RED BANK: YNGSTROM Q&A

Councilman Erik Yngstrom. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

, ELECTION 2019

Red Bank voters will choose two council members for three-year terms in the November 5 election.

On the ballot are incumbent Democrats Kathy Horgan and Erik Yngstrom and Republican challengers Allison Gregory and Jonathan Maciel Penney.

redbankgreen sent all candidates written questions. Here are Yngstrom’s responses.

Name:  Erik K. Yngstrom

Age:  34

Address:  97 West Westside Ave

Where did you grow up? Freehold Township

Where did you go to high school?  Freehold Township High School

Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree?  Yes, Monmouth University with a political science degree and Duquesne University with a law degree.

Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when?  I have not.

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? 7 years.

Do you own real estate in town? As of Thursday, 10/24/19, I will own a condo in Red Bank.

What do you do for a living?  I am a Partner at the Lomurro Law firm.

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

I am involved in the community with helping bring back and being a part of the Red Bank Classic 5K race through town.  I am a member of the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation.  I volunteer for the Phoenix program wherein I coach special needs children in track and field events.

Party affiliation:  Democrat.

How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?  Party affiliation is important to me but being a member of the Red Bank community means more to me than any party affiliation.

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

President John F. Kennedy. As a member of the Council, I have learned that public service can become very stressful when the public’s demands, the Borough’s welfare, the limitations of our government, and your own conscience may be pulling you in many different directions. Kennedy faced several situations in his relatively short time as President where the unity of our nation and the fate of the world was at stake. He faced them with immense clarity and poise under pressure. I very much admire that ability and try to emulate it in my personal, professional, and public lives.

Why are you running for Red Bank council? 

I am running for Borough Council because I love Red Bank and want to see it continue to thrive as one of the best small towns in America.  I want to continue moving forward on infrastructure projects that make Red Bank better, like the completion of Bellhaven Nature Preserve, the overhaul of Marine Park, and the acceleration of Red Bank’s road replacement program.  In my three years on Council, I have worked hard and moved a lot of projects forward and want to see them through to completion.

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

The most important issue facing Red Bank is the climbing real estate market and what that means for our town’s redevelopment, and what Red Bank will look like in the future.  That’s why I voted to create the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency that appointed numerous qualified residents to review redevelopment proposals before they leave the drawing board.  My position is that residents should decide what Red Bank looks like, not politicians.

Additionally, some other issues facing Red Bank are pedestrian safety, improving our park system and cleaning the Navesink River. With regard to pedestrian safety, the Borough received a $1,000,000 for Shrewsbury Avenue which will go towards improving infrastructure and pedestrian safety. Pedestrian safety is an issue throughout town. If reelected, I will work towards implementing more traffic calming measures on busy streets including flashing lights for pedestrian crosswalks, like the one on East Front Street by the hospital and support the police department on their enhanced efforts to ensure that drivers obey the rules of the road. If reelected, I will continue to move the Marine Park and Sunset Park projects forward. In the last three years, I have worked with multiple stakeholders to come to an agreement on Bellhaven Nature Preserve and the Marine Park concept plan. The next step in our park system will be to implement the Marine Park improvements. Finally, if reelected, I will continue to improve our storm water management system and reduce the impervious surfaces in Red Bank in efforts to clean up the Navesink River.

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

I will make pedestrian and bicyclist safety a top priority, continue to work with the NJ DEP and surrounding municipalities in cleaning up the Navesink River, increase our pervious surfaces throughout town, and will continue to improve our park system.

Which if any borough committees would you want to serve on as a council member, and why?  I would like to stay on the current committees that I am on, Parks & Recreation, DPW, Code, Parking, Shade Tree Committee and the Navesink River Municipalities Committee.

Do you believe the borough council has responded appropriately to the Management Enhancement Report issued in June, 2018? Please explain your answer.

Yes, I believe that we have responded appropriately to the Management Enhancement Report which we commissioned.   Since I last ran for Council, the Borough has hired a new Administrator, new CFO, and has made numerous changes in the last three years – as I promised to do in 2016.  We have implemented a majority of the Report’s recommendations, and we are working to implement additional recommendations.  When commissioning this Report, we knew that we needed to take a hard look at our Borough organization and operations.  We did and we are now moving forward with streamlining the Borough’s processes and procedures.

