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A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains - Fanwood Thursday, October 15, 1998 Page 21




Campaign Forum ’98

Ms. Lund Disappointed By Ad Hoc Committee’s Treatment of Third Ward

WESTFIELD Noreen Lund, the Republican candidate for the Third Ward Town Council seat for the Westfield Town Council expressed her concern over the recent proposals put forth by the Ad Hoc Committee on Parks and Fields considering how to disperse the Union County “pocket park” grant funds as not being in the Third Ward’s best interest.

“Sycamore Field has been an identified need here in the Third Ward since 1990 and has the support of the Westfield Recreation Commission. This existing project needs to be completed the correct way.

“Once done we will have achieved preserving existing open space and a maintained field that promotes safety and enjoyment in our parks for our residents, all which contribute to our quality of life.

“Now when the funds are available I am troubled that some people, especially the people that the Third Ward counts on to look out for our interests, are getting cold feet, changing their mind,” Ms. Lund observed.

“I am concerned that a Third Ward project of the magnitude of Sycamore Field could get as far as the municipal capital improvement budget only to be cannibalized by competing projects from the other parts of town.

Mrs. Vernick to Speak Before Sen. Committee on Bill to Stop Use of Train Whistles at Night

WESTFIELD Westfield First Ward Councilwoman and Republican Mayoral contender Gail S. Vernick will speak before the Senate Transit Committee on Thursday to discuss the passage of a bill which would allow for the prohibition of train whistles in Westfield.

“I will assert the need for the prompt passage of this bill. The noise emitted when the whistles are blown, impacts negatively on the quality of life for many residents of Westfield and the problem has existed too long,” stated Mrs. Vernick.

The train whistle will allow for the whistle to be discontinued 24 hours per day.

Assemblyman Richard H. Bagger’s legislation to have the state conform its standards to federal requirements, passed the assembly unanimously. Now the bill must be considered by the Senate before it can be negotiated with Conrail which owns the rightof-way of the former Lehigh Valley Railroad located on the Garwood line.

“Congress has mandated that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) develop and issue regulations requiring the sounding of train horns at all highway-rail crossings. However, this mandate also allows for the establishment of corridors or zones in which horns will not be sounded if sufficient mitigating safety measures have been established,” according to New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) Grady C. Cothen, Jr., who serves as Deputy Associate Administrator for Safety Standards and Program Development.

“Maintaining safety at our railroad crossings for vehicles and pedestrians is absolutely essential, but the positive quality of life issue is extremely important to regain,” stipulated Mrs. Vernick.

“I have spoken to residents whose lives are disrupted by whistle blasts of more than 100 decibels in the middle of the night. That’s the same noise as standing next to a jackhammer breaking concrete,” the candidate further stated.

Assemblyman Bagger provided the NJDOT with a copy of the FRA’s

comments on the Town of Westfield’s proposal to construct a curbed median between the two lanes of travel on Rahway Avenue at Conrail’s Lehigh Valley rail line grade crossing.

This proposal was prepared by the Surveying Division of the Depart

ment of Public Works under the guidance of the Town Engineer Kenneth B. Marsh.

The plan shows the proposed median barrier and warning signs Westfield hopes to construct if the measure is passed at the Senate level. The proposal calls for the construction of a 200-foot and a 177-foot median, each with nineinch curbs and shrubbery.

The NJDOT deemed these medians, along with the existing gates and a new signing stating “Whistle Not Blown,” more than adequate safety compensation for the absence of train horns.

The Town Council has already approved the funding needed for the construction of these median barriers.

“The efforts of Congressman Bob Franks, Assemblyman Rich Bagger, (Westfield Fourth Ward) Councilwoman Janis Fried Weinstein, Councilman Neil F. Sullivan and I will continue until this matter has been resolved,” Mrs. Vernick stated.

Gail S. Vernick Scotch Plains Democrats

Say Recent Survey Supports Open Space, Elected Mayor

SCOTCH PLAINS Buoyed by results of a community survey, Franklin P. Donatelli, Tarquin Jay Bromley, and Geri Morgan Samuel, Democratic candidates for the Scotch Plains Township Council, asserted this that, “The voters of Scotch Plains have expressed strong support for issues we have been pressing during our efforts to address the real needs of our community.”

