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RED BANK: NONPARTISAN ELECTIONS? NOT YET.

Mike Whelan, center, and Mark Taylor, seen here on the night of their election to the Red Bank council in 2015, spearheaded the referendum effort.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank voters eager to eliminate partisanship from local elections and governance won’t get their wish this year.

A referendum initiative calling for non-partisan elections and a change to the form of local government lost steam over the summer and won’t be on November’s ballot. But its foremost advocates say they’re not giving up.

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RED BANK: GOP TO RUN MAYORAL CANDIDATE

Pearl Lee at the Bank Street block party earlier this month. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Her name has appeared on campaign lawn signs for weeks, but on Tuesday, a Red Bank political neophyte made it official: she’s running for mayor.

Pearl Lee, a retiree and singer from Alston Court, will top the Republican ticket ballot in November’s election. She’ll also be the first GOP opponent of Democratic incumbent Mayor Pasquale Menna since he won the seat in 2006.

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RED BANK: REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY ON TABLE

Seen here at a council meeting in April, Ken DeRoberts, left, and Joe Hartnett of Government Strategy Group managed borough operations on an interim basis earlier this year. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

The authors of a report that called for the creation of a redevelopment agency for downtown Red Bank appear to be on their way to getting a contract to make it happen.

Government Strategy Group would lead the way toward the creation of the agency, chief executive officer Ken DeRoberts said in a presentation at the borough council’s first-ever workshop-only meeting Wednesday night.

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RED BANK: BELLHAVEN PLAN SCALED BACK

Trees were taken down recently at Bellhaven Natural Area in preparation for an observation deck being built there, according to Business Administrator Ziad Shehady. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank officials have quietly started prep work for a project at a site once mired in controversy: the Bellhaven Natural Area overlooking the Swimming River.

The end result, however will be a “scaled-back” version of a plan that once called for a spray park and triggered loud protests three years ago.

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RED BANK: REPORT RIPS TOWN OPERATIONS

A management review found that “at least 12” full-time positions could be eliminated from borough government. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Citing numerous examples of “dysfunctionality,” an unsparing review of Red Bank’s management recommends widespread overhauls, from a new form of government to improved courtroom security.

The Management Enhancement Report, commissioned last October and posted on the borough website Friday, includes insider comments highly critical of the way things work, or don’t work, at borough hall.

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RED BANK: NONPARTISAN DRIVE UNDERWAY

Council members Mike Whelan, in white shirt, and Mark Taylor at the Red Bank First kickoff Tuesday night at Red Rock Tap + Grill.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Hoping to bust through what they see as political gridlock, two lame-duck Red Bank council members kicked off a petition effort Tuesday night to change both the borough’s form of government and the way in which its officials are elected.

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RED BANK: NONPARTISAN DRIVE TO KICK OFF

Red Bank’s ballots would be free of party lines if a push for nonpartisan elections succeeds.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

To spark debate over whether to make Red Bank’s elections nonpartisan, two lame-duck council members have slated a public-welcome event at a downtown bar next week.

On the agenda: policy discussion, a petition, plus complimentary food and drink.

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RED BANK: LOOKING UPSTAIRS FOR PARKING

Local officials say the usage mix and vacancy rates of upper floors downtown factors into parking needs and taxes. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

As the Red Bank council goes back to the drawing board in search of  parking solutions after last year’s abandoned flirtation with five developers, local officials admit they’ve got a problem upstairs.

They don’t know how much parking to allocate for upper-floor office and residential tenants downtown. Nobody, it turns out, has been keeping tabs.

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RED BANK: NEW ADMINISTRATOR NAMED

Ziad Andrew Shehady reading to young students in Springfield last month. (Photo courtesy of Ziad Andrew Shehady. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

The Red Bank council approved the hiring Wednesday night of a new borough administrator, giving the town’s most powerful unelected job to an Army veteran who became the mayor of a Union County town at the age of 25.

And his salary will be triple that of his predecessor.

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RED BANK: GOP INCUMBENTS WON’T RUN

Mike Whelan, left, and Mark Taylor kicking off their campaign in 2015. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank’s two remaining Republican council members won’t run for re-election this year, they said late Thursday night.

The bombshell news from first-termers Mark Taylor and Mike Whelan would appear to end a chapter of brief resurgence for the local GOP after having been frozen out of power for a generation.

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RED BANK: VISCOMI ADDS WILD CARD TO RACE

Viscomi serves on the board of ed, where she leads the finance committee, and is on a number of borough committees. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

The 2018 race for two Red Bank council seats looks like it will have a wild card.

Sue Viscomi, a board of education member and former Republican stalwart who has expressed increasing antipathy in recent years to the local arm of the party, has started gathering signatures for a run as an independent in the November election, she told redbankgreen on Monday.

