The Issue: Most residential roads are in poor condition; the Mayor and Council has a 15-year waiting list for road repairs but won’t spend additional funds to speed up the process (only shift money within the budget). Meanwhile the town budget for Street and Roads Maintenance has actually been cut since 2015. We can do much better than that!
Our Plan: Approve a bond to fund the cost of repairing all roads by the year 2025 (or earlier, if fiscally reasonable to do so). Such a bond could be put to a referendum by the end of our 1st term in office. We’re confident residents are willing to pay a little something extra in taxes to get their road fixed and would therefore vote to approve the bond.
How a bond works: A bond is a written promise to repay borrowed money on a definite schedule, usually at a fixed rate over the life of the bond. Bonds have long been an important way to finance highway improvements and public infrastructure across the U.S. The interest income earned from municipal bonds is exempt from federal tax. This lets state and local issuers borrow more cheaply than other issuers.
The Issue: Our town-owned sports fields are in poor condition, ridden with holes and lacking even basic features like shelters for players; the Township created a committee but has failed to do enough to upgrade and rehabilitate the fields despite having years to fix the problem.
Our Plan: We will propose that developers pay a Community Impact Fee so that our community benefits in additional ways from this development; one large project these fees could go toward paying for is repair of our deteriorated sports fields. Read more about that plan here.
Actively support a committee of interested stakeholders (PAL, Recreation, Board of Education, Union County) that can raise funds to repair and upgrade the fields. Provide the equivalent revenue gained from the occupancy tax on the new hotel at Connell Center, on the other side of Rt. 78, to provide additional funding for this.
The Issue: Small businesses keep closing in Berkeley Heights, while residents lack adequate parking for commuting and shopping. Meanwhile, zoning regulations allow for buildings as large as 7 stories to be build in other parts of town. We must adopt a cohesive, long-term planning approach to balance our small-town feel with the need for change.
Our Plan: Create a Downtown Redevelopment Taskforce to do research, engage business owners and residents, and propose clear set of proposals for revitalizing the downtown. The governing body has dealt with minor issues such as standardized paving stones and building signs, but they have not acted to address the core of the problem: businesses cannot afford to stay in business, and residents want more and better options to shop locally. The Downtown Redevelopment Taskforce would be a public-private partnership and would enable us to begin fixing the real problems and proposing new solutions to issues such as:
- How to encourage landlords of vacant buildings to rent or sell the property to viable business owners.
- How to make our downtown more pedestrian friendly.
- How to attract the types of business our residents want to see most in their town.
- How to establish appropriate zoning regulations for businesses in other parts of our town.
This Taskforce would link these ideas to our “Master Plan,” thereby creating a responsible, long-term planning document to be put into action.
The Issue: Most residents have never heard from our opponents or other elected officials, and feel ignored, disregarded or simply just in the dark about how our town is run. Meanwhile, our Mayor wastes taxpayer money on a monthly interview segment that few people watch; segments like these were previously done for free by the GL TV studio that produced news programs for its residents, but the Township put a halt to that partnership. Much more can be done to communicate with members of our community at little to no cost – a webcast over Facebook Live, a podcast, or other formats.
Our Plan: Bring back the Township newsletter to provide a print source of news, paying for it with the money wasted on the “Mayor’s Roundtable” currently on TV. Expand updates on Township actions and get residential input through regular e-newsletters, online surveys and other digital methods such as directly engaging them on Facebook. Utilize free video options to convey town news and happenings to the community at large. Hold quarterly meetings on weekend afternoons to update residents and get their feedback at a convenient time for them . Restore relations with the GL TV studio and bring back news coverage of Township events. Provide residents with ample information and notice of important Council meetings.
The Issue: Our town needs a strong, modern library to attract new residents and boost our quality of life. However, the governing body’s approach to solving this problem means vast majority of residents knew nothing about their plan. And it is unfortunate that our library will see a large reduction in services as part of the Redevelopment Plan, and we need to do all we can to make up for this in the short term.
Our Plan: In the future, we need to make a much stronger effort to actively educate and engage the public from the beginning of projects like these. We will work to hold the Township to its commitment of keeping the library open. And we will actively campaign in support of the New Jersey State Referendum to increase funding for public libraries (on the ballot this November).
We also pledge to:
- Actively partner with Union County and the State Legislature to obtain more funding for library programs.
- Actively pursue ways to keep Library fully open until the new Municipal Complex is built.
- Work toward ensuring accountability with this important project and making sure independent voices are heard, while avoiding conflicts of interest.
The Issue: The $28 million Redevelopment Plan will go forward no matter who wins in November. We need to have new, independent-minded Council members that can ensure the project is managed as transparently and efficiently as possible.
We fully support the need for a new Police Station, Emergency Dispatch Center, Town Hall, and Library, but are disappointed by the manner in which the Mayor and Council have handled the process. Many residents feel they have never even been informed about the project, let alone asked for their input and support, leading to an erosion of trust and confidence in township government.
Our Plan: In the future, we need to make a much stronger effort to actively educate and engage the public from the beginning of projects like these. This includes enabling voters to seek a referendum if legally permissible. If a project is truly in the best interest of our town, Township leaders should be able to successfully convince voters of this.
The Issue: Our schools are the main factor that makes us a great suburban community. While the Council does not vote on school policies, it can and should be a voice for improving our public schools wherever possible.
Our Plan: Explore all possible options to provide Full-Day Kindergarten in partnership with the Board of Education. Actively partner with Union County and lobby state lawmakers to support policies and programs to further benefit our schools. More than 75% of all school districts in NJ have full-day Kindergarten; it’s time for Berkeley Heights to get on board if we can. Talk with neighboring towns like Summit, Mountainside, Watchung and Warren to see if we can learn from their process of moving to full day.
Our Plan: Have Berkeley Heights make garbage collection a town service by contracting with only 1 company (as other towns do). This will greatly reduce pollution, protect the roads AND save residents money (a fee for garbage service is likely to be cheaper than paying a private contractor). Most towns around us already do this, and their taxpayers benefit from the service. We will also push for improved walking and biking paths, solar panels on the roof of the new Municipal Complex, and other environmentally responsible measures.