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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.

Dan Toth October 18, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I have known Sue Viscomi for more than 20 years. I call her a dear friend and I hope that she is successful in her bid for a seat on the Council. Red Bank would benefit greatly through her involvement.
george coffenberg October 18, 2012 at 12:58 PM
The town has a secret tax called your water and sewer bill. Here is an article showing that Red Bank residents pay roughly 35% more for water than NJ American customers. http://www.redbankgreen.com/2008/02/water-bills-alr.html
Boris Kofman October 18, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I wonder if a cost-benefit analysts was done for the GPS tracking idea.
John de la Parra October 18, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I'm a lifelong democrat who will be voting for Ms. Viscomi. I hope many others will join me. I think she'll do right by the people of Red Bank. Until actually dealing with the council, I hadn't realized how important it was to have someone looking over their shoulders, not letting their heads get too big. She'll help keep them in check.
JosephGhabourLaw October 18, 2012 at 06:25 PM
It's great to hear that over 75 people turned up for this event. A community that participates in local governance ultimately benefits. The more people who participate in decision making, win or lose, means that more people have a personal stake in the future of their community.
george coffenberg October 18, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Here is an article whereby the town stated that the borough council authorized the Red Bank Housing Authority to develop the Cedar Crossings Project but ultimately the Red Bank Affordable Housing Corporation was the developer in which former Mayor Ed McKenna is the Vice President of the development corporation. http://www.trtnj.com/archive/122206/news2.php The accountant for Red Bank Affordable Housing Corporation William Katchen has had issues in the past with investigations and suspension due to other public housing projects in North Jersey. http://www.07020.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5968%20changefreq=weekly%20priority=1.0 It is reasons like these that Red Bank needs someone to look over the shoulder of those who have been left unchecked for several years now.
george coffenberg October 18, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Here is a blog outlining my previous lawsuit against Red Bank as well as other development issues in Red Bank over the past several years with links to supporting documents. This is why I am pushing for the voters to make sure there is another party involved with the town to create a checks and balances situation which is certainly needed. http://courtyardsatmonmouth.wordpress.com/
Suzanne Viscomi October 19, 2012 at 01:22 AM
I appreciate everyone’s support. Please check out my website www.choice4redbank.com
george coffenberg October 19, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I saw an ad in the most recent tri city news for dupont and murphy re-election. I had to read the ad a couple of times to make sure I read it correctly. They claim they have protected neighborhoods from over development. I know when I was developing the Monmouth & West property I followed the zoning which was 16 units per acre and the town fought me over it. Once they found out I was losing the property they re-zone the property from 16 units an acre to about 35 units per acre. The property now is approved for 57 units which exceeded the new expanded zoning as this property would have yielded about 45 units under the new zoning. The cedar crossings project was not zoned residential and was changed to allow roughly 18 units per acre. The project on monmouth and pearl was granted about 24 units per acre. So all 3 of these projects were approved for far more than permitted yet the red bank democrats have protected the town from overdevelopment. I wonder what would have happened had they not protected the public. http://www.redbankgreen.com/2010/07/another-courtyards-plan-wins-variances.html
george coffenberg October 20, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Here is an article about government waste at the NJ Turnpike Authority and Mike Dupont is the Treasurer of the Authority. Gov. Christie issued a veto regarding their proposed expenses, http://www.northjersey.com/news/state/politics/031810_Christie_vetoes_5_service_contracts_approved_by_Turnpike_Authority.html http://www.state.nj.us/turnpike/who-we-are.html
Cindy Burnham October 21, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Councilman Mike Dupont isTreasurer of the NJ Turnpike Authorty AND Councilwoman Sharon Lee is on the NJ Turnpike Authorty Finance Committee. INTERESTING! I have to wonder if this is some kinda perk or favor for being on the RB Council and voting the way they are told. No surprise to me that they over spend. Seems fishy to me.
Fred M October 21, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Blue Collar persons are best candidates for Council...They have a different way on how money should be spent...
george coffenberg October 21, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Here is an interesting older redbankpatch article on parking issues. In addition to the revenue received throught tickets and fees they also provide jobs for retired cops who are hired to work for the parking authority resulting in 2 pensions for the town to pay for. Red Bank's budget is 10 million dollars per square mile to operate annually and the downtown parking pays for around 7% of this. http://redbank.patch.com/articles/8083-reasons-to-fix-parking-in-red-bank
george coffenberg October 21, 2012 at 12:44 PM
When I started to see that Red Bank spent 10 million per square mile to run the town it made me wonder if this was too high. I then checked some other towns and it is very high. Little Silver costs 5 million per square mile, Shrewsbury costs 4.5 million per square mile, and Rumson costs 3 million per square mile.
Fred M October 21, 2012 at 01:19 PM
George, I believe that running Red Bank is different then running Shrewsbury and Little Silver......Question is how much money does it take to run the town? More police are needed in Red Bank...Red Bank could never have only two or thee policemen on at one time...I would like to see Red Bank compared to another town that has same makeup as Red Bank. There is a lot more involved in running a square mile in Red Bank then the other towns..
george coffenberg October 21, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Fred I agree regarding police. Lets say they need to have 6 extra police per shift, that would be 18 per day. Lets say the average pay is 75k which would be roughly 1.5 million extra per year. The difference in those towns is roughly 5 million annually so it would still show that the other towns keep their expenses in line. Also some towns are starting to merge services to save money. All of the area police depts offer assistance to neighboring towns when situations occur that are beyond the local police's ability to control which has occurred in Red Bank in the past.
george coffenberg October 21, 2012 at 03:35 PM
My math was off. I forgot we were talking in miles. It would have cost roughly 750k per square mile more which is still about 4 million more per square mile to run Red Bank than Little Silver or Shrewsbury.
Fred M October 21, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Red Bank also has more Firehouses to pay for..Red Bank also has water and sewage that is part of their dispursements to run town...To me, it appears Red Bank is a lot more busier .. I am not sure what can be done to spend less..What can be cut out or reduced?
Fred M October 21, 2012 at 08:11 PM
George you didnt include that you would need more police cars if you have six more police officers on duty per shift..You would need six or seven more police cars to pay for..You need to include the cost of keeping the police cars running, gas, insurances and adding another mechanic on to maintain the six or more cars needed..You also need to include benefits for the 18 extra cops per day...That could cost you another 2 million..
george coffenberg October 21, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Here is the reason that I am calling for change with the red bank council and how it relates to me. Ed McKenna's charity received 51 monmouth st for $1 they then sold it this past year for 1.3 million. amboy bank lent ed mckenna's charity 1.14 million to renovate 51 monmouth. i am not sure if amboy was ever paid back or not. what i do know prior to this sale of 1.3 million that 2 attorneys told me that i was set up by amboy bank as it relates to my former property know as the courtyards at monmouth. amboy was my lender and i was told by them that once i had an approval they would finance the construction. if that promise was not made, i would never have involved myself in it. after i received an approval, amboy refused to lend on the construction which basically forced me to give them back the property. as i was working out agreements to give them the property, the town decided to rezone the property from 16 units per acre to 35 units per acre. amboy then obtained an approval for 57 units which was about 25% higher than permitted in the new zone they had only created months earlier. amboy also did not have to follow the rivercenter guidelines of street level retail. at the same time ed mckenna was appointed to rivercenter and endorsed the new amboy project. now one could conclude that ed mckenna and amboy bank had an on-going relationship. one could also assume that amboy bank subdivided the 12 affordable units from the 45 market units. to be continued out of space
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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