“Two of the major areas that have not been adequately addressed by the all Republican council include the need to adopt a viable plan to preserve open space and the need to change our township charter so that the citizens can directly elect the mayor,” the candidates stated in a joint statement.

Mr. Donatelli stated that, “The survey results indicate that 90 percent of respondents support our five-point plan to preserve open spaces. Only 2 percent are opposed and the remaining 8 percent are undecided.

“Briefly, residents support a plan that would identify open spaces, set them in priority order, hold hearings, and identify methods of funding.”

Mr. Donatelli noted further, “A solid 79 percent felt that it would be important to have a balance of preserved lands for both the north side and south side of the township. The undecideds totaled 16 percent and those opposed were 5 percent.

“Survey respondents, by a margin of 82 percent to 9 percent support establishing a dedicated fund which includes grants that can be used to acquire such land. Such a fund will limit the amounts of money that need to be borrowed so there will be no large tax increase at any one time.

“There were 9 percent who were undecided on the issue,” the candidate explained.

Mr. Bromley added that, “Respondents support by a margin of 84 percent to 7 percent the direct election of the mayor. There are 9 percent who are undecided.”

Mr. Bromley added, “Residents’ desire to elect the mayor has grown stron

ger as it becomes more apparent each year that the long term needs of the community are not being met by the allRepublican council.

“For the high property taxes paid, residents want results from a government that is responsible and accountable. A survey conducted two years ago indicated 74 percent support for an elected mayor. Now it’s 84 percent.”

Mr. Bromley commented that, “Scotch Plains residents know that the present musical chairs system of rotating mayors for one year at a time on the council does not get the job done. The citizens should be allowed to elect the highest ranking public official in the township.

“Letting just three council members hand pick the mayor from amongst themselves has resulted in a lack of good, long range planning.”

Mrs. Morgan Samuel emphasized that, “Our survey represents the first effort to reach out to the citizens of Scotch Plains on such a broad basis to learn what is most important to the people.”

“The strong support by hundreds of respondents for our open space preservation plan and our call for an elected mayor indicates that our ideas for a better Scotch Plains are compatible with the desires of the community,” she added.

Mrs. Samuel continued by stating, “Citizens want a council with vision and council members committed to problem solving. They recognize our open space preservation plan as a start in the direction that represents sound economics and good planning.”

“Residents want to determine who’s in charge of Scotch Plains by being able to directly elect their mayor. They are entitled to this fundamental, democratic principle of government,” she said.

The Democrats concluded in a joint statement that, “The hallmark of our administration will be open, responsive, and accountable government. We believe that the ideas we have presented to the public demonstrate that commitment.”

SURVEYING RESULTS...Scotch Plains Democratic candidates for Township Council, left to right, Franklin P. Donatelli, Tarquin Jay Bromley, and Geri Morgan Samuel, Democratic council candidates, show results of their recent community survey supporting two of their initiatives: an elected mayor and open space.

Mr. Cusimano Denounces Phone Survey by Democrats

WESTFIELD Tom Cusimano, Republican Candidate for the Fourth Ward Town Council, issued the following statement this week regarding a political poll conducted on behalf of Democratic Mayor Thomas C. Jardim:

“It is now public knowledge that the Westfield Democratic Mayor approved and authorized a survey of selected Westfield citizens which was, apparently, made by a firm in Washington, D.C., and paid for mostly by the New Jersey State Democratic Committee.

“This survey attempted to paint the Republican Mayoral Candidate (Gail S. Vernick) as an advocate of increased taxes and portray her husband in a negative way, thus trying to cast aspersions on her candidacy. Our Democratic Mayor has taken full responsibility for this survey,” Mr. Cusimano said.

“My opponent (Fourth Ward Councilman Lawrence A. Goldman), who is the Westfield Democratic Chairman, has tried to minimize this survey calling it “much to do about nothing much.’ I strongly disagree with my opponent’s position.

Westfield’s tradition has always been of ‘home town rule.’ We, in Westfield, have always prided ourselves on our independent status and have not allowed “outside politics,” from National State and County levels, influence our elective and government processes.

“However, it troubles me that the Democratic Party has sunk to this level in local politics. Westfield does not need the type of ‘negative,’ ‘attack’ political ads that we see on television and hear on the radio. The voters in Westfield are intelligent and independent enough to make their own decisions based on local issues and local candidates.

