Author: cmkadmin

Leadership Starts at the Top

Leadership Starts at the Top

By Angie Devanney

Make no mistake about it, I personally know first-hand that our municipal and Board of Education employees, and our volunteers do a great job with the limited resources they have to work with. But being a member of a governing body, particularly one with a small population, means jumping in the car, driving to Trenton or Elizabeth and advocating for County, NJDOT and other state dollars – not missing grant deadlines. It means ensuring all organizations in town are getting what they need to adequately service residents. That is the leadership I believe has been missing. It is time to think beyond the status quo of how “we’ve always done things,” and strive to do better.

As a baseball and softball mom, I have increasingly become disappointed with the condition of our fields over the last decade. I witnessed countless volunteer dads and moms try to maintain the fields, but seemingly, it has been a losing battle. We are a small town where every penny does count. When opportunities to obtain grants are missed that would improve the condition of our fields, our children are the ones affected most by it – and that’s not acceptable. These grants programs are also opportunities to get back more of our tax dollars from Union County. While Berkeley Heights has missed several of these grants, our neighboring towns of Mountainside and New Providence received $300,000 – $400,000 more in recreation grant dollars than Berkeley Heights.

Now our roads are falling more and more into disrepair. During my tenure as Township Administrator, our Department of Public Works’ track record was a source of community pride. Yet today, the Township government has missed 2 New Jersey Department of Transportation (local aid) road grants, once in 2014 and just last year in 2017. On average, these grants are $200,000 annually. Imagine how many roads could have been repaired and reconstructed with $400,000 or more! How can our DPW deliver services efficiently when the overall conditions of our roads requires far more attention than should be necessary just to do basic maintenance?

Likewise, libraries always seem to be on the chopping block at a time when they are needed more than ever helping to prepare our children for the future. That’s why I am committed to advocating for New Jersey State Library Construction Bond Act funds to help offset some of the cost of the municipal complex. I will also fight to ensure that Berkeley Heights tops the list of library grant funds received from Union County in the next coming three years, not the bottom.  We owe it to our library staff and board to be fierce advocates for them and our community.

Regardless of political party affiliation, the Mayor and Council have a duty to work across party lines at both the county and state levels and provide the tools our DPW, recreation, library staff and volunteer organizations need to build better fields, create recreation opportunities, maintain the roads and provide resources for our library.

Leadership starts at the top. That is why I ask for your support on November 6th  to be our next Mayor, along with Stephen Yellin and Alvaro Medeiros for Township Council.

P.S. I welcome your questions or ideas on how we can make positive changes in Berkeley Heights. Don’t hesitate to email me at AngieforBHMayor@gmail.com. 

Angie Devanney: Plans for Handling Impact of 1,000 New Housing Units (TAP Series)

Angie Devanney: Plans for Handling Impact of 1,000 New Housing Units (TAP Series)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Mayoral Candidate Angie Devanney for Week 2.

Week 2 Question:

  • What is your recommendation for an infrastructure plan to handle the impact of the addition of approximately 1,000 new housing units as part of the Affordable Housing Settlement? (Please include scope of impact on roads, services and infrastructure.)

Berkeley Heights is on the precipice of significant change. With nearly 1,000 housing units slated to be built by approximately 2020, we need to plan 2, 5, 10 years into our future. Roads, fields, public safety, the sewer plant, public works will all feel the impact.

First, as Mayor, I will institute a fee on any incoming development to lessen the burden on our town. I successfully negotiated this fee while working on a luxury housing project in a nearby town and stand ready to do the same here.

Second, we should institute a Citizen’s Review Committee comprised of different residents from across the community, facilitated by our planning and engineering professionals. This will allow us to assess our needs for 2020 through 2030 by reaching into our community and listening to our residents and business owners.

