Category Archives: Elections

Getting to Know Fair Haven Council Candidates: Race Newcomer Laline Neff

This is Democrat Laline Neff’s first run for Fair Haven Borough Council. Neff is the running mate of incumbent Chris Rodriguez. She, Rodriguez and incumbent Fair Haven Borough Council President Susan Sorensen (R) are vying for two seats on council. Neff is attempting to unseat Sorensen.

Please note: All candidates were provided with a questionnaire at the same time from Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect (R-FH Retro) exclusively. They were given sufficient time to answer the questions and return the completed questionnaire. Neff did not answer R-FH Retro’s questionnaire. R-FH Retro reached out to her to offer a last chance, but, regrettably, there was no response. So, the following is a bio/letter from her to voters directly from the Fair Haven Democrats website.

“Dear Neighbor,

“I am running for Fair Haven Borough Council this year and am writing you to ask for your vote. I am a 7-year resident of Fair Haven and deeply committed to our community. Fair Haven is my husband’s hometown, and when we moved here with our three young children, I immediately knew it was one of the best decisions we made for our family.

“Fair Haven is a wonderful place to live and I am committed to helping it thrive. That’s why I serve as a member of the Fair Haven Zoning Board and the Environmental Commission, and as lead coordinator of the Fair Haven Green Team. I am also a Girl Scouts Troop Leader. I proposed and developed the single-use plastic bag ban Ordinance adopted by the Fair Haven Borough Council in 2019.

“I also led the efforts that enabled Fair Haven to achieve Bronze Certification under the Sustainable Jersey Program in 2018, which helped the Borough receive two Sustainable Jersey grants for improvement projects. I hope to continue to serve our community as a member of Borough Council.

“I worked for 25 years as a financial analyst in New York City, including 21 years as a Director and credit rating analyst at S&P Global Ratings. My professional background and experience would bring a unique set of financial and analytical skills to the council at a time that our Borough is facing financial challenges due to the current recession and the need for a number of capital improvement projects.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has turned 2020 into a difficult year for all of us, both at a personal and at a community level. I am committed to ensuring that our Borough and our community remain resilient.

“These are some of the key areas I’d like to focus on as a member of the Fair Haven Borough Council:

  • Financial Resilience: We need to ensure that our Borough remains financially strong. We also need to make sure that we fully analyze the use of our tax dollars and ensure they are being used effectively and efficiently in order to minimize future tax increases.
  • Strong Multi-Year Planning: Multiple medium and large-scale projects are anticipated for our Borough in coming years. This includes much needed projects aiming at improving our aging infrastructure, including Borough buildings and roads. We need a strong multi-year planning process to ensure we can address these needs with solid financing, a well thought-out strategy and full, transparent, community engagement.
  • Sustainability: Caring for our ponds, fields, walking and biking paths as well as our riverside not only makes our town more sustainable but it improves the quality of life and health of our residents. We need to continue to work on ways to make our community more sustainable.
  • Inclusivity: It’s important that our Borough’s Commissions and Committees represent the wide range of views of our residents. We can do this by ensuring that appointed members to these commissions fully reflect the diversity of our community. This includes, but is not limited to, diversity by political party, age, gender, and minority representation.

“As the upcoming election quickly approaches, please make sure your voice is heard. Make sure to vote and vote early. I appreciate your support in this election such that, as member of the Fair Haven Borough Council, I can work towards ensuring that our wonderful community will continue to thrive!

“With my best regards,

Laline Neff”

Getting to Know Fair Haven Council Candidates: A Chat with Susan Sorensen

Susan Sorensen is the current Fair Haven Borough Council president. Having served since 2012 years, or three three-year terms, all full, elected terms, she is a Republican seeking re-election to her fourth term.

Name, age, street address 

Susan A. Sorensen, 57, and I have lived at 34 Clay Street in Fair Haven since 1998.

How long have you served on Fair Haven Borough Council and what prompted you to run initially?

I have had the privilege to serve the residents of Fair Haven on Council since 2012, and this past year I was nominated by Chris Rodriguez to be the Council president. 

What prompted me to run initially is twofold:  I was raised to always give back, to my community, to my family, to my school, to charities, etc. My parents were very big volunteers, and as children we were “dragged” along, which even as a young person I realized was very fulfilling. 

I was also raised to be informed, make sure before I have an opinion on something I have all the facts, not assumptions, and so, for years prior to running I attended Council meetings. I had already extensively volunteered in Fair Haven on so many committees — school, town, sports, etc., and when I was asked to run I decided it would be an honor to give back to this community that I love so much.  

Incumbents: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in your tenure on council?

My greatest accomplishment hands down is the improved communications strategy. 

The residents wanted better communication; and, after encouraging and convincing the council and the administration, we began to put into place improved and varied communication methods. 

We now have a database of email addresses and cell phone numbers (that the residents can opt into so they can receive these communications. If you are not receiving them, please email either bberube@fhboro.net or myself ssorensen@fhboro.net and we will add your information) where we have the ability now to:

  • Send out eblasts and texts for important updates 
  • Fair Haven now has a weekly “What’s Happening in Fair Haven” email that comes out every Monday – and informs the residents of upcoming meetings, events, etc.
  • The mayor now has a weekly email, that comes out on Fridays and gives a brief summary of the week or Borough information for the residents
  • Fair Haven has Facebook postings – almost daily of all items ranging from upcoming meetings, to road closings, to Recreation events, to police alerts, to voting information…etc. 
  • FAQs on certain topics and these are growing and evolving
  • All of the above has tremendously helped us during COVID to provide information to the public. I also try to share as much as I possibly can on Facebook. 
  • While COVID did push the borough towards Zooming meetings, I have been actively working on ways for the borough to live stream meetings post COVID

I am always open to listen to the residents for ideas and how to continue to improve our communications. I feel it is very important for all the residents to be informed. If you have any ideas of items we are not addressing in regards to communications, or anything for that matter, please reach out to me, any time. 

