HOBOKEN MATTERS: Mayoral Candidate Interview with Ron Bautista


Like many of you, we at Little Hoboken are a bit overwhelmed with this mayoral election. There are quite a few candidates, and each have some good ideas. In order to understand each candidate, their platform and get a better idea of their plans for Hoboken, we sent each candidate some questions.

It is important to note that we sent the exact same questions to every single candidate. Each response is in their own words and has not been edited at all.

We will post their responses as we receive them. Stay tuned for more!!

How long have you lived in Hoboken, and what do you love most about living here?

My parents and I came directly from Ecuador to Hoboken 18 years ago, and this has been our home since then. I’m a Hoboken High School graduate and was part of the “Hoboken Redwings” soccer team, an amazing group of teammates I’m still close friends with. What I love the most about living in Hoboken is that we’re a close-knit community with the energy and walkability of a city.

What made you decide to run for Mayor? When was the "ah-ha" moment?

Four years ago I decided to run for Mayor of Hoboken because I believe we need more activists to run for office; citizens who are focused on transforming people’s frustrations into real solutions.

Why should you be our Mayor? What sets you apart from the other candidates?

Bootstrapping initiatives is the real challenge for any entrepreneur or public servant and I’ve done that for over a decade. I paid for my college tuition by growing my mother’s house cleaning business in Hoboken, and at the same time I became Executive Director of a NY nonprofit that gives scholarships and provides leadership programs to Ecuadorian college students living in the Tri-State Area. After that I worked at a consulting company, leading projects and budgets for clients like the NY State Government and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. I’ve also been an advisor for the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation, leading the proposal for traffic-free transit systems that would bring economic development for the West Shore, improve people’s commute, all at a fraction of what a subway or light rail system would cost. That’s what I want to bring to the table: a transit system that doesn’t hit traffic (express bus and shuttle lanes) proven to lower car dependency, promote entrepreneurship through public-private partnerships that will fund local art and music programs, and guaranteeing an active life by making our streets so pedestrian-friendly an 8-year-old can ride a bike and an 80-year-old can walk safely.

Do you have political experience? What experiences in your life have prepared you to run such a dynamic and diverse city?

I’m proud to say I’m a former undocumented immigrant, and it took me 11 years or a long government process to finally get green card. Thriving under those circumstances is a life experience that has made me resilient and a problem solver, a trait that defines our diverse city. My political experience includes being communications advisor for government entities as well as campaigns. As an activist, I’ve been advocating for pedestrian-friendly streets in Hoboken and last year we worked together with the city council to expand the walkway that connects Maxwell Place Park and the skatepark at the waterfront.

Hoboken Public Schools are such a hot topic, and unfortunately, so many are misinformed about what is really going on. What do you think Hoboken residents need to know about the schools, and what are your plans for the public school system?

As an alumnus of a Hoboken public school, all politics aside, I believe that together we can continue to strengthen our school district. Many of the students that graduated around my time have done some amazing things, went into great universities, are business owners or have jobs at well-known companies. We need to showcase the talent “Made in Hoboken” and build up the reputation of our schools. I am also a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program and I understand the impact we can have in our kids’ education by promoting a mentoring program that connects alumni with current students. I would also like to collaborate with the school district to help work towards a dual-language program across all public schools, an important way to stay competitive in today’s US economy.

A few candidates have mentioned community centers and/or pools. What are your thoughts on this and do you have a plan for this in your campaign?

We have to be resourceful and use existing assets to continue to improve the quality of life of our residents. For example, Hoboken High School has a pool that can be opened to the public, and we can open our public sports fields to be used for free pick up games. As a city, I would like our administration to help the Hoboken Public Library increase the reach of its programs and become the hub institution for initiatives in education, arts, music and active life.

Commuters live here because of Hoboken's close proximity to NYC, and yet our travel options can be frustrating with crowded busses and limited schedules. Do you have plans to accommodate our growing commuter population?

Let’s start by admitting the urgency of the situation we live in Hoboken. The PATH train system has had severe overcrowding since 2013, our train and light rail systems are expensive and won’t reach most areas, and our current bus system is unreliable. To add up to all of this, for decades we’ve had failed policies that prioritize individual cars instead of coming up with real solutions, therefore making the traffic and parking issues worse. We’re all in this together, and the only solution is to give residents a traffic-free option that’s better and more affordable than using the car or taking the train: a network of express bus and shuttle lanes that doesn’t hit traffic and that has been proven to work in cities around the world (Bus Rapid Transit).

Mayor Zimmer has made a lot of great improvements in Hoboken in two terms as Mayor. What things are you looking to keep going or expand on? What are you looking to change?

As Mayor I will increase open space by working on the proposals made by Fund for a Better Waterfront, which includes acquiring the land of Union Dry Dock at the Hoboken waterfront for park space. I would like to improve our city’s dialogue with the community, for example by making our city budget more friendly for people so everyone can know where their tax money goes, and by working with City Council on a participatory budget process that to sets a percentage of the budget for projects developed by residents and chosen by voters in an open election, just as it has been done in cities like New York.

Small businesses are what make Hoboken so special. With so many big-box stores coming to town, do you have plans to help support and protect the locally owned businesses?

I’ve worked with the NYC Department of Small Business Services in the past and I understand the importance of a city actively supporting local entrepreneurs. Our plan is to implement an incubator program that provides small businesses with the tools that can increase their chances of success in Hoboken.

What is your favorite restaurant in town? Don't be shy, tell us what you love there!

I can’t pick just one! Love Charritos Midtown, the look and feel, the fresh guacamole and the Enchiladas Suizas. A frequent spot for my wife and I is Mamoun’s for a great shawarma and mint lemonade. Almost every weekend I go to Empanadas Cafe and at least get one Guava and Cheese empanada. Ayame Hibachi & Sushi is definitely one of my top choices, but I’m very much a foodie so the list of favorite places is long.

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Candidate responses, pictures, graphics and any information related to the mayoral election is posted in random order

and does not reflect any endorsement or preference.

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HEADER PHOTO CREDIT: Danielle Guenther Photography

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