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Get to Know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Stephen Yellin: Week 1 TAP Question

Get to Know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Stephen Yellin: 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 Stephen Yellin 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 want to serve on the Township Council because this has always been my hometown and I care about making it the best it can be. Three generations of my family have called Berkeley Heights home, and they definitely made the right call! Growing up here meant I was fortunate to be educated in one of the best public school systems, walk or ride my bike on some of the safest streets, and be part of a community with a remarkable commitment to others. Now, it’s time for me to give back as best I know how.

We have a great town but we have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to local government. The expertise and skills I would bring to the Council, together with Angie Devanney and Alvaro Medeiros, will help us make the positive changes necessary for that improvement. I have a proven track record of making positive changes and promoting common-sense ideas (many of which have been adopted by the Council), of “walking the walk” when it comes to communicating with and listening to our residents, and seeking common ground and reasonable solutions to the challenges we face. These things, together with my extensive knowledge of Berkeley Heights history and public policy in general, make me one of the 2 best candidates for Township Council this election (Alvaro being the other).

The major challenges Berkeley Heights faces today are as follows: 1) Responsibly managing the Municipal Complex project (already $4 million over budget and with an average tax increase of $179 per household); 2) Fixing our roads and sidewalks at a much faster rate than we do now; 3) Planning for the impact of new housing and programs that will put additional strain on our infrastructure; 4) Identifying ways to embrace inclusiveness and give all residents a say in the future of our town; and 5) Working harder to communicate with residents and earn their trust for our efforts in local government.

Click here to read Stephen’s Week 1 answers in their entirety. 

Get to know Mayor Candidate Angie Devanney (D): Week 1 Question

Get to know Mayor Candidate Angie Devanney (D): Week 1 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 Mayoral Candidate Angie Devanney 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?

Berkeley Heights is a great community, but we can do better. I am running for Mayor because as a mom sitting on the sidelines at many ball games, I witnessed our fields fall into disrepair; as I looked around the town, our roadways seem to be worsening with each year. Opportunities for additional revenue and cost saving measures were missed. Many aspects of our town can be managed better; we need improved management and fiscal responsibility. My experience with running the day-to-day operations of Berkeley Heights government will allow me to hit the ground running on Day One along with my team, Alvaro Medeiros, Stephen Yellin and Susan Poage. I also believe in service and giving back to the community whenever possible. It is a privilege to serve the community where I am raising my two children – Abbey, a 5th grader at Mountain Park and Ryan, a junior at Governor Livingston High School – and ensuring that they continue to grow up in a community that makes us all proud.

I gained vast knowledge of town operations and experience during my time as Township Administrator; I ran business operations, overseeing the departments of DPW Public Works, Engineering, Finance, Zoning/Construction and Public Safety. I am skilled at creating shared services; such as the agreement I reached with the County in IT and printing. My experience and relationships in local, county and state government will allow Berkeley Heights to maximize grants funds and other resources.

Click here to read Angie’s Week 1 answers in their entirety. 

Stephen Yellin & Alvaro Medeiros: Real Experience, Real Solutions, Real Change

Stephen Yellin & Alvaro Medeiros: Real Experience, Real Solutions, Real Change

As we get closer to Election Day, we’ve been thrilled by the increasingly strong support our campaign has received. Residents we meet while going door to door or in small groups are grateful to learn what’s going on in Berkeley Heights, and really appreciate the positive solutions we have for the real challenges we face. That message of positive change is what our campaign is truly all about!

It is vital that our entire team is elected; otherwise, we lack the votes on the Town Council to turn our positive solutions into reality. That’s why we want to tell you a little about us and why we want to earn your vote. We are running because we have the experience, the ideas, and the commitment to bring our community together, and make a positive difference in our local government.

Why vote for Stephen?

