Pasquale Menna, a Democrat, was elected mayor in 2006 after 18 years on the borough council. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
In Tuesday’s election, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna is running unopposed for a third four-year-term.Here are his answers to questions sent to all borough candidates by redbankgreen.
Name: Pasquale Menna
Where did you grow up? Italy, Montreal, Canada and Red Bank.
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? Since 1964.
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree? Law Degree (JD) from American University Law School and B.A. from George Washington University.
What do you do for a living? (Title, employer, brief description of your responsibilities.) Attorney
Party affiliation: Democrat
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party? Even at the local level, party affiliation is important to some degree since you wish to share basic values for public policy. National issues do not drive local concerns and reactions, of course, but the reference to a party does establish a commitment to core issues that go beyond the local level.
What should Red Bank residents expect of a council member? Dedication, respect, and the ability to work cooperatively with other members of the Council for a common stability.
What should Red Bank residents expect of their mayor? Setting the tone and the vision for a municipality. The ability to represent all stakeholders and to join in the joys and challenges that face the town; to stabilize municipal operations within the ability to meet the financial constraints; and to strive to keep the town competitive in the marketplace.
How would you describe your approach to budgeting and taxes? Conservative with restraint, but cognizant that the basic functions of government must be continued and provided. In our case, it is a hard balancing act since only 28% of the tax bill goes to fund municipal government operations.
Are there any borough operations or services that should be reduced or eliminated? Borough Departments have been consolidated and merged in years and staffing is at bare bones. However, we can always look for greater efficiency and innovation. I think that all employees, including department heads, from the top on down will have to be required to electronically check in daily so that we monitor what they do and how they do it. It has been discussed but frankly its time to do it. Also, privatization will still be explored with safeguards for private hiring of DPW Solid Waste division and Garage division. I have also favored merging our Municipal Court with another to save money, and, although our efforts were rebuffed, the arrangement still merits exploration.
What are the primary criteria you have used or would use in deciding whether to approve a tax increase? Whether the service that requires the increase is essential for the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Red Bank.
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? In my tenure I have successfully increased the voluntary of PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) contribution of tax-exempt properties from $100,000 to slightly under $300,000. That is still woefully insufficient. I have brought this to the urgent attention of our Legislators in Trenton, and they have listened, but I have seen no response. One option that they can explore is to mandate that, other than educational facilities and purely religious houses of worship, any expansion of a not-for-profit in a municipality that is burdened with twice the county average of exempt facilities would have to enter into a PILOT agreement with the host municipality if there is an expansion to a previous taxable property and the basis for the PILOT would be the base municipal tax for the property that is being removed from the tax roll.
Regarding the borough water utility: should it be sold? No. It is an asset of the residents and is a capital asset.
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? Any relief for taxpayers is positive and the contributions in the utility comes from properties that would not normally pay taxes, since they are tax exempt but must pay utilities.
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? The process of changing regulations began a few years ago from an archaic zone adopted decades ago under a former master plan. About 20% of uses have been regularized to avoid expensive applications before the boards and are directly made to construction office. I do think however that we must continue the progress and further reduce regulations. I propose establishing a committee of business people and non-borough professionals to make suggestions to further reduce the time and constant changes in the approval process. That would apply to the Zoning Department and permitting process in the Building Department.
Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage to secure its economic future? Yes.
Would you vote for a garage that was not paid for by private investment? That question is not accurate. Any garage proposal would have to involve a private/public partnership since the Borough owns the land, which would have to be a consideration of the transaction. But yes, I do favor a privately funded garage, but with a role for the Borough since we own the land.
How do you rate the work of Red Bank RiverCenter at attracting businesses and visitors to central business district? Great for visitors and does a good job for the commercial sector. But they have to expand their horizon into new initiatives and work to attract cool and innovative businesses to Red Bank beyond eateries.
How do you rate Red Bank’s commitment to conservation and environmental protection? We are moving ahead with environmental issues with hybrid park stations and charging zones; will commit to hybrid small vehicles for Borough fleet and have committed to reclaiming a 6-acre area on the River at Sunset Avenue that was a refuge area and will be a waterfront park paid for by the State. That and improvements to Riverside Gardens and Marine Park and the Athletic field and Mohawk Pond involve the most comprehensive open space initiatives in 50 years in Red Bank.
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? No. We approved the bulkhead; let’s get it built and use it.
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? It is accurate. We always supported the garden; it was a dispute on location.
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 have high usage since we are a regional center. We have great employees who maintain our parks, but our facilities need attention on a regular basis. We just did that for Riverside Gardens and Mohawk Pond.
Does Red Bank practice transparent governance? What if anything might be done to enhance the public’s insight into decision-making? We are transparent but should immediately put all our documents on the web site.
Do you agree or disagree that all mayoral/council email correspondence should be conducted in borough email accounts and subject to OPRA requests? All except personnel and litigation and property issues.
How would you rate the borough website in terms of effectiveness? Can you identify specific changes that should be implemented? Third-party authorities say it is stellar. I would like to see more of an interactive element and to streamline the posting and broadcast of messages.
What if anything might be done to improve the ability of pedestrians to cross Shrewsbury Avenue at Locust Avenue and other unsignalized intersections? The street is a county road with county jurisdiction. I have already requested that (1) lighting be increased dramatically; (2) crosswalks be painted and enforced by the Police Department; (3) that the speed limit be aggressively enforced and summons issued for failure-to-yield violations at pedestrian crossings
What role, if any, should the borough government have in the effort to save the T. Thomas Fortune House? To help the private movement to raise private money and monitor any activity that may impact the integrity of the property and get the County or State to work to secure the property as a State resource.
Where do you stand on the question of whether to build a children’s play area and spray park at Bellhaven Nature Area? I favor sharing the cost with the county to clean up Bellhaven and carve out a play area for children with play equipment. I have serious concerns with respect to environmental and parking issues in any prospective plans. It was not the original intent of the grant of the property when the developer gave it to the Borough.
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