red bank nj pearl leeRepublican Pearl Lee is hoping to unseat three-term Mayor Pasquale Menna. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

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At stake in Red Bank’s November 6 election: the mayor’s post and two council seats.

At stake in Red Bank’s November 6 election: the mayor’s post and two council seats.

On the ballot are: incumbent Mayor Pasquale Menna, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Pearl Lee; and council candidates Michael Clancy (R), Allison Gregory (R), Kate Triggiano (D), Sue Viscomi (I) and Hazim Yassin (D).

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

Name: Pearl Lee

Age: 64

Address: 26 Alston Court

Where did you grow up? I grew up in the south Bronx, NY on Westchester Ave. My family then moved to the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, where my mom still lives.

Where did you go to high school? James Monroe High School in the Bronx.

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

I attended Queens College but left to work full time when my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when? No

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? 18 years.

Do you own real estate in town? Yes, I own my home.

What do you do for a living?

I am self employed as a landlord. I started training in April at Merrill Lynch as a part time client associate for networking events.

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

I am a volunteer at the Woman’s Exchange in Little Silver, a non-profit gift shop that is staffed by volunteers and sells the works of over 250 talented artisans from all over the world. All profits are distributed to Monmouth County charities at the end of the year. I also work with Kevin Garrison in his Blessing Bag Brigade which collects toiletries and then sorts them into bags to be distributed to the homeless locally and in NYC. I also a volunteer with Kevin for his community dinner every week at St. Luke’s Church in Long Branch where we prepare and serve dinner to 60-70 people. I am a member of the NJ, an organization working to reform NJ family courts and other state courts. I also work with Mary Weir in her Pacific Encore Performances repertory company that provides performance opportunities necessary for successful careers in the entertainment industry and on the world stage. I also coached after school tennis with David Prown at East Side Park for many 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’m not big on labels and have not been involved in politics much. People close to me see me more as an independent in that I agree and disagree with both parties depending on the issue. I ran a business for over 30 years and concentrated my time between that and taking care of my family. It is only recently while running for mayor that I have become aware of issues of the different parties. Party should not be a factor in local politics. Especially in this race for mayor. I am running against a record of mismanagement, dysfunctionality and inefficiency and it doesn’t matter what party affiliation my opponent is. We need to have someone passionate, focused, energized and hands on, and someone to do the right thing for Red Bank, and not just for their party or their cronies.

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

My role models would be John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong and Ronald Reagan. The reason I picked them is because they were all bold and courageous in their own time.

Why are you running for Red Bank mayor?

Its two-fold. First and foremost, the Management Enhancement Review. It confirmed what many residents already knew in that the borough service delivery system is dysfunctional and doesn’t work. Its inexcusable because the problems aren’t rooted in financial or labor shortages. The money is there and so are the workers.

In any race there should be participants. The fact that the mayor has run unopposed since 2006 is appalling. Without competition you get complacent. Without competition you get stagnant. Without competition you don’t have to do anything, not even return phone calls. I am running for mayor to bring a new energy, a new passion, a new perspective and a new way of running the operations of the town, one where people will know that someone is actually listening, someone actually cares about what’s best for their town, someone that actually has the best interests of the town and not what’s best for their party or political cronies. Red Bank sorely needs a change of attitude in running the town, and it starts at the top. I am running so I can lead by example and show a pride in the position and work hard for the people that have voted to give you the chance to make their town better. Since 2006 residents have not have a chance to vote for mayor. I am running to finally give people a chance to vote for their mayor. I am running to make a difference for a better Red Bank. I will be hands on and accountable.

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

Lowering taxes by cutting any wasteful spending, making the town pedestrian safe, especially for the elderly. The crossing by the Foodtown is horrible. Seniors are afraid to get their groceries. Someone was killed there, and a petition was made after the second person was hit and yet nothing has been done. Making sure homes are safe. With so many open construction permits closed out recently, how do they know the work was done safely, or even done? Also, those 9,000 open construction permits have cost the town revenue if the improvements never hit the tax roll. Eliminating the red tape so residents can get their lives going and businesses can open and start making money. It all boils down to running the town in the way business is run where everybody understands their jobs, and everybody is held accountable. People need to understand a chain of command and I will encourage each and every one of them to embrace the concept of superior customer service. In time they will all become problem solvers.

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

Customer service will be priority number one. Phones will be answered, and residents will get a response. They can expect me to do whatever is best for the town. I have no stings attached to anyone and I will always pick the best qualified person for the job, regardless of party affiliation. I do not have a full-time job or other political appointments in other towns, so I have the time to devote totally to Red Bank. I will be hands on and give the town the time it deserves. I will focus on the problems of our town and work together with council members to move our town forward. I want to bring a new energy and positive attitude to running the town government, one that is not divisive, and party driven. My goals may be lofty, but I want to foster an environment in the entire operations to be one where by leading by example, we all learn to work together for the greater good, and we become proud of the work we do for our community.

What criteria should voters apply to your initiatives to determine if you’ve succeeded?

Residents will see and feel an absolute change in the way the towns employees address them and solve their issues. Customer service will always be priority number one in my administration.

What do you think of the Government Strategy Group’s  Management Enhancement Report issued in June?

I think the borough recognized that because of the residents’ complaints that something was afoul. This report confirmed what residents already knew. This was not simply a report but an indictment of the leadership, or lack thereof. This was report card, and every subject received an F. How all this mismanagement, inefficiency and waste could happen and last for so long is totally mindboggling. If the town were a business, it would have been out of business. No one was watching the cash register, and someone was asleep at the wheel.

Should Red Bank embark on a charter study or take other steps toward a new form of government?

