In Tuesday’s election for Red Bank council, incumbents Juanita Lewis and Ed Zipprich, both Democrats, face Republicans Sean Di Somma and Linda Schwabenbauer. Here are Di Somma’s answers to questions sent to all four candidates by redbankgreen.
Name: Sean Patrick Di Somma
Where did you grow up? Bergen County, NJ
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? Almost 3 years
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree? Rider University, Political Science, 2008
What do you do for a living? (Title, employer, brief description of your responsibilities.)Director of Business Development, Alaric Compliance Services. I am responsible for creating strategic partnerships and developing business for the firm.
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. Since becoming the Chairman of the Red Bank Republican Committee earlier this year, I have begun an outreach program geared towards communicating to non-traditional Republican constituencies here in Red Bank. We now have involved member of the African American, Latino and LGBT communities. This is important to me as I try to build the Republican Party.
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.
What should Red Bank residents expect of their mayor? Someone who is willing to work with both parties for the betterment of Red Bank. I have met many Democrats and independents who are excited about voting for Pat Menna as well as voting for myself and Linda Schwabenbauer.
How would you describe your approach to budgeting and taxes? We should take a bottom up approach to the budget. This year, taxes have risen almost 15%. For Red Bank families, this is unsustainable. Within five years, property taxes are on pace to double for hard working families and rents are poised to skyrocket.
Are there any borough operations or services that should be reduced or eliminated? No. We must look at where we can increase services while incurring less costs. Some of this would include paying down our skyrocketing debt, looking at how we handle garbage service and passing an ordinance limiting sick and vacation leave payouts for ALL employees.
What are the primary criteria you have used or would use in deciding whether to approve a tax increase? It will be highly unlikely that I will ever approve a tax increase.
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? The Borough is given payments in lieu of taxes by many of these non-profits. This is another example of Lewis and Zipprich speaking out of both sides of their mouths. One the one hand, they lambast nonprofits who actually give us money when they are not required to do and on the other hand, the are trying to create more nonprofits. Which is it?
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 heard from countless business owners and perspective entrepreneurs who have had nightmare experiences dealing with Red Bank’s red tape. Many have declined to do business in Red Bank altogether, closed their business and moved or have simply been put out of business like James Hertler of Lucky Strike Billiards.
Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage to secure its economic future?There is no way to tell that at this point. We have so many issues with parking licensing and lack of signs downtown that it may simply require a few signs and a bit of reconfiguration in order to solve the parking problem.
Would you vote for a garage that was not paid for by private investment? I would be open to a public/private partnerships if I thought the numbers were right for taxpayers.
How do you rate the work of Red Bank RiverCenter at attracting businesses and visitors to central business district?RiverCenter seems to attract many visitors to Red Bank. However, I have spoken to various potential, former and current business owners who say that the red tape in town is just too daunting.
A mailing for the Democratic candidates this month said they “created a community garden for all to enjoy.” How is this an accurate or inaccurate statement?Could not be more inaccurate. Anyone who knows anything about this knows that it was Cindy Burnham who fought with Juanita Lewis and Ed Zipprich to get that done. It shows the Lewis and Zipprich pattern of dishonesty.