RED BANK: COUNCIL CANDIDATE VISCOMI
On the ballot November 2: Red Bank council candidate Sue Viscomi. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Red Bank voters will have three candidates to choose from when they elect two council members November 2.
Here’s what candidate Sue Viscomi had to say in response to a questionnaire sent to the three by redbankgreen.
Address: 25 Cedar Street, I own a house with my wife
Where did you grow up? Born in Ecuador, grew up in Brick NJ
Where did you go to high school? Brick Memorial
If you have college or graduate degrees, where did you earn them, and in what areas of study?
Rider University B.S., in Accounting May of 1999
University of Phoenix M.BA., in Accounting August 2009
Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when? No, but thank you to everyone who has served our country.
What do you do for a living? What if anything about your work makes you particularly suited to serve on the borough council?
20 plus years as an accountant.
9 years as a CFO for a $38 Million dollar revenue company with 12 locations and part of the leadership team that grew the company from 80 to 150 employees in NJ and 8 locations to 12.
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? About 20 years
Do you own real estate in town? Yes, my current house. I previously owned another house on Arthur Place where I lived for about 10 years.
Please tell us a little bit about your community involvement efforts, if any.
I am lucky that I have had time and opportunity to serve this town:
- Red Bank Borough Public School board member for 10 years and served as Finance Chairperson for 8 years
- Appointed to the Library Board as a Trustee and have been Finance Chairperson for 2 years
- Appointed to the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee- current Vice President
- Red Bank Education Foundation- Support and volunteer
- Mayor’s Ball- volunteer 2 years
- Worked with the library to create oral history videos
- Recording town events and compiling videos
Party affiliation: Non Affiliated
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
I think each candidate should be judged on their actions not what party belong to on the local level. We do not have Democrat benches or Republican sidewalks. That is why I have supported candidates in both parties in the past. Party affiliation assists the nominee due to an antiquated system that gives preferential placement on the actual ballot. This is why many people vote party line.
Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?
No, I do not have a role model in public life. I look up to people who have impacted me personally like my teachers. I think there are amazing people in our community who step up and serve and are a great example to follow. For example, volunteers who work at Lunch Break or organize food drives, and those who give their time and support others.
Why are you running for Red Bank council?
Watching the direction of this town for 20 years, I have always believed that governance by one party has not been effective. I also believe in transparency; I don’t say that as a tagline. For over 10 years I have been dedicating my time and recording many public meetings (Town Council, Zoning, Planning board, and Redevelopment Agency) and I have the videos posted on my YouTube channel and Facebook so that everyone can see for themselves what is happening. I think my dedication has been proven over the years and I have gained a reputation for being present. My experiences will be helpful by understanding what happened in the past to help navigate the future.
I think there has been a lot of support for non-partisan elections this year and I am hoping to show that an Independent can be a viable candidate. I am hoping to bring some common sense to the conversation on the council. I want to bridge the gap between residents who feel they are being ignored.
What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?
I plan to address over-development and the stress it places on our infrastructure. I would vote against the 30-year Pilot program. There are systemic issues in this town; for example, lack of transparency and council members not being approachable if you have a differing opinion. I have watched residents speak up while people on the council laugh at them. (And yes, there is video to support that statement). I want to bring the same mindset I have when I am in a school board meeting or a library meeting, to do what is right for the town, not a political party. Go 2 questions down to see my thoughts on the tax situation.
What if any specific new initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
I would like to see timelines of projects created and the cost of said project clearly delineated so the public knows what to expect and holds us accountable. For example, when there is a road project, what is the time line of the different phases and expectations of completion.
I would like the town to enhance their audio systems in the chambers, there have been many times when people cannot be heard when they are speaking.
I would like to see all meetings be hybrid meetings, but that will be costly. To bridge the gap, the town should record meetings and post on the website for people to see the meetings at their leisure.
Is Red Bank doing all it can to keep the municipal portion of the tax rate in check? If not, what should be done?