Surprisingly, our township Master Plan has not been substantially updated since 2007 despite all the new development. Berkeley Heights deserves a government that will be proactive rather than reactive. We will pass resolutions and ordinances that put “teeth” into a new Master Plan and the Citizen’s Review Committee’s recommendations.

Third, I will look for other sources of revenue or areas to ease the pressure on the municipal budget, such as the township sewer plant. Other communities are sharing wastewater services and making long-term investments in energy projects so that plants can become a net zero energy facilities. While these may be long-term solutions to ease the burden on our taxpayers, we need to look beyond the immediate future and plan for our children’s future.

Fourth, I would create a coalition of recreation groups to pool funds and make significant improvements to our fields. When Mountainside and New Providence have received $300,000 and $400,000 more grant dollars from the County’s Open Space program, we need to reassess how we leverage our recreation dollars. As the author of grant applications for the Kid’s Recreation Trust Fund and Greening the Streets, I understand that leadership starts at the top. As leaders like State Senator Vin Gopal have noted, we must stop working in silos and bring our shared resources together.

This focus applies to other areas that we need to support, like library grants. I will advocate for Berkeley Heights’ fair share of the state Library Construction Bond Act funds, along with increased funding from the Union County library grant. With a municipal complex that has a price tag of $32 million, we need to take advantage of every grant dollar.

With proper planning, innovative ideas, proactively running our government by including our community groups, non-profit organizations and others, we will be ready for our new future.

Read the original TAP article here.

Alvaro Medeiros: Township Needs to Anticipate Impacts of New Developments (TAP Series)

Alvaro Medeiros: Township Needs to Anticipate Impacts of New Developments (TAP Series)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Township Council Candidate Alvaro Medeiros for Week 2.

Week  Question:

  • What is your recommendation for an infrastructure plan to handle the impact of the addition of approximately 1,000 new housing units as part of the Affordable Housing Settlement? (Please include scope of impact on roads, services and infrastructure.)

Ideally the Township master plan should anticipate emerging trends and the likely impacts that can be expected. Housing costs have risen in our area increasing the appeal of Berkeley Heights for many homeowners and renters driving interest in developers and builders to invest in housing units here. What’s evident to them should be reflected in the Master Plan and should in turn guide the Township leadership in development of a sound capital plan for road repair, road signage and traffic lights, etc.

With almost 1000 units approved for construction, we can be sure that there will be more traffic, more children attending our schools and more commuters accessing the trains and buses. Angie Devanney, Stephen Yellin and I have advocated for a strong private-public partnership to improve the downtown and this too applies to adjusting to and accommodating growth.

We need to facilitate pedestrian not automotive traffic and should increase and enhance our street crossing sites similar to what New Providence has done. Similarly, school children should be encouraged to walk to school and the walkways made available and improved for that purpose. We should better manage the use of roadways by trucks limiting the roads used and also limiting the number of garbage trucks and enabling residents to self serve their recycling needs with downtown recycling facilities.

We should improve the access of commuters to trains and buses. For example, we could utilize the senior citizens bus in the morning and evening as a commuter jitney to and from the train station.

Finally, we must be open to and encourage ideas from our residents about solutions to the township. We should adopt Councilman Poage’s proposal of a grant writing committee to ensure we leverage all funding resources and we should have a Township planning committee to generate affordable ideas to the inevitability of change that we can be sure to expect in the Township.

Original TAP article can be found here

Stephen Yellin: Better Long-Term Plans Needed to Address Town Needs with New Development  (TAP Series)

Stephen Yellin: Better Long-Term Plans Needed to Address Town Needs with New Development (TAP Series)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Township Council Candidate Stephen Yellin for Week 2.

Week 2 Question:

  • What is your recommendation for an infrastructure plan to handle the impact of the addition of approximately 1,000 new housing units as part of the Affordable Housing Settlement? (Please include scope of impact on roads, services and infrastructure.)

