RED BANK: SUE VISCOMI Q&A

red bank nj sue viscomiRunning as the only independent in this year’s council race is Sue Viscomi. (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 Viscomi’s written responses to questions posed to all candidates recently by redbankgreen.

Name:  Suzanne Viscomi, I go by Sue

Age:  41

Address: Originally bought a house on Arthur Street 2003, I then rented an apartment for about 2 years at Grandville Towers.  In July of 2017 my wife and I bought a house at 25 Cedar Street.

Where did you grow up? I spent my first 11 months in an orphanage in Equador, I was adopted and brought home on 12/23/77 and grew up in Brick Town, NJ.  I call it a town of strip malls.

Where did you go to high school?  I went to Brick Memorial High school and Graduated in 1995.

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

I attained a BS in Accounting from Rider University in 1999.  I also completed many credits in their graduate program while working in Hightstown NJ.  Once I accepted a job in NYC and commuted from Red Bank I finished up my MBA degree in Accounting in 2009 through the University of Phoenix online program.

Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when? No I have never served but I have the upmost respect for anyone who has just like my two grandfathers.

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? Since 2003

Do you own real estate in town?  Yes my current home

What do you do for a living?

I am the Chief Financial officer (CFO) for National Parts Supply, Inc. This company operates 11 locations in central NJ. I am responsible for reporting all financial activity and supporting the executive team.

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

Dedicated community member, appointed January 2011, elected November 2011 as a Red Bank School Board Member. Appointed as Library Trustee and Animal Welfare Committee member in January 2018, and an active member of the Red Bank Education Foundation since 2017

Party affiliation:  Independent

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

Affiliation helps because there is built in support and funding, however I have worked with both parties in this town and I do not want to be beholden to any chairman or party. After being on the non-partisan school board, I realized that it is nice that a win for the school board is not a Democratic win or a Republican win, but a win for our kids. I will take that mindset to the council and let the parties sort out their differences. I think it’s better to be a constructive member rather than bringing so much negativity to the council. I have primarily funded this campaign and created my own team to help me reach my goal

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

No, it’s good to look up to people in public life and be motivated by their accomplishments. For me, my role models are people in my everyday life such as family members, teachers and mentors at work. Being able to have people to challenge me and give me advice in important. I want to be a role model for this community by staying positive and working hard.

Why are you running for Red Bank council?

I have been attending council meetings since 2011, some years I even have a better attendance record then some council members. Red Bank residents have lost their voice in the midst of party politics. An independent voice will break through the chaos, creating a government that is more inclusive and responsive to all, not just the dominating party. Many candidates will make promises but I believe words are cheap. No other candidate spoke up when the town passed the 5% tax increase. The 2 democratic candidates just sat in their chairs and the GOP was not even present to make a statement. Since 2011 I have spoken up and I am known for being a straight talker. I can promise you that would not change.

Voters need to be respected, not just fed rhetoric and promised the world for 10 months. Most candidates expect to earn a vote just because the voter is a Democrat or Republican. Red Bank residents deserve better, someone who has a public record of reliability over the years, someone who shows up, and someone who speaks up.

My only motivation is my love for this town and that is why I bought my first house here 15 years ago. I believe in supporting local business and that is why I called on vendors from Red Bank two years ago when I planned a wedding. Also, last year my wife and I bought a home on the renewed and revitalized west side of town.

I plan on continuing to serve my community as I have been over the years and would be honored to be your independent voice. I am asking for your vote so that I may serve you and your interests.

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

The most pressing issue is trust, if no one trusts the governing body, how can people work together? If you don’t trust your leaders, one can become apathetic leading to poor productivity. Issues will then stagnate and Red Bank will not move in a positive direction. I think this can be addressed by holding myself accountable and keeping my word. Also listening to people as I have been over the years.

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

With the same commitment I have for the Red Bank Public schools. With my experiences of years of services, I want to bring that passion to tackle other issues.  I want to help support the volunteer EMT, and Fire department. They are the ones that are called in emergency and they deserve to support to do their duty and help ensure their membership stays strong. I think Red Bank needs to find a way be fiscally responsible and work just has hard are residents do to put food on their table. I would want to enhance transparency and communication as I have been doing. I have the time and energy to step up to whatever committee the Democrats appoint me too, as I do as a Library Trustee.

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

Being the only Independent, my reason for running is to be able to speak up and prevent one party from running the council. I will help raise the bar of accountability and push the conversation away from party ideals and collaborate to make smart decisions for Red Bank. For example, we keep hearing about grants and our grant writer. I would ask how many grants where applied for and how many did we not receive. Also, matching grants help but nothing is free in life; where are the other funds coming from? How much is the cost of maintaining the project from matching grants. Red Bank does not have an infinite budget from which to draw, a lot of the money comes out of our pockets through taxes, fines, and fees. We need to make sure priorities are handled first.

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

The report wasn’t exactly breaking news.  Many people speak to me at council meetings about the issues and concerns listed in the report. It is nice to have the report codify the issues and ensure that it’s not just hearsay and rumors. I hope this report is not ignored after the election, I plan to use it as a guide to quantify progress in the town’s efficiency.

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

Yes, nothing is perfect. I think a study that is open and honest and not just one party pushing an agenda would be important.

Should Red Bank switch to nonpartisan elections? 

As the only independent it would be helpful to have a nonpartisan election. However, I think voters are smart and can see what candidates really stand for and what experience each person can bring to the table. I think there are many good ideas circulating such as holding biennial elections as it seems like the town is always preparing for the next election. I have heard many great ideas from people, however if there is only one party on the council I don’t think this would be a priority for them. I would love to work on this issue.

