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RED BANK STORES SHINE IN MAG’S POLL

downtown-rbA recent view down Broad Street in Red Bank. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In addition to Democratic bent and hyperlocal news sources, Red Bank and Maplewood can add one more item to the list of things they have in common: garnering the most attention from New Jersey Monthly’s readers in the magazine’s annual “Best of Jersey” poll.

Red Bank businesses came away with three No. 1 votes in the shopping category, but also showed well in other classes and earned a bunch of nods as runners-up. Maplewood, in Essex County, dominated the poll, getting the most votes for six shopping categories.

Overall, Red Bank and the redbankgreen coverage area had a strong presence in the magazine’s feature story this month.

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BOARD PASSES BUDGET, TAX INCREASE

rb-budgetBoard members Ann Roseman and Ben Forest at Tuesday night’s session. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Board of Education unanimously passed a $19 million budget Tuesday night, a spending plan that will increase the tax levy if voters approve it next month.

Even with $1.4 million in reductions in the general operating portion of the budget, to $14.1 million, the budget will result in a 3.75 percent increase to the tax rate due to a drop in revenues and the state-mandate that local school districts use surplus funds to compensate for state aid cuts, school officials said.

Property owners would see an approximate 2 cent increase per $100 of valuation their tax bills, to $0.5371. For the owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $405,000, that would mean $2,175 in taxes, excluding levies for the the borough government, the regional high school and Monmouth County.

To make up for a steep cut in state aid to the two-school system, positions had to be eliminated — though there haven’t been any layoffs — and, among other extracurricular programs, all athletics at the middle school were dropped.

“To me that’s just incredible,” said a displeased Ben Forest, who heads the board’s finance committee.

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‘MOISTURE-RICH’ MARCH EXITS WITH A ROAR

rumson-rd-033010Rumson Road just west of Bellevue Avenue in Rumson offered a water hazard for motorists late Tuesday afternoon. (Click to enlarge)

The good news: the torrential rains of the past three days are just about over.

The better news: warm and sunny days are forecast to bloom with April, following one sopping wet month.

How wet, in relative terms? From the Asbury Park Press:

David Robinson, state climatologist and professor of geography at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, said the estimated 9 inches of rainfall so far this month easily shatters the 7.8-inch record set in 1912.

“I have never seen such storms, Robinson said. “The big story this spring is the relentless, slow moving, moisture-rich powerful storms. Twenty years from now, we’ll be talking about the storms of 2010.”

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HALFACRE ENDS CAMPAIGN

halfacre-for-congressInstant memento: Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre in his office with a campaign sign earlier this month. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

just_in1Coming off a disappointing failure to win the backing of GOP powerbrokers in Monmouth County, Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre has quit his run for Congress, according to an announcement from his camp Tuesday afternoon.

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HALFACRE RACE LOSES AIR

HalfacrebikerMike Halfacre stops in downtown Red Bank during a bike ride in 2008. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Congressional candidate Mike Halfacre failed to capture home-county backing from his party Monday night, a hit that shows dwindling support for the Fair Haven mayor’s bid to unseat 12-district incumbent Democrat Rush Holt.

Meanwhile, local newspaper publisher Diane Gooch gained traction in her own bid for a Congressional seat.

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CHALK ONE UP TO ASKING NICELY, IN PUBLIC

lisa-tegenLisa Tegen came into work at Java Stop two weeks ago to find this message on the chalkboard. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It isn’t quite as audacious as, say, proposing on a JumboTron or a Port Authority bus with the media on hand to witness.

But one Fair Haven teenager earned big community points — and secured a prom date — for his creativity with a coffee shop chalkboard one night two weeks ago.

That’s when Rumson-Fair Haven junior Pat Gunther left something at the Java Stop for his girlfriend, Lisa Tegen.

When she came into work the next morning, she was caught off guard by the shop’s chalkboard next to the door.

It read: “Lisa, will you go to prom with me? Call me, Pat.”

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TRT’S ‘ORESTES:’ MATRICIDE AND SONG

To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

Some pix from the reception that followed the opening-night performance of ‘Orestes‘ at Red Bank’s Two River Theater Saturday.

Star-Ledger theater critic Peter Filichia has a review of the “tragic romp,” for which playwright Anne Washburn updated the 2,400-year-old original by Euripides.

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IN oRBit: REPORT FROM THE BRANCH

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There’s a creative new coalition of artists and businesspeople, on the verge of producing their first big public event. A movement to start a new, year-round, monthly series of 2nd Saturdays happenings. And don’t even get us started on the ambitious Urban Canvas project. But where is it? Where’s it all going on?

Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit takes it down to our sister city Long Branch for a look at some pretty exciting things that are in the works within that sprawling seaside scene. The coming days of April, for instance, herald the arrival of an event called Imagine Long Branch, A Masquerade Ball. As the name suggests, it’s an arty party that mixes several generations of people from our local art, music, craft, culinary and commerce communities, in a most unexpected venue — and with custom decorated masks (like the one created and modeled here by Erika Rainey) not only recommended, but available for advance purchase.

