MercerMe is lucky to have received an unbelievable number of Letters to the Editor! We’re unrolling them today and here is Part 2.
Leadership Matters: Kuchinski and Ruger for Hopewell Township Committee
My wife Erica and I have been Hopewell Township residents for 32 years. And I have been a champion of the #EatLocal #BuyLocal #ShopMoreLocal movement, as a local realtor, small businessman and a member of the Economic Development commission for 10 years.
At the local level, I have seen how much leadership matters. This includes the commitment to envision and build a better future for Hopewell Valley, as well as the drive to consistently move key initiatives forward. There are many folks who want to move the township ahead, but few who ultimately succeed.
That’s why I am proud to endorse Kevin Kuchinski and Michael Ruger for Hopewell Township Committee. I have worked closely with Kevin over the past two years as I have started up Sourland Mountain Spirits, NJ’s first farm distillery since prohibition. Kevin has lead our brand positioning efforts, and has helped build the business’s P&L from the ground up – this is a guy who clearly knows his numbers.
I have also seen Kevin and Michael take charge of our Township finances, fighting unfunded state mandates and working hard to do more with less. Over the past two years, our municipal tax change has been brought down to 1.1% per year, well below NJ’s 2% cap and even the rate of inflation. They have helped cut over $2 million dollars in operating expenses.
Looking ahead, we have much more to do to build on the #EatLocal #BuyLocal movement. We can promote Valley treasures that draw visitors to our local farm markets, restaurants and businesses, as well as our parks, extensive walking/biking trails and historic sites.
I know Kevin and Michael have our backs, and will work to support local business and increase agro-tourism, break down un-needed regulation, and keep taxes low.
On November 7th, please join me in supporting Kevin Kuchinski and Michael Ruger for Hopewell Township Committee.
Ray Disch, CEO and Founder, Sourland Mountain Spirits
Open Letter to Scientist and Environmentalist Colleagues in Hopewell Township
Hopefully you’re not skipping the upcoming election because you’re too busy in the lab or office, thinking that’s okay because this isn’t a big national year after all. That’s true, but this election will determine the next governor of NJ who will strongly influence state science and environment policy. Look again and remember that local candidates become the foundation supporting the weight of the whole apparatus, and realize there is great risk thinking that Nov 7 is not important.
In Hopewell Township for example, the candidates for Township Committee are light years apart in perspective on issues of major importance – such as climate change, and the need to take local action and develop intelligent plans to foster solar energy and green infrastructure and reduce fossil fuel dependency. The two parties sponsoring the local candidates present markedly different views on the need for protective measures on open space and wildlife habitat preservation and the issues around biodiversity loss. We are decades beyond the time when backwards-thinking, unscientific, climate-denying candidates with environmental exploitation mindsets can be accepted for such important leadership positions.
Please go to the polls on Nov 7 and make the choice based on your scientific sense, knowing that the needed change on the big scale requires serious attention to the local stage now.
Rex Parker, PhD, Hopewell Township, NJ
Letter in Support for Ruger and Kuchinski for Hopewell Township Committee
When I was 8 years old, I moved for the 3rd time in 4 years. New kids back then didn’t get a lot of empathy, but one kid was always a steady influence. Curly-headed, glasses-wearing and freckled, this one kid never teased. He treated boys and girls with the same courtesy and he was unfailingly calm and kind. Bullies did not faze him. When I was feeling out of control, I would look at him as a steady ship in a rough sea.
That kid was Michael Ruger. As we went through school, I was jealous of him because he was smarter than me and got better grades. But you couldn’t hate him because he was so nice! I moved away after 8th grade and lost touch with everyone. Four decades later, I was surprised to find my old friend lives in the same town as I do! Small world.
Michael has not changed. He is still unflinching in the face of adversity. He cares deeply about the environment and has worked for years to oppose Penn East. He volunteers his brain power to the Township finance committee. And still so freaking smart! He’s a quick study and a good man.
Now Michael is running for Township Committee with Kevin Kuchinski. I haven’t known Kevin nearly as long but I have been equally impressed by how smart and kind he is. This past year negotiating the affordable housing settlement was HARD. I work in affordable housing and I know first hand how complicated this stuff is. As Mayor, Kevin took the lead in coming to terms with Fair Share and the intervenors in what is undoubtedly the best deal we could have gotten under the circumstances. He also has worked closely with the school board to restructure debt payments to lessen our tax burden. Mayor Kuchinski has a strong track record of thinking outside the box and we can rely on him to do his best thinking for us.
I went to the Debate* among the four Township Committee candidates and it was clear who the best leaders on our Township Committee will be. The Republican candidates, who only declared their intention to run two weeks ago, were wholly unfamiliar with the budget, the affordable housing settlement, and most issues that affect our town. Neither has any experience whatsoever in government. Our town deserves better than a couple of guys who someone just convinced a few days ago that they should run for such an important position.
