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Candidate Gwenn Hauck: This Election is About More Than Valley

Council hopeful wants to restore a lost "healthy dialogue" to the village; speaks on the hospital expansion, level of taxation, downtown vitality, the need for municipal services, Graydon, pedestrian safety and housing developments

Gwenn Hauck hopes she's not identified specifically as "the Valley candidate" when voters head to the polls in Ridgewood on May 5. The blond, blue-eyed mother of three contends there are many other pressing issues weighing the minds of voters, and she believes she's the candidate that can be their voice.

"I understand the heart beat, pulse and character of Ridgewood," Hauck, a third-generation Ridgewood-ite of Habernickel ilk, said in an interview last week at her Colonial West Side home. "I know where it's been, what would be the right way to go and I've been in touch with multi-generations of people – interfacing with residents from all walks of life."

A housewife since 1987 with extensive experience as a volunteer at the schools, civic organizations like the Girl Scouts, St. Elizabeth's Church, the library and Valley Hospital, Hauck said she has considered a run before, but with children still at home the time commitment would have been dicey. Now, with the kids are gone, the former Wall Street finance worker is up for the challenge.

"I want to restore the healthy dialogue we used to have in the village. It is all about communication. There needs to be a comfort level that welcomes varying opinions about what Ridgewood needs," she said. "Of course there are some issues we will face that are almost impossible to agree on but everyone should know that they don't have to be afraid to have their own opinion. That is one of the things I bring to the table. I will foster a more open dialogue; I believe morale has suffered because of the bitterness surrounding debates in Ridgewood."

Speaking of her own qualities, she feels would make her a good representative of the village citizens, saying: "I'm good with a diverse community of people; I've facilitated big projects and built conversations. I seem to have the ability to diffuse difficult topics and find compromises," she added, stating such a characteristic doesn't impugn her from speaking her mind.

Former village council member Jacques Harlow is Hauck's campaign manager. During the interview, Hauck stressed that Harlow's role was merely to advise on "how to run," exclaiming her views and platform are "entirely" her own.

The life-long resident joked she wouldn't be using lava lamps as a campaign symbol, referring to an issue a cousin had with the mayor over the demolition of the Habernickel Horse Farm.

"I actually support what they're doing at the house," she said. "I'm excited for another community center!"

The issues

Valley Hospital expansion

Which side actually has the numbers may prove the ultimate council makeup in July, though Hauck, like candidate Albert Pucciarelli, says she'd be disappointed if the election were a referendum on the hospital's expansion aims.

Hauck is an unabashed supporter of the hospital (and former VP of the Valley Hospital Auxillary), but rebuffs claims bandied around on local blogs and on lips at dinner parties that she's running a campaign for the benefit of the hospital.

"I'm not a Valley plant," she laughed, dismissing speculation. "No one should be a plant for anything. I think it's an asset and I don't want to lose it. I worry about the hospital like I do anything else. Valley is not the reason I'm running."

Hauck stands by remarks she's made over the years that the hospital's plant is antiquated and single patient rooms are desired, telling Patch she doesn't believe Valley's aims were driven by investors or an interest in boosting outpatient care.

"I thought it was the best thing that could have happened that the second plan was not approved," she said. "That was CRR's plan, that was the plan that they wanted because they picked Phase 6 [The 'Renewal'], not Phase 1. They didn't like Phase 1 – they wanted building setbacks farther in, they wanted the underground parking. We had a vote and the compromise was Phase 6 and then Phase 6 was rejected by the village council because it disturbed the community and the water table. And I agree with that – I didn't like Phase 6."

Speaking before the council during the "H-Zone" hearings to determine the fate of 'Renewal', Hauck said on Sept. 19: "Also, I trust Audrey Meyers, Megan Fraser, all the doctors and volunteers I work with and all the spokespersons of the hospital when they tell me that the hospital will have better services and healthier surroundings if they modernize and expand the way they've laid out because they're the health experts...and I believe them."

While it may seem unlikely a perfect solution will ever emerge, Hauck stressed a "healthy" and "reasonable" dialogue must emerge for any meaningful change to happen.

Taxes/services

Few would argue taxes in Ridgewood aren't high – Hauck certainly won't. "The taxes in Ridgewood have always been high and uncomfortable but they are definitely pushing the limit and I don't think they can go any higher right now," she said.

That said, according to Hauck, people still move to Ridgewood because of the services they receive. Other municipalities are cutting services – which the village has done in recent years, though it compares favorably to neighboring communities in its offerings – but Hauck says those "premier services" remain a draw and should be maintained.

"We don't have a choice, we can't cut the services," she said. "It's part of what we've always offered our citizens. We have to figure out how to make it work."

The candidate did say, however, that storm communication was woeful and residents deserve answers.

"If Village Hall could communicate with the people better, have a road map for their plan and communicate it to the people, that would at least be half the battle," she said.