 

For Stephen Yellin, Berkeley Heights is, was, and always will be, home – his family first moved here over 50 years ago. Stephen went through our public schools (Mountain Park, Columbia and GL), and came home after graduate school in order to give back to our town as a voice for reasonable, common-sense change. An active volunteer for over a decade, Stephen has successfully fought for improved communications with and from residents, including recording and digitizing Council meetings, deploying e-updates, moving Executive Sessions to the end of meetings, and holding “town halls” to discuss issues with residents at times more convenient for them.

Stephen successfully worked with a coalition of residents to prevent overdevelopment in the Free Acres/Emerson Lane neighborhood as chairman of Stop the BAC’s political committee, keeping residents informed by sending reports on Council meetings to the Independent Press. He also helped expand revenue and cut wasteful spending at United Way of Greater Union County.

“We need new leaders, with the right background and positive solutions, so that we can get Berkeley Heights government back on track while promoting inclusion and respect for all residents,” Stephen says. “That is what Angie, Alvaro and I will do if elected. By electing all 3 of us, we can start writing that new chapter in the history of Berkeley Heights – one we will all write together!”

Why vote for Alvaro? 

Alvaro Medeiros has a proven track record of serving our community, including volunteering as Quartermaster of the Governor Livingston High School marching band and as an active parent with the local Boy Scout Troop Committee. He was appointed to the Environmental Commission earlier this year, where he has worked with fellow volunteers to promote environmentally friendly programs such as a Community Garden and the Trex Thin Film Plastics Challenge.

Alvaro has risen through the ranks at AT&T for the past 24 years to become an Associate Vice President. His business and financial background means he will bring valuable experience when it comes to responsibly managing our tax dollars. Alvaro and his wife Amalia have lived in Berkeley Heights for nearly 25 years, where they’ve raised their children, Adrian and Beatriz, who graduated from our public schools. Alvaro knows first-hand just how much every vote counts in local elections.

“Last year, I ran for Town Council to bring the right type of change in our community. My running mate Susan Poage won, and I nearly joined her. I fell short by seven votes; more proof that EVERY VOTE MATTERS, particularly on the local level.

“What I saw and continue to see in our current leadership worries me. My goal last year was to take a more active role in the township and to be part of the leadership, to be at the table when decisions that affect us all are being made, and to help bring about change for the better. This is why I am running again and am proud to join Angie Devanney and Stephen Yellin on the Change We Can Agree On ticket.”

On November 6th, join the growing movement of Democrats, Republicans and Independents in voting for Angie Devanney for Mayor and Stephen Yellin & Alvaro Medeiros for Township Council.

Facts Matter: Roselle Mind and Body Project

Facts Matter: Roselle Mind and Body Project

From Angie Devanney, Mayoral Candidate

A number of residents have asked about inaccurate information about me being shared by my opponent’s supporters. Since I agree with them that Facts Matter, here are the facts about one piece of misinformation:

The Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) entered into a shared agreement with the Borough of Roselle to construct a Mind and Body complex consisting of a community center and early childhood school. The UCIA sought a Public-Private Partnership to realize cost savings, eliminate change orders that occur in traditionally publicly bid projects through a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) and provide lowest possible financing rate.

This is the same process used for the Berkeley Heights Municipal Complex whereby EPIC Construction was selected and awarded the project and a Developer’s Agreement was signed. The developer does not determine the scope of the project.  The project price is based on architecture (rectangular building vs unique shape), programming (how much square footage for offices, meeting rooms, etc.), materials used (wood vs. brick, granite vs. marble, etc.) and how the building is outfitted (technology, furniture, etc.).

Programming is determined by the Governing Body. In Berkeley Heights, it is the Township Council who made the final decision about the scope and size of the project therefore setting a framework for the cost of the Municipal Complex. In Roselle, the Borough Council and Board of Education made the programming decisions including the choice of a developer.

My husband, George and  I were not the developers on the Roselle Mind and Body Complex, but rather served as part of the professional team for the developer, as listed in the official Request for Qualifications submission to the UCIA on January 16, 2016 by the developer. Contrary to the misinformation being spread by my opponent’s supporters, we had no involvement with any other aspect of the project, including any decisions made about the cost and management of the project.

