One of four Q&As with the candidates for two, three-year terms on the Red Bank Borough Council in next weeks election. Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee, both Democrats, are the incumbents; Cindy Burnham and Sean Di Somma, Republicans, are the challengers. Their answers to redbankgreen‘s questions are unedited.
Name: Cynthia (cindy) Burnham, age 58, grew up in Colts Neck
Where did you grow up?
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?
I lived in RB from 1979 to 1993. In 1993, I moved to Harrison Ave, which is half RB & half Fair Haven. While I resided in Fair Haven, I continued to own investment property in RB and persisted in my civic involvement in RB. Last year, I moved into my investment property that I have owned for 27yrs on Wallace St. and next month will be moving my daughters in who are now in college.
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree?
Centenary College, 1975 AA in Merchandising / Kean University, 1979 BA in Education
What do you do for a living? Title, employer, brief description of your responsibilities.
I have worked at Red Bank Regional High School for 7 years as a substitute teacher. I am also a 5 yr board member of the SOURCE and am the treasurer.
I am running as a Moderate Republican with an Independent mind.
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
My message to all RB Residents is to not look at party affiliation, but at who most possesses our values and is most likely to fight for the things we most believe in. Look at the person and ask yourself, “What have they done for me”. If you want to know what someone will do, look at what they have done.
In brief, what should Red Bank residents expect of a council member?
Respect for all, especially the residents and their issues, mindfulness, civility and balance. The council must work together for the good of RB and not just for one parties agenda.
Should healthcare benefits continue to be available to elected officials through the borough’s insurance coverage?
No. Its a volunteer job. People shouldn’t be doing it for the benefits, perks or pay.
The opposing parties in this election have differing views on how much the municipal portion of property tax bills, excluding school and county taxes, have risen during the terms of Sharon Lee and Kathy Horgan. How much HAVE they risen in those two periods, and how do you arrive at those figures?
Sharon Lee has increased the municipal property tax by 63% since she has been in office. Kathy Horgan has increased the municipal property tax by 44% since elected. One only needs to look at ones tax bill to see continued increases, along with water & sewer charges. These facts come from looking at past years budgets & various media reports.
Do you think that property tax increases are out of control here?
Yes. Fair Haven has managed to keep it’s municipal tax rate flat for 6 yrs. I have met with officials in FH and spoken to them regarding the steps they took in order to keep the municipal tax rate flat and I believe that RB needs to incorporate these measures.
What will be your approach to budgeting and taxes?
Controlled spending. Learning to live within a budget. Stop the borrowing & bonding. Prudent Budget Management, Better use of taxpayer dollars. Multiple inter local service agreements with other municipalities, inter local service agreements within our borough, ex. BOE & outsourcing various municipal services.
We need to really look at Red Banks water & sewer system to see what would be the most beneficial to all RB taxpayers. Sell it or not. Reducing the fees for professional services. This is where FH has really saved money. FH uses an in house engineer who is the Borough attorney, planning board attorney and head of DPW. He gets one salary of $112K a year and one pension. When FH shares him with Rumson, they pay FH $90 an hour. Just doing this would save Red Bank hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Also, reduce parking ticket costs and raise the fee on drunk and disorderly tickets.
First of all, RB needs to stop creating anymore non profits. RB can off set the negative impact of these tax exempt properties by making sure RB collects every expense that is legally possible from these non profits. I would like to see a 5yr moratorium on Riverview buying up more rateable properties and turning them into non profits. Of course there was 51 Monmouth St, (the old police building & oldest building in town) that was given away to a non profit for $1. That was okay, but when this non profit lost it’s 501c3 status the building should have REVERTED back to the borough but this council ALL voted to give it to the YMCA, who ended up renting it to RBC for 7K a month for 7 years.Then the Y sold it to RBC for 2.1. That building could have generated revenue for RB, but this council just gave it away, because they were told to.
Regarding the borough water utility: should it be sold?
This needs to be investigated
The water utility generates surpluses that have been used in the past to offset growth in the borough budget, thereby limiting tax increases. What do you think of this?
RB has been using this surplus for years to offset the budget because of their over spending. I believe that if RB can learn to live within a budget and stop the spending, that for a few years we should continue to use the water & sewer surplus to offset the budget, pay down the tax rate and maybe even save some money.
