West Windsor Township Council Candidates 2015
West Windsor Candidates Answer League Questions
November 3, 2015 General Election Day
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.
EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for West Windsor Township Council to questions presented by The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area in cooperation with The Princeton Packet. The candidates were allowed to vary the length of their answers to the three questions but were given a word limit for the total.
Candidates - Vote for three (four-year term)
George Borek (incumbent) - Fire Fighter and Present Councilman; website: www.wwcommunityfirst.com
Gerald Halloran - 2 Years as Area Sales Manager with Santander Consumer USA, 10 Years Media Planning for the Telecommunications, Healthcare, and Pharmaceutical industry; website: www.yourvoicewestwindsor.com
Virginia Manzari - Business Development and Strategic Marketing Professional, Volunteer; website: YourVoiceWestWindsor.com
Hemant Marathe (incumbent) - Businessman; website: http://www.yourvoicewestwindsor.com/
Alison Miller - Urban Planner; website: www.wwcommunityfirst.com
What do you consider the most important challenges facing West Windsor Township, and what personal and professional experiences have prepared you for addressing these challenges?
Having served on the West Windsor council for the past 8 ½ years, I know that we have to strike a balance between ensuring we provide the services that residents have come to expect while planning appropriately. Having witnessed that first hand we do not always have control over mandates from the state of New Jersey and COAH. We need to participate in the process to ensure that West Windsor’s requirement is as low as possible and that the development is controlled by the Township so that our community is not transformed into something none of us recognize.
Another challenge is attracting and developing commercial ratables to offset the taxes of our residents. We need to continue to support property owners like Boston Properties which develops Class A commercial most recently of which is the new NRG Energy headquarters, MarketFair which has a successful combination of retail and restaurants, and others like the developers of the new Hill Wallack headquarters on Roszel Road.
We have big development challenges ahead of us in the next few years and my experience on the council will help us keep the community we love with the services we expect.
The residents and neighbors I have met on the campaign trail have expressed many concerns. These concerns typically revolve around overall quality of life, which they feel has seen some deterioration due to increases in unwise development, not only here in West Windsor but also in the surrounding communities. My experience having hard conversations with my clients within the automotive industry, tough conversations that don’t always favor my clients’ desires, is one asset I can bring when sitting down and discussing growth plans with ambitious developers. I have no qualms about saying “no” when development plans do not benefit West Windsor or our schools.
Further, with 10 years’ experience developing multi-million dollar advertising budgets for some of New Jersey’s top marketers, I will be able to bring the type of invaluable real world business practices that only comes with actual hands on number crunching knowledge.
West Windsor residents are concerned about uncontrolled development that may change what they love about our town. We must manage growth in compliance with our legal obligations while avoiding overcrowding and traffic congestion. I am an attorney who has handled cases for and against builders. I have negotiated with builders to obtain favorable results for my clients. My voice on council will ensure that we control development to fit West Windsor’s needs, satisfy our legal obligations and avoid costly and risky litigation.
High taxes and overdevelopment are our most serious challenges. High-density residential developments put a huge strain on our schools, which, according to our superintendent, are at capacity now. Our property taxes increase to support these new developments, and traffic becomes unmanageable. On the other hand, commercial development has paid a decreasing share of WW municipal taxes over the last 15 years. Increasing this type of development would have a positive impact, alleviating some of the tax burden of residents, cleaning up our town, and providing desirable services, without adding school children to the district.
After earning my MBA from Cornell, I worked for Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson in business development and marketing. I also serve on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, where I have consistently voted to approve variances for small business owners who wish to turn abandoned properties into sustainable, tax-paying entities. We need to be more proactive when it comes to generating tax revenue that will alleviate the taxes that we as residents pay.
There are three important challenges facing WW: managing our growth, taxes and helping neighborhoods with specific problems.
Pending court decision will dictate how many affordable housing units West Windsor is obligated to provide. I believe it’s our moral obligation to provide affordable housing. However, this doesn’t mean we must approve development projects that are detrimental to West Windsor. We must fulfill our obligation while keeping its negative impact on the community to a minimum.
High taxes are the reason why so many West Windsor residents leave town once their children graduate from high school. In the long run the only way to manage taxes is to manage our expenses. During my twelve year service on the school board, I have demonstrated that we can provide excellent services while keeping expenses down. During my tenure, the average per pupil expense went from $300 above the state average to over $1000 below the state average. I can help the township achieve similar performance by looking at expenses carefully and asking tough questions.
When people in certain neighborhoods face problems, they often feel that the administration is not responsive to their concerns. Recent issues include Cranbury Road sidewalks, South Post Road noise complaints, the North Post Road widening project or potential increased traffic on Old Trenton Road. Based on my record on the school board, I can assure residents that their concerns will be addressed in a timely manner. It doesn’t necessarily mean I can give them the answer that they are looking for. However, they will have an input in the eventual outcome of the issue. The result is always better when all sides are heard, understood and are part of the solution.
Development, traffic, and taxes; and they are all intertwined. My training and experience in planning and my years of service on multiple committees, among others Township Council, the Planning and Zoning Boards, the Central Jersey Transportation Forum, and the League of Municipalities Legislative Committee, have given me the perspective to understand these interrelationships. Growth is inevitable; blocking it illegal; managing it essential.
Development changes our town incrementally. The kind and intensity of land use, and the proximity of different uses to each other, affects the amount of traffic, which influences the decisions of businesses to locate here and broaden our tax base and of residents to join our community. We must make sure that our services, our zoning code, our road improvement program, and our parks and open space plans keep up with the growing needs of all members of our community.