The first important thing to note is that the Township has been working on a settlement of their Affordable Housing obligations since 2015.  The fact that we don’t already have an infrastructure plan in place – let alone are implementing one – is a clear example of why we need change. The Mayor and Council have known from the beginning that we would be seeing hundreds and hundreds of housing units built, at a minimum. That they have not been proactive in preparing a plan to address these needs is a major example of why we need change in Berkeley Heights government.

If elected, I would work with Angie Devanney, Alvaro Medeiros and the returning Council members to implement a long-term plan to address these needs. This plan would include important goals to achieve within 2, 5 and 10 years (through about the year 2030). Some of the proposals I would consider for this plan are:

  • Create a Citizens Review Committee to fully assess all our infrastructure needs and update our Master Plan, which last saw significant changes in 2007. We have many capable residents who are experts in various fields that relate to long-term planning, and they should be a full part of the process.
  • Establish clear targets so that we have an acceptable standard to measure progress on our Master Plan goals.
  • Revamp our budget’s Capital Plan to increase funding for road repairs. This includes using new micro paving technology to extend the life of repaired roads for up to 15 years beyond their initial lifespan. This will help keep down the costs of repairs and additions to our infrastructure.
  • Reexamine the waiting list of streets to be repaved so that the most urgent needs are met first. The last review occurred in 2014 and some neighborhoods are in significantly worse shape today.
  • Explore all opportunities to bring departments, community groups, and county and state agencies together and share resources to fix some of our problems. A good example of this is the need to repair and upgrade our sports fields, something I’ve pushed for since 2016.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of residents this year who worry about the quality of services they get for the taxes they pay. I believe they want and deserve a town government that listens to them and plans for the future accordingly. I see it, I feel it, and I know we can do better. That’s why I’m proud to join Angie and Alvaro in fighting for Change We Can Agree On – and, with your help, we’ll meet and overcome the challenges Berkeley Heights faces in the years to come.

Facts Matter: We Can’t Keep Going Down This Road

Facts Matter: We Can’t Keep Going Down This Road

Our current Town Council has missed too many opportunities for free money from the county and state, to help repair and maintain our roads, recreational facilities and library. Plus, our municipal taxes are increasing at a rate higher than that of our county and Board of Ed Taxes. Berkeley Heights can’t keep going down this road. Here are some facts you need to know:

ROADS

RECREATION

LIBRARY

TAXES

Get to Know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Alvaro Medeiros: Week 1 TAP Question

Get to Know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Alvaro Medeiros: Week 1 TAP Question

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Township Council Candidate Alvaro Medeiros for Week 1.

Week 1 Questions:

  • Why are you Running for Office?
  • What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the elected office you are seeking?
  • What do you think the major issues facing Berkeley Heights are at this time?

I am running for town council so that I can make a positive impact on the direction this town takes. I have worked at AT&T for over 25 years and before that at a small private manufacturer where I worked my way up to running their western operations. I am at present an Associate Vice President at AT&T. Through hard work, persistence, and performance, I have delivered results in two separate careers and succeeded in different business environments. I am confident I can make a difference for good in Berkeley Heights where I have been a Boy Scouts volunteer, active in the GL Marching band and in fund raising activities. I am disappointed in what I see in our Township today and I think we can do better. I want to help drive that change.

I am very confident of my abilities and a capable and effective leader. I succeed through anticipating, planning, listening, weighing the alternatives and deciding conclusively. I believe in the value and importance of collaboration with diverse thinkers and doers. Berkeley Heights is residence to a wide array of experts whose input we should welcome and whose skills I hope to leverage for the benefit of our community.  I value inclusion and participation and am not convinced that our current leadership does. Angie Devanney, Stephen Yellin and I have campaigned by reaching out to people at their homes or where it’s most convenient and listening – that’s where some of the best ideas come. Susan Poage and I did last year and it will be key feature of our leadership if elected.