Residents deserve a campaign focused on facts and issues that affect our community, not relying on misinformation and fear-driven innuendo.  I urge Mayor Woodruff and his team to join Stephen Yellin, Alvaro Medeiros and me in committing themselves to that kind of campaign.

 

Facts Matter: Straight Talk from Angie Devanney

Facts Matter: Straight Talk from Angie Devanney

Stephen Yellin, Alvaro Medeiros and I have pledged to run a campaign based upon facts and the issues voters are most concerned about in Berkeley Heights.  It was our hope that the Mayor and his team would do likewise, and we publicly asked them to join us in making this pledge.  Instead, it is clear they have decided that it is better to “go low, not high” and attempt to cast unsubstantiated questions about my professional life.

Here’s the truth: Mr. Woodruff, as an attorney, knows full well that it is illegal for any governing body member to personally benefit from doing business with the Township.  To be perfectly clear, my company does not, can never, and will never do business with the Township of Berkeley Heights.

Further, if successful in my election, I will disclose all of my clients to the Township Attorney, who determines when and if any conflicts arise. This has hopefully done by the Mayor with regards to his law firm’s client list as well as all other members of the governing body. Additionally, I will resign from any volunteer organizations which I serve on so that no one can ever question my integrity or intentions to serve and protect the taxpayers of Berkeley Heights.

These practices would give the public some comfort, knowing that our Governing body was acting in the best interests of taxpayers and not some outside organization.  Had this been current practice, residents might not be questioning Council votes regarding downtown redevelopment and the new Municipal Complex. This includes how a member of the Council, over which the Mayor presides, was determined by the Courts to have voted while having a clear and undeniable conflict of interest. Since the facts matter, I encourage residents to read what a New Jersey court judge just released on this project with regards to conflicts of interest.

As my running mates and I have gone door to door across Berkeley Heights, our residents have told us they want to hear more about the issues and challenges facing us.  Our taxes, our community, how their voice is heard and the roadmap for the future are at stake this November.

Instead of distractions, let’s talk about responsible fiscal management.  The price tag of our new municipal project has already increased from $28 million to $32 million before a single shovel was put in the ground.  This cost could spike even more, and the resulting tax burden to residents is entirely dependent on unguaranteed money from unrelated development projects.

Let’s talk about smarter development, with nearly 1,000 new housing units being planned to be built by 2020 and their impact on our already neglected roads and our ability to provide recreational opportunities and sports fields we can all be proud of.

Let’s talk about reaching out and making sure we realize and leverage all grant funds and shared services offered by the County and State government.

And, let’s talk about making sure ALL of our residents are made to feel included in this community, and encourage them to get involved in government by utilizing social media and partnering with community organizations to keep them informed.

Engaging in campaign tactics that are intended to distract from these issues has no place in Berkeley Heights politics.  Stephen, Alvaro and I will remain committed to talking about how we can improve our town, together as neighbors and as one community.  We believe it is time for Change We Can Agree On for Berkeley Heights to move in the right direction!

Angie Devanney: Why I’m Running for Berkeley Heights Mayor

Angie Devanney: Why I’m Running for Berkeley Heights Mayor

It was with great pride that I announced my candidacy for Mayor of Berkeley Heights earlier this year. Berkeley Heights is a great town, but, we have many challenges facing us. Our taxes, our community, how your voice is heard, and our roadmap for the future are at stake in this November’s election. We need more accountability and transparency as our town leaders navigate these challenges.

Like many of you, I have been a very busy parent – running a successful small business, juggling kids’ schedules, and doing what I can to help our community. But I felt compelled to run for Mayor, not only because my experience as Berkeley Heights Township Administrator equipped me with a deep understanding of how to negotiate on behalf of our community, but because too many people feel their voices just aren’t being heard.

