A Record of Leadership in South Orange
A Record of Results for South Orange
Sheena believes when promises are made, promises need to be kept. When she first ran for Village President in 2015, she unveiled a comprehensive platform of goals and objectives which serve as the strategic plan for her tenure in office. Below are select highlights on a variety of topics and issues of concern to the community.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:
Financial Management and Service Optimization
- Introduced annual budgets that intentionally kept our tax increases below 2%.
- Initiated the South Orange and Maplewood fire services study which, if implemented, will enhance fire safety operations and save taxpayers money with improved efficiencies.
- Negotiated a shared-service agreement with Maplewood for Tax Collection which is generating new revenue for the town.
- Established interlocal agreement with Maplewood and the Board of Education for a field maintenance fund.
- Coordinated joint testimony, position statements, and coalesced Essex County Mayors to support the 2% interest arbitration cap for police and fire, the single largest driver in the municipal budget.
Comprehensive Planning and Land Use
- Launched a comprehensive update to the South Orange Master Plan (first developed in 1978), recruiting more than 150 community ambassadors to facilitate robust public engagement and ensure inclusion and participation.
- Created framework to ensure final product will include a 21stcentury approach to land use, community form and design, mobility, historic preservation, recreation and open space, health and sustainability, and a new element entitled “civic life”.
- Negotiated more than $150M in new investments to business districts grounded by smart-growth principles, active storefronts, and new revenue. These efforts will help shift the tax burden from homeowners to commercial corridors.
- Lobbied Trenton for liquor license reforms that will create access and opportunities for restauranteurs to provide beer and wine in a historically cost-prohibitive monopoly while providing fair compensation to existing license holders in the form of tax credits.
- Hired a new planning firm and ensured all agreements include development proformas with vetted financial forecasting that serve in the best interest of taxpayers and good planning.
- Audited all prior redevelopment projects, resulting in $500k in revenue.
- Negotiated over $750,000 in community reinvestment from developers.
- Evaluated and rejected more than a dozen redevelopment projects that were disadvantageous to the community in terms of planning, design, equity, or financial terms that didn’t benefit taxpayers.
- Developed a path to affordable housing compliance with state requirements, quadrupling developer contributions to be used for the construction of affordable units.
- Eliminated past practice of artificially identifying land that was never intended to be developed.
- Actively negotiating a project with potential to yield more credits to South Orange than any single project in the Village’s history. If successful, this project would serve both our special-needs individuals, and lower/moderate income families.
- Created the Business Code Review Task Force focused on increasing permitted uses in our commercial corridors and encouraging a more business friendly environment.
- Created the Design Review Board and initiated the Facade Matching Grant Program to encourage small businesses to invest in improving building appearances.
- Negotiated 2500 square feet of prime real estate for a downtown incubator space reserved for co-retailing and entrepreneurs that will provide an anchor retail destination, support local talent, and keep money local.
Open Space & Historic Preservation
- Protected the Orange Lawn Tennis Club from overdevelopment by negotiating a down-zoning of the property, which preserved a historic club and protected open space from development.
- Led the sale of Village Hall which will result in both a historic renovation and creation of a restaurant/beer garden. This transaction will generate revenue for the town, create an anchor destination at an important intersection, drive future investment east on South Orange Avenue, and save taxpayers upwards of $8M.
Commuters and NJ Transit
- Served at the forefront of advocacy initiatives between our commuters and all Mayors on the Morris & Essex Line to fight service disruptions resulting in a series of improvements during the “Summer of Hell”.
- Partnered with the Governor, lobbied congress, and testified at state hearings in support of the Gateway Tunnel project.
- Re-established the Senior Citizens Advisory Committee, recruited members and initiated a series of town-hall forums to develop actions plans to better engage seniors.
- Partnered with Maplewood, creating SOMA: Two Towns for All Ages to advance and serve the needs of senior citizens. To date, grant totals exceed $225k.
Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
- Partnered with leadership from our Police Department to reorganize and implement a new shift schedule designed to optimize efficiencies of personnel which save taxpayers money and improve public safety.
- Initiated the Public Safety radio system study and implemented recommendations moving all first responders to a statewide network improving coverage and interoperability.
- Served as Deputy Coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management, communicating with residents about impending storms, power outages, etc.
- Initiated National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop and Positive Behavior Citations.
- Initiated, led and/or supported community-events and diversified locations to ensure all areas of town have opportunities to host special functions and gatherings.
- Meets regularly with students to talk about leadership, civic engagement, inclusivity, and the importance of kindness.
- Led South Orange with an unwavering commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming community to all people regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or immigration status. Steadfast champion of building a community where everyone feels safe, valued, and celebrated for who they are.
- Leveraged the leadership position of the Village Presidency to raise more than $150,000 for initiatives including food insecurity in schools, Meals on Wheels for seniors, hurricane relief, first responders, performing arts, gun control, after school tutoring and activities, voter transportation, and community members in need.
- Upgraded the Baird tennis courts and dedicated them to Kenneth Allen Graham, a life-long South Orange resident who taught and championed tennis.
- Renovated the neglected Skate House including roof and window replacements, new bathrooms, and a heated and air-conditioned space for community use.
- Started construction on Police Headquarters with renovations expected to finish this year, after years of abysmal working conditions including mold.
- Scheduled construction on the Baird Community Center to start this this Spring with a full interior and exterior renovation. Additional improvements include the construction of a new field house/gym, café, and game room. Plans include increased community multi-purpose spaces to accommodate more users seeking to host meetings and events.
- Professional service contracts awarded for the renovation and expansion of the public library and historic Connett Building with a working group appointed to make recommendations on how to proceed forward.
Seton Hall University
- Led the partnership with Seton Hall’s Market Research Center that resulted in the creation of Seton Village through the rebranding of the Irvington Avenue corridor, investments in beautification, and a new series of events including the Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival.
- Established ongoing relationship with student leaders on volunteer opportunities throughout the Village including identifying gaslight outages and various community cleanups.
- Lobbied the Governor and Trenton for the South Orange and Maplewood School District to receive the proper apportionment of State Aid under the School Funding Reform Act.
- Supported the preliminary bond approval necessary to advance the Long-Range Facilities Plan addressing health and safety for students and advocated for modifications to include air conditioning and field improvements.
- Launched new website to improve the user experience, ease access to information, and enhance customer service.
- Provides timely responses to all constituents across multiple channels including email, phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, Maplewood Online, NextDoor, etc.
- Regularly hosts public, neighborhood, and stakeholder meetings to ensure maximum participation and transparency in decision-making.
Pets and Animals
- Introduced and advanced the Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release Program, a humane method of managing feral/free roaming cats with the long-term goal of reducing the total population.
- Advanced and advocated the pilot program, introduced by a 5thgrade student, on permitted backyard chickens, advancing sustainable food systems (and lively pets).