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Red Bank Candidates Make their Pitch

Red Bank Candidates Night was held Wednesday, giving an opportunity for election hopefuls to sell themselves to the public.

Red Bank residents have plenty of concerns. Property taxes, they say, are too high. Government, they suggest, is not forthright enough. The local economy, they mention, is still struggling. What they want to know is, what’s going to be done about all of it?

In the community room of River Street Commons Wednesday night, a crowd of more than 75 people gathered for the Westside Community Group’s annual Red Bank Candidates Night. With three candidates appealing for votes in the upcoming council election, residents were given the chance to have their questions and concerns addressed directly.

Incumbent Democrats Council President Art Murphy and Councilman Mike DuPont are seeking re-election to their fourth and third terms, respectively, while Republican challenger and Board of Education Member Sue Viscomi is looking for her first term on borough council. The consensus opinion from Murphy and DuPont is that things in Red Bank are working. For Viscomi, they’re not.

When it comes to the issue of rising taxes, DuPont, head of the borough’s finance committee, believes he and the rest of council have done best by following the maxim “doing more with less.” Over the past few years, he said, the borough’s debt has been reduced by 30 percent, operating expenses are down, and so too are the number of borough employees, trimmed by attrition rather than layoffs. The town has also been able to increase its surplus, too, he said.

Yes, he admitted, taxes have gone up, but have stayed under the state’s mandated 2 percent cap. The reason, he said, is that while the borough is running leaner, costs like healthcare and pension contributions have strained Red Bank’s budget.

Viscomi, who serves on the Board of Education’s finance committee, said council hasn’t done its best to try and lower taxes, but instead has renamed it. The rising reoccurring revenues, like meter payments, parking tickets, and water and sewer bills, which fund Red Bank’s independent water distribution system, are all taxes just with a different name.

Viscomi said she would help trim costs by holding borough employees more accountable, saying that people tend to “dilly-dally” when on the job. She pointed to the borough’s Department of Public works, saying she would place more stringent controls to ensure that work was being done in a timely fashion by doing things like outfitting borough trucks with GPS and making hourly employees punch in and out during working hours.

Though several important questions were asked and answered, the debate was marred by a small group of residents who decided to ignore the rules issued by moderator Amy Goldsmith. Instead of asking questions and waiting for a reply from the candidates, several residents instead used the platform to, as one resident put it, ‘give a speech,’ and to bicker back and forth with the candidates and each other in a self-serving and disruptive fashion.

When the small group of residents weren’t sucking their teeth at every comment, audible talking throughout the entirety of the procession, and interrupting the candidates at every turn, questions were answered occasionally, however.

For much of the night, as DuPont and Viscomi exchanged their differing opinions about various topics, Murphy was content to let his fellow candidates do the heavy lifting, answering questions only when addressed directly. In one instance, Murphy was asked why he receives benefits as a councilman – DuPont does not receive benefits from council and Viscomi said, if elected, she would not either – to which he replied: “I’m taking the benefits.” The issue comes up every election cycle, he said, and while he says it’s a fair point to address, he’s not willing to give up the benefits he receives.

Murphy instead used his opening and closing comments to provide a concise assessment of the job he said he and his fellow councilman have done to make Red Bank a better place, calling Red Bank a trend setter whose direction other towns have attempted to follow.

DuPont concentrated his closing comments on the future, saying he and Murphy ran on a platform of a vision last time, and that the vision has not yet been completed.

What concerns Viscomi most, she said, is the Democratic monopoly that’s run Red Bank for the past several decades. With the exception of a few former council members like state Sen. Jennifer Beck, and Monmouth County Freeholder John Curley, the borough council has been comprised of all Democrats. The public would be better served by electing her, if only to be the council’s lone voice of dissent and a challenge to rubber stamp politics.

george coffenberg October 21, 2012 at 09:11 PM
to have 2 developers for the courtyards project. amboy acknowledged that they might have someone like red bank housing authority involved which is the same scenario whereby ed mckenna's red bank affordable housing corp became the developer. 3 of my attorneys that worked on the courtyard project at various times ultimately had ties to red bank 2 firms were hired by red bank for various work and mike dupont was appointed as an attorney for a town where my north jersey attorneys also became borough attorneys. my judge in monmouth county was also replaced with one who pre-wrote a decision to throw my lawsuit out. here is the closed door meeting led my Art Murphy regarding the courtyards earlier this year. http://www.redbankgreen.com/2012/02/council-affordable-units-must-not-wait.html
george coffenberg October 21, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Fred, you are correct about needing more cars, gas, ect but I doubt it would cost more than 500k per year which lets round to 2 million for cops and equip. it still leaves 3 million per square mile more than other towns in spending. i do not buy the fire dept thing. they do not need all of these fire trucks and fire houses. they should have a central location like most towns to respond quickly to all areas as nothing would exceed 1 mile from a central location. if the fire was real big they could have other towns help like every other town around here does. asbury park has 1 fire house with only a few fire engines and they have the same type buildings found in red bank.
Fred M October 21, 2012 at 09:52 PM
George, I do understand why you want a change..Do you think it's possible for politics not to enter the game as to what you went thru? It is very sad that most people that enter politics do it for the wrong reason..Most all politicians only get into this game to reap benefits for themselves..It's all about look at me attitude...Personally, I never vote for a lawyer that runs for Council..I do believe they are lookin to advance their career more then they are lookin to help and serve the residents..I don't lke to vote for wealthy people for the reason I think wealthy council people spend taxpayers money so easy the same way they spend their own money..Wealthy council people I think believe all residents are wealthy also..Their mindset is just different then the avg citizen..Just my opinion..
george coffenberg October 21, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Fred, Look at who got approvals in town over the past 10 years and how certain projects were granted far more density than allowed in the zone. there is a quote by former council member and current monmouth county freeholder john curley that sums it up while he was on the zoning board about pre-determined approvals. http://www.redbankgreen.com/2006/11/curley-2.html you are correct about the attorney connections as it has been a long standing practice of having jobs from one town going to another. belmar to red bank a couple of years ago would be a perfect example of this.
Cindy Burnham October 22, 2012 at 10:35 AM
If RB really wanted to cut costs, we could start with Murphy's health benifits that cost the town over $17,000.00 a year. Does RB really need a Neighborhood Preservation/COAH Coordinator at a salary of $50,085 a year? Construction/Fire Officer $113,094, Building Sub-Code Official $74,793, Deputy Court Administrator (1) @ $35,7000 or Deputy Court Administrator (2) @ $36,549? How about Gary Watson, X cop now Director of DPW, Certified Recycling Professional, Parking Utility Operations Manager & Assistant Administrater @ $87,197. All these positions means more money. As one who is concerned about the quality of our parks, I have to say Mr. Watson gets a C-. Mohawk pond has been neglected for 20 years and is a disgrace, as is Marine Park. Myself and a woman from Navesink Garden Club cleaned up around the rusty and disgraceful flag pole & made it pretty, DPW couldnt even maintain that and thats a no brainer! I have had to mow Maple Cove for the last 5 years because RB refuses and Riverside is maintained by a Fair Haven volunteer. EastSide Park looks good because residents stay on them. DPW, doesnt cut the grass at any parks, they pay a private landscaper and Watson has said to me that he can't do anything unless Sickels gives him the okay. So why are we paying him to be the Assistant Administrator? Just another title and mo money.

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