I, along with my runningmates Stephen Yellin and Alvaro Medeiros, who are running for Town Council, offer effective leadership and the opportunity to create positive Change We Can Agree On by listening to your voice. Here’s what else you can expect from us:

Rejecting Personal Attacks

We are neighbors first. We reject the divisive and mean-spirited politics that we see across our country and which has sadly spread to our community. Our Team has taken a campaign pledge to focus on only the issues in this election and have asked our opponents to do the same.

The Issues

Along with my Council running mates, Stephen Yellin & Alvaro Medeiros, during the campaign, we will discuss:

    • Responsible fiscal management – The price tag of our new municipal complex has already increased from $28 million to $32 million without a single shovel in the ground. This cost could spike even more, and the resulting tax burden to residents is entirely dependent on unguaranteed money from unrelated development projects. Taxpayers deserve better due diligence and fiscal oversight. Our Team will also ensure such diligence over the many other development projects planned for our community, as well;
    • Smarter development – nearly 1,000 new housing units are planned to be built by 2020 — our Team will ensure a proactive plan for the future, taking into consideration traffic, safety and other byproducts of growth
    • Improvements to our sports fields – develop a unified plan involving all organizations to improve our fields—no one sports organization can do it alone
    • Recreational opportunities – create walking paths, pocket parks and places for everyone in the community;
    • Care and management of our neglected roads – create an aggressive resurfacing plan leveraging State and County grant money;
    • Leverage grant funds and shared services – lobby County and State agencies to bring our tax dollars back to Berkeley Heights – we can’t afford to continue to miss these opportunities;
    • Transparency- create a citizen’s advisory committee, utilize social media and partner with community organizations to keep residents informed.

About our Team

Like many of you, my husband, George, and I moved to Berkeley Heights for the outstanding school district and tree-lined streets. My children – Ryan, a junior at Governor Livingston High School, and Abbey, a fifth grader at Mountain Park Elementary – have benefitted greatly from growing up in this community.I recently served as the Mountain Park PTO President, where, with the help of fellow school parents, we installed air conditioning in every classroom. I also serve as the Board Secretary to the Berkeley Heights Police Athletic League (PAL), where I recouped over $60,000 of missed grant money that will go to sports programs for our children. My running mates, Stephen Yellin and Alvaro Medeiros, both bring extensive community and professional experience to the ticket, which will enable us to hit the ground running.

Stephen is a lifelong resident who helped save the Emerson Lane/Free Acres neighborhood from overdevelopment, fought to give our firefighters the tools they need to keep us safe and pushed for real improvements in communications and transparency at Town Hall.

Alvaro is a longtime resident who has raised his kids through our public schools and is currently on the Town Environmental Commission. An AT&T executive with over 25 years of experience in the corporate world, he has given back to our town through his tenure as Quartermaster of the Governor Livingston Highlander Marching Band and a Boy Scouts leader.

Humbly, I ask for your support of our entire Team: Angie for Mayor/Yellin & Medeiros for Council. I welcome your thoughts and ideas on how we can improve our town, together as neighbors, as one community. On November 6, let’s vote Column A for Change We Can Agree On and move our town in the right direction!

Sincerely,

Case Study in Successfully Negotiating Community Impact Fee: The Park in Roselle

When our team talks about all of the development happening around town in the next few years, we have a vision for how it can be done more effectively.  With over 1,000 new housing units slated to be built in and around Berkeley Heights over the next several years, we must plan to address the impact on roads, fields, public safety, the sewer plant,  public works, and our community overall.

As a first step to mitigate the impact, we will institute a Community Fee on any incoming development to lessen the burden on our town. We will also 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.

That’s why we will 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 the next decade and longer by listening to our local residents and business owners.
This isn’t new territory for us. Our mayoral candidate, Angie Devanney, has experience in helping to negotiate with developers to ensure residents get the benefits they deserve.