Her entry would appear to add to the challenge for the two presumptive Republican candidates, already facing the prospect of an anti-Trump backlash in a majority Democrat town, and could eat into support for the two Democrats in the race, both newcomers to elective politics.

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RED BANK: DEMS TAP ACTING ADMINISTRATOR

Michael Ballard heads for his seat on the dais after his swearing-in as councilman Monday. Below, Kenneth DeRoberts, a consultant, was named interim administrator through March 31. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Back in control of the Red Bank council, Democrats flexed their muscle Monday on the issue of who will run the day-to-day operations of municipal government now that Stanley Sickels has left the building.

Answer: still to be determined. For the next three months, however, the job of borough administrator will be held by a consultant on local government efficiency.

 

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RED BANK: COUNCIL WRAPS ON BITTER NOTE

At the end of his final meeting on the dais, Stanley Sickels embraces Councilman Mark Taylor as Councilman Mike Whelan looks on. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The Red Bank council ended its 2017 session in acrimony Wednesday night as Republicans accused Democrats of politicizing the replacement of Stanley Sickels as borough administrator.

 

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RED BANK: AIM OF GOP PACT DISPUTED

Cindy Burnham says she agreed to the terms set above by her then-fellow Republican Linda Schwabenbauer in order to secure GOP support for her council presidency. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Former Red Bank Councilwoman Cindy Burnham got to be council president in 2016 only after agreeing to toe the line with her fellow Republicans, she claims.

Now, out of office for almost a year, Burnham is airing a backroom deal she entered with her party colleagues to attack onetime ally Linda Schwabenbauer over a purported lack of transparency.

But Schwabenbauer, seeking her second council term in Tuesday’s election, says the agreement isn’t the dirty laundry Burnham claims it to be.

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RED BANK: SPARKS FLY OVER BUDGET

Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, seen here last May with GOP colleagues Mark Taylor and Mike Whelan, found herself at odds with them, and Mayor Pasquale Menna, Wednesday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank adopted its 2017 budget Wednesday night amid some odd political frictions.

Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, who leads the budget-setting finance committee, took clear umbrage at a last-minute critique of the spending plan by Mayor Pasquale Menna. Then, the only ‘no’ votes when it came up for adoption were cast by her two fellow Republicans on the dais.

And before the night was over, Schwabenbauer’s main adversary in this year’s election, Democrat Ed Zipprich, issued a press release commending her.

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RED BANK: CLANCY DISAVOWS DIVISIVE TEXT

Michael Clancy in 2015. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Red Bank Republican Chairman Michael Clancy on Wednesday disavowed a text message that a party loyalist had termed a “disgusting” slap at the borough’s immigrant community.

Amid renewed calls for his resignation from the borough Human Relations Advisory Committee, Clancy sent redbankgreen a statement in which he expressed a “deep empathy for immigrants and children of immigrants, who live in fear of deportation.”

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RED BANK: VISCOMI DOUBLE-BARRELS CLANCY

Sue Viscomi at a 2015 board of education meeting. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

[Correction: The date of a controversial text was incorrectly reported in the original version of this article. References to it below have been corrected.]

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03A Red Bank Republican loyalist blasted party Chairman Michael Clancy Tuesday, one day after she was bypassed in favor of a political newcomer to run for borough council this year.

Sue Viscomi, who serves on the board of education, also took aim at Clancy for what she said was a “dumbfounding” and “disgusting” text she claims he sent to her and three GOP council members last month in February asking for a list of undocumented alien students so he could “mail it to ICE,” referring to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

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RED BANK: TAX BILLS TO RISE 2.9 PERCENT

Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, a CPA who heads the finance committee. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

taxes

Typical Red Bank homeowners would see a $x increase in the borough portion of their 2017 property tax bills under a budget introduced at Wednesday night’s council meeting.

For the owner of a home assessed at the town-average $362,342, that means an increase of $57.25 for the year.

 

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RED BANK: BURNHAM CASTS FINAL ‘NO’ VOTE

cindy-burnham-122816Council President Cindy Burnham at her final meeting as a member of the governing body Wednesday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Firebrand activist Cindy Burnham ended her  term on Red Bank’s council Wednesday night vowing to continue the work that made her its most consistent contrarian.

On her way out, she cast the last in a long series of “no” votes in which she was the lone dissenter.

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ON THE GREEN: BECK, KYRILLOS OPPOSE LINE

rb njt 041014A view north along the North Jersey Coast Line from the Red Bank train station. The proposed JCP&L power line would be strong alongside the railroad right-of-way on poles as tall as 140 feet. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03A controversial 10-mile long, high-voltage electricity transmission line that would end in Red Bank is no more welcome today than it was when it was shelved more than two decades ago, two local legislators said Thursday.

State Senators Jen Beck, of Red Bank, and Joe Kyrillos, of Middletown, jointly introduced a trio of resolutions in Trenton aimed at blocking electricity provider JCP&L from building the line.

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