Brian Stack: your senator next door

Rafael Román Martel

For the past 12 years, positive changes have taken place in Union City thanks to the hard work and dedication of Mayor Brian P Stack.

The 33rd. District elected Stack as a State Senator in 2007, where he has become a strong voice for his constituency. He was effective in representing the people of West New York; now he will represent many Jersey City residents. After the gerrymandering move probably orchestrated by the Hudson County “Boss Tweed” emulators to isolate Stack, he will gain the trust and the vote of thousands of residents of Jersey City that have profited in this new setting of political districts.

They will now have a true public servant as their state senator, and they will note the difference.

Since 2007 Stack has sponsored 20 bills and voted on 125 other pieces of legislation, mostly related to issues directly affecting the working families of New Jersey. His legislative record is consistent with his long history as a tenant advocate and a strong voice for urban and working family issues. As Vice-Chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, he has sponsored important bills like S271, which limits rent increases in certain low income rental projects financed by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. In accordance with his concerns for quality of life issues, Stack sponsored S270, which establishes a 1,000 foot drug free zone around playgrounds and other public parks, buildings and housing facilities. A strong voice against domestic violence, in January 2010 Stack introduced S272 which upgrades simple assault committed against domestic violence victims to aggravated assault. From 2010-2011, Stack was also appointed Vice Chair of The Law and Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. As an independent Democrat, he has been able to work with Democrats as well as Republicans, garnering the respect of elected officials from both sides of the aisle.

His legislative record is compatible with his commitment to a better quality of life in New Jersey, and answers to the concerns of his constituency.

The citizens of Union City can attest to Stack’s work ethic and the city shows it: new schools, new parks, new apartment buildings that have changed the city’s appearance. Stack has paved the streets, built new sidewalks, and now there’s even a water fountain on 32nd Street and Palisade Avenue. Union City has an effective police department, police presence can be seen everywhere 24/7, and officers are easily accessible and respond in minutes to residents’ calls.

Union City High School is a magnificent building on 26th Street, and the school has improved test scores and teachers and administration performance in two years in an unprecedented way in Union City’s educational history.

In his twelve years as mayor of Union City, Stack built 3 new schools, all with the latest technology, magnificent sports facilities and an intensive teacher training that is paying dividends for students and parents.

Even though property taxes were high when other administrations raised a total 70% between the past three mayors (in a period of 12 years), under Mayor Stack property taxes have remained stable, and owners are able to see their tax dollars constantly at work with all the improvements in our infrastructure.

In 2009 the mayor completed Fire Fighter’s Memorial Park, a recreational center with an Olympic swimming pool and additional water fountains and games for children. Today the park is one of the most popular and save locations for our residents in Hudson County.

A new school is under construction on the grounds of the old Columbus School on 15th Street, and on 29th Street a brand new Art Plaza will now exhibit the work of painters and sculptors.

The new facilities of Hudson County Community College are almost complete and will offer a great education and opportunity to many Hudson County residents, as well as beautifying the city with a splendid building on the side of the recently completed lightrail station on 48th Street. Many Union City High School students have registered to attend this facility, excited by the opportunity it offers. Stack was instrumental in the construction of this building.

The streets are clean and there is a growing sense of community in our neighborhoods, with more cops on patrol, and our mayor holding neighborhood meetings through out the city.

Brian Stack has proven that hard work and a passion for public service is the heart of politics. The equation for his success is simple: he works very hard, sometimes driving his legion of volunteers crazy with his contagious zeal. I can attest to this: I’m very proud to have served as a co-campaign manager in his first bid for Union City Mayor in 1998. After a long day’s work Stack would call after midnight and say: “Do you have a pen and paper? I have an idea!” That’s Brian.

For Stack, politics is personal because his whole life revolves around politics. He never forgets what you have done for him, and he will never forget if you have done him harm even though he resists retribution having all the tools to do so.

Vindictiveness is not part of his character.

In 1998, my friend Felipe Gómez ran with him as a commissioner. Later Felipe disagreed with Brian’s politics and became one of his most ardent critics and opponents. Brian never spoke an angry word against Felipe. When Felipe was very ill, Brian called and offered his helped in any capacity he could. He then gave Felipe the Keys to The City of Union City, a proclamation, and named a street after the Cuban patriot in a public event.

He never forgot Mr. Gómez’s support at the beginning of his career.

When he took office in 2000, he built a brand new sports complex and named it after one of his early mentors: Ronald Dario. And on June 11, Stack will name a cultural center after William Musto, who was his friend and mentor in his early youth.

On a personal note, there hasn’t been a mayor in the history of Union City who has done so much to recognize the contributions of the Cuban community to this town. We are immensely grateful for that. Stack built the José Martí Junior High School, he also constructed the José Martí Park on 42nd Street, where he often stops and brings Cuban espresso to the domino players. He has honored with citations many outstanding Cuban-Americans. In the early 2000’s, the ex-political prisoners building on 43rd Street could not keep up with the extreme property tax rates that the previous administrations imposed on landlords. Stack made the building tax-free in consideration for the years of sacrifice the ex-political prisoners had spent in Cuban jails. Two of his five commissioners are Cuban-Americans.

He is always present to pay his respects on our most significant historic commemorations, and when Elian González was kidnapped by the Clinton administration Stack alone stood against his political party and denounced the way Janet Reno proceeded with the extradition of the young man.

This and more he has done for the Cuban-American community, but he has been there for all ethnic groups in our multicultural setting because he doesn’t exclude anyone from his ample plan as a unifier.

After the campaign was lost by a questionable 417 votes on May 12, 1998, we wondered what to do next— for example: where to find a job, as tradition demands that when stand in front of the Hudson County political machine and lose an election, most likely you’ll be on the unemployment line. Brian was in the streets distributing flyers the next day.

Brian took on a job at PS&G. He read the counters, and for us it was sad to see a man with so much potential, who probably won the 1998 election, in the PSE&G uniform. Nevertheless, he was never discouraged.

From his high school days to his PSE&G hard working days, Stack has never given up on his true calling: helping others. He is just as relentless in his work as he is loyal to his friends and fair when it comes to political attacks, which usually come from the other side: machine politicians. He concentrates on delivering his message and campaigning hard on his accomplishments rather than concentrating on the usual soiled political tactics Hudson County is traditionally infamous for.

With this record, his political adversaries have been reduced to the lowest and dirtiest tactics for which some of them were arrested and face charges.

Stack enjoys a loyal following: an army of volunteers moved by his charisma and his lead-by-example work ethic. When the conventional Democratic machine restructured his district, they underestimated Stack once more. They branded him as an underdog in 1998 and he came back in 1999. They bet all their marbles on stopping him from becoming a NJ State Senator in 2007, and they failed. And they miscalculated his political skills a month ago, assigning him to a new district. Jersey City residents already know who he is.

They will soon find out how effective Stack is as their representative in the senate.

For his political zeal, his concerns for others, his results as an elected official, and his human qualities, Brian Stack deserves the kind of support he enjoys.

We need to keep him in the New Jersey Senate where he works just as hard to legislate to the benefit of us all.


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