For example, in 2012, Angie helped to negotiate a development project in Roselle called The Park, creating beautiful, luxury apartments on the old Roselle golf course. This 60-acre oasis provides a great place for residents to call home while preserving open space for the residents of Roselle. The Park comes with 20 acres of open space and a 3.5-mile fitness trail that is open to the entire Roselle community, and makes it one of the largest preservation of open space in Union County. There are no other sites where such a land mass has been preserved during multi-family development projects.  It took five years, but the end result was something to be proud of. Angie successfully helped negotiated a Community Impact Fee so the developer would may more money to the town for whatever it needed. The Citizens Review committee, a group of Roselle residents and business owners, meeting on a weekly basis for several months, tackled issues related to the project like open space, traffic, infrastructure, walkability to shopping and amenities they would like to see offered at The Park.

With the right experience, proper planning, innovative ideas, and proactively running our government with our community groups, we will be ready for our new future.

 

Angie Devanney Announces Her Bid to Become Berkeley Heights’ First Elected Woman Mayor

Angie Devanney Announces Her Bid to Become Berkeley Heights’ First Elected Woman Mayor

By Berkeley Heights Democrats

Yellin and Medeiros Round Out Democratic Township Council Ticket

Former Township Administrator and small business owner Angie Devanney announced her bid for Berkeley Heights Mayor today. Angie will be joined on the slate with Stephen Yellin and Alvaro Medeiros for Township Council.

“I am proud to announce my candidacy for Mayor of the Township of Berkeley Heights,” Devanney said. “From acquiring the property known as Snyder Avenue Park and saving it from a high-density housing development to instituting cost-savings measures at Town Hall as Business Administrator, while giving back to our town as an active volunteer and group leader, Berkeley Heights has remained my priority for well over a decade.

“Our Township deserves a Mayor who finds innovative solutions to today’s problems. Our roadways have fallen into disrepair, our sports fields need improvements and we need sensible, mindful redevelopment. Having managed Berkeley Heights government as Business Administrator, combined with over 10 years of community service, I believe I am not only well qualified but have an acute understanding of what our residents’ priorities are to make Change We Can Agree On,” continued Devanney.  “I’m asking for your help and support of our entire ticket, including voting for Stephen Yellin and Alvaro Medeiros for Town Council, so we can join Councilwoman Susan Poage and make real, positive progress toward meaningful change.”

Stephen and Alvaro bring extensive community and professional experience to the ticket. Stephen is a lifelong resident who has worked to give residents a voice in our town’s future. He helped save the Emerson Lane/Free Acres neighborhood from overdevelopment, fought to give our firefighters the tools they need to keep us safe, and pushed for real improvements in communications and transparency at Town Hall. “We need strong, capable leaders who will bring us together to meet the challenges we face,” Yellin stated.  “I am proud to join Angie and Alvaro as a team committed to positive changes and giving all residents a stake in the future of Berkeley Heights.”

Alvaro is a longtime resident who, with his wife Amalia, has raised his kids through our public schools.  An AT&T executive with over 25 years of experience in the corporate world, he’s given back to our town through Governor Livingston’s Highlander Marching Band and the Boy Scouts. “Last year, Susan Poage and I ran for Council with the vision of a ‘purple’ Berkeley Heights: a community where all voices are heard and valued, and where our town of experts can help make the changes we need. My commitment to that vision hasn’t changed, and I look forward to running with Angie and Stephen as we work to make that vision a reality.” Alvaro came within just eight votes of securing the second seat open on Town Council in the 2017 election.

Angie served as Berkeley Heights Township Administrator from 2004-2007. She was named Business Administrator of the Year in 2004 by the Regional Gateway Chamber of Commerce. In 2005, she was awarded the Women of Excellence Award in the area of Environmental Advocacy. Presently she serves as the Mountain Park PTO President and the Secretary to the Berkeley Heights Police Athletic League (BH PAL). Angie is married to George Devanney and has two children: Ryan, a sophomore at Governor Livingston High School, and Abbey, a 4thgrader at Mountain Park Elementary.

Devanney, Yellin and Medeiros pledge to work tirelessly to fulfill their promise to you:  safer streets, walking paths and sidewalks,tough fiscal management of Township resources, sports field improvements and mindful redevelopment.

