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RED BANK: HILL Q&A

linda-hill-041123-500x413-3867766On the ballot May 9: Red Bank council candidate Linda Hill. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

election-2023_qa-220x189-1779922Red Bank voters will have 13 candidates to choose from when they elect six council members May 9.

Here’s what candidate Linda Hill said in response to a questionnaire sent to all by redbankgreen.

Name and age: Linda Hill, 62

Street address: 64 McLaren Street

Where did you grow up? Rutherford, NJ

Where did you go to high school? Rutherford High School (Go Bulldogs!)

If you hold college or graduate degrees, where did you earn them, and in what areas of study?

I have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (now St. Joseph’s University) and a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers College of Pharmacy.

Have you served in the military? If so, which branch and when? No

How long have you been a resident of Red Bank? Since 2016

Do you own your home? Yes

What do you do for a living, and who is your employer?

I practiced as a clinical pharmacist, and then went on to start and successfully run my own business as an entrepreneur in medical writing and editing. Years into my healthcare-related work, I began to volunteer as a fundraiser for a couple of organizations about which I was very passionate. I learned that I had a knack for fundraising and transitioned into that as a career. I have held positions in this capacity, starting with a director of development role at a K-12 private school, then to multiple roles in healthcare foundations, and most recently as vice president of philanthropy at a statewide senior services and housing corporation.

What, if anything, about your work makes you particularly suited to serve as an elected official?

As a leader in organizations, I have demonstrated strategic foresight, financial resourcefulness, strong data analysis, and managerial agility. I will bring these attributes with me to the Red Bank Council. One of the most important skills I possess is developing and sustaining positive professional relationships. That includes working with clients as a business owner, working together with volunteers, Boards of Trustees, and philanthropic donors, and excelling as the leader or member of a team accomplishing critically important organizational goals. In addition, as a member of a team or its leader, I have honed my abilities in civil discourse, collaboration, camaraderie, and sound decision-making.

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

I enjoy volunteering and have done so for a number of community organizations including founder and leader of a support group for Parents of Transgender Children and Adults; volunteer board member — George School Children’s Center; volunteer co-chair of leadership gifts committee — Stuart Country Day School; former co-founder, board member, and volunteer — Build the Wave; volunteer — Monmouth County SPCA; founding member and volunteer — UniteBlue; volunteer — Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Your party affiliation, if any: Life-long Democrat

Is party affiliation important to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?

When I was a pre-teen, I was riveted by Watergate and the Congressional hearings and so was hooked on politics at an early age. I never considered running for office until this year, however. I embrace socioeconomic justice, civil rights, and LGBTQ and women’s rights, and have always found a home with like-minded people in the Democratic Party.

Why are you running for office?

I decided to run for Red Bank Council because I was disappointed by the dysfunction, hostility, lack of common decency, and inability to work together and reach consensuses for the good of the town in both the current and previous Councils. Respect and courtesy must also be shown to residents who speak before the Council. They deserve to be heard by elected officials. I know that some residents will not speak at council meetings because they fear being disparaged, denigrated, and disrespected. I have been treated as such myself by a member of council. I have also seen attendees at council meetings heckle residents who are trying to be heard. The issues facing Red Bank are too important to elect individuals who encourage or engage in this kind of behavior themselves.

What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and what specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?

Among the current priorities in Red Bank are the lack of a full-time business administrator, taxes and affordability, pedestrian, bicyclist, and motor vehicle safety, overdevelopment, and code enforcement. The Council should take the new master plan and from it, develop the agreed-upon strategic and operational priorities for Red Bank and move forward.

Quality of life is a major concern in Red Bank. The lack of code enforcement is at the heart of many issues adversely affecting the town. More ordinances from the Council is not always the answer. We need to enforce the codes that already exist. Parks and green spaces are an important driver of residents’ quality of life. Addressing Marine Park is long overdue. It should be fixed now, along with East Side Park. The Council must abide by its own Complete Streets Policy. Adopted in 2018, it needs to be a living, breathing document that informs decision-making. This will improve the health, safety, and welfare of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Residents and visitors alike remark upon the trash and litter in Red Bank. If we want to continue to be a jewel along the Navesink River, our town should be clean and safe, at a minimum. Overdevelopment affects quality of life. The strain on the town’s 100+ year-old infrastructure and our schools are clear. New development in town should enhance the quality of life of current residents, not diminish it. When adaptive re-use of older buildings is accomplished, it is a win for Red Bank, and should be encouraged to get to work.

