RED BANK COUNCIL Q&A: BURNHAM

cindy-burnham-101416Cindy Burnham, independent. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Election_2016_Plain

One year after Republicans narrowly displaced Democrats as the controlling party in Red Bank government, ending a 25-year reign, voters return to the polls on November 8 with five candidates to choose from for two council seats.

All five candidates 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 Tuesday, October 18. 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 Cindy Burnham had to say in response.

burnham party 051516 1Cindy Burnham at a campaign party she hosted at her home in May. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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Name: Cynthia “Cindy “Burnham

Age: 61 yrs young

Address: 71 Wallace St. Red Bank

Do you own real estate in town? Yes, 30yrs

Where did you grow up?

On our family owned farm in Colts Neck that we have owned for 80 years. Red Bank was and is our hometown.

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?

1980 to 94 / 2011 – present

Where did you go to high school? Marlboro High School, Marlboro, NJ

Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree?

Centenary College, AA in Merchandising / Kean College, BA in Elementary Education

Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when?

No

What do you do for a living? (Job title, employer, brief description of your responsibilities):

I have been a Substitute Teacher for the last 20 years. Ten years at the RB Middle School & ten years at RBR. Retired at the end of this school year to help my daughter & Son-in-Law, move into their new RB home & help with a high risk pregnancy.

Party affiliation: Independent

How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party? Party has never been important to me. It’s not about party. It’s about the person. Both parties, once in power lose sight of the fact that they were elected by the people and for the people and once in, it becomes about money & power.

Who do you plan to vote for in the presidential election and why?

As we all know, this is a very, very difficult year. Traditionally, I am a fiscal conservative and would prefer to vote for a fiscal conservative. I am concerned this year about the viciousness spewed by the Republican candidate. Additionally, I am deeply concerned about the lack of respect towards women. I am struggling with this question.

Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?

My role model is any assertive woman who pursues a passion or purpose in life and follows through with it to the end, with grace, compassion and dignity. Eleanor Roosevelt, Katharine Elkus White, and my Great Grandmother Clara Fletcher Howell. She fought for women to vote.

Why are you running for Red Bank council?

To serve the people and preserve the history and charm of Red Bank while guiding it forward in a classy, cultural and cool way. To stop the irresponsible spending and reckless borrowing, which will help to make RB a more affordable town to live in and will add to the quality of life for all Red Bank Residents.

What should Red Bank residents expect of a council member?

Approachability, guidance, honesty & transparency.

What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected? 1) I would like to see Red Bank become a Non- Partisan government, like Tinton Falls. 2) Re-negotiate PILOTs (Payment in lieu of taxes) for all non- profits, that only drain the RB tax base. Continue to demand an “Operational Review” be done on the RB Water Utility, so we can see if the Utility is being run correctly and efficiently. Work to negotiate engineering costs, which I just found out other towns do. Make Marine Park the Diamond Park that it should be. Restore the clay courts. Stop all matching grants that only add to our taxes. Fight to preserve open space, public access and cleaner rivers. Have a cop walk on Broad St & Shrewsbury Ave., on the weekends.

How do you describe your approach to fiscal issues such as budgeting, taxes and debt? I am a fiscal conservative, a penny pincher. I live within my means. Is it a need or a want? Every event or project I do, doesn’t cost the town or taxpayer anything. ie: Paddle The Navesink Day (6yrs), Community Garden (5yrs), Raised bed Garden at Senior Center, Illuminated Parking Signs.

Are there any borough operations or services you think should be reduced or eliminated?

  1. Yes, fire the Tenured Tax Assessor and do a shared service with Middletown.
  2. Stop all matching grants / Re-negotiate PILOTS (payment in lieu of taxes)

What are the primary criteria you have used or would use in deciding whether to vote in favor of a tax increase?

I would not vote for any tax increase. Red Bank spends & borrows to much as it is now.

Red Bank has a large number of charities that don’t pay property taxes, far more than nearby towns. What if anything should be done to address this?

1) Put a freeze on non-profits. No new non- profits in business or residential zones. 2) Just as Morristown has done, with their hospital go after non- profits that are not really non- profits, because they still use the towns services and that costs the taxpayers.

Should the borough maintain ownership of its water utility?

This needs to be explored. I have tried to get an” Operational Review” done on the Water Utility for the last 3 years, but got no support. An Operational Review would provide information as to what are the cost drivers in the utility and if the Utility is being run efficiently. This review may provide reasons as to why Red Banks rates & fees are higher than neighboring towns.

Is Red Bank business-friendly?

Yes & no. Over regulated, fees are too high.

Do you agree or disagree that Red Bank is becoming over-developed? If you agree, what should be done in response?