The general election will be held on Tuesday, November, 6, 2018.

A Community Impact Fee: How to Get Developers to Give Back To Our Town

A Community Impact Fee: How to Get Developers to Give Back To Our Town

By Susan Poage & Alvaro Medeiros

Berkeley Heights is in the process of approving several major redevelopment projects. Between agreements with developers to redevelop properties at Kings (New York Mart), Hamilton Avenue (Little FlowerChurch), Berkeley Cinema and the Connell Center, we will see hundreds of new apartment units built in town over the next few years. These projects are, to some degree, forced upon us by our new, legal requirement to build new affordable housing units.

Developers stand to make considerable profit off of these projects, but the overall benefit to our community is limited. If we’re going to approve these agreements, we ought to do everything we can to maximize the benefit to our town – and as of right now, we’re not.  To change that, we’re proposing developers pay a Community Impact Fee so that our community benefits in additional ways from this development. Here’s how it would work:

To enable developers to make a profit off these projects, the Mayor and current Township Council are approving temporary tax breaks for them, called PILOT agreements (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes). If elected to the Council, we would insist that as part of any PILOT agreement, the developer agree to pay what is called a Community Impact Fee. This has been done by other New Jersey towns as a means to ensure the developers give something back to the communities being affected by their projects.

By charging a reasonable rate of $300/unit built, we can generate nearly $200,000 a year in new revenue during the life of the PILOT agreement– none of it from raising taxes or cutting critical services! We propose to use the Community Impact Fee to fully restore and upgrade our sports and recreational fields. Berkeley Heights families have known for years that our sports fields are in very poor shape compared to neighboring towns where our kids compete – theirs are better maintained and have much better amenities, despite the hard work of our Recreation Department and PAL volunteers.

By creating the Community Impact Fee, we will ensure Berkeley Heights has playing fields worthy of our great town. When we say we’re fighting for Change We Can Agree On, this is precisely the kind of new perspective we would bring to the Township Council.

As taxpayers, we’ve invested a great deal to make our community a great place for our families. Isn’t it time our Township Council listened to and invested in our priorities? If you want to improve our playing fields and parks – for our kids, our quality of life, and our future – then we ask for your vote on Tuesday, November 7th. Vote Poage & Medeiros, Column A for Change We Can Agree On!

 

Real Problems need Real Change:  Better Communications/Transparency is Change We Can Agree On!

Real Problems need Real Change: Better Communications/Transparency is Change We Can Agree On!

By SUSAN POAGE and ALVARO MEDEIROS

One of the most important reasons we are running for Township Council is that we need to do a much better job of informing and engaging residents on what is going on in our town. We believe it is our job to go out into the community and meet with residents, informing them and listening to what they have to say; not for you to come to us.

As we’ve gone door-to-door across town in recent months, we’ve found that most residents have heard little or nothing about most of the major actions being taken by the Mayor and Council, including:

  • Making sure residents understand the phasing of the development and what municipal services could be impacted, such as the library downsizing.
  • Communicating major development projects to the entire town when they appear before our planning board, such as the new 7-story apartment complex will be built at the Connell Center.
  • Repaving of our roads is a major complaint; however, the current plan will take 15 years to implement.

Whether or not we agree or disagree with these actions is not the issue; what matters is that town residents deserve to know about them.

We are committed to building on the progress finally being made and doing much more beyond it, including:

  • Fully embracing social media to engage residents and ask for their input, before taking action on important issues.
  • Creating an e-newsletter.
  • Saving money from a print newsletter by having the “Mayor’s Roundtable” done for free.
  • Holding occasional weekend meetings, not just on the Municipal Complex, in order to attract more residents at a more convenient time for them.
  • Ensure we have a township website worthy of the 2010s, which means it must be mobile friendly and enable residents to access information more easily.

You deserve a voice in the future of our town. That’s Change We Can Agree On and it’s why we ask for your vote!  Please join Democrats, Republicans and Independents in voting for Poage & Medeiros, Column A on November 7th!