We’ll acquaint you with the painters, musicians and business owners behind this slate of events — and we’ll also drop earlybird word on the National Comedy Fest, a high-concept juggernaut of jocularity scheduled to start working the room NEXT April Fool’s Day — not just in Long Branch, but in Red Bank and Asbury Park to boot. You read it here first, right here in Red Bank oRBit!

A NEW PIZZERIA, AND A RAVE FOR VIA 45

pizza-fusionPizza Fusion boasts 68 seats, and plans to offer delivery in about three weeks. (Click to enlarge)

We’ve got some Red Bank eatery news this rainy Monday, with a long-awaited organic-ingredients pizzeria opening today and a second Broad Street restaurant getting a laudatory review from New Jersey’s largest newspaper.

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IT’S A MAYORAL THING

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By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

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He may be the town’s top dog, but to the dozen or so kids who showed up Saturday to (belatedly) celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday at the Red Bank Public Library, Mayor Pasquale Menna was just a thing.

Thing 1, to be exact.

Decked out in tomato-red shirts, Menna and children’s librarian Samantha Quintas portrayed the menacing characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, respectively, from the famed Seuss work, “The Cat In The Hat.”

Menna might as easily have portrayed  the Chief-In-Charge-Of-Fish, the Mayor of Who-Ville or (ahem) the Drum-Tummied Snumm. Put a tall topper on him, and he might also have been Pat in the Hat.

But, “I’m a thing, I guess,” Menna said to the children.

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LITTLE INK ON THIS WEEK’S BLOTTER

rbpd-carCrime reports provided by the Red Bank Police Department for the week of March 19 to March 26, 2010. This information appears here unedited.

Auto Theft occurring between 3-15-10 and 3-24-10 at Newman Springs Rd.-auto dealership. Victim reported that a grey 2006 Nissan Altima was stolen from the lot by unknown person(s). Ptl. Jorge Torres.

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IN oRBit: TRAGIC MAGIC AT TWO RIVER

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It’s got a leading man who keeps his Redford-esque looks even when marinated in blood, dust and grime. A chorus of maidens whose siren songs are worth the price of admission in themselves. A couple of drag parts, a bonus comic book — and a surprise cameo from a member of show business royalty.

In today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit, we review and report on the opening of Orestes, A Tragic Romp, the new version of the 2,400 year old Euripides drama (adapted by Anne Washburn) now on stage at Two River Theater Company. We’ll tell you that it boasts a sharp cast (toplined by Jay Sullivan, above) plus a savvy satirical edge — and it’s a romp made all the more tragic in that it represents the final show that departing TRTC artistic director Aaron Posner developed for the Red Bank stage.

While we’re on the aisle, we’ll bring you an update on the Performance with Passion Players, the local community troupe (headed by Debby and Mike Schwartz) who recently lost their longtime home at the Eatontown Playhouse on Route 35. We’ll tell you about the company’s spacious new digs — and we’ll let you know where you’ll now be able to find fellow E’town exiles Improv Jam — right here  in Red Bank oRBit!

CLEAN UP YOUR ACT, STREETLIFE’S COMING

img_6371721Buskers, like this unidentified trio from Streetlife 2009, are warming up their pipes for the 2010 edition. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s getting closer to that time when the streets of Red Bank become dotted with guitar slingers, mimes and magicians on Saturday nights as part of the summer-long StreetLife series.

But first, they must demonstrate their street creds.

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IN oRBit: MOVERS & SHAKERS & MORE

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He’s a mover, a shaker; a go-to guru and a “Maharishi of Make It So.” He’s seldom seen in the spotlight, but he’s seen the biz from both sides now, be it in the backing band (that’s him on the second LP by the Asbury Jukes) or in the front office.

In today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit, we track down Tony Pallagrosi (left) for a rare Friday feature interview, as he and Concerts East partner Jerry Bakal visit NovelTeas Authors Aromas & Gifts on Bridge Ave for an ultimate-insider talk on the Big Beat — the bands, the bars, the biz, the beef and the ballyhoo. Not to mention such burgeoning projects as the annual Light of Day benefit concerts.

This being a particularly busy weekend on the Shore springscape, we’ve got lots more to call your attention to — including a highly anticipated fundraiser for former Red Bank neighbor Cheri Jiosne in Asbury Park; a close-up performance by Brian O’Halloran of Clerks fame (who we understand wasn’t even supposed to be here), a special appearance by film composer and fright-flick aficionado Christopher (HELLRAISER) Young and scores more, all of it here in Red Bank oRBit!

GROUP SEEKS FAIR TRADE CERT IN RED BANK

fair-trade-bagBags like this one, and Fair Trade products, may become more prevalent in Red Bank. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank has held several appellations in its storied century-plus on the Navesink, both flattering and blunt. The infamous ‘Dead Bank’ comes to mind, but has since been supplanted, in many circles, by ‘Hip City.’

It’s also known, if you pay close enough attention to the signs when entering the borough, as a Tree City USA.

Amber Graves wants to add another tag to the borough.

