Election_2014_QAdi somma 102814Republican council candidate Sean Di Somma. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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

Age: 32

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.

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.  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.

 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.

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?

Regarding the borough water utility: should it be sold?The council has not been transparent enough with their previous findings on this issue to make a determination.
The water utility generates surpluses that have been used in the past to bolster the general fund, thereby limiting tax increases. Is this a positive or a negative for taxpayers? This is an extreme negative.  We pay some of the highest water and sewer rates in New Jersey.  The council uses this revenue as a spending slush fund.  Moreover, they use it as a political football so when they increase the taxes by “only” 7 or 8%, they can call that a win in their book while the water and sewer continues to unfairly rise.

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.

How do you rate Red Bank’s commitment to conservation and environmental protection? They seem to be trying to ban plastic bags an putting in an expensive electric charging station while we have garbage and potentially toxic chemicals leaking into the river off  Sunset Ave.  I have been talking about this for two years and no steps have been taken to remediate the problem.
On the question of the bulkhead at the public library, should there be some type of a “natural shoreline” created instead? Is this feasible under the terms of the Eisner deed? I am a fan of a natural shoreline.  I am not a lawyer and I do not know what potential alternatives there would be under the Eisner Deed.

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.

How do you rate the conditions and maintenance of public facilities such as our parks and streets? What if anything needs to be changed? We need to actually maintain them all year round instead of a few days before election day and making a spectacle about it for political gain.   Its about competence and execution and Linda and I have those skills.
Does Red Bank practice transparent governance? What if anything might be done to enhance the public’s insight into decision-making? Red Bank currently does not practice transparency.  If Linda and I am elected, we will propose quarterly town hall meeting with the council, department heads and the mayor to be held on Saturdays for maximin attendance.  Elected officials should not be able to hide and skip debates like Lewis and Zipprich have.
Do you agree or disagree that all mayoral/council email correspondence should be conducted in borough email accounts and subject to OPRA requests? Yes, we have had many issues with other governmental agencies attempting to do public business on private emails.   Passing an ordinance to ban this practice would go a long way for transparency.
How would you rate the borough website in terms of effectiveness? Can you identify specific changes that should be implemented? Yes, the website needs to be updated to include live streaming of the council meetings as well as using social media.  In addition, our website looks and feels like 2001.  The whole layout needs to be redone.  I have had people tell me they would be willing to help with this project for free.
What if anything might be done to improve the ability of pedestrians to cross Shrewsbury Avenue at Locust Avenue and other unsignalized intersections? This does not require a PHD to solve.  Crosswalks and pedestrian signals.  It is just a matter of actually delivering on it.
What role, if any, should the borough government have in the effort to save the T. Thomas Fortune House? None.
Where do you stand on the question of whether to build a children’s play area and spray park at Bellhaven Nature Area This is perhaps the largest folly even Ed Zipprich and Juanita Lewis can dream up.  they want to put a multi-million dollar water park in an area with unsound ground, no parking and right next to a river.  I could not imagine a more bizarre idea.  However, to be clear, this is a political game.  Zipprich and Lewis have been circulating petitions on the west side of town only for the purpose of drumming up votes.
If there’s anything more you’d like to add, please do so here: I look forward to serving the people of Red Bank.  If anyone has any ideas or questions, they can feel free to call me at 201-615-1429