Three candidates just received what could be a big boost to their election hopes Monday with the endorsement of Concerned Residents of Ridgewood (CRR), a grassroots group wary of Valley Hospital’s expansion aims.
According to a statement released Monday night, the organization has endorsed incumbents Mayor Keith Killion, Councilman Paul Aronsohn and newcomer candidate .
“Voters must go to the polls on May 8th, and vote for candidates Killion, Shinozuka and Aronsohn, who are the only candidates to consistently, publicly say that ‘Renewal’, as proposed and approved by the Planning Board, was wrong for Ridgewood,” said Pete McKenna, .
According to McKenna, the decision to endorse the trio was made after the group conducted interviews on a range of topics with the candidates. The list included taxation, the state of the business district, land-use development, Graydon Pool and other hot-button issues, the group said in the statement.
“To those who think we are one-issue people, ask the candidates how well prepared we were on all of these topics,” McKenna said. “While our primary concern as CRR is the balancing of resident needs against Valley’s desires, we are Ridgewood taxpayers and residents too and would only endorse candidates we feel will serve Ridgewood well for years to come.”
Sitting incumbents Killion and Aronsohn didn’t shy away from voicing concerns with Valley’s latest expansion effort, . Both were part of the that would have allowed for a 100 percent expansion of the facility on Van Dien and Linwood Ave. proponents of the plan have said is critically needed given the challenges in health care.
The grassroots group credited Killion with effectively running the "H-Zone" hearings over the fall, a stark contrast to those of the planning board the year prior.
“This contribution during Mayor Killion’s current tenure is a vital legacy of the current Council," McKenna stated. Aronsohn, the group said, asked "pointed and critical questions of the experts,” a factor in the decision.
Similarly, Shinozuka has repeatedly stated she has had concerns with the size and scale of the project during her campaign. CRR said her opposition to the large expansion, as well as experience on the planning board were key reasons she was endorsed.
Shinozuka was appointed to the governing body after it , effectively kicking the hospital’s $750 million proposal .
Though no new plans have emerged since the , because the planning board master plan amendment remains on the books, a future council could pick up the pieces and reverse the decision.
Aronsohn has publicly called for the planning board to rescind the measure it passed last year. However, sources said the planning board would prefer to wrap up its and has made no movement to rescind the amendment to the master plan.
Recent history shows those endorsed by CRR have a clear edge in elections. No candidate – – have suffered a defeat at the polls with an endorsement from the CRR.
The group says that's not necessarily a good thing.
“Ridgewood voters have elected every candidate that has been endorsed by CRR, but nothing would please us more than to be irrelevant in future elections," McKenna said, adding it's the group's “sincere hope" this is the last election Valley's "business desires" are put to a voting test.
The other council candidates were unlikely to pick up an endorsement given their positions on the issue, or in the case of , his lack of a stated position. Pucciarelli, the planning board vice chair, has recused himself from the Valley hearings and said he’d do the same should he be elected to the council.
, active with the Valley Hospital Auxiliary, has been outspoken about her hope to see a different look for Valley’s aging plant in Ridgewood.
, who lives on nearby Emmett Place, too has said Valley needs a major modern overhaul and he would support such a change.
Elections take place May 8. Three seats are up for grabs, each with a term of four years.