Hauck, who said she'd like to "put pressure" on the building department to reach higher levels of efficiency and response time, also panned the retroactive raises for non-union staff and departments heads issued in 2011, calling them "completely unnecessary."

In a similar vein, she called Village Manager Ken Gabbert's 12 percent raise "a bad idea."

"Everyone across America is facing level salaries if not cutbacks," she said. "When things get better, we can talk about raises."

Vitality of CBD

The best thing to help a struggling downtown would be to improve the parking, Hauck believes.

"Almost every day...the parking situation is still a little uncomfortable at times. I think one of the best things for Ridgewood would be to have a really great parking lot," Hauck noted, specifying that garages at the top and bottom of the Central Business District could make a positive impact.

"I think that would be the beginning of a stimulus for more shopping in town...it would drive the market and I venture to say residents in Ridgewood would be thrilled if there were more parking. I think it could be done."

Comparable towns face the same issue, she said, adding that she'd like Ridgewood to be a leader in developing a model of smart planning.

"Nothing happens in a vacuum," she said. "If you stand still, you'll miss out on things."

Pedestrian safety

Though there have been few incidences of pedestrian safety accidents in recent months, the safety of pedestrians remains a concern to Hauck.

"Obviously it's a huge issue and I think the town has to address it or it's going to be unfortunately, another multi-million dollar lawsuit," she said. "Even if it's another expense, it's something we can't afford not to do."

"My idea is to put pedestrian lights at the biggest corners," she said. "Cars obviously don't realize that pedestrians are going to cross when they start to proceed. It's a timing issue. There has to be separate crossing for pedestrians."

Graydon

"There's nothing we can do to modernize it," Hauck frowned when discussing the village's municipal pool, called a "jewel" by some and a "toilet" by others. "Graydon Pool is a village landmark, it's an institution, it's an historical feature, it's a community center, and it's in a flood plain."

Hauck predicted other candidates would also tout making necessary changes to improve water quality. She said it's a liability, especially given the $10 million judgment rendered against the village after the death of a Korean boy in 2008.

"But what are you going to do?" she said circumspectly. "I don't want to lose it."

Hauck balked at making large, substantive changes to the site, specifically referring to its location in the 100-year flood plain. She did say, however, that another village-owned clear-water pool would be a nice asset to Ridgewood.

"One of the reasons we can't make badge revenue is because it [Graydon] used to be a place where all the young moms would come and just park themselves and visit," Hauck remarked. "And we've lost some of those people...now they're going to the Glen Rock Pool, the Washington Township Pool...because it's a clear-water pool.

"A lake is no longer acceptable to people. People want clear-bottom pools. And Graydon is not a clear-bottom pool," she said.

Asked if having a $100,000 annual loss is worth it, Hauck responded that with a lack of other options, for right now it has to be.

Housing developments

"If it's done well, it would be an asset to the village," Hauck said of the numerous housing development proposals that have sprung up in the CBD in recent months. "Not all of them, maybe one of them. But I think we could benefit from a place for empty nesters to live – people who don't want to maintain property but they want the equivalent of a home in an apartment unit."

There is a concern the housing developments could flood the school system, she said, advocating for the exploration of senior-only housing. "That would seem to solve everyone's problem," she added.

"You don't want to lose the Ridgewood residents who are done raising their children and want to stay in Ridgewood. They don't need the property, they don't need the upkeep and they want to stay in Ridgewood."

The two developments that have been in front of the planning board expect between 15-20 school children combined, according to the developers, which Hauck said could be troublesome with an already "overburdened" school system.

The council elections will be held May 5. Three seats – those of Mayor Keith Killion, Councilman Paul Aronsohn, Councilman Steve Wellinghorst – are up for four-year terms. Candidates need just north of 160 signatures to be added to the ballot (200 or more are recommended). The filing date is March 8. Twelve candidates have picked up packets, sources say. We'll continue to profile the candidates as the election date nears.

