Environmental activist enters mayor's race in Byram

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    BYRAM-If there's a township council meeting, chances are, Scott Olson will be there. The Byram resident makes it a point to voice his opinion at the bi-monthly sessions at the municipal building. It's about all he can do to influence a debate for now; he has no vote. Next week, he wants yours. The outspoken advocate for environmental protection and preservation is urging residents to vote for him as a write-in candidate for mayor when elections are held Tuesday, May 10. Olson will be attempting to unseat Eskil "Skip" Danielson, who is seeking another term as mayor of Byram. James Oscovitch, up for re-election to the four-member council, will be running unopposed. The mayor and all council members are elected at-large in non-partisan elections for four-year staggered terms. Elected officials enter office on July 1 of the election year. Danielson had been running unopposed for mayor before Olson threw his candidacy into the ring. "That's the problem; there's too many people running unopposed," said Olson, a self-employed graphic designer and Byram resident since 1997. "There's a lack of focus and leadership. There's a terrible sense of apathy in the entire town. There needs to be another choice." Olson said Danielson has failed to project a vision for Byram and a cohesive plan to integrate the needs of the community in an economical way. He cited a stagnant tax base devoid of new ratables despite efforts among elected officials and volunteers to gain village center designation for the township. "He hasn't done his job," said Olson, who proposes to appoint an economic development advisory committee and involve residents and businesses in the creation of a "human-scale, walkable and vibrant" business district. "He doesn't deserve to be unopposed. The voters deserve another choice." Danielson has been an advocate of a Department of Transportation plan to expand Route 206 to five lanes through town. He has supported council resolutions to approve widening of the roadway to first 58 feet and then to the proposed 62 feet. The project, still in the planning stages, has drawn ire from some residents who fear the expansion attracts urban sprawl to the small community. Olson, who has served on the township's Smart Growth Task Force, Master Plan Project Team, and Architectural Review Committee, said it is time to rethink DOT's plans and make Route 206 a model for smart growth. "Rational-thinking people realize it is time to revisit DOT's massive widening plan, yet our mayor advocates the hideous and unreasonably wide expanse of five-lanes of pavement that will decimate the rural character of our town, offering only limited and dangerous access to our current businesses and our village center." Olson also accused Danielson of failing to advance a proposed tree protection ordinance at the Planning Board or township council that he said would ensure proper management of forests and tree-filled Byram neighborhoods. Olson said he would move the proposed ordinance to the top of the council agenda for discussion. The former member of Byram's Environmental Commission said he advocates a referendum to increase the open space and recreation tax by 1 cent per $100 assessed property value to help increase available state funding for land acquisition and maintain the rural character of the township. "We have limited time and even no money to spend n we are going to have to rely on word of mouth and volunteers to help get the vote out," said Olson, who co-founded NBCC n North Byram Concerned Citizens, a township-wide community activist group. "But, that's OK n we can do it, as Byram is all about volunteers and community."