I would bring my experience of how the school and the library creates their budgets. I was part of the team that helped Red Bank Schools achieve their “Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting.” I think the budget process needs to be reviewed. I have attended and recorded every public budget meeting for the last 10 years and that knowledge will be extremely helpful with future collaboration.
No, I do not think Red Bank is doing all it can to keep the municipal portion of the tax rate in check. I think the revenue stream is strong, the increased assessment enabled the borough to collect more taxes without increasing the tax rate. I think expenses and debt payments need to be looked at more closely. This year everyone was happy with the budget because there was not a tax increase but did they really look at the budget? I asked why the surplus showed a deficit amount (over $732,000) and why no one noticed a big negative number? The CFO Peter O’Reilly said “It is not a negative surplus. I don’t know what the rhyme or reason is for those calculations. My inclination would be that it is an issue with the (NJ State) template that was provided to me, as well as all the other municipalities to use to prepare the budget.” But again no one questioned it, so who closely reviewed it?
Do you agree with the plan to install retractable bollards in order to easily close a portion of Broad Street to vehicular traffic? Why or why not?
I do not agree that one area should benefit from this expensive initiative. What about other parts of town? I was hoping when this initiative started that it would be possible to do a different section each month, for example to help businesses outside of that area such as Temple and Bombay River. Perhaps close off Monmouth street in order to bring attention to that area of town?
Do you agree with the current plan to relocate the parking lot and remodel Marine Park?
I was lucky to be part of the public meeting when the professionals held public input meetings in 2018. Personally, I would like to see a small dog park in part of the space, but overall it meets the needs. Moving the parking lot does make sense in order to create more green space closer to the river. The problem is how long it is taking to complete. I think this a great example where a timeline should have been created for the public to see if the town is progressing in order to hold project members accountable.
What would you do as a council member to provide more outdoor recreation for residents, particularly those who live on the West Side?
The west side just got a new park on Locust Ave, I hope it remain mains safe and the maintenance is kept up. The improvements at Count Basie Park are helpful but street safety needs to be address for the kids to access it. As an adult it do not like to cross Shrewsbury Ave. at certain time during the day. There is a huge piece of land at the end of Sunset Ave. but at this point I still am not confident that land is safe for passive use.
Is the borough doing enough to safeguard pedestrians and bicyclists? What additional measures, if any, do you think are needed?
No the borough is not doing enough. Yes there are bike lanes, but I often see bikers rider on the sidewalk. I see it often on Bridge Avenue, because I live nearby on Cedar Street. The streets need to be safe so that bike riders will actually use the bike lanes.
I live on the westside and I walk my dogs a few times a day on the sidewalk and I see so many walkers having to navigate around people on bicycles. This negates the purpose of the bike lanes.
Is the borough becoming over-developed? Please explain.
Recently, residents have been speaking up and some projects have been shelved by developers and some have been scaled down to win approval. So its seems like the community wants to pump the brakes on development before it gets out of hand.
What do you think of the work the Redevelopment Agency has done regarding municipal facilities generally, and the Senior Center in particular?
The Redevelopment Agency was to be self-sustaining, however it is not. Is the cost worth it? I’m not a fan of it so far. According to their list of goals, there first priority is “Support the preservation of single family, owner occupied housing.” I have not seen anything done to meet that goal. I think the public does not trust this agency yet.
In May, the Redevelopment Agency recommended “proceeding expeditiously with the final planning, acquisition negotiations and bonding for an estimated cost of $9.3 million” to rebuild and expand the public works facility on Chestnut Street. Do you agree with that recommendation?
The fact that employees for years have been working out of trailers something needs to be done.
What is your stance, if any, on payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreements for new development?
100% against the PILOT program. This is an issue that impacts the school and library, and every candidate should clearly answer this question.
At the Planning board meeting on 10/18/21, the 30-year PILOT was voted down, perfect timing to take this issue off the table right before the election.
This was a win for every taxpayer and I am glad to be part of the group that started this initiative. But it is sad that money was wasted on professional fees and so that much time was wasted on a ridiculous request. It’s was amazing to see so many people take a stand with all the NO PILOT signs. Which is an example of a need for change.
