RED BANK: COUNCIL CONTENDERS FACE OFF

council candidates 2 101713Cindy Burnham, left, addresses the audience as Sean Di Somma, Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee listen at the Westside Community Group’s annual candidate’s forum Thursday night. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Election_2013_wDebatesThe question of whether to keep or sell Red Bank’s municipal water utility was among a handful of issues that split the four candidates for borough council at a debate Thursday night.

Republican newcomer Sean Di Somma said he’d sell it, one of several moves he’d make to “bring the council into the 21st century” and end the “fuzzy math” surrounding local taxes.

Incumbent Democrats Sharon Lee and Kathy Horgan contended the water system wouldn’t find a buyer willing to take on the debt and expense of upgrading a system, parts of which are 100 years old, and that Red Bank was better off keeping it anyway.

Cindy Burnham, the environmental activist who shares the GOP ticket with Di Somma, suggested that “the water utility could be a moneymaker’ for the town, but what really hits homeowners in the wallet is the sewer portion of their bills.

Differences over that issue, taxes and the fate or a piece of borough-owned waterfront property dominated the 17th annual candidates forum organized by the Westside Community Group at River Street Commons Thursday night.

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Q FOR GOP: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

candidatesWestside Community Group president Amy Goldsmith, right, discusses the debate format with candidates Juanita Lewis, Joe Mizzi, Grace Cangemi and Ed Zipprich. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

election_2011_wdebatesRed Bank’s Republican contenders for borough council were on the defensive Wednesday night as their opponents, and some voters, pressed them on their perceived sudden re-emergence as election day looms.

Resident David Prown asked GOP candidates Grace Cangemi and Joe Mizzi how confident taxpayers should feel in their representation, given what he characterized as their low profile between last spring’s candidacy announcement and now. Several questioners pressed them on the point of view that the pair say is missing from the current all-Democrat council.

In the evening’s most heated moment, incumbent Ed Zipprich called his opponent’s criticisms of the current council “absolutely ridiculous,” and said Cangemi, a former council member, hadn’t appeared at a session of the governing body since she lost a re-election bid in 2008, though she had pledged to serve as a watchdog.

“What have you done for the town in the three years since you walked out the door?” he asked.

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BECK CHATS IT UP WITH WESTSIDE GROUP

jen-beckState Senator Jen Beck talked with residents at the West Side Community Group Wednesday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For months, Patrick Hussey has looked out from his Catherine Street home and wished for pavement. The asphalt was torn up as part of the Cedar Crossing construction project, he said, and he’s been told by contractors that there’s no plan to repave the section of road until later this year.

“I’m ready to plant a garden right there in the street in front of my house,” Hussey said.

He hasn’t been able to get a straight answer from local officials about when his street will be repaved, he said, so he took his grievance a couple steps higher up the chain Wednesday night, when State Senator Jen Beck visited the Westside Community Group for her first time since serving on the borough council.

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CHIEF TALKS HOT TOPICS ON THE WEST SIDE

westside-group21Red Bank Police Chief Steve McCarthy gave a crime update to West Side residents Wednesday night, part of his monthly meeting at River Street Commons. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank Police Chief Steve McCarthy comes to River Street Commons every month, and usually opens up with a crime update.

While it’s an important element of his regular appearances in front of the West Side Community Group — especially this month, with a rash of violence on the West Side — it’s only one reason for the visits.

It’s on nights like these he gets to hear the concerns from residents. And they have plenty.

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ROOM FOR DEBATE, AND A COUPLE OF LAUGHS

debate3The Westside Community Group held its fourteenth annual council candidates’ debate Wednesday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It was a tame affair, one that started and ended with smiles and handshakes, with serious debate and a few zingers in between.

The crowd of a couple dozen at Wednesday night’s debate of Red Bank’s council candidates was also a bit subdued, but asked about all the hot topics in town: taxes, pedestrian safety and the local economy.

It opened up with quips from Mayor Pasquale Menna, who thanked the crowd for coming to Sharon Lee’s birthday party — she turned 55 yesterday — and said Republican candidate Joe Mizzi, who sports a shaved pate and spontaneously threw out the opening remarks he prepared a month ago, had a full head of hair before he finished writing his beginning statement.

Then it got serious.

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ON TUESDAY’S BALLOT: SCHOOL BUDGET BLUES

rbboe-041410Red Bank residents at Wednesday night’s presentation on the borough school district budget, led by Superintendent Laura Morana, below. (Click to enlarge)

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Hoping to whip up support for a spending plan crafted in the midst of what Superintendent Laura Morana called “incredibly devastating” cuts in state aid, Red Bank school officials brought their mini roadshow on this year’s proposed budget to voters again last night.

Appearing at the River Street Commons senior citizens’ center — once, the River Street School — Morana sought to demonstrate that her administration built its $19 million spending plan from the ground up, with an eye toward maintaining the quality of education for the two-school district.

The spending plan goes before voters next Tuesday. Bottom line, for the owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $405,000: a 3.75 percent tax increase of $77.78, or $6.49 per month.

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