In the November 8 election, Red Bank voters will pick three members of the municipal government – the mayor and two council members – for terms that begin January 1.
But the winners may be in office for only six months, depending on the outcome of a ballot referendum on whether to change the town’s form of government. Adoption would trigger another election in May, 2023, for mayor and all six council seats.
To learn their views of the referendum and other issues, redbankgreen recently sent a set of questions to each of the candidates: mayoral contender Billy Portman, who is running unopposed; and council candidates John Jackson, Angela Mirandi, Jonathan Maciel Penney and Mark Taylor.
Here’s what Jackson had to say.
Name & age: John Jackson, 51
Address: East Bergen Pl, Red Bank
Where did you grow up? In Hudson and Bergen counties in north Jersey
Where did you go to high school? Queen of Peace HS in North Arlington, NJ (now closed)
If you hold college or graduate degrees, where did you earn them, and in what areas of study? BA, Communications, Seton Hall University; MA, Communications, William Paterson University
Have you served in the military? If so, which branch and when? n/a
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? 5 years
Do you own your home or rent? own
What do you do for a living? What if anything about your work makes you particularly suited to serve on the borough council?
I have a creative professional (writer) in the Marketing & Advertising field for 25+ years, rising to the position of SVP, Creative Director. This has honed my ability to communicate with people across society’s spectrum. My roles as manager / director have also strengthened the skills of team building, collaboration and compromise.
Please tell us a little bit about your community involvement efforts, if any.
I have volunteered for the following organizations: Lunch Break of Red Bank, Rescue Ridge Animal Rescue of Monmouth and Ocean counties, and GMHC in NYC. There, I participated in the Buddy Program where I assisted a person who was living with HIV.
I have been a dedicated community activist in support of the LGBTQ+ community and stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Party affiliation: Democrat
How important is party affiliation to you?
Party affiliation is very important to me. My personal values align strongly with the Democratic party. Unfortunately, in recent years, the national Republican Party has taken an extremist turn. The fact is they constantly campaign or vote against LGBTQ+ representation and equality as well as women’s rights, all of which I wholeheartedly support.
What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
Being a member of the Democratic party means that I will promote equality and fairness for all groups not only segments of the population. It means I will uphold the core tenets of democracy: equality, opportunity, and fair elections.
Who won the U.S. presidential election in 2020? Biden, without question.
Why are you running for office?
Getting involved in our community, including as a leader, has been a long-time passion of mine. I have always been a “political person” who pays close attention to the issues facing our nation and town. The best way to bring about the kind of change you want is to get involved.
What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?
1) Overdevelopment—addressed by supporting planning & zoning board appointments who will adhere to borough ordinance and the Master Plan. Also, I would look at current ordinances and see what can be changed or updated to address the burgeoning growth Red Bank has experienced.
2) Financial accountability—Continue sensible budget control such as what our current Finance Chair has done this year.
Also, maximize revenue through either enforcement (like parking) or identify new streams, such as fees collected from Airbnb and cannabis.
3) Pedestrian and cycling safety—Our streets are simply not as safe as they should be. Traffic flow improvements and speeding deterrents like 4-way stops are needed. 4-ways are under consideration with the council and, depending on their impact, should be considered for more locations. Again, enforcement is needed so that speeders are forced to slow down. We cannot solely rely on drivers policing themselves.
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
Keeping in mind that our term length will be determined by voters with the referendum question, but I would like to prioritize and at least begin the process of refurbishing or rebuilding the DPW facility. I would also like to make improvements to Marine Park, such as increasing green spaces and using the old clay courts as pickle ball courts.
Do you support or oppose the November 8 referendum to change Red Bank’s government from a borough form to council-manager form, and to hold nonpartisan elections, as recommended by the Charter Study Commission? Please explain.
I support nonpartisan elections, as long as they include fair campaign finance practices, in whatever way possible. With regard to the financial aspect, I know some councilwomen have previously expressed similar sentiment: Kathy Horgan said, “Non-partisan elections do not take the money out of politics”1; while and Kate Triggiano said, “Holding non-partisan races often cloaks a system that has had little actual change, with the parties funding and fueling ‘nonpartisan’ campaigns.”2
With regard to the referendum, my position is aligned with my municipal organization. At a recent Red Bank Dems meeting, Municipal Chair Triggiano stated that the organization has no official position on it. As their candidate on the ballot, I’ll align to that. Beyond that, the decision is in the voters’ hands in November.
Do you believe the council meetings in recent years have been unnecessarily rancorous? If so, what specifically should residents expect from you to address the situation?
As a frequent live attendee, I’ve seen that some Council members can be onerous when their position is challenged. For example, at a recent meeting, Municipal Chair and Council President Triggiano went on the attack against my running mate, Councilwoman Mirandi, over Angela’s words, instead of asking her to clarify. I found Triggiano’s tone and approach to be highly disrespectful and unprofessional.
