Voters Heading to Polls Tuesday to Elect Local Officials, Boards of Education
Monday, November 5, 2012 • 9:54am
NEW JERSEY - For the most part, voters will find their regular polling places open on Election Day, as most towns either have power or expect to have it back by Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy left much of the area without electricity.
POLLING LOCATION UPDATE, BY TOWN:
BERKELEY HEIGHTS: Elections will be held at the regular polling places from 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. with the exception of Governor Livingston High School. People who normally vote at GL should instead vote at the Firehouse.
CHATHAM TOWNSHIP: According to Mayor Nicole Hagner, "For election day November 6th, 2012 between 6am and 8pm, please note the following poling center updates: District 1-5 Green Village Fire Department on Green Village Rd.; District 6-10 River Road Firehouse on River Road; If you previously voted at Long Hill Chapel and Corpus Christ, you should go to Green Village Firehouse. If you previously voted at the Municipal Bldg/Senior Center/Briarwood/Coachlight, you should go to River Road Firehouse."
MADISON: According to Mayor Bob Conley: "All our polling sites are powered up, so it will be voting in the advertised locations with no need for paper ballots."
MILLBURN/SHORT HILLS: From the Assistant to the Township Clerk: "Voting WILL take place in Millburn on Election Day, November 6, 2012 between the hours of 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM. Polling places that have power will proceed with voting as usual. The locations are: Casa Colombo (District 1, 7, and 10) at 119 Main Street; Millburn Public Library (District 2 and6) at 200 Glen Avenue; Gero Park Recreation Building (District 4 and 13) at 335 White Oak Ridge Road; Community Congregation Church (District 8, 11, 14 and 15) at 200 Hartshorn Drive. If your usual polling place is without power, you may cast your vote at Temple B’Nai Jeshurun, 1025 South Orange Avenue, between the hours of 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM. The polling places without power are: Glenwood School (District 3 an9) at 325 Taylor Road South; Deerfield School (District 5, 12 and 16) at 26 Troy Lane; Essex County is also offering the option to vote by e-mail or fax. To do so please contact the Essex County Clerk’s office for direction during business hours at 973-621-4920 and select the option for “Election Information”, which is option #2."
NEW PROVIDENCE: According to Mayor J. Brooke Hern, "All polling places will be open at locations indicated on each sample ballot. There are no changed in locations or hours. Generators will be used as needed."
SUMMIT: Summit Polling Places for tomorrow’s Election Day are all open except for Lincoln Hubbard School, please vote at the Summit High School and the Franklin School, please vote at the Summit Middle School. Polls are open between 6 AM and 8 PM.
Below is a recap of the races in towns covered by The Alternative Press. Some towns also will have a board of education election.
Two incumbent Republicans and one Democrat are running for two three-year seats on the Township Council. Democrat Michael Simon and Republicans Craig Pastore and incumbent Kevin Hall are all seeking election.
Among the issues on which the candidates differ are taxes, and the possibility of seceding from Union County. Both topics came up during a recent debate.
On the issue of leaving Union County, Hall explained the issue is related to “affordability.” He said the county is “the same as any other service provider” and the cost associated with being part of Union County exceeds the cost of running the town. He noted Berkeley Heights has no representation of the freeholder board. And, the county is not “open to constructive criticism.”
Simon does not agree with the concept of leaving Union County. “I feel it’s a moot point,” noting the New Jersey Legislature has to sign off on it and other towns have tried and failed in the past. “Instead of being confrontational, work with the county,” he said.
Pastore disagreed. “We have to evaluate every opportunity to try to lower the tax rate,” he said. “Just because it hasn’t been done doesn’t mean we can’t do it.”
Each of the candidates has been specific about their priorities if they are elected.
Simon said “getting more involvement” from residents would be his top priority, placing more information on the website and making it easier to communicate with council members. His second priority would be the downtown business district.
Pastore said “flooding of the river” would be his first priority, noting “we’ve spent a lot of time,” met with the Department of Environmental Protection and have had the DPW remove “snags” in the smaller streams.
Hall would make “affordability” his first priority “now and forever.” He said he’ll work to manage resources “efficiently and effectively.”
Two Berkeley Heights Board of Education members are running unopposed for another three-year term on the board. They are Doug Reinstein and Mary Ann Walsh.
Reinstein, 49, is running for his third three-year term on the school board.
He said he believes the board faces three major challenges:
• Improving student achievement while implementing new testing standards
• Rolling out a new teacher evaluation system
• Accomplishing the goals identified in our Strategic Plan.
He noted plans are already in place for all three of these items, “including teacher training and owners and milestones for each goal in the Strategic Plan.”