I believe in smart development, not over development. I advocate for re-purposing buildings. I do believe that RB is becoming over developed. For 35 years, we kept hearing how new development will lower taxes & it hasn’t. New development has put so much stress on Red Bank’s water/sewer infrastructure that we were ordered by the DEP to create another well, before allowing anymore new developments. I discovered this letter from the DEP, months after it was sent to the Administrator and cc’d to the Mayor & Council. I found out about it from Fair Haven because Red Bank services 250 FH homes with RB water. Again, I say, we must work to fix our infrastructure, parks, streets, parking lots and traffic congestion, before we put more stress on Red Bank. Each new development should be looked at individually and must comply with current planning & zoning regulations and Red Bank must develop a stronger Storm Water Management Program, like Shrewsbury, FH & Rumson. Red Bank is at a turning point and needs a government that will preserve its history and charm while also guiding it forward in a classy, cultural and cool way. Lastly, we need to look at our master plan. Is it still valid? Is it the direction we, the residents, property owners, and business owners want our town’s future to take? What do we want our town to look like in 50 years? Then we need to revise our zoning ordinances / development regulations to implement those plans.

Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage?

This is an issue that goes back to the 70’s. I think parking has been mismanaged for years in Red Bank. Who knows if a garage will ever happen, but I do know, that from speaking with business owners & shoppers, that the East Side Parking Lots are hard to locate and underutilized. It was only after Murphy & Dupont left the council, that I was able to implement the new illuminated, parking signs that are universally known for parking and it was the Red Bank restaurants that paid for them. Parking has gotten worse since RBC used their one parking lot to build on, forcing more students into buying permits for our RB parking lots and RB itself has made parking worse because of the Parking Moratorium that it imposed. It used to be that if you had a business that required 5 parking spaces and you only had 1 space, you had to pay a fee for the other 4 needed spaces. This parking moratorium allows any business in, even if you have no parking spaces, you still don’t have to pay for your shortfall. I often wonder what happened to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that was collected during that time, because no one seems to know where that money is. Many of these large restaurants have 10 to 35 employees, where the little old retail store had maybe 2 employees. These new employees in these large restaurants come into work at 4pm, park in the English Plaza or White St Lot, pay 50 cents an hour until 6pm and sit there all night. I wanted to keep the East side lots at 50 cents an hour and have employees and students use that as a long term parking area. By putting employees and students into the East Side Lots, which is long term parking, you now free up tons of spaces in the English Plaza & White St Lots.

With the Basie enlarging without adding parking, RBC Students and these large restaurants coming in and after speaking to many respected planners & architects. I have come to the conclusion, as did they that two small garages would blend much better than a five story garage that covers all of the White St. Lot. I have always advocated for a garage at Borough Hall. One level underground or half a level under, for municipal vehicles. First floor for employees & shoppers and second floor RBC Students during the day. Night time, we would lease it out to Count Basie Theater. I believe it would pay itself off in no time. Then move on to another garage if needed. Just the word getting out that Red Bank is putting up a garage, will bring in more shoppers & diners. I believe a two, maybe three story garage with green space on top would be what I would like to see.

Are there conditions you would like to see met before a parking garage is approved?

Yes, I would want to know all the details. Who will pay for this and how? How high? When would the garage be open and how much would it cost to park there? Would this monster garage house some of the new monster development?

Do you support the recent borough council decision to designate the vacant lot at 55 West Front Street as “area in need of redevelopment” after a development plan for the site was rejected by the zoning board?

NO. This was a Sweetheart deal and CME should be ashamed of themselves for even trying to make 55 Front, look like it meets the criteria for re-development. 55 Front had an approved plan for ten years, but chose not to move on it. Now they come back with apartments instead of condos. What really concerns me is that the CME Redevelopment Plan does not address many aspects of this development. 1) The Affordable Housing Component, Ingress & Egress, Set Backs, Façade Color, Landscaping & Trash.

How do you rate the borough government’s commitment to environmental protection and conservation?

Red Bank has no understanding, or they just don’t care about conservation.   If RB did, they would have saved the taxpayers over a million dollars by putting a Living Shore Line in behind the RB Library instead of a bulkhead and they still could have incorporated a natural river walk. The administration said a Living Shoreline would be in violation of the library trust. Now, I find out that someone made the decision to install a 6ft wide, concrete walkway, along the Bulkhead, adding 3 benches and a 6ft high, chain link fence. At our last DPW meeting, Mr. Zipprich and I had thought a more natural look would be a better fit and would uphold the integrity of the library trust, but we were ignored and the concrete is in. The library trust also says something to the fact that: there shall be no place for public gatherings at the library. Although this looks okay, it may be in violation of the library trust and puts RB at risk. 2) The amount of time and money that was wasted on the idea of a concrete spray park in wetlands where there is Eagle foraging in a nature area (at the foot of Locust Ave.), was irresponsible. The blacktopping of the Maple Cove Parking Lot that was gravel, forever, was another anti conservation move. After working for the last 3 months to find the reasons why our Navesink River is polluted and finding that our pollution is coming from our storm water drain runoff due to non-permeable surfaces… why would RB put concrete along the river? Its bad enough they put the bulkhead in, which cost taxpayers around one million dollars.   Now the water will go over the bulkhead, splash onto the concrete and erode the land more. It will probably cause the concrete slab to cave in, just like it did in Marine Park. 3) Then the $500K donation to restore the 87 year old tennis courts, at no cost to the taxpayers. Wasn’t done. Putting a bathroom building at the top of Marine Park, (on the old shuffle board courts), so it’s the first thing you see driving down to Marine Park. Poor decision. How about giving away the oldest building in town, 51 Monmouth St. the old Police Station for $1. To Ed McKennas non-profit, while he was the Mayor of the town. I could go on & on about this issue.

