Michael Chazukow is running for West Milford, NJ Town Council.
What compelled you to run for town council?
I was invited to the 2015 New Jersey Libertarian Party (NJLP) Convention to speak as a Board Member for NORML New Jersey. Patrick McKnight (NJLP Chair) saw that I was passionate about liberty and said that I would be a candidate he would be proud to support.
My experience in activism has shown me that once you start caring about one issue, and advocating for other people’s rights, then the interconnectedness of our world becomes clearer. The more you help others, the more you will want to help others. I care about this town and I am passionate about spreading the message of liberty.
What is your background?
I grew up in West Milford. In 2012 I married my beautiful wife Amber, also of West Milford. We now live in our own home in West Milford. I am currently employed as an account executive. I have a wide range of past employment experiences including finance, supply chain, special education, security, sales, and agriculture.
2011 – Ramapo College of New Jersey B.A. Law and Society summa cum laude; 2010 – Intern – Ed Potoznack Campaign for Federal Congress (D), NJ 7th District; 2009 – Founding President – RCNJ NORML; The Ramapo College of New Jersey Chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws; 2001 – Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier III, Montpellier, France; Academic Certificate: “Connaissance de la Langue Français”; 2000 – County College of Morris A.A. Humanities/Social Science; 1996 – West Milford Township High School
I am an Executive Board member – NORML New Jersey (Statewide chapter) since 2013; volunteer since 2009. I enjoy frisbee golf, camping and hiking, gardening, chess, and guitar.
What assistance have you or do you expect to receive from the New Jersey Libertarian Party, financial or otherwise?
The NJLP has been extremely supportive. We have a great network of volunteers and professionals and any type of guidance or assistance is available to me at all times. Financially, the party has more resources this year than it had previously, so I will receive some financial support, but I intend on running a low dollar campaign funded mostly by myself and my supporters.
What can you do, if elected, to make the residents of West Milford more free? What specific economic and/or social issue(s) could you remove from municipal control to benefit the people of West Milford?
Everyone I’ve spoken to in the community says that taxes are their #1 issue. I will vote “no” on new spending and any other proposal that I believe will increase the size and scope of government. I will ask at every opportunity if we can have a non-governmental solution available or if we really want government involved in this aspect of our lives.
If I am elected, it will send a clear signal to the rest of the council that it is time to seriously consider prioritizing lower taxes. The council’s budget strategy has resulted in about a 10% increase in the municipal budget in the last 6 years. If elected, I believe we can take real steps to reverse this trend.
I also believe that, if I am elected, the rest of the council will recognize my election as a signal that it is okay to reduce the government’s role in certain areas. For example, the township is already trying to sell the MUA (Municipal Utilities Authorities). A recent incident where many residents suddenly found themselves without water highlights an important lesson. We need to recognize that the government is limited in its capabilities and that the more we ask our government to do, the less it can do effectively. I believe the other council members have recognized this already and would be more open to these types of proposals if the voters confirm that it is what they want by electing a Libertarian.
Have you ever held office before? Are you doing this out of a sense of duty/community involvement, or was there a specific issue facing West Milford that you felt is so important you had to get involved?
I am a first time candidate but I have always had an interest in politics. Since I was a child, my family always encouraged community service and political discussions. My experience living in France as well as my internship with a Democratic candidate (I was raised Republican) taught me the importance of putting differences aside. By working and living with people who think differently than I do, I learned to better recognize the common goals and ideals that unite us all. So my interest was and forever will be to encourage conversations that recognize that we are all on the same side and further our community’s shared goals.
I believe that to make a change in the world you need to start small and where you are. I believe in liberty and want to spread the message of libertarianism. That message is one of human dignity for every individual, freedom to live your life as you see fit as long as you do not hurt others, and a government that not only treats you with dignity and allows you to live free, but also empowers you to reach your goals.
How would you grade the West Milford town council? Have they been executing the will of the people? Have they been effective town managers, or derelict in their duties?
I admire all the members of the council and their commitment to our community. But my opponents are the Republican establishment candidates. The entire council is Republican. As a Libertarian, I would be the only person on the council to provide a different perspective on town matters.
Our government works best when there are checks and balances in place but single party rule means that our community is no longer protected by that mechanism. We need to broaden the range of opinions represented in our government to more accurately reflect the views of all the residents in our community.
Though it is a rural area, West Milford seems to be suffering from a drug epidemic, particularly heroin? What should the town council do to combat the deleterious effects of drug usage in West Milford? What would a liberty-minded council member advocate for?
As a longtime activist for drug law reform, this is an issue for which I can provide a great deal of insight. I have submitted testimony before the state legislature, lectured at universities across the state, worked with law enforcement, elected officials, activists, psychiatrists, lawyers, parents and many others. I bring a great deal of experience, knowledge, and resources to this issue.
Addiction is a punishment in itself. But our approach to this problem is schizophrenic. On one hand, we aggressively punish drug users, yet on the other, we try to encourage them to come forward for help with their problem. Our focus should be on addressing the harm caused by drug dependency. Making harm reduction the focus of all policies and educational messaging will be an improvement on our current model. I agree with Libertarian VP nominee Bill Weld when he said:
“Society is coming to view people who have serious issues with either narcotics or alcohol, that is a public health emergency and it is not a crime, which it has been treated as, … there is some movement away from incarcerating people for possessory narcotics offenses and treating that as a public health issue … That’s part of lessen the pressure all around drugs … and getting them out of the shadows.”
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