Democrat Michael Ballard, left, with Republicans Mark Taylor and Michael Whelan with moderator Amy Goldsmith before the forum. Below, resident Jean Cash asks a question. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
“For 25 years, Red Bank has been subject to one voice, one leadership,” Michael Whelan said at the annual West Side Community Group candidates’ night, held at River Street Commons. “When someone has been in power for 25 years, it breeds complacency. What is the incentive to lower property taxes if you’re going to win year after year?”
Whelan and Mark Taylor are hoping to defeat Democrats Michael Ballard and incumbent Councilman Mike DuPont in the November 3 election for two three-year seats. The Democrats now hold a 4-2 majority on the council, which has not had a Republican majority since 1990.
While the Republicans contended that taxes are driving residents away and debt service payments are partly to blame, DuPont, who heads the council’s budget-wrangling finance committee, said that for “the first time in Red Bank’s history” the council produced a spending plan this year without any growth.
He said the budget was achieved through bipartisanship, but Taylor contended that was largely the result of voters putting two Republicans, Cindy Burnham and Linda Schwabenbauer, on the council in the last two elections.
“He paints a rosy picture, but let’s call a spade a spade,” said Taylor. “In the last two years, that’s when change really started to happen.”
The audience of about 100 residents also heard exchanges about the Bellhaven spray park proposal; the council’s waiver of taxes for the Hurricane Sandy-damaged Locust Landing affordable housing complex; bringing Hispanic residents into the town’s political process; the program known as PILOT, for payments in lieu of taxes; pedestrian safety and other issues.
Here’s a start-to-finish video of the forum, shot by Suzanne Viscomi. And in case you missed redbankgreen‘s Q&As with the candidates, here they are: