Council candidate Mark Taylor. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
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 Taylor had to say.
Name & age: Mark D. Taylor, 39
Address: 19 Tilton Ave, Red Bank
Where did you grow up? Red Bank
Where did you go to high school? Red Bank Borough Public Schools; Red Bank Regional High School
If you hold college or graduate degrees, where did you earn them, and in what areas of study? B.A. History, B.S. Criminal Justice from the University of Scranton; J.D. from Widener University School of Law. Admitted to practice in NY and NJ.
Have you served in the military? If so, which branch and when? No.
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? I’ve lived here my entire life.
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 am an attorney. Being an attorney means I am well suited to working through complex issues. I am able to work with residents, colleagues and stakeholders to find solutions without letting emotions cloud my judgment.
Please tell us a little bit about your community involvement efforts, if any.
I previously served a term as councilman from 2016-2018, but my community involvement goes back much further. I have been a volunteer soccer coach and referee and also served on the Parks and Recreation resident committee. More recently I was elected to the Charter Study Commission where I served as Vice-Chair and helped form the recommendation to adopt a new form of government with non-partisan elections. I am also the President of the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation, whose mission is to raise funds to support S.T.E.A.M. and S.T.E.M. related projects for Red Bank schoolchildren.
Party affiliation: Republican
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
From the time I was eligible to vote, being affiliated with a specific party didn’t really appeal to me. I was an unaffiliated voter for 14 years before declaring when I ran and won a seat on council in 2015. Given the polarization and the negativity surrounding politics at the state and national level, I am even more determined that local politics be about the person, not the party. As we’ve seen locally, the chaos and dysfunction mirrors national politics – but it’s coming from within one party so affiliation itself is not the issue. That’s why I am a big believer that non-partisan elections, and electing genuine, trustworthy and honorable candidates, is the key to good governance.
Who won the U.S. presidential election in 2020? Joe Biden
Why are you running for office?
Every election is different, but this one is truly unique. My primary goal is to see the referendum pass – bringing a new form of government and non-partisan elections to Red Bank. My secondary goal is to help steward Red Bank through the 6 month transition period when the new government will take effect in July 2023. Certain members of the current council have created a toxic environment and continue to abuse their positions by settling political scores. Jon and I will be the adults in the room and make sure Red Bank is on sound footing as we head into this new era of Red Bank politics.
What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?
Public Question #1. Beyond the public question there are a multitude of issues that require competent, coherent leadership, but it all begins with a yes vote for the referendum.
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
If elected we will address what is necessary to govern for the brief 6-month term, but will reserve larger projects and longer-term vision and planning duties to the incoming mayor, council and manager who take office in July 2023.
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.
We fully support the referendum to bring Red Bank’s government into the modern era by establishing a new form of government with non-partisan elections. The transition to a council manager form of government will also provide the residents, business owners and other stakeholders with clear direction. Vision and long-term strategic vision will be the business of the council while the Manager will handle day-to-day operations.
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?
Yes, Red Bank is a fantastic town, but the lack of leadership and decorum coming from the council is flat out embarrassing. During my time as councilman and again as Vice Chair of the Charter Study Commission, I conducted myself professionally. The role is bigger than the individual, but some members of council have lost sight of that fact.
Is Red Bank doing all it can to keep the municipal portion of the tax rate in check? If not, what should be done?
No. Red Bank’s tax rate is higher than neighboring municipalities. The governing body needs to take the more steps to cut spending and live within its means, as well as securing additional revenues through smart growth.
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?
As we approach the ten-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, and tons of rebuilding has occurred, it is pathetic that the tennis courts are still sitting there untouched. It is a reflection of the dysfunctional politics in Red Bank. I generally support redesigning Marine Park, and I would support working with the current proposal and refining it, not throwing it out and starting over and wasting more taxpayer money.
Do you agree that the former landfill at the western end of Sunset Avenue should be redeveloped as a park?
Safety is preeminent when the topic is rehabbing a site like a former landfill. I do support more access and open space for Westside residents and families so doing it the right way is critical. Numerous other municipalities and cities around the country have successfully converted former landfills into amazing recreational areas. So, as long as we take the politics out of the planning and design, we know it can be done safely while providing a much needed amenity for our town.
What would you do as a council member to provide more outdoor recreation for residents, particularly those who live on the West Side?
The best location to create substantive outdoor recreation is the former landfill and I refer to my prior answer. Additionally, we have a wonderful facility in Count Basie Park but getting there is treacherous for bikers and pedestrians. We need to evaluate and improve pedestrian and bike safety while understanding that some of our parks are located in highly trafficked areas. It’s a delicate balance that requires strategic understanding and vision.
Additionally, our neighborhood “pocket parks” are a wonderful addition and Red Bank should look to expand or increase these little areas so everyone in Red Bank has access to outdoor space.
Do you agree that the municipal public works yard needs to be rehabilitated?
Yes, public works was supposed to be operating out of trailers on a temporary basis, yet they have been in trailers for decades. Again, this is a demonstrable failure of leadership that we have seen in Red Bank. There has been a general malaise when it comes to Borough facilities, never wanting to spend the money on critical infrastructure and, as a result, subjecting our employees to substandard conditions. A long-term plan for all our facilities, including the potential sale and/or acquisition of new property is needed.
How should the borough prioritize its needs for large capital projects, such as those identified above?
It starts with an accounting of current assets, their status and needs, and identifying priorities with a comprehensive plan. For far too long we have done things piecemeal and without any vision. Short-term bandaids morphed into long-term “solutions” that end up costing the town and our taxpayers substantially more money in the long run.
Who should have the lead role in guiding those projects?
In response to both of these questions, the new form of government that we selected on the charter study commission is ideal for capital projects. The Mayor and Council will be appointing a Manager who is tasked with developing an operating and capital budget. It will be the Manager’s responsibility to advise the Mayor and Council on options, and then the Mayor and Council will decide on what moves forward. It is then the Manager’s job to implement the decisions.
Was the disbanding of the Redevelopment Agency earlier this year the right decision? Please elaborate.
The Redevelopment Agency should have been given more time to function. The disbandment was another reactionary, destructive move to repudiate the management enhancement review recommendations by Councilman Ed Zipprich and his loyalists.
Is the borough doing enough to safeguard pedestrians and bicyclists? What additional measures, if any, do you think are needed?
The Borough should continue to work with the NJTPA and other organizations for support and funding for road safety improvements. The council has already approved a Complete Streets concept, but the Borough Administrator has been hamstrung in seeing it implemented because our current form of government doesn’t allow for the administrator to act decisively on a clear directive.
Should Broadwalk be permitted to return in 2023? Should it be an annually recurring feature? Should any changes be implemented?
The Borough needs to work with both the residents and the business community to achieve a proper balance regarding Broadwalk. The town invested substantial sums to create a pedestrian area, which has been generally well regarded by residents and visitors. There are certain kinks to work out and finding ways to include more stakeholders in the conversation is important. Had the council utilized more strategic planning, some of the recurring issues could have been worked out ahead of time and/or solutions to issues that were unforeseen would be able to be remedied more quickly.
Do you believe hybrid council meetings, allowing for both in-person and remote participation, should be made a permanent feature?
Please add anything you’d like here:
Red Bank voters are faced with a town-altering option this election cycle. Voting YES on public question #1 will ensure the transition to a new form of government with more accountability, more stability and less politicization of issues that shouldn’t be politicized. Our opponents lack the independence to stand up to party politics that has caused massive chaos and dysfunction in Red Bank in recent years. Jonathan Penney and I will provide stability and competent leadership as we usher Red Bank into the new era of non-partisan government.
***** 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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