Residents have witnessed a great deal of acrimony among council members in recent months. Why is this happening, and what would you do as a council member to stop it?
Serving on the school board over 10 years, which is a non-partisan board, it is great how we all work collaboratively and build on each other’s opinions and ideas for one goal. The priority is to do what is best for the children in the school and support the administration and our amazing staff. Yes, there are times we do not agree, but it has never even come close to what we witness during the council meetings.
We don’t have to agree, but we must respect each other and do what is best for Red Bank. I have built relationships and a good rapport with both parties and will continue to do the same.
Are partisan elections hurting Red Bank? Why or why not?
The first overall recommendation from the Management Enhancement Review report was to address the form of government. I am in favor of non-partisan elections, I have seen how having one dominant party in town is not healthy. However, it would be premature for me say anything else. I am not an expert and I have my own opinions, but I think having a commission focused on this issue and complete due diligence with professionals and lay out the information and not rely on hearsay is the best process.
Since the start of the pandemic, council meetings have been held remotely via Zoom. Should the remote-participation option continue when in-person meetings resume?
Yes, I like the hybrid model. It will take work to set up and fund but will be a great tool to reach out to everyone and keep people informed. When you only have zoom you do not have the opportunity to see the public and truly see the passion when they speak. What should start today is what I have suggested recently; keep recorded meetings accessible to the public. This is currently done with the council workshop meetings and council meetings however not with the Zoning Board, Planning Board and Redevelopment agency. The ability to do it is there so I don’t know why it’s not being done. This is another example that many talk about being transparent, but their actions are not there to support it
Do you support the public comment protocol for council meetings? How might it be changed to address complaints that it inhibits transparency?
Nothing is perfect, I have been going to meetings since 2011 and have seen many community members stand up to seek advice and make suggestions to the council. I think the protocol needs to be reviewed for both sides. For councilmembers, they should not be talking to each other when the public is speaking and should not be mocking speakers (I do have video of this accusations on my YouTube channel). I believe respect goes both ways and the public should come and approach the council in a respectful manner. The 5-minute limit is good, and one does have an opportunity to speak more than one time. This does allow more people a chance to speak when there are hot topics. There should be some flexibility if someone from the government interjects, sometimes a simple conversation goes a long way to resolve an issue, problem, or concern. Issues arise when the conversation gets into a screaming match back and forth. This is when the protocols should be strictly enforced. I think one of the reasons why the meetings get so heated is when people don’t feel like they’re being heard, or they get the runaround. I believe all questions should be answered to the best to their ability at the meeting.
One of our school board protocols is to email the Superintendent a question ahead of the meeting so he has time to gather information for a response. We as a board will then follow up after meeting with a discussion. It is my suggestion to encourage the public to email questions 48 hours before the meeting and this should allow enough time to respond to them on the record. Sometimes people ask questions that are so detailed that information is not on hand at the meeting, the point is not to have gotcha moments the point is to have a healthy discussion and work together. I started off this answer saying nothing is perfect, so keep in mind people might not like the answers given and the council might not like being questioned. That is no excuse for anyone to escalate the discussion to an argument which is not productive or respectful.
Please add anything you’d like here:
My dedication over the years has been seen and with that same dedication I want to represent this town as a council member. With the support of my wife and family I will be able to devote myself fully to this effort. I look forward for to this opportunity to serve this town that I love.
***** ELECTION GUIDE *****
• Find the Red Bank ballot here.
• For information on the various ways to cast your vote, check out this article. It includes information on mail-in ballots and early, in-person voting, which begins October 23.
Information about election-related deadlines is here.
• Monmouth County election offices (300 Halls Mill Road, Freehold Township) will offer extended hours to allow for voters to apply for and drop off vote-by-mail ballots. The offices will be open on Friday, October 29 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, October 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• In-person, election day voting will take place at the polling stations shown below. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Note that in-person, election day voting for residents of the 1st and 8th districts will take place at borough hall (90 Monmouth Street).
• Finally, here’s a video on using Monmouth County’s new digital voting machines, which employ touchscreen technology familiar to users of smartphones and tablets:
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