RED BANK COUNCIL Q&A: O’BOSKY-COLWELL

kellie-obosky-colwell-101416Kellie O’Bosky-Colwell, Republican. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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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 Kellie O’Bosky-Colwell had to say in response.

Kellie O’Bosky Colwell 042716Kellie O’Bosky-Colwell at borough hall in April. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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Name:  Kellie O’Bosky Colwell

Age:  48

Address:  72 Hilltop Terrace, Red Bank

Do you own real estate in town?  Yes

Where did you grow up?  Red Bank

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?  I was born and raised in Red Bank, and my family still lives here to this day.  Having gone to Red Bank borough schools and St James Elementary School, I am raising my daughters in Red Bank, where they attend Red Bank Catholic schools and where my younger daughter is an altar server at St James Church.

Where did you go to high school? Red Bank Catholic High School. I am a legacy with my father graduating from RBC class of 56’.

Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree? Yes, I attended Rhode Island School of Design and graduated from The School of Visual Arts, New York, BFA

Have you served in the military? If so, which branch and when? No.  I admire and thank our military for their service to our country. My father served in the United States Army Intelligence.

What do you do for a living? (Job title, employer, brief description of your responsibilities): I am currently an artist and was previously a fashion agency director, where I managed and promoted the careers of hairstylists and makeup artists for 23 years.

Party affiliation: Republican

How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party? I am proud to be a Republican.  I think the comradery that one shares with other members of a party is important in terms of the support that members offer one another.  Growing up in Red Bank, my family has been involved with the Red Bank Republican Party for over four decades.

Who do you plan to vote for in the presidential election and why? The first time I was able to vote, I voted for George H. W. Bush, a man of character and qualification.  In this year’s presidential election, as a committed Catholic, I myself cannot nor can I understand how anyone in good conscience could support a candidate who could make such bigoted statements towards Catholics and not take accountability for those statements like Hillary Clinton and her campaign.

Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why? My father Andrew O’Bosky who died in 2013 was my greatest role model.  His good works, his devotion to the service of others and his kind words uplifted the lives of many people.   He was head of Nocturnal Adoration, an Eucharistic Minister and his work as an active member of Society of St. Vincent de Paul through St James R.C. Church in Red Bank. To this day, he has had an effect on others. While campaigning, I met a man who was so affected by my father, that the memory of him literally brought tears to his eyes.  For me, my father’s power of example surpasses that of any public figure. The lessons that my father passed onto me remain as pillars of strength in my life that I now pass down to my daughters as I am raising them to be good Catholics.

Why are you running for Red Bank council? To make Red Bank a better place to live, work, play and raise a family.

What should Red Bank residents expect of a council member? Someone who fights for them and who demonstrates honesty, accountability and leadership.

What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?  First and foremost, lowering taxes. I would like to see Red Bank have a more vibrant visual arts scene in town. This past September, I organized a youth art show, “Art from the Heart in the Park,” with the Department of Parks and Recreation. This event gave back to my community an enriching experience for the town youth and their parents.   Displaying artwork can be powerful; and, in this case, the show brought together the schools in town and its people for an afternoon in the park.  It is also worth noting that the show was at no cost to the borough.

How do you describe your approach to fiscal issues such as budgeting, taxes and debt?  I am a fiscal conservative.  As such, I believe we should look to cut ancillary spending and avoid tax increases.  On Council, I will push for a bottom-up approach to the budget – looking over each line item of the budget, so we have a real understanding on what needs to be spent and what needs to be cut. I will push for shared service agreements wherever possible, cut all nonessential personal and end bonding for unnecessary projects.

Are there any borough operations or services you think should be reduced or eliminated? Red Bank should offer the best services at the lowest cost. The borough lost a shared service agreement with Little Silver that cost $200K. Red Bank would benefit by having more shared service agreements to keep down our costs.

What are the primary criteria you have used or would use in deciding whether to vote in favor of a tax increase? Unless there is something truly detrimental and affects the entire town, it is unlikely that I would ever vote in favor of a tax increase.

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?  Red Bank gets paid in other ways besides property taxes that benefit our community.  There are PILOT agreements for some non-profits such as the YMCA where residents get certain membership benefits in lieu of property taxes.    All nonprofits including our hospital, our churches, our synagogue and the YMCA pay the borough for water.   Our non-profits are nice to have because they enrich and contribute to the lives of the people of our community.

Should the borough maintain ownership of its water utility?  While our water bills remain consistently higher than those of our neighboring towns, we will have efficiency problems including issues as simple as the lack of water pressure.  On Council, I will push for an operational audit of our water utility to know whether maintaining the utility ourselves is a benefit to the residents or not.  I believe the current council, the longtime Red Bank politicians and government insiders have not disclosed enough of this information to make that determination now.

