our community. I would focus on the alternative budget proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus, which represents good examples of the benefits from a “Peace Dividend.” My hope is that by educating the citizenry about the choices our federal officials are making, we will generate support for changes in national spending priorities.
I am prepared to participate as an elected official in discussions with our Congressional delegation on these issues and would be willing to communicate my position with the President. Additionally, I will continue to work with South Mountain Peace Action on issues of war and peace in an effort to educate and mobilize our community.
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Question #2 In this era of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act, do you think a Trustee or Township Committee member has a responsibility to protect First Amendment and privacy rights of our residents, as well as to assure a safe and secure environment? How would you do this?
REPLY BY VIC DELUCA:
As an elected official, I swear to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the State of New Jersey. Yes, protecting the First Amendment and the right to privacy is a key part of my responsibility. The current debate around the renewal of the Act should be a clarion call to all. The Bush administration is proposing to give the FBI new authority to demand records and monitor mailings without approval from a judge. In my role as a local official, I would weigh in against proposals like this, alerting residents to this proposal and communicating with our federal representatives. I also am willing to introduce resolutions to the Township Committee opposing measures that erode our fundamental rights as citizens.
I believe a key part of our job on the Township Committee is to create a safe and secure environment for all our residents. I have worked to raise funds for new equipment and supplies for both the police and fire departments. I believe we can achieve that our security goals without having to sacrifice our rights.
I will ask the Chief of Police to regularly brief the Township Committee on procedures the department is using to comply with Homeland Security directives and/or Patriot Act regulations. This report would help inform the Committee as to potential polices we need to put in place to strengthen civil liberties and/or resolutions we want to adopt to express our views. In addition, I will ask the Library Board to provide annual reports to the Township Committee on how the Patriot Act, actually or potentially, impact library services and the privacy rights of library patrons.
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Question #3 How do you see your role as a Trustee or Township Committee member with regard to activities in the community which seek peaceful alternatives to war, such as those organized by South Mountain Peace Action?
REPLY BY VIC DELUCA:
I have worked with New Jersey Peace Action since the days it was SANE. In the 1970s and 80s, Dorothy Eldridge and I organized peace and justice activities in Newark and Essex County. I have attended NJ and South Mountain Peace Action events such as dinners, picnics, vigils and assemblies. In February of 2003 while Mayor, I joined scores of SMPA members in New York City in the march against the Iraq war. Most recently I was on the committee for Be About Peace Day and participated in the afternoon and evening events. I am proud to have a Be About Peace Sign on my front lawn.
I will continue to be active with SMPA to advance issues of peace and justice in our community. I believe that we need to constantly educate our community, particularly young people, about alternatives to war and conflict. This education should not only deal with issues of global importance but also deal with local conflicts due to race, class and gender. I do not think you can discuss issues of peace and justice too much.
As a member of the Township Committee, I will join with SMPA to look for opportunities to educate and motivate our residents. I will make sure that SMPA has access to Township facilities for its programs. I also am willing to sponsor town meetings, with SMPA, to engage the community in issue based discussions.
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Question #4 Please discuss any additional ways that you believe the issues of war, military spending and national security impact our communities, and how you believe a Trustee or Township Committee member should address them.
REPLY BY VIC DELUCA:
Issues of peace and justice are not just add-ons to my life, they are the principles by which I live and work each day and those that I followed while on the Township Committee from 1998 through 2003. I believe we need to organize citizens across the country and take back America from the radical right and big business interests.
My job as Township Committee person is to run the town, deal with the local issues and help to keep the quality of life for all as best it can be. I was proud in 2002 when Money Magazine selected Maplewood as “One of the Best Places to Live in America.” The reality though is we are not an island and events around the country and throughout the world do affect us locally. These events impact on our taxes and also our families and friends who are affected by the war and the lack of services because of the misplaced priorities of the federal government.
I will be open and accessible to work with Maplewood citizens to re-set the direction of our country. I want to engage in education, dialogue and debate about what is best for the future and how we can all work toward a common goal. I intend to be an active and informed Township Committee member, working on these critical issues in partnership with SMPA and others in our community.