The Council’s major responsibilities are fiscal oversight and policy-setting. I always scrutinize a proposed budget for areas to trim, and my knowledge of what policy initiatives are helping other towns preserve open space, increase safety, and control growth and taxes will help me craft a blueprint for West Windsor’s future.
What allocations in the capital budget would you support, increase, defer, or eliminate?
I support necessary expenditures to maintain the Senior Center facilities; our parks and recreational partners including football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and now cricket, and to maintain our roads and sewer infrastructure. We don’t see any areas of the budget that need increasing and in fact, budgets have remained mostly flat for a number of years. Deferring spending to future years is very dependent on the specific type of project. We need to maintain our services to residents like garbage, brush collection, and emergency services. We could defer purchase of machinery and fleet replacement but only if the maintenance of existing equipment is not a drain on resources.
With a decade of experience developing, executing and optimizing multi-million dollar budgets, I have learned to focus on and invest in those expenditures that provide the highest returns on investment. Allocations that I feel are not achieving expected measurable returns are those items I will look to modify and if need be, eliminate.
The practice of applying measurable goals and reviewing the actual returns will allow us to increase investments to those programs that are proving to be most beneficial to West Windsor, allowing us to maintain our AAA bond rating and control our tax rate.
The largest allocations in the 2015-2020 capital budget are for projects related to traffic safety and municipal improvements ($7.6 million), roadway improvements ($6.25 million) and bike/pedestrian safety ($2.2 Million). The objectives of these projects are essential to preserving what we love about West Windsor, but as a council member I will look critically at each allocation to prioritize expenditures. For example, the Grover’s Mill Boardwalk Project and the Cranbury Road Sidewalk Project share the common goal of enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The Grover’s Mill Boardwalk Project should be re-evaluated or considered within the broader Cranbury Road Sidewalk Project. As a council member, I will ensure that capital projects are prioritized appropriately and aligned with West Windsor’s Master Plan. In addition, the council and administration will work together to identify sources of local, county and state funding or services that can offset costs for vital capital improvements.
We need to take a look at the total budget, overall, and look for inefficiencies. As for the capital budget, I have identified some areas that need further attention, and if elected I look forward to examining the supporting data and speaking with department heads in order to determine how to proceed. I support initiatives like the Cranbury Road sidewalks that will bring safety to an area that is severely lacking. When managing large ($100 million) budgets in my professional career, I had full, personal responsibility to create the budget and stick to it. And I always had a balanced budget.
The most important part of the township budget is annual maintenance. Proper maintenance will avoid turning a small problem into a $250,000 renovation. The township has saved money for many projects in accounts that have been unused for many years. I will analyze these accounts every year to decide if they are truly needed or can better be allocated elsewhere. The projects will be funded based on their impact on the quality of life for West Windsor residents.
I support the road and sidewalk improvement programs, but there should be a moratorium on new street trees. I support repairing the municipal building while renovating the old police wing, but detailed requests behind the line item labeled “furniture/computers” need further examination.
If you had the chance to undertake one new initiative to serve the Township, what would it be?
We need to look for cost savings to the Township. One area is in energy savings. We need to look at renewable energy and reduced energy consumption. Our Environmental Commission has worked on this and I look forward to ensuring we can provide services at a cost savings.
I am not the only one who feels traffic flow and road safety improvements are desperately needed. Traffic density has increased at a tremendous rate in West Windsor, with little or no evaluations on how this increase in traffic has affected safety. From Canal Pointe Blvd. along our western border, to Old Trenton Road along our eastern border, speed limit, street lighting and crosswalk evaluations are urgently needed for West Windsor. As your Councilman, I will make it a priority to work with existing community organizations to improve traffic flows and increase road and pedestrian safety.
My vision is for West Windsor to continue to be one of the most attractive suburban communities in the country while maintaining a stable tax base. As a member of council, I will implement initiatives to promote existing and new small businesses and to enhance communication with residents about critical quality of life issues. Small businesses add to our quality of life and contribute to the tax base with a relatively low burden on township resources. Enhancing “Main Street” is good for business, good for residents and good for West Windsor. I also want to serve as a liaison between residents and the township departments to address quality of life issues such as traffic concerns and to improve their access to township information. I want to encourage meaningful dialogue between the residents and the Township to ensure that our needs are being acknowledged and addressed.
We have a wonderful community, but there is certainly room for improvement. I would love to eliminate the blighted areas in West Windsor, and have our town cleaned up and made more usable for residents to enjoy. There are too many properties around town that have been left unattended and in disrepair – the buildings across from McCaffrey’s and the buildings behind Ellsworth’s, to name just two. Some properties are in the process of being repurposed for different uses – the old Polychrome business on Alexander Road is one example. But I would like to see the township be more open and responsive to residents and small business owners who would like to help rebuild the community.
I will get residents involved in deciding the future of West Windsor, not just when they are facing a specific problem such as potential rezoning on Old Trenton Road, but as a normal course of business.
Last year we had an opportunity to participate in a pilot test of a new kind of solar power storage technology. PSE&G would have installed a solar array on four acres of municipal property located near the fire house on Clarksville Road, which they would have leased from the township for $30,000 per year. The project would have included large storage batteries that would be available to us if the grid went down. This innovative green technology would have benefitted the West Windsor taxpayers by saving on electrical costs, and the environment, both by generating clean power for the West Windsor municipal complex and by testing new technology that could lead to further environmental protection and cost savings in the future. If I could bring one new initiative to West Windsor, a project like this would be it.
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