Walsh, 49, is running for her second three-year term. She also completed an interim term of five months.
“There are many critical concerns facing education today,” she said. “However, fundamentally I see the most critical concerns/needs to be: to improve overall student achievement, to insure our children are prepared for success in the 21st century, and to balance the needs of our children with the economic realities of our taxpayers.”
In the race to fill the Chatham Township Committee seat previously held by Kevin Tubbs, Republican Kevin Sullivan is squaring off against Democrat Erich (Richard) Templin.
Tubbs resigned his seat earlier this year because he relocated out of state and Laura Ali Nonnenmacher was appointed to fill the seat until the end of this year, when Tubbs’ term expires.
Sullivan defeated Nonnenmacher in the June GOP primary to become the Republican nominee for the full term.
“I want to help the committee to continue to hold the line on property taxes and control costs so residents will not see their taxes go through the roof to the point where they will not want to remain in the township,” he said.
Although Sullivan said there are a few strictly neighborhood issues in Chatham, it remains a great place to live, with its great access, proximity to a number of parks and the availability of transportation.
The candidate believes his experience on the planning board dealing with quality of life issues in the township, protecting private property rights and addressing commercial development will serve him well as a member of the governing body.
Templin’s view of the election, however, is quite different. He says he is in the race to fight what he sees as corruption in the township and “to reduce the squandering of our money.”
The Democrat said he originally became involved to stand up with neighbors against a zoning change that Committeeman Bailey Brower, Jr. and Mayor Nicole Hagner wanted to use to “help themselves and some of their friends to our tax dollars. Because of that minor opposition, it is no secret to anyone in Chatham that I have received harassment from our local officials and their supporters. However, that public face was only a fraction of what was levied on me.” He gave several examples of ways in which he feels he has been harassed and persecuted by Chatham Township officials, and Brower in particular.
Democrat candidates Al Anthony and Michael Silverman and Republican candidates Chuck Granata and Allan Feid are seeking seats on the Livingston Town Council.
During a recent candidates’ forum, one of the questions posed was how each of them would make sure the public is considered with regard to major expenditures.
Silverman said that communicating better and more often as a community would help bring in public feedback regarding expensive projects.
“We will have open, honest, ethical discussions with town employees and residents,” Silverman said. “Weekly updates regarding the budget should also be distributed through the town newspapers.”
Granata said that town council’s current “cloak of secrecy is doing a disservice to residents.”
He explained that town council members don’t know home much over the budget has gone and if he were in office, these “sloppy accounting practices” wouldn’t take place.
For the board of education, Pam Chirls, Soumitra Rathod and David Jasin are running for two available seats.
The candidates have all said they will support the $25 million dollar facility proposal, but would like to look into it further.
“I give a conditional yes because we need the extra classrooms and the existing ones should be brought up to standard,” Rathod said. He then questioned though whether the dollar amount is accurate and what costs could be cut in different ways. “Coming back to the tax payers for the third time is discomforting and this is where I would want to use my budgeting experience,” Rathod said.
Jasin said that “there are a lot of things tied into the referendum that can potentially have cost savings for us.” He suggested bringing children back into the district and out of private schools to lower costs.
Chirls said the plans should be evaluated because she has “some real concerns” due to recent demographic studies that “have not been reliable.” She also wants to make sure the plans include enough classroom space.
All three candidates agreed that one of the most pressing issues facing the Board of Education is the budget and quality of education.
Four candidates, two Republicans and two Democrats, are running for two, three-year terms on the Borough Council. Democrats Ben Wolkowitz and Astri Baillie and Republicans John Hoover and Carmen Pico are all seeking seats.
During a recent candidate forum, questions from the audience ranged from taxes to sustainability, the Board of Health, open space and the abrupt firing and re-instatement of Borough Administrator Raymond Codey. The last question drew some of the most varied responses.
“It’s the reason I’m running,” Wolkowitz said. He said he comes from a humble background and has seen how people abuse power. “I’ve never seen anything like it. No one apologized,” he said. “This was a truly low point. That’s not Madison.”
Baillie said she did not expect to run again after her latest term on council, which ended in 2010. She, too, found the issue to be a turning point. “It really made me mad. We don’t treat people like that,” she said. She recalled at the public meeting held in the Madison Presbyterian Church in February, “not one voice supported the council’s decision. We need accountability and to treat people with respect.”
Hoover said, “It’s hard to disagree. I sat through all the meetings. Jim Burnet (assistant borough administrator) and Ray Codey handled it with grace and aplomb. We need to work collegially and as a team.”
Republican Pico said that everyone makes mistakes. “The general public does not know what went on in council chambers.” He said once the council realized that this was a mistake, “they did the right thing and corrected it.”