Dominick Nizza February 21, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Thank you James for the summary detail issues listed here and for your readers to choose their favorite one. However a Status Quo conversation candidate will not survive this election.
RdgwdGRock February 21, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Regarding Graydon: "Asked if having a $100,000 annual loss is worth it, Hauck responded that with a lack of other options, for right now it has to be." Really? Perhaps she can pay the $100k loss out of her pocket. How about increasing the badge fees to cover the loss, and then we will see how much people want to use Graydon.
Boyd A. Loving February 21, 2012 at 02:38 PM
What was the point of mentioning Ms. Hauck's hair color and eye color? How germane is that information to her role as a potential candidate for Village Council? Interestingly, there was no mention of Mr. Purcciarelli's hair color and eye color in his recent profile on the Ridgewood Patch.
Anne LaGrange Loving February 21, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Regarding Graydon Pool: Ms. Hauck states that "a lake is no longer acceptable to people," and that "people" want a "clear-bottom pool." This is not true of all people. Many of us love Graydon exactly the way it is, use it often, and enjoy it thoroughly.
MaroonMom February 21, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Thank you for running Gwenn!!! Finally we have a candidate that realizes that we have a lot of challenges in Ridgewood not just one issue to deal with.     My two cents on Graydon is that I really wish it was a place my kids wanted to go.  It doesn't sound like that's in the cards which is just a shame. You mentioned the village manager raise being a bad idea.  My friends and I can't find a single person in town that thinks this was a good idea.  Wasn't there a group in town that was trying to do something about that? Be careful talking about parking! People seem to be really against any kind of changes downtown.  Your ideas make sense to me.  Maybe some of the business people in town can tell us whether they think this will help their shops and that will convince people. Good luck! You're strong to be able to put up with mean comments that will be made here and other places.
Rich February 21, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Sadly, until Valley withdraws its application to the Planning Board and states it will not attempt legal action, then this issue is still at the forefront of resident's minds. As much as Ms. Hauck may want to deflect our focus from that, she should encourage Valley to do the right thing and simply scrap the "Renewal" and start over with an open dialogue. Then we wont need to continually make this a single topic council election. Can you demonstrate that ability for us? Dialogue with Valley and show some results for us ?
Fan of Ridgewood February 21, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I absolutely agree with you, Rich. My understanding is that Valley doesnt pay taxes to Ridgewood, so im not so concerned about letting them go.
Marcia Ringel February 21, 2012 at 06:15 PM
The Village Council election will be held on Tuesday, May 8, not May 5, as stated above--only 11 weeks from today. The required number of validated nominating petitions is 161 ("just north of 160"). I believe this represents 10% of registered voters in town and may therefore change slightly with each election. It was 165 two years ago. Not yet registered to vote? The last date for residents to register to vote in time to vote in the May 8 municipal election is the same day as the Board of Ed election: Tuesday, April 17. On that day, voter registration will be available in the Village Hall lobby from 4:30 to 9:00 pm. You can't beat that convenience. Until then, registration will be available at the Village Manager's office during Village Hall business hours. You can also click on "Register to Vote" in the upper right corner of ridgewoodnj.net, print out the form, and mail or deliver it to Hackensack in advance of the election. Mail-in ballots are handy but must be requested, received, and submitted by mail; allow plenty of time. Explanatory video: http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/countyclerk/elections_voting.html#q2 Deadlines for the municipal election, including registration and mailed-in and handed-in ballots, are listed here: http://www.nj.gov/state/elections/2012-chron/2012-chron-guide-may-municipal-non-partisan-election-120611.pdf/.
Boyd A. Loving February 21, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Has Ms. Hauck considered the extraordinary taxpayer expense that would be required to design, build, operate, and maintain a "village-owned clear-water pool" while leaving Graydon "as is?"
O'Briens February 23, 2012 at 03:06 PM
According to this article, Ms. Hauck states that “Phase 6” of the proposed Valley expansion (it seems she meant “Option” 6) was supported by CRR. However, this is mistaken. As reported on 3/31/2010 by Medical Planning and Research (the consulting firm hired by the Planning Board), MPR consultants met both independently and in closed sessions with Valley representatives, to develop several design options for Renewal. These included Option #6, locating more square footage underground, ostensibly to allow greater setbacks. CRR was never invited to attend the design sessions and clearly opposed this plan. At the 5/4/2010 PB hearing, CRR's then-president, Paul Gould, stated that CRR could not support this 1,170,000 square foot design or lot coverage of 30% - 35% (contrasting it to the current lot coverage of 17%). He stated that CRR could only support an increase to 650,000 square feet of hospital, or lot coverage of 20%, and that a hydrological study was also needed. Despite CRR’s opposition, the PB then voted to approve a final version of Option #6 as its Master Plan Amendment. CRR has often shared Ms. Hauck’s call for consensus-building going forward. However, for that to happen, the Planning Board must withdraw the now-irrelevant Master Plan Amendment (given Council's unanimous rejection of it) and Valley should honor public sentiment by retracting the proposed plan, so a process of true community participation can begin
Fan of Ridgewood February 24, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Brigid - Thank you for that clarification. Agree with you.
Lynnport February 25, 2012 at 04:30 AM
