Candidates from both Fanwood and Scotch Plains crossed party lines on Tuesday night to engage in a discussion about tough issues facing the neighboring towns. Hosted by the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Tea Party at the Scotch Hills Country Club, this was also the first opportunity for local residents to approach council and mayoral candidates. All nominees were present.
Question 1: Chairman Al Smith asked the candidates to state their position on shared Services.
Manduca, Fanwood (R) Councilman Manduca, stated that while he “applauds our basic impulse to save money, shared services is not a silver bullet.” Manduca emphasized analyzing the risks and benefits of merging departments before making a decision.
Levine, Fanwood (D) Daniel Levine, who has worked in both the private and public sector including positions at the New Jersey state treasury, stated that he is “100 percent for pushing the exploration of shared services.” Levine also stated that sharing services should be a “fact driven process.”
Molenaar, Fanwood (D) Jack Molenaar served on the Fanwood Council from 2004-2006. Molenaar stated that his position on shared services is simple; “if it’s cheaper – do it.” He expressed that “the fastest way to save money is to share services.”
noted that she has been intimately involved with discussions involving a potential police merger. She attempted to quell the fears of naysayers stating that if there is no proven savings, the measure will be abandoned.
Glover continued this discussion, stating that “shared services is clearly an avenue to control costs… after a merger, our police department will be better and more effective.”
Question 2: A member of the audience probed the candidates to continue discussing a police merger, stating that merging police forces or consolidating towns is “brand new territory and I would hate to see us crash.”
DePaola, Scotch Plains (R) stated that while the outlining the risks and benefits of a police merger is too broad, the merger between Princeton Junction and Princeton Borough provides a “a good road map.” DePaola also expressed that merging police departments “provides for an organic process to securing a referendum” for consolidation of the two towns.
Manduca, Fanwood (R) disagreed with DePaola, expressing that both towns should proceed with caution as the true savings of a police merger have yet to be proven. He stated that it “would take ten years to save $100 per home.”
Glover, Scotch Plains (D) Glover also engaged in the discussion, stating that “this cannot be about politics.” He expressed that a police merger would mean “more boots on the ground” and continuous savings without sacrificing the safety of residents.
Question 3: Chairman Al Smith asked the candidates to discuss what’s next for downtown redevelopment.
Glover, Scotch Plains (D) cited this as major campaign issue, stating that downtown is in “serious need of improvement” and does not compare to what Fanwood has achieved. He added that the Special Improvement District enacted in 2008 has proven to be ineffective and that he is committed to making the necessary changes.
Saridaki, Scotch Plains (R) Ed Saridaki noted that his father owned a business and that the Council should not “step on the toes of the independent businessman.” He suggested bring in an “anchor retailer” who could draw upon the commuter traffic traveling through downtown.
Molenaar, Fanwood (D) stated that after moving to Fanwood in 1993, he became a member of the redevelopment committee. “Back then we started with park benches and banners.” He stated that his background in planning and development led him to believe that developers should not be overregulated in order to give them the freedom to do the best work possible.
Closing Remarks: Chairman Al Smith asked candidates to describe one goal they hope to achieve by the end of their term.
Glover, Scotch Plains (D) stated that he wants to bring change and efficiency to Scotch Plains. He urged voters to “vote with their conscience” and keep in mind what needs to be done.
Gialnella, Scotch Plains (D) stated that she will bring “a commitment and energy” to local government.
DePaola, Scotch Plains (R) stated that her first priority is to secure a police merger. After that, she expressed that the courts and public works departments should also be examined for consolidation.
Saridaki, Scotch Plains (R) stated that he wants to increase transparency, noting that during his tenure on the BOE, he pushed to have agenda meetings televised. He also expressed that he is “tired of the acrimony in SP government” and that everyone employed by the town should be held accountable to do their jobs correctly.
Molenaar, Fanwood (D) stated that as developer, he has “always done more with less” and operated with an efficient budget. He urged voters to exercise “common sense” at the polls.
Levine, Fanwood (D) said that he knows that “it’s a long way to go from having an idea to making the change” but that he is equipped to helping the borough travel that road.
Manduca, Fanwood (R) received a round of applause from the audience after stating that he has compassion for the average tax payer and will ask the “uncomfortable questions” to make sure that “big money doesn’t go out the door.”
Szuch, Fanwood (R) expressed that he values the bipartisan discourse that occurs on the Fanwood Council. He stated that as a union electrician and lifelong Fanwood resident, he feels he “knows the working man” and can best represent the average Fanwoodian.