Our affordable housing settlement means our elected volunteer officials are going to have to put in a lot of overtime hours during the next few years. The settlement is complicated and the issues that follow, including overseeing the redevelopment process, watching the developers to make sure the interests of the Township are foremost, and making decisions that will affect all of us will be difficult. We need leaders who are smart, tough, experienced, and committed. Vote for Kuchinski and Ruger, for steady hands in the rough economic waters of the years to come.
Amie Rukenstein, Hopewell Township
Sawicki for HVRSD BOE and Support for Matthews and Murray
I would like to express my appreciation to the League of Women Voters for organizing the Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education Candidate’s Forum. The event was held with an atmosphere of respect, thoughtfulness and open dialogue. It is my hope that it was informative to the residents of Hopewell Township.
At the forum, I recognized that I shared complimentary attributes and a common vision for the district’s future with both of the other candidates present. I felt all three of us would help the Board provide positive outcomes for the district in a spirit of collaboration and transparency. Together, we would provide a more complete skillset to thoroughly address complex Board challenges.
I (2H) have six years of experience on the Board, currently chair the Personnel committee and have been a member of every board committee. I have been involved in progressing many of the districts key initiatives, including increased AP and honors class access, a Homework policy, a 1:1 learning environment, STEM and Performing Arts academies and full-day Kindergarten. I also have knowledge and experience regarding the district’s policies and regulations.
Darius Matthews (1H) will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the board. His background includes work as a Board of Education member for a New York school of learning and communication development that has a focus on children living on the autism spectrum. He has a professional background in finance and will work to ensure that the district operates efficiently for the benefit of our taxpayers.
Alyce Murray (4H) is the current Board Vice President and Policy Committee chair and offers leadership experience and board governance knowledge; she was recognized for achieving New Board Member Boardsmanship Certification by NJSBA earlier this year. As a realtor, she is keenly aware of the benefits that high performing schools bring to our property values.
I respectfully ask you to look for Column H at the bottom of the voting ballot on November 7th. Please join me in voting for 1H, 2H and 4H, for fresh ideas, experience and leadership. I look forward to continuing to serve Hopewell Township as a member of an effective, cooperative Board of Education.
Adam J. Sawicki Jr. (2H), Hopewell Township, NJ
Support for Phil Volpe for Hopewell Township Committee
I am honored to know Phil Volpe for 20 of his 24 years as a resident of Hopewell Township. His integrity, charity, enthusiasm, leadership, and commitment to maintaining the traditional values of Hopewell Valley have been recognized by civic groups over the years. Phil has been the recipient of Hopewell Valley Mayor’s Breakfast 1999 Award by the Municipal Alliance, the Pennington Fire Company 2008 Person of the Year, the Mid-Jersey Chamber of Commerce Hopewell Chapter Business Person of the Year 2013 Award, and the Hopewell Valley YMCA 2015 Larry Rothwell Social Responsibility Award.
We served together during most of his 17 years on the Hopewell Valley YMCA Board, six years as President. When we first joined the Y Board, annual donations approximated $5,000 which he, as Head of the Development Committee, increased to an average of $100,000.
While Phil’s efforts have benefited all residents, he has been especially supportive of seniors and teens. Phil is the reason Hopewell Valley received funding for the Director of Seniors. Phil and I hosted a dinner in 2005 with Barry Rabner, CEO of Princeton Healthcare System. Mr. Rabner asked how he could support our residents, and Phil encouraged the funding of a Senior Director which they did for several years. Phil has also assisted seniors of Brandywine and homebound seniors as Eucharistic Minister of St. James. As a Hopewell Township Committee member, Phil would prioritize a Senior Center.
Phil has also positively influenced the Valley’s youth through his coaching of athletic teams, teaching CCD, and hiring 55 students at his Cream King business. During the summer Mondays, 20% of Cream King’s sales were contributed to local charities, amounting to over $46,000 the last ten years.
Phil is fiscally responsible with ‘Big business’ expertise in budgeting and negotiating contracts as large as a couple hundred million dollars He is committed to cutting the Hopewell Township’s high debt to revenue ratio.
Phil is a visionary, is loyal to family and community values, is respectful of viewpoints, and he will be a tremendous asset to the Hopewell Township Committee. He emulates high quality and commitment. I strongly endorse Phil Volpe as a member of the Hopewell Township Committee.
John S. Phillips, Hopewell Township
Hopewell Township Committee Candidate Nicolao Defends Affordable Housing Position
During the forum last week, I was asked, given my criticism of the current administration to continue only looking at the southern tier of Hopewell as a solution for the affordable housing mandate, what other sites I would consider or recommend. I offered up working with the County, as they are looking to relocate our current prison site in Hopewell to northern New Jersey.* Knowing how local democrats will create some late mailer right before election demonizing my suggestion, let me explain in broad stroke terms why this may make sense.