The volume and scope of large residential developments that have been approved almost all at once and the associated impact – ranging from construction activity concentrated in a relatively compact area of town to the impact on Township infrastructure – is going to be a major challenge. On top of that, we have launched a costly municipal complex with an increased debt burden that will reduce Township options to absorb so much demand on municipal resources and budgets. We cannot continue to exceed budget caps and burden growing families or those on fixed incomes with ever increasing tax bills. Strict fiscal discipline, sound capital planning and sound administration are in critical need in our Town as evidenced by the damage and debris we struggled to clean up for weeks following late winter storms this year. We need creativity of which I have seen little evidence –and Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) agreements with developers are not very creative and have negative consequences. My fellow candidates, Angie Devanney and Stephen Yellin, and I have devised out-of-the box solutions to raise funds aimed at addressing these challenges and while we will not promise a quick fix our search for solutions will be widespread and relentless.

‘We Need Action, Not Just Words’ to End Hate

We unambiguously condemn the disturbing flyers distributed in our community by supporters of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the racist and anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.

This is not who we are, and we must never give in to those who incite fear and hatred – never. All of us must do our part to ensure hate has no home here in Berkeley Heights. The forces of hatred are emboldened by the silence of good people. We must speak up.

But our community must also go beyond words. We need to do all we can to support those who are angry and upset. We must partner with community groups working toward eradicating hatred, racism, and prejudice. Most of all, we need to listen to community members and organizations who are most directly affected by these displays of hate and intolerance. We need action, not just words, to ensure everyone truly feels they belong in Berkeley Heights.

We will make it a priority to support the work of these community groups and engage with them on a regular basis. Our ongoing, constructive dialogue should seek to educate all residents on how we can work on seeing the world through the eyes of marginalized members of our community, so that we can better understand their perspective.

This struggle is not new, nor will it end soon – but we must do our part to end hate.

Click here to read the original article about the incidents in TAP. 

Facts Matter: We Can’t Keep Going Down This Road

Facts Matter: We Can’t Keep Going Down This Road

Our current Town Council has missed too many opportunities for free money from the county and state, to help repair and maintain our roads, recreational facilities and library. Plus, our municipal taxes are increasing at a rate higher than that of our county and Board of Ed Taxes. Berkeley Heights can’t keep going down this road. Here are some facts you need to know:

ROAD

  • Current Administration has missed 2 major road grants in 2014 & 2017 (an average of @ $200,000 per year)
    • Source: State of New Jersey Department of Transportation

RECREACTION

  • Current Administration has missed 3 recreation grants – 2010, 2011, 2013
    • Source: Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office
    • New Providence and Mountainside received $300,000-400,000 more than Berkeley Heights from 2010- present.

LIBRARY

  • Under the current administration, Berkeley Height has received the lowest amount in library grants in all the County for the past 3 years.
    • Source: Union County Public Information Office

TAXES

  • Municipal taxes have increased 18.19% in the last 5 years; Board of Ed taxes have increased 13.22% and County taxes have increased 11.25%
    • Source: Union County Tax Assessor’s Office
  • Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for developers will cost the Board of Education around $225,000  – and growing
    • Source: Union County Tax Assessor’s Office
    • PILOTs pay 0% taxes to Board of Education
    • PILOTs pay 5% to county government

‘Deeply Concerned’ About the Impact of Warren’s Housing Settlement

We are deeply concerned about the impact of Warren Township’s affordable housing settlement on Berkeley Heights residents. This settlement means 192 housing units will be constructed on a strip of Emerson Lane that belongs to Warren, while the rest of the neighborhood belongs to Berkeley Heights. An additional 176 housing units will be built on the other side of Hillcrest Avenue from the entrance to Emerson Lane. Plus, there is proposed development on nearby Bonnie Burn Road, as well.

This will have a very negative impact on Berkeley Heights residents who live on or near Emerson Lane, leading to greatly increased traffic as well as additional wear and tear on our roads.

