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.
Week 3 Questions: How would you improve upon the process of selecting board members and volunteers to Township appointed committees? What do you think the County’s role in local government should be?
How would you improve upon the process of selecting board members and volunteers to Township appointed committees?
There is considerable value that board members and volunteers can bring to the leadership and the Township as a whole. For that reason, the process to select members must be entirely transparent and that every effort must be made to be inclusive in member selection; the community should feel encouraged and welcome to volunteer. I was selected when I applied for membership on the Environmental Commission and for that, I am grateful. However, I also know that others who have applied for other committee memberships but were not selected without any reason given.
I am also a strong proponent of diversity and of collaboration. There are many people in Berkeley Heights with considerable skills and abilities or who are extremely creative and have out-of-the-box solutions. All of them can devise and help implement solutions to Township challenges that the leadership may otherwise not come up with. We should do everything possible to advertise committee membership, add new committees and include committee activity, reports and proposals in the public agenda, as well as in our strategic planning. Moreover, no one should ever feel that they are not welcome nor encouraged to join, nor be unaware of the opportunity to be an active volunteer.
What do you think the County’s role in local government should be?
In 2017, nearly $18 million, (24%) of our Township taxes were paid to Union County, an average of over $3,000 per household. Many of the major thoroughfares in our Township are county roads – Mountain Ave., Springfield Ave., Plainfield Ave., Union Avenue and Snyder. Many residents in Town are Union County employees and we have a substantial share of the Watchung Reservation footprint here in town. Clearly, the county is a major stakeholder in the Township and most certainly the Township deserves to benefit from our contribution to the county.
I believe it is incumbent upon our local government to coordinate with and work closely with the county to help defray costs that would otherwise drive our taxes higher. These may be take the form of library and recreation grants in which Berkeley Heights has inexplicably trailed our neighboring Townships – or completely missed available grants completely – or coordination on street signs, street lights and other means of improving the quality of commuting within the Township. Moreover, as recycling has become less convenient due to the limitations of what our Township Recycling contractor can now collect, Union County recycling events (many of which are held at the Nokia Labs Building), are an ever-more relevant solution to our recycling needs.
Finally, the county can serve as a resource for beneficial development and help to coordinate cost-saving shared service agreements with other county Townships. Together with Angie Devanney and Stephen Yellin, I pledge, if elected, to work much more closely with the county than what has been evident in recent years. We firmly believe it is foolhardy to ignore the county’s potential role as a resource for Berkeley Heights. Rather, the county can be another valuable means to solving the challenges we face.