I will say that regarding environmental issues, I thought Red Bank was stepping up to the plate in regards to identifying pollution problems, but after this concrete fiasco at the Library, I have no faith.

Are Red Bank’s parks and other public facilities well-maintained? What if anything needs to be changed?

Riverside looks good, when vandals aren’t throwing benches and garbage cans in the river (police job). Marine Park, a disgrace for a good ten years. Maple Cove, I maintain. East Side Park looks good only because the residents demand it. You wouldn’t believe how much money goes into Count Basie Field. 6 mini shade structures with integral benches-8’by8”, $111,000.00 / 1 shade structure-20’x30’ (football field) $72,500.00 / $106K for 6 dugout roofs. Where and when does it stop? These grants ultimately cost the taxpayers of Red Bank.

Is Red Bank government transparent? What if anything might be done to enhance the public’s insight into decision-making?

Red Bank is totally non transparent. The only way the public can really find out what’s going on in Red Bank before it’s too late, is to attend meetings or read my FB Page. Before the R’s agreed to make me Council President, Councilwoman Schwabenbauer wrote up terms that I had to comply with. 1) No questioning of why decisions were made, why things are taking so long, why we are spending money on certain projects. 2) No critical comments on Facebook, RBG, or any other online media about other Council people. This includes comments where people are not named specifically. This is considered a significant concession by the remaining Council members. Failure to live up to terms will result in a change of Council President Mid-year. This will not be a favorable factor in a re-election campaign and so there is considerable risk here. Does this statement make you think that these people want transparency? This is who I am! I am the person to ask these questions actions & the council doesn’t like that. I also believe that any bond over one million dollars should go up for Referendum, so the public can vote on it.

Do you agree or disagree that all mayoral/council email correspondence should be conducted in borough email accounts and subject to OPRA requests?

It’s probably best to use the Borough email when addressing Borough issues. Should they be subject to OPRA? Sure, I have nothing to hide.

How would you rate the new borough website in terms of effectiveness?

I have been hearing for years how bad Red Banks web site is and still is. The Chair of the Education & Technology Committee for 2009 to present, has been Councilwoman Horgan.

What specific initiatives, if any, should be implemented to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in town? Plain & simple. We need a cop walking Broad St & Shrewsbury. Especially on weekends we should have a cop stand in the crosswalk at White & Broad and stop traffic and Catherine & Shrewsbury Ave. I have seen too many close calls. After a while, people will get it. Drivers must stop & pedestrians must cross at crosswalks. I believe it would also be a good community builder and visitors could look to the police for directions or questions.

Should the clay tennis courts be kept in Marine Park?

Yes! No brainer here. RB was offered half a mill to restore the 87yr old historic clay tennis courts. These courts are special and unique. They are a destination. Marine Park is a passive park. Tennis is passive and any age individual, with or without athletic ability can play. You only need a racket and a ball. RB could have famous players come for exhibition games. Tennis & Food Truck Tuesdays! We should re locate the bathrooms and keep the Shuffle Board Court and add concrete Chess & Checkers tables. Lets put some Bocce Ball in too!

What if anything should be done to provide outdoor play areas for children on the West Side? It all started when then Councilwoman Jaunita Lewis said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little playground for the little children of the West Side so they wouldn’t have to cross Shrewsbury.” I agreed, so I started to think where we could put a small little pocket park for little children. I suggested the underutilized park on the corner of Shrewsbury Ave. & Docs James (Johnny Jazz Park). A few swings, a jungle gym & a slide. Little kids would love it. It’s out in the open, so no need to patrol, centrally located and the corner is now safer than ever. But, this is how the Locust Ave Spray Park that cost taxpayers millions, only to be dumped came about.

If there’s anything you’d like to add, please do so here:

I am happy to answer these questions for RBG, however, I do have to wonder about the merit of this exercise, since the last two candidates that were elected to Council, went against the principals and answers that they provided to RBG. I keep saying: If you want to know what someone will do, look at what they have done.