The balance of political power is at play in the November 3 election in Red Bank, which features four candidates for two three-year seats on the borough council. All four have indicated they’ll participate in the West Side Community Group’s annual candidates’ forum at the River Street Commons at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 1. For more information about the event, take it here.
To help voters compare the contenders in terms of personal background and positions on key issues, redbankgreen emailed them identical sets of questions late last week. Here’s what Michael Ballard had to say in response.
Name: Michael Ballard
Address: 190 River Street
Where did you grow up? Asbury Park / Neptune area.
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? 6 years
Do you own real estate in town? No
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree? Monmouth University BA – Accounting, MBA – Business Administration
Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when? No
What do you do for a living? (Title, employer, brief description of your responsibilities): Financial Consultant. Work with the Red Bank Local of the APWU on Tax Preparation, Advisor on Accounting & Bargaining-Unit administrative matters.
Party affiliation: Democrat
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
Good ideas can come from all corners and I would be open to learning about and acting on any ideas I felt were worthwhile and would have a positive impact for the residents.
Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?
Georgia Congressman John Lewis. A man of integrity and high moral character who sponsored family friendly legislation such as the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013 and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act of 2013.
Why are you seeking a seat on the Red Bank council?
My sense of civic duty. I bring many years of knowledge and experience in the area of finance, community relations through years of volunteer service and by raising children through the District’s school system. This experience gives me a unique perspective and understanding of Red Bank that will be invaluable in the council’s decision-making processes as Red Bank continues to move forward.
What should Red Bank residents expect of a council member?
That the council member will work diligently, and honestly, and always in the best interests of the Borough as a whole.
How do you describe your approach to fiscal issues such as budgeting, taxes and debt?
Budgeting is a direct reflection of the council’s social conscience and reflects what it feels is and is not important within the borough. Taxes are a necessary evil that should be kept as low as possible while keeping in mind they are used to fund borough services such as Police, Fire, Road Maintenance, etc.
Are there any borough operations or services you think should be reduced or eliminated?
Those determinations will be made once I‘ve had an opportunity to do fact finding once I’m in office.
What are the primary criteria you have used or would use in deciding whether to vote in favor of a tax increase?
Again, I have no predetermined criteria. The facts and the situation at hand will guide my decisions.
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?
I’m not aware of this and would look into this further before making any conclusions.
Should the borough maintain ownership of its water utility, or should it be sold?
I’m not aware of all the particulars and facts surrounding the water utility and would need those to make a reasoned judgement.
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?
Again, I would have to do my fact-gathering before I could make any reasoned conclusion on any Borough surpluses.
What is your view of the borough’s permitting and licensing of new businesses and existing businesses that wish to expand? Is the process business-friendly?
I do not know the process completely so I cannot answer that question at this time.
Do you agree or disagree that Red Bank is becoming over-developed? If you agree, what should be done in response?
I believe that Red Bank should preserve as much Green Acres open space as possible to remain family-friendly.
Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage to secure its economic future?
Yes, I believe some form of parking structure would be beneficial.
Would you vote for a garage that was not paid for by private investment?
I would need to know the particulars of the plan before I could render an opinion.
How well does Red Bank RiverCenter do in its mission of attracting businesses and visitors to central business district?
Red Bank has a vibrant and busy business district that it should be proud of.
How do you rate the borough government’s commitment to conservation and environmental protection?
I believe the borough government has done a very good job in this area.
How do you rate the conditions and maintenance of public facilities such as our parks and streets? What if anything needs to be changed?
While not perfect, I believe the parks and streets of Red Bank are fairly well maintained. Flooding at some storm drains during heavy downpours throughout the town are an issue that I would address as a council member.
Is Red Bank government transparent? What if anything might be done to enhance the public’s insight into decision-making?
Transparency is directly related to the laws and statutes that the Borough must abide by. To the extent possible I believe all borough functions must be as transparent as the law allows.
Do you agree or disagree that all mayoral/council email correspondence should be conducted in borough email accounts and subject to OPRA requests?
I agree that all mayoral / council emails should be handled as prescribed by law without exception.
How would you rate the borough website in terms of effectiveness? Can you identify specific changes that should be implemented?
I believe the Borough website serves its purpose effectively.
What if anything might be done to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in town?
DOT safety signs at crosswalks, speed monitors and four way stops are ideas that I believe would be cost effective in improving pedestrian safety.
What role, if any, should the borough government have in the effort to save the T. Thomas Fortune House?
The Borough should make no less of an effort to save the T. Thomas Fortune House as it has to other historical landmarks within the Borough.
Where do you stand on the question of whether to build a children’s play area and spray park at Bellhaven Nature Area?
Perhaps a spray park is not the optimal idea, but I am not against exploring other ways to preserve and enhance Bellhaven for public use.
What’s your thinking on the future of the clay tennis courts in Marine Park? Should they be restored where they are? Should that site be made available for possible private development?
I am a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee and will not speak on the Marine Park issue until a formal recommendation has been made to the full council so as not to suggest a specific plan has been endorsed by the Committee.
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
My first priority will be the improvement of pedestrian safety, an issue I have long championed even prior to my being named a candidate.
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