“While we have many Republican and Democratic registered voters, the majority of Westfield voters are ‘independent’ voters, with no party affiliation, who will generally vote

for local candidates, based on local issues and individuals,” Mr. Cusimano continued in his statement.

“All of our local elected officials are basically volunteers who do not receive any salary or pay, and there is no need to subject any candidate to negative political attack campaigns. The Democratic Party should be strongly criticized for this survey which reflects poorly on how they view the local political process.

“I call upon my opponent, who is Chairman of the Democratic Party, to renounce negative campaigning,” Mr. Cusimano concluded.

“This was always my concern when the Ad Hoc Committee was formed. If the Third Ward does not have a strong effective voice our priorities some how seem to fall by the wayside,” the candidate said.

Ms. Lund expressed satisfaction with the $5,000 allocation proposed for a pocket park on Central Avenue between Krauszers and The Sock Company and the $17,500 earmarked for the playground on Westfield Avenue at the old Lincoln School site.

“Unfortunately, these are the only Third Ward projects on the Ad Hoc committee’s list. That represents less than 10 percent of the available resources. How can we go from almost 40 percent of the available funding to 10 percent should be a fundamental question for the voters of the Third Ward,” Ms. Lund emphasized.

“The Third Ward of Westfield has a lot of charm and character. Unfortunately, the Third Ward also has been shortchanged for years when it comes to public investments. This has resulted in a laundry list of projects from Sycamore Field to Central Avenue that can no longer be ignored.

“The only way that we change this situation is to elect people who will fight for the Third Ward interests,” Ms. Lund concluded.

Councilman Goldman Says Form of Town Government

Needs to Be Re-Examined

WESTFIELD Westfield Fourth Ward Councilman Lawrence A. Goldman stated that an initiative he would pursue in a second term is the re-examination of certain aspects of the form of Westfield municipal government.

“There are numerous forms of local government in the State of New Jersey. Westfield operates under a special charter which was adopted in the 1960s. After more than 30 years, a re-assessment is warranted,” Mr. Goldman stated.

Specifically, he advocates the appointment by the Mayor of a Charter Review Commission, comprised of former elected officials and residents with experience or special expertise in local government.

“Most importantly, such a Commission should be bi-partisan and include individuals with no ties to a political party,” he added.

Councilman Goldman noted his personal belief that the basic form of Westfield’s municipal government, with a strong mayor elected at-large and a Town Council elected by wards, is sound.

“What I believe may not be in the best interests of Westfield residents, however, is the present system of two-year terms for the Mayor and members of the Town Council which results in one-half of the members of the council being up for election every year,” he stated.

“I believe strongly in the benefits of contested elections because they foster an exchange of ideas, accountability to the voters and pressure on elected officials to respond to the interests of constituents,” Mr. Goldman stated.

“However, the downside of our present system of two-year terms are the impediments to council team-work and longrange planning, the occurrence of the socalled political ‘silly season’ annually and the chilling effect on candidates coming forward,” he added.

He observed that these negative aspects of the present system have become more apparent in the past several years as the town has experienced what he terms the “healthy phenomenon” of more contested elections.

During the period from 1984 until 1994, Westfield did not have a contested election for Mayor. This year brings the third contested election for Mayor in the past five years, but only the second contested election in the Second Ward since 1985.

Councilman Goldman also stated that he would support an examination of whether elections for local office should become non-partisan.

“Even though I have been serving as the Democratic Municipal Chair, I recognize that there are few local issues which revolve around one’s preference for the philosophy of the Democratic or

Republican parties. “Yet our experience of the past two years has demonstrated that from timeto-time members of the Town Council will take positions based upon party loyalty rather than personal conviction, and that political gamesmanship will usurp the valuable time of Town Council meetings,” he stated.

“Unfortunately,” Mr. Goldman added, “moving to a non-partisan election has its negative aspects, as well. The election could not be held in November, requiring the town to bear the expense of an additional election, and realistically, voter turn-out in a non-November election would be low, in the absence of a compelling local issue.”

“The bottom line,” he concluded, “is that those of us who are responsible for governing the town ought to hear what residents think about their local government and how it should be elected.”

Lawrence A. Goldman

Campaign News Continued On

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