The balance of political power is at stake 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 DuPont, the sole incumbent in the race, had to say in response.
Name: Michael R. Dupont, Esq.
Address: 87 South Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701
Where did you grow up? I grew up in a military family and moved all along the eastern seaboard and the mid-west. I lived the longest in Springfield, Virginia.
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? Approximately 28 years.
Do you own real estate in town? Yes.
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree? Loyola University of Chicago, B.A.; John Marshall Law School, Chicago, Illinois, J.D.
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): Partner in the law firm, McKenna, DuPont, Higgins & Stone
Party affiliation: Democrat
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?
Yes, Governor Dick Codey, now Senator Codey. Senator Codey has been a tireless public advocate for the betterment of the residents from the state of New Jersey as well as individuals who have no voice. Senator Codey has also been a strong supporter of women’s rights that are dear to my heart and important in my family.
Why are you seeking a seat on the Red Bank council?
I am seeking a seat on the Red Bank counsel to continue the progress that has been made over the last three years making Red Bank one of the best small towns in the United States of America. I would like to see Red Bank have healthy discussions on the need to meet its parking requirements and parking garage.
Furthermore I believe that the dreams of the past can be made the reality of today such as Broad Street to the river with bold thinking, great planning, and transparency for the residents of Red Bank.
What should Red Bank residents expect of a council member?
Red Bank residences should expect council members to provide leadership, vision, transparency and accountability. They should also expect the Council to behave civility towards each other. Residences should also expect each council member to listen to new ideas, to their complaints, their hopes and aspirations for the betterment of Red Bank.
How do you describe your approach to fiscal issues such as budgeting, taxes and debt?
I am fiscally conservative individual and take the approach that strong, careful budgeting will only make Red Bank hipper and provide prosperity to residents and commercial owners here in Red Bank.
Are there any borough operations or services you think should be reduced or eliminated?
What are the primary criteria you have used or would use in deciding whether to vote in favor of a tax increase?
One only votes in favor of a tax increase as a last resort after reviewing income and cutting expenses. I would only vote in favor of a tax increase if, after looking at each department’s budgets we found that decreasing expenses would still impair our ability to provide the outstanding services our community expects.
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 have been a longstanding and vocal proponent that the 16 percent of the borough’s property that are in the hands of nonprofits should participate in a payment in lieu of taxes. I also believe that the State of New Jersey in deciding and calculating state aid should take in consideration this disproportioned share that Red Bank carries.
Should the borough maintain ownership of its water utility, or should it be sold?
The borough should maintain its water utility as it is revenue positive for the residents of our town and allows Red Bank borough to control its cost and provides an excellent product at a lower cost than what private entities charge.
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?
The water utility is a positive for Red Bank residences as it helps reduce the tax burden of Red Bank residents.
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?
The borough’s permitting and licensing of new business can use additional tweaking. Last year I had instituted an analysis of our permitting and licenses process to insure that the process is business friendly. The borough made numerous changes to the borough’s permitting and licensing process, but this is an ongoing effort that will continue to be improved.
Do you agree or disagree that Red Bank is becoming over-developed? If you agree, what should be done in response?
Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage to secure its economic future?
I believe that Red Bank must secure a parking garage and begin earnest healthy discussions on the viability of a parking garage either provided by public financing, private financing, or a combination of both.
Would you vote for a garage that was not paid for by private investment?
Until all options are placed before the mayor in council this question is difficult to answer as it calls for an analysis of a rate of return together with cost that are unknown to the me at this time.
How well does Red Bank River Center do in its mission of attracting businesses and visitors to central business district?
I believe that the Red Bank River Center accomplished its mission in attracting business and visitors to central business district and this is highlighted by the numerous awards that Red Bank has received because of the efforts, dedication and loyalty of the Red Bank River Center board and its employees.
How do you rate the borough government’s commitment to conservation and environmental protection?
The Red Bank borough’s commitment to conservation and environmental protection is outstanding because of our historic preservation committee and are deeply committed environmental protection committee. Also mention Boris’s group, the environmental commission.
How do you rate the conditions and maintenance of public facilities such as our parks and streets? What if anything needs to be changed?
I believe we need to increase our maintenance budget in this Department of Public Works budget to better maintain our public facilities and streets.
Is Red Bank government transparent? What if anything might be done to enhance the public’s insight into decision-making?
Red Bank government is transparent and that transparency is highlighted by the fact that our website allows all of our residence to access the minutes, resolutions, ordinances and agenda. Our website does need to be enhanced to allow the public insight into our decision making and promote transparency. I am of a firm belief that with our new IT director this will occur.
Do you agree or disagree that all mayoral/council email correspondence should be conducted in borough email accounts and subject to OPRA requests?
The Open Public Records Acts is a very important tool to ensure transparency to the residence of Red Bank and should be complied with.
How would you rate the borough website in terms of effectiveness? Can you identify specific changes that should be implemented?
The borough website needs to allow easier access and links that provide tools to allow licenses and permits to be applied for. Residents should be able to apply for any and all rec programs via the website and pay various bills on the website.
What if anything might be done to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in town?
I think that it should be a priority for the borough of Red Bank to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicycles in town such as, slowing traffic through enforcement, repainting crosswalks for pedestrians, requesting that the county and the state install pedestrian safety signs on the streets and roads that is their jurisdiction.
What role, if any, should the borough government have in the effort to save the T. Thomas Fortune House?
The borough government should assist and support any and all efforts to save the T. Thomas Fortune House. This includes any applications to federal and or state agencies for the preservation of the T. Thomas Fortune House.
Where do you stand on the question of whether to build a children’s play area and spray park at Bell haven Nature Area?
I am opposed to a children’s play area and spray park at Bell Haven Nature Area.
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?
With respect to Marine Park I think I have made my position clearly known that I am against the increase in uses of Marine Park. I believe that the Master Plan calls for passive uses such as tennis courts. I do not believe the site should be made available for private development.
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
I will continue to maintain a fiscally responsible actions towards are budget and look for revenue that does not call for an increase in taxes. I will be calling for the realization of the opening up of Broad Street to the river to allow for open space, parks and access to the river. In addition I will be requesting that a parking garage discussion and debate be placed on the agenda as I think that this is vital to the longevity and continue to success for the borough of Red Bank.