Please tell us what you will do in the next three years to contain or reduce the municipal tax rate.

I will continue to implement the recommendations of the Management Enhancement Report to realize additional non-tax revenue streams and reduce Borough hall overhead.  Specifically, this means reorganizing Borough departments and offices, as well as reducing our workforce through retirement attrition.  Further, I intend to follow through on the intention of the Redevelopment Agency to maximize Red Bank’s ratable values.  That is, the Redevelopment Agency is intended to expand our ratable base – lowering the burden for current residents – while bringing new value to town through a process led by our residents themselves.  There is no single solution to our property tax burden – we must look at multiple approaches to tackle this issue.

Is there a shortage or parking downtown, and if so, what if anything should be done to address it?

As many residents know, this issue has been debated for decades in Red Bank.  When I first ran for election in 2016, the debate centered around the potential redevelopment of the White Street municipal parking lot and many argued there was between a 500-1,000 parking space shortage downtown.  Back then, I wasn’t sure one way or another, but I promised, if elected, to commission a study to obtain real data to make these important decisions.  I kept that promise, and according to the Borough’s recently completed parking study, there is a 221 parking space shortage downtown on weekdays and 98 space shortage on weekends.  Now that we have real numbers, you can see our first steps in finding solutions: adopting ordinances to re-arrange parking and renovating English Plaza and obtaining additional parking without development by using the space we already have.  Step-by-step, we can continue addressing this problem through study and review and incremental action.  I still don’t subscribe to wholesale redevelopment for parking spaces, now that we see the problem wasn’t as large as previously imagined.

Is Red Bank becoming over-developed? Do we have adequate infrastructure to handle the large-scale development approved and proposed in recent years?

Red Bank is facing the same dilemma as many other towns on the Navesink: rising property values encouraging the market for new developments.  As a Councilman, I have directly addressed this issue by creating the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency, which is comprised of resident-members to review, analyze, and recommend or reject redevelopment proposals.  The Agency will look at many factors, and whether redeveloper contributions for off-tract infrastructure are appropriate.  Most importantly, it puts residents in charge of what Red Bank will look like, not politicians.

Is local government doing everything it can to make our roads safe for pedestrians and cyclists?

I think we can always do more for pedestrian and bicyclist safety, but it has been a top priority of Red Bank’s government since I’ve been elected to the Council.   As initial steps, I pushed to include pedestrian safety initiatives in our road replacement programs, and I changed the Borough’s policy to install larger traffic control signs like those in Asbury Park.  Having lots of foot traffic throughout town is vital to our local businesses.  More crosswalks with flashing lights should be implemented in heavily trafficked areas like the ones on Maple Avenue and on East Front Street in front of the hospital.  Most importantly, I support our local police and their enhanced efforts to ensure that drivers obey the rules of the road.

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

I do not think now is the right time to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  In the last three years, my fellow councilmembers and I have made major changes to Red Bank government – a new Administrator, new CFO, reorganized departments, GPS tracking accountability software, reducing our IT department and privatizing utility functions.  To reset the entire local government in the middle of these major reforms would be counterproductive in my view.

Should Red Bank switch to nonpartisan elections? Please explain your answer.

Looking to other non-partisan towns such as Asbury Park and Long Branch, it is clear that non-partisan elections in theory are anything but non-partisan in practice.  Not only is more money typically spent in non-partisan elections, but they have the side effect of placing the incumbents in a nearly unbeatable position.  In a non-partisan system, the challengers lack any traditional party support, and thus, the incumbents are generally elected over and over with the support of both political parties.  One need only look to Long Branch, where over $300,000 was spent by the candidates in their May 2018 non-partisan local election (over ten times more than in Red Bank), to know that non-partisan does not mean non-political or better.

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

VOTE HORGAN & YNGSTROM FOR RED BANK BOROUGH COUNCIL 2019!  For more information, please visit RedBankDems.com.

All four candidates are expected to participate in the West Side Community Group’s 23nd annual forum, scheduled for Thursday, October 24 at River Street Commons. Details (and a note about parking) are here.

Find the ballot here and polling stations below. Note that the 8th district will vote at borough hall this year due to construction at the senior citizens’ center.

Red Bank Voting District Map 2019