A lively crowd of several dozen people turned out at Bunny’s last night to meet South Orange Village President hopeful Alex Torpey. Although it was impossible to determine, some might have been lured by the free beer and pizza.
Bunny’s doyenne Leslie Pogany introduced the candidate by slyly noting, “History has proven that you can’t get elected if you don’t have a party at Bunny’s.”
Briefly addressing the audience, Torpey said the citizens of South Orange deserve to know more about what is going on in their town. “I want to make sure your voice is heard,” he said to applause and a cry of “hear, hear.”
“Is he old enough to run?” joked Clem Bottone, perched on a barstool. A Somerset resident, Bottone attended Seton Hall University in the late 1980s. “I think South Orange is up and coming,” said Bottone. “There are more restaurants and businesses now; it’s on the upside.”
South Orange resident Joe Buckner agreed. “I moved here ten years ago, and the look of downtown is different now,” he said, mentioning Eden Marketplace among businesses that have opened in recent years. “I think there wasn’t as much camaraderie in town back then.”
He credits some of the improvement to the current administration, which includes Torpey’s opponent trustee Janine Bauer. Bauer was elected four years ago as part of the Pure Progress slate of candidates, which Buckner supported. “There’s much more transparency now,” he said.
However, he said he had not made up his mind who he would vote for. “It’s too early in the campaign, and I want to find out more. Janine has a lot of experience and brings a lot of assets to the position. It will be interesting to hear what different twist Alex can bring, since he doesn’t have the experience to fall back on.”
Buckner lives near the University and said there are some issues with noise and pedestrian traffic in his neighborhood. However, he said that overall he finds the South Orange police force to be “wonderful” in their responsiveness.
Torpey said that among voters he has spoken with, public safety is the number one issue of concern, followed closely by property taxes. “People want to know if their home values are going to go down because of flash mobs,” he said.
He also said that business owners considering opening up shop in South Orange need to be confident that downtown is safe or “they could just open their business in Maplewood or Livingston,” he said.
As for the campaign so far, Torpey noted, “I haven’t heard much from my opponent yet. I’m not sure what they’re talking about.”
Pure Progress is hosting a campaign kick-off event on April 3; Baristanet story to follow.