“Westbrook!” That was the one-word answer Councilman-At-Large Hokanson gave in response to the question of what was one of the things he was proud of getting done while on council. In between answering questions from residents who attended his Meet & Greet which he moved to Costa’s restaurant from its usual location of Borough Hall, Mr. Hokanson talked about his time on council, his bid for mayor, and his plans for the future.
“It was a political issue four years ago”, the councilman continued regarding the Westbrook Project which is a construction project to address the crumbling structure of a stream that runs through Roselle Park. Making it his first priority he stated, “I was sworn in on a Thursday. That Monday I was in Doreen’s (the Borough Clerk) office asking for the file for Westbrook.”
Mr. Hokanson started by getting updated information on the residents surrounding the area. That initial footwork has now culminated with a project currently being worked on and scheduled to be completed before month’s end. He also touched upon his awareness to the working of government when he became the Councilman-At-Large in 2009, after winning against incumbent Ricky Badillo in 2008.
“There’s days I get frustrated. My problem is I’m not polished. I hate the ‘P’ word – Political.” He used a request by the Little League to tap into the municipal water for sprinklers as an example.
“It took me 7 weeks to get an answer. The Board Of Education was going to pay to maintain (it), the volunteers were going to put it in. The only thing we did was dig a trench from LaMonaco Perry (Park) along the sidewalk.”
During the Meet & Greet, residents came by with some questions for Mr. Hokanson. One question had to do with a recent increase of $18,000 in the cost to re-mediate the Wolf & Adase Little League fields, which were closed due to NJ DEP (Department Of Environmental Protection) findings regarding contaminants in the ground.
“Probably about 30 years ago when we had to demolish it, he (the contractor) screwed us. Now, we have to do it,” he also added that, “Sometimes we’ve really got to start doing our homework when we do these things. I mean, the fields sat there for four (4) years.”
Another resident was bothered about an issue with the Kelly-Kaulfers Memorial Park which held its first September 11th Memorial earlier this month. Robert M. Kaulfers was a Roselle Park native who was a Port Authority officer and perished in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the World Trade Center.
“That’s another thing I wanted to get mad at”, stated the resident, “They didn’t put Hepburn’s name on there. He grew up here, his mother was a teacher in town.” Robert Allen Hepburn was another Roselle Park native who worked at the World Trade Center and also died during the terrorist attacks. His name was not on the Memorial Park nor was he mentioned by name during the ceremony. In listening to her concerns, the councilman sympathetically responded, “It’s not done yet.”
Reflecting on his campaign to become Roselle Park Mayor, running against current 2nd ward councilman Joe Accardi and former 1st ward councilman Kevin Murphy, Mr. Hokanson said, “This is my honest goal. If all goes well in November . . My goal is still to have an open door (policy). And I have plans to do workshops. I don’t have plans of just telling you the good news. I’ve got plans of telling you the good news. I’ve got plans of telling you the bad news. Because we all deserve to know, good or bad.”
One of the goals that the councilman feels he fell short of was to achieve a perfect attendance to all his meetings. A heart attack in July prevented him from attending some of them and he stated that, “I was going to use 100% attendance at all my meetings in my campaign literature.”
In closing, Mr. Hokanson addressed his purpose for the Meet & Greet which he has had on a scheduled basis every since becoming Councilman-At-Large. He also tied it to some current discussions regarding the campaign on the internet New Jersey Forum for Roselle Park.
“I had an e-mail today…stating that somebody on the NJ forum is bashing (me). I’m gonna write the person back. Please be advised that, number one, I don’t even go on the forum. I haven’t been on the forum in four (4) years. I don’t read it and I’ve told people I don’t even want to hear it. If I’m gonna say something I’m gonna say it to your face. I respond to somebody personally,” he looked around the room he reserved for the Meet & Greet and closed with, “Here is the perfect opportunity.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The names of residents were withheld for this report to respect the purpose of the Meet & Greet which was to have residents be able to discuss things freely without concern of being quoted or put on the spot.)