One of four Q&As with the candidates for two, three-year terms on the Red Bank Borough Council in next week’s 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; the links below were provided by Di Somma.
Name: Sean Patrick Di Somma
Where did you grow up? Bergen County, NJ
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?
Roughly a year and a half. When I moved here, I was appalled at the misinformation and ineptitude of the council. I began speaking out and was recruited to run for this office when there was vacancy.
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree?
Rider University, 2008. Political Science. I should have graduated in 2006 but had to take some time off to save up money in order to finish. In 2006, Joe Torre, who is a hero of mine was the commencement speaker. I had Deborah Poritz, former NJ Supreme Court Justice infamous for the Forrester decision in 2002. It was the only time in my life that I wish I had more money to graduate on time.
What do you do for a living? Title, employer, brief description of your responsibilities.
I am a Vice-President for Shareholder Communication services at Alliance Advisors, LLC.
Party affiliation: Republican
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
I am incredibly proud to be a Republican. We are the party of civil rights, responsible but limited government, and personal responsibility and freedom. While I have taken on my own party many times, my values are Republican values. Our legacy is that of Ronald Reagan and that makes me incredibly proud.
Red Bank Republicans have left a strong legacy as well. I look forward to being a part of the legacy left by Mike Arnone, John Curley and Jennifer Beck who have all been mentors to me. These are the people who have made a difference in this town.
In brief, what should Red Bank residents expect of a council member?
First and foremost, they should expect someone to fight for them. We have a leviathan down at town hall which is impossible to navigate. Our job should be to work for them in helping them deal with municipal government. Second, they should expect someone to watch out for their pocketbook. Sharon Lee and Kathy Horgan have FAILED to do these two most basic things.
Should healthcare benefits continue to be available to elected officials through the borough’s insurance coverage?
Absolutely NOT. There is no reason that 16 families should be paying property taxes just to cover one council member’s health insurance. The whole council has supported the Affordable Care Act. They should embrace Obamacare for their colleagues since Kathy Horgan thinks it is so beneficial for all of us.
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?
There is absolutely no way to have a differing view on this. Numbers are numbers. I have combed through the budget many times over and have also had help from accountants and lawyers. Sharon Lee has raised taxes by 63% and Kathy Horgan has raised them by 44%. I have included a full report of the numbers. They are inarguable.
Do you think that property tax increases are out of control here?
Yes, they are the highest in the area and the reason in the reckless spending employed by Sharon Lee and Kathy Horgan.
What will be your approach to budgeting and taxes?
Our budget is over bloated at this point. I will NEVER vote for a budget that includes a tax increase. There are a number of ways that we can cut spending while increasing services which I have laid out over the course of this campaign.
What if any borough operations or services should be reduced or eliminated?
The parking authority should be merged with either DPW or Public Safety with assets sold. Take home cars for Borough employees should be eliminated. These rather modest eliminations could result in a 2% tax cut for residents. Moreover, we should look to keep an in house engineer, explore options with garbage pickup and explore options as it related to the water utility. This can lead to an 11% tax cut over three years.
Red Bank has a large number of charities that don’t pay property taxes, accounting for ownership of an estimated16 percent of the borough’s aggregate valuation, far more than nearby towns. What if anything should be done to address this?
There is nothing that can be done to address this. Red Bank also has far more sources of revenue than surrounding towns which, when you include the 16%, comes to a net positive for Red Bank. This has become a favorite excuse for Sharon Lee and Kathy Horgan on why they have raised taxes %53 on average between the both of them.
Regarding the borough water utility: should it be sold?
I have advocated for an outright sale of the water utility since the beginning of this campaign. As I have endlessly researched this, there are a variety of option which could work better for taxpayers. One of those is to create a Public/private partnership where Red Bank can continue seeing revenue from the utility while not having the risk of hefty repair costs.
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?
This is a back door tax and budget gimmick of the worst order. We pay water and sewer rates that are 35% higher than any town around us. This precludes residents from getting a federal income tax break which costs the average Red Bank ratepayer somewhere around an extra $500 per year.
What is your view of the borough’s permitting and licensing procedures for new businesses and existing businesses that wish to expand? Is the process business-friendly?
I have not been through the process but business owners claim that it is a nightmare. After I am elected, I will go on a fact-finding mission to find out what the problems are and attempt to remedy them.
Chain stores and chain hotels: does their presence in Red Bank diminish the character of our town?
Some do, some don’t. I certainly do not think that putting a Hampton Inn on a contaminated waste site or a Walgreen’s in a high traffic area are bright ideas. We have the right to govern our community as we see fit. However, sometimes there is nothing that government can do. If you would like to read about my views on these issues, please CLICK HERE
Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage to secure its economic future?
I have not seen any studies to indicate either way and quite frankly, I do not know enough to make an educated decision at this point. I never claim to have ALL the answers and this is an instance where I would be blindly speculating. I do not do that.
Would you vote for a garage that was not fully paid for by private money?
Absolutely NOT. Unless there was a truly compelling case that we would make the money back in a reasonable period of time.
How well do you think Red Bank competes with places like Asbury Park and Pier Village in Long Branch at attracting visitors?
We do a decent job at attracting visitors. I think we could do an even better job if Rivercenter’s budget wasn’t almost all spent on salaries and benefits. We need to put that money to work and figure out how to make Rivercenter run more efficiently.
How do you rate Red Bank’s commitment to conservation and environmental protection? Please be specific.
1/10. I am a STRONG advocate for REAL environmental issues. Clean air and clean water are the top two environmental issues. While my opponents try to ban plastic bags and institute a home food composting program which would surely bring rats and bugs, I have been fighting to educate people about the REAL environmental issues affecting this town. As I type this, there are dozens of POTENTIALLY toxic 55 gallon drums in the Navesink River. We have been fighting to raise awareness of this while the council seems to want to keep this a secret. These are the pressing environmental issues that matter to people and potentially their health.
How do you rate the conditions and maintenance of public facilities such as our parks? What if anything needs to be changed?
The maintenance of our parks and facilities is something that needs to be addressed. Red Bank Parks and Rec has turned into one of the most embarrassing departments in this county. Red Bank’s Little Leauge was barely able to field two teams last year and from what I understand, the hiring process to fill the director’s spot was flawed and there may have been nepotism involved. This type of insanity must stop.
Anything else you’d like say?
Red Bank has the potential to be the best community in the world. At this point, it is certainly among them. Sometimes though, communities fade into oblivion. The reason they do is because or mismanagement and reckless spending. I can tell the people of Red Bank, if you elect me, I will fight every day for you. I will work hard to bring a fractured community back together. I will fight to end the nepotism at town hall and make Red Bank work for you. I will ALWAYS be accessible to you. My number is 732-784-8270. I will always return your calls and welcome your calls. I do not have all the ideas or answers in the world, but unlike my opponents, I have some good ones. I will NEVER stop knocking on doors and hearing your issues. I will NEVER stop attending 3-4 church sessions on Sunday for a variety of denominations. After all if you want to represent someone, you should pray with them.
We are a great community and we can certainly do better than this. Red Bank has been controlled by one group of people for 20 years and its about time we have someone watching out for US. Let’s make Red Bank better for everyone. Let’s bring government into the 21st Century.
In short, I am a Mac, they are a PC
I have been endorsed by the only newspaper who has made an endorsement and I am humbled by how welcoming this community has been and how encouraging everyone has been. I look forward to serving YOU!