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LITTLE SILVER: COHEN Q&A

matthew-cohen-101617-6366513Matthew Cohen. (Click to enlarge.)

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Two three-year terms on the Little Silver Borough Council are up for grabs in the November 7 election. On the ballot are four candidates: incumbent Republican Dane Mihlon; his running mate, Michael Holzapfel; and Democrats Christopher Healy and Matthew Cohen,

Here are Cohen’s written responses to questions posed to all four candidates recently by redbankgreen.

Name: Matthew A. Cohen

Age:  53

Address: 99 Maple Avenue

How long have you been a resident of Little Silver?

Our family moved to Little Silver five years ago.  I moved to Eastern Monmouth County twenty-five years ago.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Where did you go to high school?

I went to Teaneck High School.

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

I graduated from Rutgers College (BA – Economics) and Rutgers Law School- Newark (JD).

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

I have not served in the military.

What do you do for a living?

My wife, Leslie, and I own and manage several local businesses.  Most of my time is focused on the largest of our title agencies, Two Rivers Title Company, a multi-state title and escrow agency which has its headquarters here in Little Silver.  My wife and I are law partners in the Law Offices of Cohen and Howard, LLP which represents out of network health care providers in obtaining higher reimbursement rates from insurance companies.  She also owns and manages the Howard Healthcare Group which also provides services to medical providers.

Please tell us a little bit about your community involvement efforts, if any. 

Volunteerism is hardwired into me. Maybe it was my mother’s long-time involvement in the National League for Nursing, including many years as part of its accreditation committee. Regardless of the reason, for over 30 years I have donated my time and energy to a wide variety of organizations. I have built playgrounds for various community projects including a Woman’s Shelter and organize/participated beach cleanup projects. In college I was a campus fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. In law school, I worked with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. I served on local boards in prior communities in which I lived and served as a Trustee and Financial Secretary of Congregation B’Nai Israel, Rumson. More recently I have been a guest lecturer at public schools and private organizations. Currently, I am a Trustee of the Monmouth Bar Association and serve as a Consultor for the New Jersey State Bar Association, advising on legislation that concerns real property, trusts and estates.  My newest venture is acting as an advisor and trustee for SteamPark, a non-profit afterschool educational program which recently launched its pilot site in Keansburg.

Party affiliation: Democratic Party

How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?

Where I grew up, Teaneck, the community was overwhelmingly democratic. However, we had non-partisan elections in our town, so it was not uncommon to have opposing slates of candidates running, each containing members of both parties. I am proud of many policies championed by Democrats. I believe in supporting our public schools, protecting our environment, protecting our social safety net, (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid …) and I believe in having a robust military and active American leadership in the world. These are all long standing Democratic traditions. As I have gotten older, I find that party labels mean less on a local level. A diversity of opinions and creative thinking is necessary to keep Little Silver the wonderful community it is now.  I believe that it is critical for the Little Silver Council to have members with a broad range of opinions and backgrounds. When no one wants to rock the boat, “groupthink” can set in, leading to decisions, which in retrospect, are flawed.

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

I draw my inspiration from many sources.  Having read many books on the founding fathers, as well as later political leaders, it is impossible to pick out one person.  I have been reading more about certain presidents recently particularly John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.  This may seem like an unusual grouping to some, but with each of these I identify with how important it is to identify issues, make decisions and move forward.

Why are you running for Little Silver council? 

I am running for council because I believe, that with my background, education and experience, I can make a contribution to the long term success of Little Silver. As a concerned citizen, it is my obligation to step forward and not just wait for someone else to do the often hidden work that it takes for a community to continue to thrive.  My wife and I chose to move our family to Little Silver for a variety of reasons.  We have worked in Little Silver since we purchased our building in 2004.  Although we lived in neighboring towns for many years, throughout that time we made many friends in Little Silver. After finally visiting the schools, we knew this is where we belonged.   I believe we can do more to increase community participation, reduce our property tax burden, create a more sustainable community, retain our older residents and continue to attract young families to our community.

What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them? 

Anxiety over many issues has led to a breakdown in trust between the Council and the residents.  Many council meetings over the past six months have been packed with residents upset with significant tax increases on their homes, the construction of a cell phone tower next to the Markham Place school, and concern over traffic safety.  Residents don’t feel like they are being heard, and when they speak out, they have been criticized for not speaking out sooner or told they should go to a different meeting to have their concerns heard.  If elected, Christopher Healy and I will seek to improve communication by holding town hall meetings and expanding the use of social media as well as create Advisory Boards where necessary to increase community involvement and ensure all members of the community are represented.

What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?

Months ago, Christopher and I put forth a detailed list of proposals to help all our residents, including homeowners and businesses.  These are all things that Little Silver can do now.  Adopt a “savings” ordinance to reduce red tape, thousands of dollars in fees, and months of waiting, when homeowners want to improve their home.  Participate in the Community Rating System to reduce flood insurance rates for Little Silver residents.  The potential savings to our homeowners exceeds the income we now receive from the cell phone tower. Conduct a free municipal energy audit and support other programs which reduce our carbon footprint (as well as our taxes). Educate our residents on available state resources such as the direct install program to reduce our businesses and homeowners’ energy consumption. Develop a bike/walk plan to increase residents’ health and safety.

Please visit our site healyandcohen.com for more detailed information.

The new cell tower at borough hall quickly became a hot issue earlier this year. Was that because of faulty leadership? 

Yes. I have tremendous respect for the hard work of all of the members of our Council and Planning Board, but the approval and construction of the cell phone tower was not handled well by Mr. Mihlon and Mr. Holzapfel as well as the other members of the Council and Board who voted for its approval.  Comments from present and former Council Members, blaming those who were upset for not speaking up sooner, made the situation worse.  It was the Board and Council who determined that a future tower should only be located on borough property, limiting the locations where it could be situated and blocking private sites with less impact on our homes and school.  Our Council brought in a facilitator, rather than fight the tower and seek alternatives, with the questionable assumption that future revenue would provide a windfall for the town. The Board and Council provided the “legally sufficient” notice and were not concerned when few people showed up for the meetings, done at a time when residents were still recovering from Superstorm Sandy.  A public outcry over this metal monolith towering over homes and our school yard should have been expected.  This issue, as much as any other, demonstrates the need for new leadership and fresh voices on the Little Silver Council

What should the council do to address the continuing concerns raised about the tower? 

The Council should take steps to limit future development of the tower and continue to explore alternatives.  Technology is constantly advancing so Little Silver must be proactive in determining what other outside requests will come next and what can be done to get rid of the tower in the future.  This is not an inquiry which ends this year or next year, but a continuing part of the planning process.  If we simply react to the demands of a big company like Verizon, we will always be playing defense. We need to take control of our future.

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

I want to thank my family and all those who have given me words of encouragement and support as I have walked our community and introduced myself and my proposals for Little Silver.  If you want to learn more about my campaign, please visit my website, www.healyandcohen.com , or follow me on Facebook (@littlesilvermatt).  You can email me at [email protected] or at [email protected].  I can also be reached at 732-747-9785.

John Burton of the Two River Times will moderate a candidates tonight (Wednesday, October 24) from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Markham Place School.

The Little Silver ballot can be found here. And below are the locations of polling places by district.

1 Borough Hall 480 Prospect Avenue
2 Women’s Club 111 Church Street
3 St. John’s Chapel 325 Little Silver Point Road
4 Women’s Club 111 Church Street
5 St. John’s Chapel 325 Little Silver Point Road
6 Little Silver Public Library 480 Prospect Avenue
7 Borough Hall 480 Prospect Avenue

 

 

 

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