Is Red Bank business-friendly?  Red Bank is not currently business-friendly.   There is a tremendous amount of government red tape a business must cut through before operating in Red Bank.  To avoid this nightmare, many decide to take their business to other towns.

Do you agree or disagree that Red Bank is becoming over-developed? If you agree, what should be done in response? No. Our opponents have called for “smart growth,” which is nothing more than a political term with no real meaning. I believe Red Bank still has many opportunities for development and should focus on high quality housing on both sides of town.

Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage? Yes, but it should not be a tax burden to our residents.  Red Bank should never build a parking garage without a tax ratable in the same project.  I will never vote for a parking garage that requires one penny of tax payer money. Parking statistics show a shortage of parking spaces in town, and a garage would improve the lack of spaces.  I have often heard that Red Bank restaurants lose reservations simply over lack of parking.  We need to keep our current businesses and attract more to town.  If a garage can do this, I am all for it.

Are there conditions you would like to see met before a parking garage is approved? Yes, I would like to give Red Bank residents, particularly our seniors, the option to purchase monthly parking spots, so they can easily enjoy shopping or dining here.  Also, I believe the developer must be fully vetted, bonded and insured.

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?  Yes.  Vacant lots do not generate a ratable for the town and actually cost the borough money because the value of the area decreases due to the vacancy.  When the property was a nursing home, the value of the property had a ratable that absorbed a much larger percentage of the tax burden.  Developing the empty lot into condos will take some of the tax burden that currently exists off of Red Bank working families and taxpayers.  Our opponents, particularly Erik Yngstrom, have failed all Red Bank residents on this issue and need to be defeated.

How do you rate the borough government’s commitment to environmental protection and conservation? The environment is very important to me, and I do not think Red Bank has acted quickly enough on environmental issues.  This summer, after a new report was released on pollution in the Navesink River, our campaign created a website to ensure the public knows the environmental problems we face and the potential that our water utility may be causing some of the pollution.  We also called for an emergency operational review of our water utility.  Our opponents, the longtime Red Bank politicians and the longtime Red Bank government insiders have ignored our calls and those of the over 1,200 petition signatures on CleanTheNavesink.com.  On Council, I will ensure our local government does all we can to protect our residents.

Are Red Bank’s parks and other public facilities well-maintained? What if anything needs to be changed?  While I believe our park and recreation areas should be secure and well-maintained for residents to enjoy year round, I also know that our opponents’ efforts to spend half of a million dollars to shade our parks is complete mismanagement of our hard-earned tax dollars.

Is Red Bank government transparent? What if anything might be done to enhance the public’s insight into decision-making? Red Bank government is not transparent.  We need to consider adjusting the meeting times to allow residents a better opportunity to attend and voice their opinions.  We need to live stream the meetings on Facebook and Periscope, so residents can view and ask questions from home.

Do you agree or disagree that all mayoral/council email correspondence should be conducted in borough email accounts and subject to OPRA requests? Yes, all emails from elected officials relating to borough business should be done through borough email address and made available to the public.

How would you rate the new borough website in terms of effectiveness? The website updates were long overdue, despite what our opponent Kathy Horgan said for several years.  While the improvements are significant and with all technology, there is always room for improvements down the road.

What specific initiatives, if any, should be implemented to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in town?  When elected, my running mate – Brian Hanlon, and I will work on a pedestrian safety plan with the borough’s chief of police and the borough’s engineer. I will focus these efforts on the streets intersecting Shrewsbury Avenue, particularly River Street, so our elderly residents living at the River Street Commons are as safe as possible.

Should the clay tennis courts be kept in Marine Park?  The clay courts in Marine Park should be kept.  As a lifelong Red Banker, I remember the former glory the courts provided while also providing opportunities for our youth to learn the sport of tennis.  On Council, I will work with the private donor who offered money to repair the clay courts, so they can be rebuilt and youth on both sides of town can learn and enjoy the sport.

What if anything should be done to provide outdoor play areas for children on the West Side?  The West Side should have a new park. On Council, I will work with businesses and other donors to raise the necessary funding to provide this opportunity, in exchange for naming rights of the park.

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

As a mother and an artist I know what it is like to make tough decisions. Throughout my life I have had to make sacrifices for the benefit of my children. I believe public service is a sacrifice not a luxury, and my father instilled in me the need to give back for all that I am blessed with. My father also taught me the importance of leadership. What our council is lacking right now is true leadership and acknowledgment of the challenges facing Red Bank families. I will treat your family like my own. I will govern your budget like I govern my own at home.