Residents could expect a completely difference approach from me while on the dais. I was raised with traditional values of courtesy and respect. That has been the model in my professional career as well. I will hear out people, regardless of their party or position, and I would hope I would receive the same in return.
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 think Councilwoman Mirandi has done an excellent job with the budget this year and I would support continuing with her cost-saving initiatives. I think issues currently under Council consideration, such as Airbnb’s and cannabis, provide potential new revenue streams for Red Bank.
Do you support the Kimley-Horn proposal for redesigning Marine Park, including the relocation of the parking lot to the former site of tennis courts?
I think some components of the plan are sensible, such as moving the playground near the bathrooms and converting some parking to green spaces. I do not agree with converting the former tennis courts to a parking lot. I would prefer to see that space used for leisure and athletics, such as pickle ball courts. The fact that they have lain there fallow for 10 years is a shame.
My understanding is that the Kimley-Horn proposal carried a $5-8 million price tag. Given time and inflation / cost increases, I’m sure that number has ballooned since then. I am in favor of continuing a phased approach to planning and implementing improvements.
Do you agree that the former landfill at the western end of Sunset Avenue should be redeveloped as a park?
From what was said at the recent Master Plan meeting, the issues that must be addressed with the site’s remediation are at least identified at this point. So, we know what we’d be dealing with by the mandatory remediation by early 2024. However, I also heard in a recent council meeting that several people spoke against the park’s redevelopment.
One thing I suggested at the Master Plan meeting was to conduct a survey with neighboring residents who’d be most affected by such a park to confirm that is what they want for their neighborhood.
What would you do as a council member to provide more outdoor recreation for residents, particularly those who live on the West Side?
As discussed in another question, Sunset Park would be an option, with safe cleanup and provided it’s what the neighborhood residents want.
Also, I favor the preservation of the riverfront land behind the senior center. Then it’ll be protected in perpetuity for current and future senior citizens.
Do you agree that the municipal public works yard needs to be rehabilitated?
I absolutely think it needs to be rehabilitated. My understanding is that structures that were supposed to be temporary have been used for years and are in disrepair. More importantly, its current state presents safety hazards. Not only do Red Bank residents deserve an updated facility but our municipal employees deserve a safe place to work.
How should the borough prioritize its needs for large capital projects, such as those identified above? Who should have the lead role in guiding those projects?
The greatest needs must come first, and I consider the DPW to be one of the greatest needs. I don’t understand why it wasn’t a priority in the past and am glad that the current council is trying to make it a priority.
Was the disbanding of the Redevelopment Agency earlier this year the right decision? Please elaborate.
I was not on the Council, so I’m not privy to the information that went into the decision. Therefore, I don’t have an opinion to offer on that.
Is the borough doing enough to safeguard pedestrians and bicyclists? What additional measures, if any, do you think are needed?
Unfortunately, pedestrian and cyclist safety are not where it should be. This is one of our campaign issues. Traffic flow improvements and speeding deterrents like 4-way stops are needed. 4-ways are under consideration with the council and, depending on their impact, should be considered for more locations. Again, enforcement is needed so that speeders are forced to slow down. We cannot solely rely on drivers to police themselves.
Should Broadwalk be permitted to return in 2023? Should it be an annually recurring feature? Should any changes be implemented?
Broadwalk should absolutely return, every year. It’s a boost to our local businesses and encourages residents to stay in Red Bank as well as drawing visitors. It’s good to see the streets lively during the Broadwalk season.
Do you believe hybrid council meetings, allowing for both in-person and remote participation, should be made a permanent feature?
Hybrid council meeting should certainly be a permanent feature. The option of tuning in vs appearing in person provides working or mobility-challenged residents the opportunity to listen and engage to our council meetings.
Please add anything you’d like here:
***** ELECTION GUIDE *****
• Find the Red Bank ballot here.
• Votes may be cast three difference ways: by mail; in-person during an early voting period described below; or in-person on election day at the polling station in the district in which the voter is registered.
• To vote by mail, see the Monmouth County Clerk’s webpage on how to apply for and submit a mail-in ballot. Voters using vote-by-mail have the option of dropping their ballots off at any designated dropbox in Monmouth County. Red Bank has a box outside the main entrance to borough hall, at 90 Monmouth Street.
The county’s ballot-tracking system allows voters to keep tabs on the status of their mail-in ballots.
• Early, in-person voting begins Saturday, October 29, and allows registered voters to cast their ballots, on machines, for a nine-day period leading up to the election. Voters may do so at any of 10 designated polling places in Monmouth County, regardless of the municipality they call home.
The polling place nearest to Red Bank is at the Women’s Club of Little Silver, 111 Church Street. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• In-person, election day voting will take place at the Red Bank polling stations shown below. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
• Finally, here’s a video on using Monmouth County’s digital voting machines, which employ touchscreen technology familiar to users of smartphones and tablets:
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