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. Meanwhile, sidewalks across town are in disrepair with many in a state of near-collapse. Our roads and sidewalks reflect our town’s quality of life, and they’ve been neglected for far too long.
Our Plan: Develop a fiscally responsible plan that significantly speeds up the road repair schedule, drawing on best practices followed by other towns across the state. Use cutting-edge technology to ensure that when roads are paved, they last far longer before needing to be paved again. Make sidewalk repairs a higher priority within our long-term budget plans.
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 print Township newsletter to provide a print source of news for those who want it, paying for it with the money wasted on the “Mayor’s Roundtable” currently on TV. These could be made available in public places for residents to pick up. 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: The $28 million Redevelopment Plan is going forward. 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: We need to ensure the municipal complex projects stays within budget and is built in an appropriate timeframe. The complex and the surrounding areas should fit in with the town’s Master 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.
Our Plan: We will brainstorm ways to incentivize more residents and business owners to recycle, and continue to educate people on proper and improper recycling practices. We will ensure recycling containers are placed near all major business plazas and government buildings, fields and other locations. In addition, we will mandate that certain elements of taxpayer-funded projects are “green,“ including the new municipal complex.
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.
We are now embarking on the largest public project of our community lifetime – a new municipal complex with a price tag that has increased from $28 million to $32 million without a single shovel in the ground. It is imperative this project have strict oversight, and that our leaders closely coordinate the unrelated development projects around town that directly affect how much this municipal center will cost taxpayers.
Along with ensuring strict fiscal responsibility of the municipal complex and other development projects underway, we will also focus on:
- Care and longer-term maintenance of our neglected roads
- Improvement of our sports fields
- Recreation services and facilities
- Taking full advantage of grant funds available to our town to reduce the costs of these improvements as much as possible
Based on conversations we have had, and will continue to have, with residents, as candidates and future elected officials, we will also:
- Actively welcome and promote the inclusion of all residents in town government, so that every resident feels they belong in Berkeley Heights.
- Be both fiscally and socially responsible in our decisions, especially when it comes to the big development projects taking place in the years ahead.
- Embrace our “town of experts” – the residents – and bring your expertise to the table in solving the real challenges we face.
- Ensure all recreational and infrastructural needs are being met, not just the ones everyone knows about.
- Give our full support and appreciation for our incredible volunteers.
- Live our values locally including taking action to protect the environment, and promote civility, understanding, and respect among all residents.
- Thoroughly review and reform Township practices to maximize transparency and improve trust and confidence in our government.
Many of our neighbors are simply unaware and caught off guard by of the actions by our Town Council and we must do a better job communicating with residents and be more transparent in how we operate. We cannot miss opportunities for smart economic growth, grants and property tax stabilization.
This is no ordinary time, and we need more than ordinary leadership in Berkeley Heights. On November 6, let’s vote to make Change We Can Agree On and move our town in the right direction! Vote Column A.