The current site is along a state highway, Route 29, and serves as a convenient location for people working either in the Trenton, Philadelphia, or Hunterdon county areas. In working with the county government, we could plan ahead before the site is left abandoned, to be completely redeveloped as a community, with both market and affordable housing units. I know this idea may seem foreign to democrat leaders in our town, as planning ahead and being proactive is not something they are used to, rather being reactive in nature, and only considering the same ideas and locations for the last 18 years (they have controlled the township committee for 13 of these years). Sure, there would be hurdles to overcome, perhaps utilizing a land swap of some of our current open space to the county, and letting them have more open / park space in our town. Would that be an issue for anyone in our town?
One of the reasons I joined in the race to be on the committee is to bring new ideas and vet them through with everyone. They may not all work, but it certainly is better than being complacent and solving all our problems with the same answers.
Vote for Volpe and Nicolao if you want new ideas discussed to solve complicated issues.
Luis Nicolao for Hopewell Township Committee
Township Committee Members Blake and McLaughlin in Support of Kuchinski and Ruger
We are writing to you today to share our wholehearted support for our friends and candidates for Hopewell Township Committee, Kevin Kuchinski and Michael Ruger.
We use the word “wholehearted” purposefully. Kevin and Michael have the intelligence, financial savviness, determination, and, most importantly, the heart, to protect our Township from outside threats such as the PennEast Pipeline and the threats created when finances are mismanaged and our community values ignored.
Our families deserve clean water and clean air, and our landowners deserve the right to protect their property from non-local companies that would endanger our children’s health to enrich themselves.
Kuchinski and Ruger have consistently fought to keep PennEast out of Hopewell Township. They wrote letters, consulted with our local and national leaders, coordinated with environmental groups, and attended marches to ensure our land remains safe and unspoiled.
Mayor Kuchinski has spearheaded resolutions calling on FERC and other agencies to require Penn East to follow the law and complete all environmental studies before assessing the application. Both Kevin Kuchinski and Michael Ruger understand that Hopewell Township does not want and does not need this pipeline slashing through the heart of our community.
Mayor Kuchinski and Michael Ruger understand that we must carefully manage our finances. If we want parents to stay in the community after their children graduate from our excellent schools and if we want young adults to be able to move back home so that their children can attend those same schools, we must carefully steward the tax dollars entrusted to us.
Mayor Kuchinski, with the help of Michael Ruger as a member of the Finance Advisory Board, has cut spending to below 2015 levels and paid down our debt. This helps stabilize our finances, all while keeping our municipal tax rate the lowest in Mercer County. Kuchinski and Ruger know that protecting our children’s future means spending wisely today.
Over and over again, our neighbors tell us that they live here because of Hopewell’s sense of community. This community values the people in it. We take care of each other. We are fortunate to have families here who trace their roots to the earliest beginnings of the United States as well as families who have recently arrived from around the world. All now proudly call Hopewell Township home. Kevin Kuchinski and Michael Ruger value and appreciate the ideas and voices of their friends and neighbors.
We urge you to vote Kuchinski and Ruger for Hopewell Township Committee on November 7.
Julie Blake and Kristin McLaughlin, Hopewell Township Committee
LTE: Only Two Legitimate Choices for Hopewell Township Committee
After watching the League of Women Voters forum,* I’ve concluded that there are only two legitimate choices for Hopewell Township Committee: Mayor Kevin Kuchinski and Michael Ruger.
All four candidates seem friendly and likeable, and they agreed on a surprising number of things. If the election were about finding some easygoing guys, we couldn’t go wrong.
But right now Hopewell Township is facing some truly major issues: how are we going to stop the Penn East pipeline? How are we going to continue negotiating with the state about affordable housing? How we are going to fend off developers? How are we going to continue to deliver more services while reducing our spending?
The times require knowledge and experience. In addition to serving as our current mayor, Mr. Kuchinski has a long resume of community and professional service, including being a vice president for marketing of a major U.S. company. A lawyer with over 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors, Mr. Ruger is on the Township’s Finance Advisory Committee and the Environmental Commission. Both candidates have detailed knowledge of the issues facing Hopewell Township. Both have the experience to handle these issues prudently.
Their opponents do not. Anyone who watches the forum on television will agree that Mr. Volpe and Mr. Nicolao came to the debate woefully unprepared. They didn’t know the rules set forth by the League of Women Voters. Instead of asking their opponents probing questions, they invited each other to tell us their life stories, again. They had no command of the facts, and they hadn’t studied the budget, which anyone can access on the township website. Watch the forum on television and you will see that they had almost nothing substantive to say. They did not do their homework. For all the sugar and cream they poured into the evening, it was kind of insulting to see how little Mr. Volpe and Mr. Nicolao had prepared. I wanted to say, “This is our future, dudes. Work for it!”
If I was looking for someone to have a lazy Sunday beer with, I guess I’d have four good choices. But I want committee members who respect me enough that they are willing to earn my vote. Smiles and stories just aren’t going to hack it with the likes of Penn East.
Challenging times demand experienced committee members like Mayor Kevin Kuchinski and Mr. Michael Ruger. As Thursday’s Forum showed, they are the only candidates willing to do the tough work to know and represent our community. I’ll be voting for them on November 7.
Russell Swanson, Hopewell Township
*Stay tuned for MercerMe’s coverage of the League of Women