RED BANK: PASQUALE MENNA Q&A

red bank nj mayor pasquale mennaPasquale Menna is seeking his fourth term as mayor. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

red bank, nj, election, q&A,

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 Menna’s written responses to questions posed to all candidates recently by redbankgreen.

Name: Pasquale Menna

Age: 64

Address: 203 River Road, Red Bank

Where did you grow up? 

Italy, Montreal, Canada and Red Bank. Emigrated to Red Bank with family in 1964.

Where did you go to high school? Red Bank High School. (RB Public Schools)

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

George Washington University, DC (BA) and American University Law School, DC (JD)

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

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? 54 Years

Do you own real estate in town? Yes – only own my own personal residence.

What do you do for a living? Attorney

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

Member of the RB council  18 years; Mayor 12 years.  Fire Commissioner 18 years and Fire Department Chaplain 29 years. NAACP member; former Trustee Lunch Break; St Anthony Church;  Tenant rights advocate; HabCore & St Thomas Episcopal Church RB honoree for public service; Lay Lector and Eucharistic Minister Cathedral Basilica of Newark; Trustee of Sacred Heart Basilica; Italian American  Social Club, RB; Municipal Prosecutor and Board as well as Attorney for a number of Monmouth County municipalities; Board member and honoree of a number of Chivalric organizations and NGO’s  of UN.

Party affiliation: Democratic Party.

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

Even at the local level, party affiliation is important to some degree since you share basic values for public policy. National issues do not drive local concerns and reactions, of course, but the reference to a party does establishes core values.

I am proud to be a Democrat since it espouses the core beliefs of equal and human rights for all individuals and adheres to basic tenets of health care for all, environmental stewardship, voting rights and the expansive view of  personal freedom. However, as a Mayor I have never asked for a person’s party affiliation since a Mayor is for all individuals.

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

Many in life; each with their own contributions.  The wit and scrappy  determination  of Winston Churchill; the world view of Henry Kissinger; the courage of Martin Luther King;  the compassion of Mother Theresa of Calcutta.  Locally, the calm dedicated leadership of my predecessor, Justice and Mayor Daniel O’Hern.

Why are you running for Red Bank mayor?

I have dedicated myself to serving this town and its residents as Mayor for the past 12 years. While my opponents will likely criticize my length of service, I hope that Red Bank voters can see the many improvements over the years, and also see my willingness to be self-critical and flexible in the face of new challenges facing our town. I’m running for re-election because there is more work to be done to make Red Bank a better and more attractive place to live and to put in place a strategy and vision to compete with new challenges to our prominence in the region.

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

The most pressing issues facing Red Bank are streamlining our operations at Borough Hall in meaningful way that returns both efficiency and tax savings to residents and balancing the ever-present influx of developers wanting to do business in Red Bank with the need for ratables relative to the effects on our quality of life. First, I recently oversaw the hiring of a new Borough Administrator in May 2018 who has already started the reductions in force and consolidations of municipal departments. Second, last month, I presided over a bipartisan vote to create a professional redevelopment agency in Red Bank to act as a buffer between the elected officials and the developers so that proposed projects are screened using professional standards and community input without political interference. And to channel those efforts in our core business district and outlying areas from the residential core that are important for new transit and urbanist attraction to a new generation of future residents.

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

The continued streamlining of Borough government operations, the fruition of the redevelopment agency, continued investments in our parkland and open spaces, and continued commitment to improving our roads and other public infrastructure. In addition to the streetscape and planning enhancement of the Shrewsbury Avenue corridor and the Transit Hub residential and business retooling of properties that will add to our tax base. That is in addition to the change in the Arts District which will connect the core business district with Shrewsbury Avenue and will be a catalyst for planning our future stability as a community that attracts vitality and pride in our residents.

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

Voters should be able to finally see the stabilization of the municipal budget, better thought-out development projects, and better public amenities, including a fresh look at all aspects of municipal and utility operations in light of changing economic tools for partnerships that are available for municipalities.

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

My opponent is misrepresenting the genesis and purpose of the Management Enhancement Report. Or maybe she does not understand public entities. The Report was the result of a bipartisan decision after two years of political shifts in power by opposite parties and the stalling of major initiatives as a consequence. With the retirement of our prior administrator, who held multiple statutory positions and had the job for nearly three decades, Democrats and Republicans on the Council unanimously agreed that this moment in Red Bank’s history was the time to commission a comprehensive report from outside professionals (without regard for politics) as to the best way to move Red Bank forward. I was the first and only analysis of operations ever ordered in the 110 year history of the town. It was something which successive Republican and Democratic administrations has discussed, but none dared tackle the issue. Importantly, the Report is not a negative – it is an enormous positive step in the right direction for streamlining the operations of our Borough government for the benefit of taxpaying residents. Not many elected officials would allow such a self-critical analysis – my opponent’s current rhetoric is proving why. But I believed that it was the intelligent thing to do But, in the end, Red Bank will be better off because of it, and voters should reward the courage of the elected officials who commissioned the Report because we chose the harder thing to do when it would have been easy to sit at the status quo. I am totally committed to implementing what will be core pivots in taking on the challenges of how every aspect of government operates. The old adage of, “it has always been done that way” is over,

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

The Borough has already taken steps toward modifying its form of government when the Council adopted a new Ordinance in July expanding the administrative authority of the new Borough Administrator to “Business Administrator” and diminishing that of the elected officials as commissioners of departments. I’m not sure that the expense of a charter study or an entirely new form of government are necessary at this juncture until we see how effective the current reforms are within Borough Hall. We need to commit to changes and see how they work. To engage in the debate if a change of government would only drive prospective strong investment away when we are just seeing the fruits of their partnership with the Borough.

