Fair Haven voters will be asked to fill two three-year terms on the borough council in the November 3 election.
On the ballot are three candidates: incumbent Republican Susan Sorensen; incumbent Democrat Christopher Rodriguez; and his running mate, Laline Neff.
Here are Neff’s written responses to questions posed to all three candidates recently by redbankgreen.
Name: Laline Neff
Address: 300 Fair Haven Rd, Fair Haven NJ 07704
Where did you grow up? I was raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and later moved to New York state.
How long have you been a resident of Fair Haven? 7 years.
Where did you go to high school? Clayton A Bouton High School in Voorheesville, NY, and Colegio Santo Ignacio in Rio de Janeiro.
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree?
I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ithaca College (NY) with a double major in Finance and International Business. In addition, I am currently pursuing a combined M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy and Graduate Certificate in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) from Johns Hopkins University
Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when? N/A
What do you do for a living? I worked for 25 years in the finance industry, including 21 years as Director and credit rating analyst at S&P Global Ratings in New York, with a focus on analyzing the financial health of corporations, including the effectiveness of their corporate strategies, and the strength of their governance. I am now pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy because I would like to shift towards a second career focused on financing sustainable projects and on sustainable urban planning.
Please tell us about your community involvement efforts, if any.
I currently serve on the Fair Haven Zoning Board and the Fair Haven Environmental Commission. In addition, as a founding member of the Fair Haven Green Team, I have led the efforts that enabled Fair Haven to achieve Bronze Certification under the Sustainable Jersey Program in 2018, which helped the Borough receive two Sustainable Jersey grants for improvement projects. I am also a Girl Scout leader and have strong interest in working with youth. I have three children at Sickles and Knollwood schools.
Party affiliation: Democrat
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
I believe that party affiliation should not be relevant in the context of our local community, and that at the Borough Council level what is important is to focus on the best ways to advance and address the specific needs of Fair Haven.
Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?
I consider my father, who was a small business owner, to be one of the most important role models in my life. He taught me the value of hard work, honesty, and putting the needs of others ahead of one’s own. I have aimed to live my life carrying these same values.
Why are you running for office?
I strongly believe in the value of serving one’s community and am committed to working to make Fair Haven an even better place than it already is. I would like to use my finance background and my community service experience to help Fair Haven Borough address its needs.
What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?
Fair Haven is in need of multiple medium and large-scale capital improvement projects, including Borough buildings and roads. At the same time, our Borough is facing financial challenges due to the current recession. I believe the best way to address these issues is with strong budgeting and financial planning. In addition, it’s important that our Borough addresses these capital improvement projects with a vision that is compatible with our community’s size and tax base constraints, and with the benefit of full, transparent community engagement, such that these projects also reflect the views of the community.
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
I would like to first and foremost make sure the Borough’s financials are strong, while ensuring that our tax dollars are being used as effectively and efficiently as possible in order to minimize any tax increases. In addition, I would like to work with the Borough to strengthen our multi-year planning capabilities from a strategic, budgeting and communications perspective. I would also like to see greater incorporation of sustainability factors into the Borough’s decision making, and ensure that our Borough’s commissions and committees reflect diversity by political party, age, gender and minority representation.
The borough’s brush-grinding operation has become a problem for residents in the area of Hendrickson Place and William Street, with complaints about truck traffic, road safety, noise and more. What needs to be done?
The brush-griding operation is a legacy issue for Fair Haven, given that it has been in operation at the current location for decades. Nevertheless, it needs to be addressed, given its negative impacts on nearby homes. On a near-term basis, I believe reducing brush coming from Rumson is a priority. On a medium to long-term basis, I believe the Fair Haven Borough Council needs to find a viable alternative to the current operation. Because of the noise, air pollution and traffic impacts of this operation to our small community, however, I believe preference should be given to solutions that move this operation out of Fair Haven, if such solutions are executable and can be delivered at a reasonable cost for our community. Lastly, the current discussion on the brush-grinding operation provides a good example of the need to ensure we incorporate sustainability in our Borough’s decision-making as we plan our community’s future.
The borough government recently embarked on a third attempt to upgrade the police, community center and public works facilities.
- What if anything should be learned from the first two attempts?
The Borough’s challenge in moving forward with plans to upgrade these facilities highlights the multi-faceted and complex nature of finding optimal solutions for these needed improvements. I believe involving the local community from the very beginning and throughout the planning phases for these projects is critical to ensure community support, and to help uncover and reduce potential obstacles.
- What guiding principles would you bring to addressing the issues?
I would like to work with the council and the Borough to strengthen the Borough’s multi-year strategic planning and budgeting capabilities, in order to improve our ability to find deliverable and cost-effective solutions for these important projects. In addition, I view full, transparent community engagement as critical in helping our council make decisions on next steps towards upgrading Borough facilities and other important capital improvement projects that are on the horizon over the next few years.
Since the start of the pandemic, public meetings have been held remotely via Zoom and phone. What if any lessons from this change should be carried forward when in-person meetings can again be held?
The Borough has done a good job in transitioning to a remote platform following the pandemic, with successful meetings continuing to be conducted remotely by the council and the Borough’s many committees and commissions. I believe we should continue to provide live streaming or Zoom-type capabilities for our public meetings even when these can be held in person again. We should also look to continue to improve the way we present information to our residents, whether through more PowerPoint-type presentations or other communication means, such as to facilitate discussion and engagement.
If there’s anything you’d like to add, please do so here:
It has been an honor to serve our community as a member of the Fair Haven Zoning Board, of the Environmental Commission and the Green Team. I hope Fair Haven residents will give me the opportunity to continue to serve our wonderful community, this time as a member of Borough Council.
If you value the kind of news coverage redbankgreen delivers, please become a paying member. Click here for details about our new, free newsletter and membership information.