“We are deeply concerned about the impact of Warren Township’s affordable housing settlement on Berkeley Heights residents. This settlement means 192 housing units will be constructed on a strip of Emerson Lane that belongs to Warren, while the rest of the neighborhood belongs to Berkeley Heights. This will have a negative impact on Berkeley Heights residents who live on or near Emerson Lane, leading to greatly increased traffic as well as additional wear and tear on the roads.

This news only further serves to emphasize the urgency of developing a clear plan of action to address the challenges posed by having nearly 1,000 housing units added to our town in the next 2-3 years, including its impact on traffic and infrastructure. This plan should already be in place but none currently exists. We will work to create this plan if elected, while learning about and communicating news from neighboring towns that also affects us. We need to be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to responsibly managing the future of Berkeley Heights – and that’s Change We Can Agree On!

Click here to read the latest on the Warren affordable housing settlement.

Facts Matter: How Much will the Municipal Complex Raise Our Taxes?

Facts Matter: How Much will the Municipal Complex Raise Our Taxes?

One of the biggest – if not the biggest – issues in this election is the new Township Municipal Complex: its cost, its tax impact, and how we got here. Many residents have expressed their concern about the $32 million price tag (which is already $4 million over the initial budgeted amount) and what that means to their pocketbook. While the Municipal Complex plan is already set in stone, it doesn’t mean we should reelect the leaders who brought us to this point. It also doesn’t mean the project should be on auto-pilot. It needs strict oversight to ensure more cost overruns don’t occur, and that we maximize savings wherever possible.

If elected, we pledge to:

  • Manage this project much more responsibly going forward.
  • Hold the developer, EPIC, accountable to ensure the project is finished as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure the project comes in as much under the $32 million budget, as possible, since any savings will be split between the township and the developer 50/50.
  • Weigh wants versus needs – if there is any room to scale down, we will.
  • Listen to your concerns and consider your feedback before decisions are made.
  • Use every means of communication to ensure residents are not only informed but understand what is taking place.

How We Got Here

The current Mayor stated publicly in his letter to residents on July 25th, 2018, that the average household will see an annual tax increase of $179 to pay for the cost of the Municipal Complex. The Town Council, however, has claimed that the “actual” tax increase will only be $3 for the average household. How is that possible?

The argument made by the Council is that they will reduce the $179 tax increase by using anticipated revenue from financial agreements made with developers of other housing complexes to be built in the next few years. These agreements, called PILOTs (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes), give 95% of the taxes collected from the development directly to the Township, whereas a normal tax bill would see roughly 20% of the revenue go to the Township.

There is a big “if” with this approach, however: it assumes the developer will complete the project as proposed, and that they will successfully generate the level of revenue assumed in the PILOT agreement (in this case, having the units filled by new residents). But as of the beginning of October 2018, none of these housing developments have even broken ground! With all the unanticipated events that may impact developers, there is absolutely no guarantee that Berkeley Heights will receive the tax revenue the Mayor and his running mates are banking on.

The Power of ‘No’

The “$3 tax increase” is an estimate, not a reality. When it comes to paying for the Municipal Complex, the only hard fact we know is that it will cost $179 per year for the average household. It is not fiscally responsible to wager on a hypothetical source of revenue to lessen the tax burden. This is why Councilwoman Susan Poage voted “No” on spending an additional $4 million – because it was critical that we make every effort to responsibly manage the project. Plus, taxpayers only received notice of the exact dollar amount of the increase hours before the public hearing to approve the extra $4 million.

The Township is committed to completing the Municipal Complex, as we are. We agree we need a new facility. But we cannot elect the same leaders and expect them to avoid making the same mistakes. Nor should we forget the tangled process that got us here, including having a Council member vote on parts of this project despite having a clear conflict of interest, as noted by the courts.  Other Council members abstained because of their conflicts.

This is your town, and your tax money; we will take our role as your representatives seriously.