Madison’s Baillie, Wolkowitz Lay Out Campaign Strategy
Thursday, October 4, 2012 • 6:54am
MADISON, NJ – Democrat contenders Astri Baillie and Ben Wolkowitz sat down with The Alternative Press recently to talk about their visions and concerns for the borough they have both come to love.
Baillie has always lived in Madison, growing up in the community, attending its public schools and graduating from Drew University. She has poured her heart and soul into Madison, serving on the borough council from 2002-2010, stints on the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment, and numerous Madison organizations and activities.
Wolkowitz brings financial expertise to the ticket, with experience as Managing Director at Morgan Stanley for 16 years, Vice Chairman of Futures Industry Association and founder of Madison Financial Technology Partners.
“One of the most significant problems facing Madison is maintaining a high level of borough services while controlling increases in taxes and fees,” Wolkowitz said. “Outside grant money for certain types of projects and different ways of organizing the provision of services, e.g. shared services, are just two ways among many of addressing the problem.”
Both candidates have been active in environmental matters, with Wolkowitz’s service on Sustainable Madison, Great Swamp Watershed Association and the Ten Towns Committee. “Other communities have a full time, paid person (sometimes covered by grant money) who is focused on locating and acquiring grants for environmentally related projects,” he said.
Baillie stressed the need for a strategic plan to keep a running account of basic infrastructure issues, such as streets and sewer pipes. She said the Master Plan is available at Borough Hall and the Madison Public Library and that it should be a familiar document to all the council members.
Baillie was instrumental in securing funding for the 49 acres that compose the Madison Recreation Center. She said of turf fields, “We need them.” She supported the decision, she said, but tried to make people aware of the financial cost, which could be covered by fund-raising or grants. The decision should not be made, she said at the time, until that funding was secure.
“This property is a good example of why Madison needs to introduce strategic planning into its decision-making processes,” Wolkowitz said. “While there are two beautiful fields, there is no plan for the entire 49-acre site as a Madison focus for active and passive recreation. It doesn’t have to be that way,” he said of short term solutions versus long term planning.
“We leave party affiliation at the door,” Baillie said, adding there is often a lack of open discussion on council. “We want balance,” she said. Sometimes, she said, the council acts too hastily. The recent discussion about converting unused railroad tracks to pedestrian paths was shot down by council, Baillie noted. “But that was in the Master Plan. It should have been reviewed before sending a letter to Morris County. That kind of thing could come back to haunt us.”
Her view is that every council member should read the Master Plan cover to cover. She stressed the importance of zoning laws and how they can be an aid to businesses in the community. Baillie said she is pleased about the Green Village Road ordinance, a cooperative venture between the Board of Education and the borough council. Wolkowitz also stressed the need to work with each other and reach compromise.
On a cautionary note, Baillie said the home rule concept will be a challenge in the state of New Jersey. “What can we do for our residents? We’re facing a tough budget year,” she said.
Wolkowitz noted that when he talks about efficiencies, he doesn’t mean firing people. Instead, when a position become vacant or someone retires, that’s the time to revisit borough staffing and departments. “Does this make sense today? Should we be looking at the situation in another way?” he asked.
Baillie said one of her favorite events is the May Day tradition that draws volunteers throughout the community to beautify the town. “The May Day tradition is a community effort,” she said. “We need to open up the volunteer process and help people volunteer. Bring a little flexibility to the process” The candidates agreed that town meetings are essential and that public voices need to be heard.
Wolkowitz said, “We feel that the council is operating without the beneficial discipline of long range strategic planning. As a team, we bring experience, skills and information to the campaign.”
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