On Tuesday, June 5, Englewood residents are heading to the polls to vote in a unique upcoming Democratic primary election. Ten candidates, including Michael Wildes who is running for mayor, are running on a special “Vote Column 3” platform, with the stated goals of helping improve the economy and the quality of life for Englewood citizens.
Englewood is divided into four wards, each containing four districts. Each of these 16 voting districts is represented by two county committee representatives, a male and a female. In total, the Englewood representatives to the county committee comprise 32 members. In addition to other duties for Bergen County, it is the county committee that selects the candidates for Englewood mayor and city council on the ballot, and Englewood is overwhelmingly Democrat. These candidates are known as “column one candidates.” It is county committee members who determine who gets the party line, or the preferred column that voters will see. Their selection is so critical to the race, that in many cases, those who do not obtain the preferred position on the ballot will withdraw from running. In fact, there has been no candidate for mayor or council to win off the column-one line in over 10 years.
Many current county committee members serve on other committees in the town. To the current candidates, this has created a sense that there is an exclusive club that runs the city and that they are neglecting issues critical to the future of Englewood. It has also created a system where some elected officials are not accountable to the voters, but rather to a few select individuals. The result, the candidates say, has been declining revenues and increased taxes in the city, as well as a lack of quality decision-making. The abandoned Liberty School represents one such example as it has stood vacant for many years with no active plans.
Ten individuals, including four incumbents, who have been frustrated by the city’s inactivity within the county, have come together in this election and joined mayoral candidate Michael Wildes on Column 3 in June’s primary election. They want to change “the status quo” and in doing so hope to bring integrity, transparency and accountability back to the county committee and to the city government.
Two of the leaders of these county committee candidates are Dr. Lisa Wisotsky and Dr. Ken Rosenzweig. Lisa Wisotsky and her family have lived in Englewood for 23 years. Wisotsky is a physician and has always been an active volunteer in Englewood. She is a member and a past president of the Englewood Board of Health, a board member of Congregation Ahavath Torah and Flat Rock Brook Nature Center and a member of the Rotary Club of Englewood. Additionally, Wisotsky founded a nonprofit in Englewood and led the charge to make the Mackay Arena an Englewood community facility. “We need a county committee who will support independent-minded Democrats whose sole responsibility will be to do what is best for Englewood and not a specific individual or group of individuals,” explained Wisotsky.
Wisotsky believes that the fact alone that four incumbents chose to run off the line, jeopardizing their current seats, to run alongside Michael Wildes on column three, is an obvious display of commitment to change. “It is Wildes’ vision for renewal that has persuaded these committee members to join this group,” she added.
Ken Rosenzweig, an oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, has lived in Englewood for 21 years and served on the council from 2006-2011, including two terms as city council president. During those years, he recalls enormous growth and development in Englewood. Unfortunately, he noted that he has witnessed a fiscal decline and believes change is once again necessary. “Englewood is facing its most important election in many years. Both the council and mayor have simultaneously set up separate committees to advise the city on economic issues which has sent a message to the residents that we are in a financial crisis. I’m proud to join a group of dedicated citizens who are trying to address these problems by running for county committee. Although I am the incumbent, I have chosen to move myself off the party line to run in column three with Michael Wildes and the other county committee candidates because I believe we need an independent voice in city government and a history of proven leadership,” Rosenzweig articulated.
The county committee candidates are encouraging fellow Englewood residents to vote column three on June 5 and elect new leadership, which promises to govern with truth and reliability.
By Andrea Nissel