The Borough has been saying for the last few years how they have made it easier for new businesses to come into RB . That’s not what I hear from the people looking to start a business in RB. RB seems to prefer large chain stores that can sign leases for 6 years or longer. Small mom and pop stores can’t do this. The permitting fees are sky rocketing and unless you have 10K to spend right off the bat, you best look somewhere else to put your business. Then there is the issue of bring the building up to code! Very costly.
Chain stores and chain hotels: does their presence in Red Bank diminish the character of our town?
I think chain stores, tastefully done and that fit into the character of our town are fine. That is why the SID was created. The Special Improvement District was created to address this exact issue, however, it seems that RB will chase ratables at any cost and in my opinion, developers who are friendly or give to the party in power get special favors. We need to take into consideration placement, size and look at the traffic & neighborhoods that will surround these projects.
Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage to secure its economic future?
No, I don’t think we need one. I think we need better signage and at night, visitors should be able to use spaces that are put aside for businesses. White St is the only place where a garage could be built and that is the only place RB has for Fairs, car shows etc. Even if it was built by a developer, without using tax dollars, who would maintain it? What would that cost to taxpayers be?
Would you vote for a garage that was not fully paid for by private money?
Under no circumstances would I vote for a parking garage funded by the taxpayers. Even if it was paid for by private money I would have to ask many questions. Who would maintain it and what would RB get from it?
How well do you think Red Bank competes with places like Asbury Park and Pier Village in Long Branch at attracting visitors?
Asbury has pay stations, restaurants and the ocean. Pier Village has meters, restaurants and the ocean. We have restaurants, pay stations &……. the river, however this administration doesn’t see the potential revenue that our river could bring in. We should look to the river as a way to attract visitors. Since Maple Cove was created, it has brought hundreds of kayakers to RB and these kayakers go out to eat either before or after their paddle. RB needs to embrace the river and what’s left our open river front land and be creative. Make the River front a destination. Fix up the historic clay tennis courts, build a center, where the old restrooms are now that can house boats, or maybe a rec center for kids and maybe a room on the second floor that could be rented out for functions.
I don’t believe that this current RB administration has a commitment to conservation and environmental protection. I have seen to much over the last 10 years that confirm my beliefs and when you look at their track record, it’s not good.. At the foot of Locust Ave, It was Jenn Beck that moved to create Belhaven Natural Area into a nice little nature area, but this administration just didn’t take care of it and now it’s all overgrown. You have the Bulkhead behind the library that has been in deplorable condition for years. When given the opportunity to have a natural living shoreline put in for almost nothing & hearing how much better a living shoreline holds up than a bulkhead, during a storm, this administration chose to float a bond for 595K to re build the bulkhead. I see Hovnanian putting chemicals on their lawn that run right into the river. I have seen RB dump blacktop into wetlands. Plastic bags and the Mayors Wellness Campaign are all just lip service. Good environmental stewardship as well as conservative financial leadership must be the cornerstones of our borough.
How do you rate the conditions and maintenance of public facilities such as our parks? What if anything needs to be changed?
Our parks are in terrible condition, except for Maple Cove and that is because I have maintained it for the last 6 years because RB refuses to. When RB received a 350K matching grant from the DEP, for Marine Park, we were suppose to get: Bulk heading, a fishing pier, which we got but the grant also included a new tot lot, band shell, benches, tables, picnic area, landscaping curbing & walkways & parking. I also saw in that proposal, two, yes that’s right 2 boat ramps located at each end of the parking lot. We got none of this. Marine Park looks terrible and unkept. This is the pride of Red Bank? It’s unacceptable! Riverside Gardens Park is held together by volunteers that trim and maintain the shrubs & flowers. Count Basie Park, well the turf looks good, but I am still bitching about the basketball courts that RB said they would fix last year. Mohawk Pond, by Basie Field has been neglected for 25 years. In order to get the benches fixed at Mohawk Pond, I had to shame RB, by putting an article in the APP last year show casing the neglect. It was after this article that RB found enough money to fix all the benches and paint them. Eastside Park has problems too. I think that we should assign two DPW workers to each park and make them responsible for a park. They should watch each park and let DPW know when something is needed. Ex. Paint or get a new flag pole in Marine Park. Sweep the lot etc. this way the workers will take more pride and feel a real sense of responsibility and the parks will be kept up better.
Anything else you’d like say?