“Red Bank should not only be known as Hip City, but also as a Fair Trade town,” she told the borough council on Monday, as part of an effort by a group to win national certification from a group called Fair Trade Towns USA.

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SATURDAY IS DRESS-UP DAY AT LIBRARY

dressesChecklist for this weekend’s visit to the library: some fiction, perhaps in the pages of Wolf Hall. Some real-life stuff with unreal characters, a la The Politician. A DVD or two.

Oh, and maybe a short little spaghetti-strap dress from Vera Wang.

A dress? Sure, why not?

The Eastern Monmouth branch of the Monmouth County Library in Shrewsbury will hold its third annual “Sweet Seconds Prom Dress Swap” from noon to 4p Saturday.

It’s an event that mixes swap meet rules with charity to offer formal and semi-formal women’s attire for events like proms, spring dances or a fancy day on the town. Read More »

IN oRBit: REEL CLOSE TO HOME

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You might know Chris Mumford as the sure-shot chef behind Mumford’s Culinary Center in Tinton Falls (as well as his fondly recalled restaurant in Long Branch). But just as every successful dining room has an unseen kitchen behind the scenes, today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit takes a look at Mumford’s not-so-pretty struggles and strifes along the road to success as a family man and business owner.

Directed by son Kyle Mumford (left), the documentary Mumford’s Law is both a tribute to a father and a candid crack in the wall surrounding “a family that had to be torn to pieces before it could truly come together.” We’ll report from the film’s first public showing in Eatontown — and we’ll tell you where and when you can look in on this family gathering yourself.

While we’re in a moviegoing mood, we’ll also run down this weekend’s 8th annual Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park; a townwide celluloid-abration with lots to offer for film buffs in general, and Monmouth County movie-mads in particular. These coming attractions are approved for all audiences, and they’re right here in Red Bank oRBit!

KABOOMERS MULL TWO-DAY FEST

kaboom-riversideLive entertainment at Riverside Gardens and Marine parks is already a staple of the annual fireworks show. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The KaBoom brand may be expanding in Red Bank.

Although the move isn’t yet official, officials are slipping the name Kaboom! Fireworks on the Navesink under the umbrella of KaBoomfest! in order to fit in with a plan to make the show a two-day event this year.

KaBoom! committee member Charles Moran told redbankgreen Tuesday that the committee is seeking local approvals to add a day-long an evening concert and festival to the Independence Day weekend.

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SCHOOL BOARD SAYS ‘NO’ TO PAY INCREASES

holcombe-hurdRed Bank Middle School music teacher Holcombe Hurd addressed the school board Tuesday in response to its decision not to approve union pay raises for 132 teachers. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

After a year of contract negotiations, the Red Bank Board of Education, citing an “unprecedented” reduction in state aid and a difficult budget season, voted 6 -2 against a pay increase for the district’s unionized employees Tuesday night.

Board members described the vote as one of many difficult decisions in an economic climate in which Gov. Chris Christie has slashed state aid and forced school districts to use budget surpluses to make up for a loss in revenue.

“All of this takes place in the context of the worst economic period in the United States since the Great Depression,” board member Ben Forest told an audience of about 125 residents and teachers.

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MIDDLETOWN DROPS BALLFIELD PLANS

hot-topic rightPlans for the installation of artificial turf playing fields at two Middletown locations have been killed because of fiscal concerns, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

Citing cuts in state aid, expenses from retirement buyouts and unexpected snow-removal costs, Mayor Gerald Scharfenberger announced the nixing of the plans for fields at Croydon Hall and West Front Street last night.

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FAIR HAVEN REDUCES TAXES… AGAIN

halfacre-1Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre, shown here at a December council meeting, introduced a  smaller 2010 budget that shrinks taxes on Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven has accomplished an improbable feat in today’s fiscal climate.

While most towns, including Red Bank, are jumping on the panic button to balance budgets over cuts in state aid and a dormant economy, borough officials on Monday night introduced a 2010 budget that reduces taxes.

Mayor Mike Halfacre, who’s vying for the Republican nomination to challenge 12th-district Congressman Rush Holt in November, was quick to tout the achievement as evidence of his GOP tax-cutting credentials.

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HIT & RUN ENDS IN GOOSE NECK WRECK

goose-neck-wreck-032010The driver had two accidents more than two miles apart, according to police. (Click to enlarge; photo by Anthony Trufolo)

A Little Silver man faces drunken driving and other charges after a hit-and-run crash and a second one that ended on the Goose Neck Bridge on Seven Bridges Road Saturday night, borough police say.

Joseph F. Hall Jr., 58, was charged with failure to keep right, reckless driving,  leaving the scene of an accident, failing to report an accident and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to the department’s spokesman, Sergeant Dan Shaffery.

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MORE YMCA DISCUSSION? Y NOT?

poku-councilWilliam Poku of Bank Street addresses the council. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

What would a municipal meeting in Red Bank be these days without at least a little talk about the Community YMCA?

Shorter, for one.

The borough council, despite tabling a YMCA-related item on its agenda to a later date, gave attendees a chance to opine on the matter Monday night.

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