3 things: 1. mentioning her hair and eye color is insulting and should not be a factor in a candidate 2. her comment on graydon losing money and "But what are you going to do?" hmm I would expect someone I would elect to DO something about it and 3. History WILL repeat itself...those not supporting Valley's expansion will win...hands down - we are not the silent majority.
Jeanette L February 26, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I agree we are not a silent majority and has for Ms. Hauck being able to be unbiased is impossible. The only time I heard her speak at a Village Council meeting she spoke like a lovesick teenager when she gushed about how she felt about Valley. Nowhere did she mention facts that would make the expansion necessary. And I agree with Brigid when she mentions CRR and consensus building. That has not been Valley's position. They seem to only care about getting their way at all costs. That's why it's so important to vote for a candidate that won't be tone deaf to the concerns of Ridgewood's residents like the Planning Board did when they voted for Option #6.
delgado March 03, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Gwen will win, this is what Ridgewood needs, not the nasty double dipping that is going on with Councilmember Walsh and that ilk from the Bergen Republicans and all that dirty pay to play.
Jack Nies March 03, 2012 at 05:12 PM
delgado is spewing crap out of "its" mouth just to cause doubt about Bernie Walsh (all of which is untrue and unfounded) while all of the doubt should be aimed at Gwenn Hauck. I'm sure Gwenn is a perfectly nice person but do not be fooled. there is an agenda and it is to misdirect about the true intentions of her running. and by the way, delgado, the "dirty pay to play" in bergen county has been associated with democrats not republicans. remember ron o'malley (bcia and residential mortgage head) going to jail, joe ferreiro, encap, sanzari, etc. i think you are very confused.
Jeanette L March 03, 2012 at 07:07 PM
I agree with Jack regarding delgado's comments about Bernie Walsh, you shouldn't cast aspersions on someone without some facts. The Council is lucky to have her on their board. I know her personally and she is honest, loyal, intelligent, committed, etc. And I don't know if all that can be said about Gwen Hauck, except for extreme loyalty to Valley Hospital. I was told by someone who knows, Valley IS paying for her campaign, and the worst thing for this town would be for her to be elected to the Council because she is biased. Plus, after hearing her speak, I doubt she came to the conclusions in the article, by herself. She was not that articulate. Not what I expected of her.
Fan of Ridgewood March 05, 2012 at 07:44 PM
You could be right, R Franks. False or half rumors can spread easily. However, it certainly wouldnt be the first time a non-profit violated their status to pursue their ends. And the election of Gwen Hauck would certaintly be in Valley's Hospital's interest. I think Valley's positioning in proposing their expansion plans has been aggressive and misleading and i think they'll use whatever tools they think will work for them.
Jeanette L March 06, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Here's the facts, Bill P., a major donor and his daughter sent out a mailing either last year or the year before supporting the expansion and the printed return address was, I checked, Valley Hospital. If you had attended as many meetings as I had you would know that the only thing that makes Valley a nonprofit is their clinic. I know for a fact they don't take Medicaid and a NJ program for needy families. And they only spend a certain amount for charity care, and yet they have millions of dollars in reserve. Hackensack Hospital covers Medicaid and every other program and donates a lot of money for charity care. I learned that at a meeting in Westwood regarding the reopening of Pascack Valley Hospital. And as far as rumors are concerned they spread many rumors trying to portray CRR as a group that wants Valley to leave Ridgewood, which couldn't be further from the truth. And Gwen Hauck was laudatory towards Valley, so she is totally biased, including her entire family. They are big supporters of Valley. And I heard the speech. And Valley spreads rumors that we have big money supporters, when we have none! They have all the big money coming from residents with deep pockets and we have local residents contributing what we can. I have seen the donor list more than a year ago. And I have seen everything because I attended more than 4 years of meetings and that's a fact. CRR doesn't spread rumors, Valley does.
Fan of Ridgewood March 06, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Thanks for the info, Jeanette. As i noted, I've found Valley to be misleading as well.
Jeanette L March 06, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Your welcome Bill. And thank you for having an open mind. Before these meetings I knew nothing about Valley and now I know more than I want to. All I care about, and other members of CRR, is to keep Ridgewood as unique as it is. It's a wonderful town for families and I, and others, would like to keep it that way. That's why it's important to get involved, get educated and vote for people who have the same beliefs.
Jeanette L March 06, 2012 at 06:42 PM
I checked the link, but I must've missed it. However, if you are referring to me, it's my understanding that only one member of Gwen Hauck's family, doesn't support fiscally and/or emotionally Valley's positions. That member is also a member of CRR. That's what I was told, so if I am wrong, I apologize.
Jeanette L March 06, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I forgot to mention that I do not mention CRR in a comment, unless it is something the group ascribes to, so please do not assume that CRR has believes in certain ideas, just because a member says something. I have heard many different things from many people because I attended meetings for over 5 years. So I don't mention CRR lightly, unless I have heard it from the president of our group before.
Jeanette L March 29, 2012 at 09:28 PM
I'm sorry Gwen that you think I am impugning your reputation, but that is what is what I was told by someone I trust and you did it yourself when you spoke about Valley at a Council meeting where you were biased. And what Valley is asking to do is NOT good for Ridgewood, and would change it's character forever. And that is not a small thing.

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