Should Red Bank switch to nonpartisan elections?

No. I am aware of this initiative from Councilmen Taylor and Whelan and I believe their motives are sincere. However, numerous studies point to the facts that nonpartisan elections result in lower voter turnout due to either May elections or more infrequent elections, less competitive challenger-candidates over time due to lack of party support, and an entrenchment of incumbents who are able to dominate fundraising and logistical support without partisan competition if they win more than once. When voter turnout is already abysmal, I just don’t think nonpartisan elections are the best option for Red Bank.

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

I do not think that any parking decisions or options can be properly discussed until the Borough’s ongoing parking study is completed next year. Having said that, I do not support the creation of a Parking Authority.

Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage?

Same as above. I do not think that any parking decisions or options can be properly discussed until the Borough’s ongoing parking study is completed next year. I believe that if a garage will be built it must be as a result of a Public-Private Partnership to not impact the residents.

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

Same as above. I do not think that any parking  decisions or options can be properly discussed until the Borough’s ongoing parking study is completed next year.

Is the borough becoming over-developed? Please explain.

I would not describe the Borough as over-developed, but I think it’s obvious that our town is changing again with the upturn in the real estate market. Professional standards and screening procedures must be put in place so that proposed projects are evaluated using professional standards and community input. That is why I pushed for the recent implementation of the Red Bank redevelopment agency.

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

Yes, a professional redevelopment agency in Red Bank is needed to act as a buffer between the elected officials and the developers so that proposed projects are screened using professional standards and community input without political interference.

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

I believe the option should be explored. Private services can often invest more money in infrastructure improvements because of their lower project labor rates. On the other hand, public services are typical better operationally. This is a big question, and will require deep analysis by the Borough Auditor and other professionals in order to make a decision. These analyses have not yet been completed, so it would be premature to declare a position at this point.

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

Yes, there are hundreds of businesses that have been successful in Red Bank for decades. As Mayor, I have always been responsive to the needs of our business community through clearing red tape, suspending onerous requirements for new business, and enacting ordinances that enhance businesses’ abilities to advertise and enhance their curb appeal. Our most successful prominent development projects that were undertaken by professionals constantly refer to their success in Red Bank at state forums. One of our opponents completely mischaracterizes the delay in one project since she never attended a meeting. If she reviewed the records and file she would realize that the delays were self created.

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

Yes, as Mayor, I have overseen numerous initiatives that enhance residents’ quality of life, such as park and utility improvements, parking preferences, traffic control, community policing, and community programming and events. As a homegrown Mayor, the residents, who have been my friends and neighbors since I was a child have always come first.

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

Yes, this is an amazing opportunity for Red Bank to take advantage of State funding to clean up a toxic vestige of our 20th Century industrial past. On top of that, the State will provide greater funding if we use the reclaimed land to create a 21st Century park that has access to the Navesink for the general public. This is a win-win for Red Bank and is precisely the way in which numerous other municipalities have solved their environmental issues while enhancing their parklands at the same time.

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

I don’t think “alternative” is the correct word to describe my approach to thinking about this issue. We should be looking to expand outdoor recreation opportunities on the West Side and throughout all of Red Bank. That includes the West Sunset Avenue site, as well as our recently approved improvements to Bellhaven, and any other area where residents would prefer to see parkland instead of new development or merely vacant space.

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

This is probably the issue I address most often as Mayor. First, let me say that our Police Department does an incredible job of patrolling and safeguarding our town. They know the trouble spots, and they patrol them regularly. Second, at our Council meetings, it’s likely that you’ve heard me talk about nearly every traffic issue brought to my attention. I always have the Police Department investigate, and in many cases, I call for action – an Ordinance or targeted enforcement zone or police action plan to address the issue. We will never solve every traffic issue, but I will continue to advocate for four-way stops and traffic calming devices whether I am re-elected as Mayor or return to being a citizen after this election.

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?

Several years ago, the Borough reorganized our IT department to better integrate Borough services. That initiative was a good step, but now that we’ve reached another plateau, it’s time to expand on initiatives that enhance our residents and visitors’ interactions with the Borough,

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?

As you saw in recent years, I have been more than willing to vote down the municipal budget when I think we can do more. That being said, it’s easy for any candidate to say “we can do more” or “we’ve done all we can” – that’s why I pushed for the Management Enhancement Report. I wanted an independent judgment as to whether what we were doing was enough – and the Report says that we’ve done a lot, but we should make some drastic changes that will make a big difference. So, while my opponent would like me to hide from the Report, I commissioned it, I own it, and I will continue my stance (now, with the Report to back me up) that there’s more work to be done to stabilize our municipal tax rate.

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

Please make your voice heard and vote November 6th!

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