I’m wrestling with this question because systems work or don’t work depending on the people. Most towns and cities are run using the system Red Bank employs and are doing well or even prospering. The problem could very well lie in people not understanding their specific roles in our system. Present elected officials have been allowed to step beyond their roles and morph the present system into a system that doesn’t perform. We need a strong leader. The report tells the tale of absolutely no leadership or focus or concern on how the town was being run. No one knew who was in charge. Workers did not have any direction, only confusion. Morale was not only low, it was very low. One can only imagine what that means. It always begins at the top. When things need to be decided and acted on, there should be a clear chain of command. That’s why you get a report like the one that we did.

Should Red Bank switch to nonpartisan elections?

The more I am learning about this, the more I am leaning towards this idea. On a local level, the best people should be allowed to run for office. This year, for the first time, the mayor was challenged by someone in his own party. They really had a very strong argument. But again, the party picked the incumbent. And as this was before the report came out, when the mayor won the challenge he said, “the committee and the local party recognizes that stability has been good for Red Bank”. I guess stability is the total mismanagement of the operations of the town. Could they be so clueless as to how badly things were? Unfortunately, I think they were.

Does the borough need a parking authority? Why or why not?

I think this should be a question that should be answered after the findings of the parking study.

Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage?

At this point since $52,000 was spent on a parking study, we might as well wait for the results. The study should be able to identify exactly the extent of the parking problem.

Should the borough-owned White Street parking lot be made available for private development? Why or why not?

Again, this question should wait for the results of the parking study. It depends on what the negotiations would be for the benefit of both parties, i.e. cost benefit analysis

Is the borough becoming over-developed? Please explain.

Development is necessary for smart growth and I think an updated master plan should done before any large-scale development is planned or approved.

Do you support the creation of a redevelopment agency? Why or why not?

That’s a tricky question. There are many different variations of redevelopment agencies, some which are totally autonomous and some which are embedded in city hall. Until its clearly defined what type of entity the consultant is suggesting, and the costs associated with that, I cannot fully endorse the concept.

Should the borough water utility be privatized? Why or why not?

There are many reasons why they should and just as many as to why they shouldn’t. This is one issue that I would like to find out about when I am privy to all the information that is not available to me now. And also, we should contact neighboring towns to survey what their experiences have been either way.

Is Red Bank business-friendly? Please explain your answer.

While talking to many businesses during my campaigning, I found that many businesses have had problems trying to get their businesses open because of all the red tape. They also feel that the parking situation has hurt their business, and many have closed because of parking. Many have said that signage directing to parking areas would have helped and more 15-minute parking spaces would also have helped.

Is Red Bank resident-friendly? Please explain your answer.

If the question means that people are satisfied with the services that the town is obligated to provide then the answer is no. People are calling, and their calls are not being answered. There are poor response times. Many residents have received parking tickets when they come into town, so they don’t think its resident friendly. Also, commuters park at residents’ homes and block their driveways and those people don’t receive tickets, so those residents don’t feel Red Bank is resident friendly. Also, enforcement seems to be uneven, where some people get away with having junk all over their property, but some get tickets if their grass is too high.

Is the former incinerator site on West Sunset Avenue a good location on which to build a new park?

I think it is a good location if all the remediation was done and the property has received a clean bill of health. This is a much-needed recreational area for the children away from traffic. I think there are more children within walking distance of this area than any other.

Is there a better alternative for providing outdoor recreation for residents, particularly those who live on the West Side?

If there is I would love to hear from the residents on the West Side.

Is the borough doing enough to safeguard pedestrians and bicyclists? What additional measures, if any, do you think are needed?

Not for pedestrians as there are many crossings that are very difficult to use to cross the street. There was a petition made by the residents when one person was killed and another hit at the crossing on Pinckney to the Foodtown. The residents say they never received an answer to their petition and nothing has changed since they sent it. I personally have a hard time crossing at Harding and Broad Streets and have met many people who wait to find someone else to run across the street with. Where our streets are wide enough to accommodate bicycle lanes I would enthusiastically champion and support that effort.

Does the borough do a good job using information technology in its interactions with taxpayers and others it does business with? What improvements would you like to see, if any?

I can speak for myself and I do use the website to pay my taxes and utility bills. It is the same system that other municipalities use and is easy to use.

Is Red Bank doing all it can to keep the municipal portion of the tax rate in check? If not, what more might be done?

If you make the cost of government less expensive, then that will have an effect on the tax rate. I will do everything in my power to lower the cost of government.

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

Red Bank sorely needs new leadership. Taxes just went up and now after the Management Enhancement Review we know why. We need to work on lowering taxes by streamlining departments. We need to clean up the construction permits that are open and process those that should be recorded on the tax rolls for added revenue. There is so much mismanagement and inefficiency that must be addressed. This report was a wakeup call for residents, business owners and property owners. There are health and safety issues that have been ignored. Red Bank needs a hands-on mayor, one who has the passion, the time and the energy to make this town the shining gem that it is.

Find the ballot here, and your polling station below.

red bank voting district map 2018

District Location Address Room
1 Hook and Ladder Fire House 7 Mechanic Street
Red Bank, NJ
2 Red Bank Middle School 101 Harding Road
Red Bank, NJ
3 United Methodist Church 247 Broad Street
Red Bank, NJ
Rear Entrance
4 United Methodist Church 247 Broad Street
Red Bank, NJ
Rear Entrance
5 Red Bank Public Library 84 West Front Street
Red Bank, NJ
6 Calvary Baptist Church 23 River Street
Red Bank, NJ
7 Red Bank Middle School 101 Harding Road
Red Bank, NJ
8 Red Bank Senior Center 80 Shrewsbury Avenue
Red Bank, NJ
9 Red Bank Housing Authority 52 Evergreen Terrace
Red Bank, NJ