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The Difference: 

Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown

Stands for Us

When she ran for Town Council in 2018, Councilwoman Matute-Brown knew that by participating in West Orange government, she could push, convince, cajole, and at times collaborate with those who have run this town for more than 25 years. 


In ways seen and unseen, Cindy has made a huge difference in how our town government operates. Since 2018, the administration has made many significant decisions that will impact life in our town for years to come. In every instance, Cindy drove solutions through the administration that benefit people in this town. She thinks long term about the financial health of our town, thinks about the real impact on the people who live here, and thinks about ways to make sure that we can benefit. Examples of ways that Cindy makes a difference are with the town’s acquisition of Rock Spring, the decision to default Prism development from their inaction in developing areas around Main Street, the reconstitution of the rent leveling board, the creation of the OSPAC Board to ensure accountability, the revival of the Municipal Alliance Board,  and municipal efforts to review all steep slopes following the landslide above the apartments at 275 Northfield Avenue. Recognizing the potential for a multi-million dollar revenue, Cindy lead the town’s participation in New Jersey’s new cannabis industry, focusing on social justice and equity as West Orange supported the first minority owned cannibas business in the state. Cindy is prepared and asks hard questions during every budget review in order to protect our tax dollars.  She hosted a townhall meeting on the Need for More Racially inclusive Communities. That effort led to the mandatory anti-bias training for the entire municipal staff and all elected officials to help ensure that our local government acts with purpose when seeking diversity in our local government. Cindy also initiated a wage study for municipal workers to ensure there weren’t any disparate treatment due to race and/or gender.


1.  Rock Spring Golf Course


To acquire Rock Spring Golf Course required a super-majority vote from the Town Council and Cindy found herself presented with a very difficult decision. Vote to have the town purchase the property and continue to derive some benefit from it or vote against the proposal, likely pushing the owners to sell to Essex County, causing West Orange to forever lose all tax revenue derived from the property which was approximately $600K. Cindy recognized that Rock Spring could be more than a site for residential development that the Administration proposed and has a plan to use the existing footprint of the building/clubhouse to develop a small boutique hotel and conference center that will make the golf course an even more attractive destination and create additional revenue for our town. Cindy has the vision and leadership ability to get that done. No one else in this race can say with a straight face that they have similar plans and goals for Rock Spring. 


2. Downtown Redevelopment


For many years, people in town have complained about the abject failure of development in our downtown. When she took her turn and became Council President, Cindy went to the Mayor and insisted that the town put the developer into default so that we might again create a vision for our downtown that will benefit us all. The Mayor went along and our town’s legal counsel agreed that the developer could be defaulted. There was a lawsuit and while working through settlement negotiations, the developer failed to escrow sufficient money to clean up environmental damage that the developer was responsible for correcting. Cindy read the documents, realized the developer’s failure, and insisted on an additional $1 million for environmental cleanup that the town would otherwise have had to incur. Now, we have an opportunity to create a new vision for downtown. The Administration has ground to a halt. Stories about a possible movie studio are true, but we need an administration that will have leadership and courage to create a downtown that we need and deserve. Cindy shows us that she will stand up for what’s right, not only what’s convenient or politically beneficial. She cares about people in this town and she works to make life better for all of us. No one else in this race can say with a straight face that they have the courage, leadership and experience, along with the focus on residents, to realize the downtown that we deserve. 


3. Rent Leveling Board


Cindy recognizes that there are residents in our town who have been ignored and left out of town government for decades. She initiated the reconstitution of the Rent Leveling Board so that renters in our town may have a form to bring grievances against unfair landlords. Before the Board was re-created, renters who had issues with landlords were left on their own to pursue remedies in the courts. Cindy knows that we need to help lift up every resident in our town if we are going to be an even better community in the future.


4. Budget Processes


During the recent budget process, Cindy spoke up for residents and explained to her Council colleagues that the raises and newly created position that the Administration proposed were not “just $7,000” as one of her colleagues sarcastically interjected, but rather would impose costs on residents forever. The Administration proposed grandfathering in an employee to ensure “Longevity” pay raises and increased benefits that would accrue to that person’s future benefits, even into retirement, essentially imposing an unnecessary cost on residents forever. Cindy was the only Council member to vote against that proposal, and was clearly the only person who had taxpayers in mind when she read the proposal and realized that the consequences of the proposal could be significant. 


5. Looking Out For Residents - 275 Northfield


Finally, when the residents of 275 Northfield were evacuated from their homes, Cindy did two things to begin to address the issue. First, she called her friends and asked them to start raising funds to help our neighbors through the challenge of sudden loss of their homes. We did that and raised over $10,000 to help with grocery money for the displaced residents. Second, Cindy wrote to the Mayor and explained to him that the town had to take a proactive approach and immediately conduct an engineering review of steep slopes around town, lest another landslide occur and threaten more homes. After some hesitation, the Mayor announced that the town was seeking help from the state to review all of the steep slopes in town to ensure their soundness. We need leadership who will recognize need like these and work through to solutions.   


These are just some easy examples of why Cindy has made such a huge difference in our municipal government. In this election, we need to ensure that thoughtful people who are willing to keep residents of this town stay in positions of power.              

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