A question also came up about the loss of three contracts with other towns. Wolkowitz said two of those that were lost were towns that had been with Madison’s health department for 30 years. He said the borough pays, yet the Board of Health is autonomous. Hoover responded that there is a CAP on how much the borough can fund. He added that, although two communities have notified the board, two more are on the brink of signing contracts. “All towns are seeking competitive bids,” he said.
All the candidates supported sustainability, although Hoover urged “taking a hard look at priorities.” The candidate agreed on open space and seeking grants for such projects as the Madison Recreation Center. Pico described the complex as “the best thing that has happened for the children in Madison” and that the children are the future.
Three seats on the board are open and four candidates are running, including newcomers Elliot Cahn, Dr. Rupali Wadhwa and Raymond Wong, and incumbent board member Dr. Eric Siegel.
Cahn, who has been an educator for 21 years, said he believes the board of education is a natural fit for him.
“I can bring fresh ideas and innovative programs to the district. Since the board of education decided to pass along the cost of busing to the parents, the budget surplus continues to grow. The busing fee is in addition to the high property taxes we already pay.”
Wadhwa, who moved with her family to Short Hills six years ago, has two children, a three-year-old and a second-grader who attends Deerfield School. As a runner, she compared her campaign for the school board to training for a marathon.
“You have to have a plan, and you have to plan in small increments until you get to your goal,” she said. As an orthodontist with practices in Morristown and South Orange, as well as experience in a higher education setting, Wadhwa said she believes in fiscal responsibility.
Siegel said the board needs leadership that understands the challenging economic times Millburn, like other communities, is facing.
“I have always been able to find the middle ground,” he said. “I was unanimously elected as vice president of the board. I am fully vested in Millburn.”
Wong said he is seeking a seat on the board for three reasons.
“I have a proven track record of service to the nation, I have diverse experience, and I’m a resident of Millburn,” he said, adding that he is the son of immigrants who came to America with very little money but dreams of a better life. A product of the New Jersey public school system, he attended West Point and went on to serve as an officer in the United States Army. He was a Fortune 500 executive so he knows “how to do more with less.”
Mayor Sandra Haimoff is running unopposed for another term on the Millburn Township Committee. The candidates’ forum scheduled for Nov. 1 in which Haimoff was to speak to residents was cancelled due to the hurricane.
Republican candidates Alan Lesnewich, Gary Kapner and Independent Victor Moschella are seeking seats on the Borough Council.
During a recent candidates’ debate, Moschella said New Providence should investigate consolidation with neighboring communities to form one township with one government, one mayor, one town council, one Board of Education, one police department and one fire department.
Both Republican candidates took issue with Moschella’s proposal. Lesnewich said he saw no reason to merge with other communities. Kapner said the cost of consolidation could be very high and there was no evidence that the borough could save money. He referred to a study conducted by Rutgers University that urged caution in approaching consolidation. He added that shared services are the way to go.
Attendees at the debate also raised questions about the state of existing recreation facilities and how to finance improvements.
Lesnewich cited a recent example as Hillview Field where the borough received a matching grant from Union County, used Open Space Trust funds and plans to issue $190,000 in notes or bonds to finance the improvements.
Moschella took issue with bonding saying there was over $400,000 in the Open Space Trust fund which would eliminate the need for borrowing.
Moschella also stated that he believes recreation is "a luxury" and that it's a luxury the Borough can't afford to be paying for.
Two Republicans, Summit Common Council President Richard Madden, who represents Ward II, and former Councilman Albert Dill, Jr., who is seeking to return to the governing body as the First Ward representative, are running for the council.
Madden said “Our future challenges include: flat budgets for the city and board of education; encouraging the county freeholders to budget within the 2 percent spending cap; controlling debt service in this unstable economy; improving city parking; monitoring the Overlook helipad appeal; reconciling our Ameripay mediation; seeking indemnification from the Passaic River litigation; encouraging further downtown development, and implementing shared services and effective corporate and community relations.”
“On behalf of Summit Council, we welcome recommendations to improve our governance,” Madden said.
He added he would like to see a county-wide property revaluation in Union County.
Since his previous stint on the governing body Dill said he has been actively involved in the community and has maintained an interest in how the city has progressed. He believes he can contribute that historical perspective as well as new ideas to a council that has been doing a good job.
The candidate sees the biggest challenges facing the city are keeping taxes low in the face of continually rising costs and the need to continue the high quality of vital services.
Among items that require continued high attention, he said, is maintenance of the city’s roads, fields and infrastructure.
Polls are open Tuesday from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.