I want to second Suzanne Viscomi’s idea to “democratize” the selection of borough residents to serve on its various committees. Residents should be made aware of vacancies on committees so they may apply to serve. Cronyism should have no place in the populating of our committees.

Do you expect the change to a council-manager form of government starting July 1 to improve the governance of Red Bank over the existing borough form? Please explain.

If the residents elected to council are honorable people who strive to work together no matter their campaigning on differing or no slates, and they hire a highly qualified town manager, I expect the governance of Red Bank to vastly improve.

Do you believe the council meetings in recent years have been unnecessarily acrimonious? If so, what specifically should residents expect from you to address the situation?

Since January 1, 2023, the council majority is represented by adults who value finding common ground, making the best decisions for Red Bank as a whole, and putting Red Bank residents first. That has resulted in an improvement in the conduct of council meetings. Residents should expect that I will work well with anyone they choose to elect because what matters is Red Bank and its future. Residents should not be represented by a council member who appears incapable of working with anyone who doesn’t defer to them or march in lockstep with their every opinion. Instead of governing with a bullhorn, council member, try negotiation and reconciliation. It works.

What qualities will you prioritize in selecting a borough administrator?

The first step for a newly constituted government should be the hiring of a highly skilled professional borough manager with a deep understanding and respect for human resources and the management of a town such as ours. All borough employees deserve to be treated with respect. They also deserve periodic performance reviews and strong HR policies to protect them and the borough, and this new hire must develop and implement them. The new manager is critically important, and the new mayor and council must choose wisely.

Is Red Bank doing all it can to keep the municipal portion of the tax rate in check? If not, what should be done that is not being done?

What I hear now from the council minority is virtue signaling in the form of total and absolute support for any department or entity that comes before the council to ask for more money. We should all support the police, the fire department, the businesses, and I think we all do, and we must balance budgetary requests with their effects on the tax rate. We cannot give everyone everything they want, because our residents deserve a fair, open, honest budget that takes their needs into account. As someone who has created and managed sizeable budgets, I know how to balance the needs of all parties. We must take the tax burden we place on residents seriously. Since the school budget makes up a large portion of it, we can only affect a small portion of that tax rate. Prudent spending decisions must prevail in Red Bank.

Can Red Bank afford and manage to simultaneously take on the rehabilitation of the municipal public works yard and borough hall; the contamination cleanup at the former landfill; and the redesign of Marine Park?

It is such a shame that previous councils kicked these cans so far down the sidewalk for so many years. We must look at our budget as a whole: debt service, preventive maintenance, operational needs, and capital improvements all impact our budget. This is a turning point for Red Bank. A measured approach to spending is the only way forward.

Who should have the lead role in guiding large-scale capital projects?

The mayor and council must set the town’s priorities with input from residents and businesses, and the borough manager and professional staff must carry them out. This is with respect to capital projects and every other town initiative.

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 support it in theory but am also aware that this plan was designed several years ago now. There should be a comprehensive plan for Red Bank that takes into account all of its open spaces, passive parks, and recreational facilities. I don’t know enough yet about this proposal to determine how it fits into current plans for east side or riverside parks, for example. I do know that we must begin to improve Marine Park as soon as we can, although we may not be able to accomplish everything now.

Should the former landfill at the western end of Sunset Avenue be redeveloped as a park? No.

Is the borough doing enough to encourage and safeguard walking and biking? What additional measures, if any, do you think are needed?

The borough is not doing enough to encourage and safeguard walking and biking. While the Complete Streets policy was adopted in 2018, it has not been acted upon. Without an implementation plan we are doing nothing to further this initiative.

Should Broadwalk be an annually recurring feature? Should any changes be implemented?

I enjoy Broadwalk, as most residents do, although some residents and businesses are not pleased with the resulting traffic, trash, and noise. Red Bank RiverCenter made many promises to the council on how it would improve Broadwalk this year. I suggest that we see how this year goes, and then the council can evaluate whether we should commit to an annual recurring event.