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

I would be foolish to answer without reading the parking study report.  I am not in favor of more layers of government however I do not have all the facts right now.

Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage?

The report is not in yet, why would anyone pass judgment?  People are able to find parking when the White Street parking lot is used for a festival, but when the theaters all have performances, the parking is atrocious.  There could be ideas to collaborate with all the stakeholders.

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

Again the parking study report is not available but my main concern is the liability. Who will be responsible for the debt and how it will impact the town overall. As we learned from the strategic study, the town needs to work together: Residents, government and businesses. Whichever solution is agreed upon, it needs to be clear as to how this project will be funded.

Is the borough becoming over-developed? Please explain. 

Red Bank needs to grow and of course we don’t want abandoned properties, however, as I said at the debate we need to look at our infrastructure and see what needs to be done to sustain what we have and foster smart growth. Ask yourself how the water pressure, the pot holes in the road is and is your street clean?

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

No, I agree with Councilman Ballard, that if the new Business administrator’s experience was one of the many reasons he was hired, why are we farming it out?  Also why are we talking about redevelopment before we address the Master Plan that has been neglected for years? Let’s update the Master Plan first.

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

I think the bigger QUESTION is, is the water safe? I rather focus on the safety aspect and lead testing. We have so many old homes, and I want to make sure the testing is truly a priority. I don’t know why the town tests, funeral homes and law offices when there are so many single family homes that could be tested and the priority.

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

No, look how long it takes to open a business and their turnover. As I hear business owners please their cash at the zoning board, planning board and the council there are times I wonder how anything gets done. Most small business are open by new entrepreneurs, the town needs to work to support new business because a win for a new business is also a win for Red Bank.

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

NO, I hear residents getting the run-around at times. It is not due to the employees, or volunteers who want are helpful and care about the town. But do to unclear codes or red tape. I had issues when I was getting a certificate of occupancy when I rented my house however the employee expected the frustration and went out of his way to get what I needed done.

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

Well first of all is the soil safe?  If not what do we need to do to make it safe before there is any talk about having a park there.

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

There has been so many new initiatives like dodgeball, flag football, adult sports and yoga into town. However ever year Belhaven is park is like the preverbal carrot dangling in front of everyone’s face during election time. Let’s get something done, even if it’s a swing set and something small playground set at Johnny Jazz park.  Let fund raise and get something for the kids ASAP and stop talking about it.

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

We are not doing enough, I have been advocating for over a year for a solution for the intersection of Dr. James Parker and Bridge Street, between 3 and 5 it’s a mess.

Of course not all roads with issues are town roads, but the council needs to advocate for solutions for county roads too.  This is a walking town and at there are different time cycles in the day when the congestion is unbearable.

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?

NO, life streaming and posting meetings is easy, I have been doing this for a few years. I will still get meetings recorded for the public, I have a few residents who is will to volunteer.  Their text messages alerts should also be in Spanish for the residents who need the translation, we need to include everyone. Another example to get information to the public is committee meetings don’t even post an agenda how does one know even if they want to attend a meeting? Everyone is eager to post s selfie’s why not an agendas or minutes of their committee meetings?  This town has a lot of meetings already but if we don’t know what will be discussed how does that help?

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? 

NO, 2 words “Management Report”. This report laid out issues and inefficiencies.  Holing state holders accountable, as I have done over the years.  About 3 years ago the town passed a bond (more debt) for new water meters and we were told it will save money because no one will be need to walk around and get the reading off the meters, which we still needed and still no savings. Residents were also told they could get a 2nd water meter to save money and I question why I could not get this 2nd meter when I moved to the west side with my wife in 2017, I was told this cost saving option is still not available in July of 2017.  NO FOLLOW THROUGH!  Until August 2018, this was finial handled.

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

We all took time to answer these questions for your vote, but I am here to ask you to LOOK beyond our WORDS that are pretested, edited and WRAPPED up into a few sentences.

2 of us will be taking the oath to represent the best interests of this whole town NOT PARTY. This is a pivotal time for the in Red Bank and so many believe one party representing the town is NOT what is best for Red Bank. I am asking you all, when you make your private and personal decision while voting, think about whom among us has served this town when we were not asking for a vote in return. Who among us has not just complained in September and October on how bad the management report was to gain cheap political points. But who has been talking about the management report since it came out. Ask yourself who has been bringing up issues over many years, questioned the budget every year since 2011, and some years has a better attendance record than some council members to meetings. NO other candidate spoke about the 5% tax increase this year, where was everyone?  I just did not get on the band wagon this year to  fighting the fair funding for our kids one year but over the years, whom among us has been to events to support a cause or issue and I mean for more than just a few selfie pictures to post. ASK YOUSELF U THINK WILL FOLLOW THROUGH AND WILL PUT YOU FIRST NOT A PARTY

Find the ballot here, and your polling station below.

red bank voting district map 2018

DistrictLocationAddressRoom
1Hook and Ladder Fire House7 Mechanic Street
Red Bank, NJ
2Red Bank Middle School101 Harding Road
Red Bank, NJ
3United Methodist Church247 Broad Street
Red Bank, NJ
Rear Entrance
4United Methodist Church247 Broad Street
Red Bank, NJ
Rear Entrance
5Red Bank Public Library84 West Front Street
Red Bank, NJ
6Calvary Baptist Church23 River Street
Red Bank, NJ
7Red Bank Middle School101 Harding Road
Red Bank, NJ
8Red Bank Senior Center80 Shrewsbury Avenue
Red Bank, NJ
9Red Bank Housing Authority52 Evergreen Terrace
Red Bank, NJ