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Westfield’s 4th Ward Town Council Candidates Face Off at Forum

Jackie Lieberman

Friday, October 25, 2013 • 11:25pm

WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield candidates for mayor and ward council seats sounded off Oct. 24 at a forum sponsored by The Westfield Leader in conjunction with TV36. Lauren Barr of The Leader moderated.

Republican incumbent for Fourth Ward Council seat Keith Loughlin faced off against Democrat Jack Walsh, who has served on the council in the past.

Walsh spoke of the need for a budget surplus. “We are down to our bare bones in the budget,” Walsh told the audience.

Loughlin said that as soon as he was sworn in the council reduced spending while preserving services. He also spoke about working with NJ Transit to secure a one-seat ride on the Raritan Valley line and said, “I will continue to work for environmental initiatives.”

Asked about parking downtown, Loughlin said that parking is always an issue, but they are making improvements, including a pilot program that allows people to pay for their parking spots by cell phone.

“My opponent wants to build a parking deck downtown with your money,” said Loughlin, adding that the parking deck proposed years ago was defeated by a vote of 77 percent against.

“He has mischaracterized my position,” countered Walsh. “I think the parking deck that was proposed to this town was an unfortunate behemoth.” Walsh told the crowd that a smaller parking deck is what the council had first had in mind, and that such a parking deck shouldn’t be “off the table.”

Walsh said the town did not have enough firefighters.

“This was brought up as an issue after the last election,” said Walsh. “It’s an issue for safety in this town.”

Loughlin responded that he regularly meets with both the fire chief and the police chief to ensure that they have enough tools and manpower to protect the town, and that Walsh wanted to pay for more salaries by raising taxes.

Asked about pedestrian and bicycle safety, Loughlin spoke about the expansions made to parking lots at Edison School and Westfield High School during his term.

“My opponent took no action on High School parking,” he said and, he added, “wasted tens of thousands” of dollars on surveys.

“The parking surveys didn’t happen on my watch,” answered Walsh. He noted that “with some study and some appraising and some discussions …” he thought the council could make Westfield safer for bicyclists.

Asked about directing county funds to Westfield, Walsh spoke about Union County Community College, which he called on of the best, and the underpass for the train as well as improvements on Boulevard, which he said were paid for by the county.

Loughlin accused the freeholders of “gross mismanagement” of Westfield taxpayers’ dollars, but he said that he wanted to work with the county, rather than fight it.

Asked if the people on boards and in other positions were qualified, and not just political allies, Loughlin said, “We are appointing quality people.” He spoke about people from both parties volunteering together and noted, “None of my literature says what party I am.”

“Eighty-four percent of the members of boards, commissions of this town are Republicans,” countered Walsh. “It should be open to the whole town.”

In his closing statement, Loughlin spoke about how he helped cut the town payroll by 20 percent, returned un-needed surplus from the library, improved the conditions of the streets and more.

“We kept Westfield a premiere place to call home in New Jersey,” said Loughlin. He said that in the future he would keep Westfield safe and affordable.

“A town is like anything else—it has to keep moving,” said Walsh in his closing statement. “As great as Westfield is, there are many ways we can move Westfield forward.”

The entire debate will be available for viewing on TV36 and on The Westfield Leader’s Website, www.goleader.com.

To learn more about the candidates, visit our Candidates Statements section by clicking here.

To read our recap of the mayoral debate, click here. To read about the first ward candidate’s remarks, click here. To read about the third ward candidates' debate, click here. Republican Vicki Kimmins, running unopposed for re-election in the second ward, was absent from the forum.

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