Do you support the effort to revise the 2021 cannabis zoning ordinance? Why or why not?

A point of interest: Manhattan, an island of 1.6 million, 125 times the population of Red Bank, has 44 total retail cannabis licenses, or one for every 37,000 residents. It’s 14 square miles. The most per capita licenses any city has is Missoula, Montana, with 1 license for every 2,800 residents, is 35 square miles. The Red Bank’s Ready slate believes the council majority is wrong in starting off thoughtfully with 3 retail licenses here in Red Bank. Ask yourself why.

As a citizen, I support the medical and safe recreational uses of cannabis. I also appreciate the revenue that cannabis businesses can bring to our town. As a pharmacist, I have learned that thoughtful and measured actions work best when introducing or adopting something new. Therefore, I agree with the Council majority that cannabis businesses should be introduced in an informed manner. I am not certain that the Council has arrived at the correct number of licenses. Red Bank can always make available more licenses as time goes by and we are certain that it’s the right decision for our town to do so. If the introduction of cannabis businesses does not proceed smoothly in Red Bank, it would be difficult to attempt to rescind licenses already granted. Let’s introduce, adopt, and proceed with deliberate, reasonable procedures as we navigate cannabis in Red Bank.

Do you support the short-term rental ordinance adopted by the council in February? Why or why not?

I support regulation of the short-term rental properties in Red Bank. That said, I would have voted for owner-occupied short-term rentals, and I think the Council should consider grandfathering in STRs that have a stellar relationship with their neighbors and no violations. We should also take a look at long-term rentals in town and consider whether they are properly regulated.

Should the council rank the recommendations of the new Master Plan for action? If so, which recommendations would you put at the top of the list?

The council should prioritize, with input from residents, businesses, and borough professionals, the exhaustive items on the master plan.

Do you favor a transit village designation for the area around the train station, as recommended in the 2023 Master Plan? Why or why not?

We have been rejected twice for a Transit Village designation. I support prudent development of our town that prioritizes current residents and businesses. Any Transit Village plan must be evaluated within the context of our infrastructure needs, existing traffic, the health of our schools, and taxes.

What if anything should Red Bank’s government do to create opportunities for new, affordable housing?

Affordable housing, senior housing, veteran housing—these are all important concerns for the town. I applaud Council members Ballard and Sturdivant for their diligent work to support the Red Bank Housing Authority. Our first priority needs to be ensuring that the Borough’s existing housing is safe and outfitted appropriately. And then, while Red Bank isn’t a developer, it should support efforts to increase the amount of affordable housing in Red Bank.

Are there any reasons for Red Bank residents to be concerned about Tim Hogan serving as mayor in light of his role as president and chief executive officer of Riverview Medical Center? Why or why not?

Tim Hogan is a man of integrity, compassion, and professionalism. He is also highly skilled in business, running meetings, managing budgets, negotiation, and consensus-building. He is a man of substance who thoughtfully and thoroughly gets the job done. Together with a council comprised of individuals with those same qualities, as the Red Bank Together slate is, he will achieve a better Red Bank. To suggest that Tim would act as an agent of the hospital as mayor and the council would allow him to do so is absurd.

Are there any reasons for Red Bank residents to be concerned about Billy Portman serving as mayor? Why or why not?

From what I can tell, Billy is a genial, friendly man. I like him. I do recall him standing on my front porch in spring 2022 and saying that he was only running to be mayor to shepherd us to the advent of a new government, and that he had no other agenda or aspirations. So much for that. Evaluating Billy on his performance as mayor thus far, I can say that he has not worked to bring the council or indeed the town together or build consensus and he does not run orderly or effective council meetings. One thing that Billy has done that I applaud is his establishment of regular office hours. I understand that Mayor Menna intended to do so, but Covid got in his way. Thank you for holding office hours, Billy.

Please add anything you’d like here:

*****

ELECTION NOTES

• Find the Red Bank sample ballot here.

• Early, in-person voting will be available at borough hall (90 Monmouth Street) from Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7. The hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. No other polling stations will be open for early, in-person voting.

• 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).

red-bank-voting-district-map-2021-500x320-6021294

• 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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