Tell us about your volunteer work in and out of the borough. Your favorite charity organization and why.

I have had the honor of being named Fair Haven’s Volunteer of the Year. I work tirelessly for Fair Haven, and truly love this great community. Here is a list of just some of my volunteer work within the borough:

Councilwoman since 2012

Fair Haven Centennial Celebrations – 1 a month throughout 2012

Fair Haven Days & Fair Haven’s Oktoberfests– Founder and Chair and I have the privilege of working with the most AMAZING committee around since 2011

I have volunteered at numerous FH fireman’s fairs

Recreation Committee and chair – 9 years

Liaison to FHPD, FHFD, FHFA and OEM – 6 years

Fair Haven Personnel Chair – 3 years

Communications Strategy Chair – 2 years 

Liaison to the Historic Commission

Historic Preservation Events – helped raise money for Bicentennial Hall – 12 years

Dozens of Teen Canteens 

Multiple team moms and fundraiser chairs for sports teams – too many to name or count

Several PTA Luncheons – 50/50 chair

Liaison to the Fair Haven Business Association

Liaison the Fair Haven BOE and the RFH BOE

Foundation of Fair Haven President since 2012

Outside of Fair Haven: I am on the board of the Monmouth Day Care Center in Red Bank NJ, which is a non-profit day care center that serves families in our area. 

Many of the families that attend the MDDC come from very diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. There is tuition assistance for those that are in need. This is an amazing organization that meets such a demand in our area. I am very proud of the work they do at this facility and how they are a true treasure to so many.

This year is a presidential election year in a challenging time with the pandemic. Which president in U.S. history do you admire most for overcoming major hurdles/obstacles of his time? Your favorite motto/quote of that president? 

Easy. JFK.  While he was not perfect, by any means — he had not only health issues, but he had many adversities that he dealt with — for example the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

I feel that he handled many of this with grace, although he did not have to deal with social media, which has created so much miscommunications. 

I feel that he also provided one of the best presidential quotes in his speech — “Ask not what your country can do you, ask what you can do for your country.” This is such a wonderful cry for a public’s call to action — give back to your country, your state your town — for the greater good.  This is what I have aspired to live by — always. 

What do you consider the most negative component of your personality? How do you feel it can be used to a positive end as a council member? Be very honest. For instance: a temper could be a positive viewed as or channeled into passion for a cause. 

My most negative component to my personality, and what I get yelled at the most, is that I have a hard time saying NO!  Sometimes I take on too many responsibilities at once, but somehow I do manage to tackle them all.  But, if I commit to something, I will get it done.  

Who in your family or extended family do you admire most and why? What was the best advice that person gave you that you have implemented most of your life?

This is a very easy one — my mom. Both of my parents actually, but especially my mom. My parents volunteered extensively throughout our lives, and taught their children to give back. My Mom never gives up; and if there is a cause or a situation that needs her attention, she will be there in a heartbeat to help that person or situation. 

When my dad had a stroke, my mom became his sole caretaker, and we all credit her for giving us 12 additional years with him, even though it took a toll on her. There is not exact advice she ever gave me, other than to lead by example, or, in her case, lead by HER example, which I strive to do daily. 

Where did you grow up? What about your hometown do you think ultimately shaped your desire to serve the town in which you live? Any specific incident or experience?

When I was born I lived in Sea Bright, and I still have many relatives in the area, but eventually my parents move to my father’s hometown of Nutley, NJ. 

My parents always knew that I would end up in the Two River area someday. I was always more at home here. Nutley is a great town, with a really great school system and great people. I have several relatives who still live there and I visit often. 

If I were to pinpoint something about Nutley, it would have to be when I was young my parents were on the Board of a Boys and Girls Club for the underprivileged, and all of us kids had to volunteer at the club. It really was fulfilling and rewarding, and a lesson that I learned at a very young age about diversity as well as giving back to a community. 

What did you admire most about your hometown? 

The people and the parks. Nutley has really great people and beautiful parks. As a matter of fact, the Dedication Bench Program that I developed in Fair Haven (and soon to include trees) was modeled after what Nutley has to offer. 

How long have you been a Fair Haven resident? Other than the obvious (good schools, highly rated, PR spin, nice people … things we often hear) why did you choose to make it your home? What, specifically (incident or even moment) while visiting town cemented your decision? 

I have lived and raised a family in Fair Haven since 1998. There are the obvious reasons — living near relatives, good schools, nice neighborhoods, but it was the community that drew us in to Fair Haven. 

I grew up going to the Fireman’s Fair, and knew all the volunteerism that occurs throughout Fair Haven. We knew we wanted to live in the area, Sea Bright, Rumson, Little Silver or Fair Haven, and when driving around and seeing the kids playing in the streets and in the parks, seeing neighbors out talking with neighbors we then started concentrating on Fair Haven, specifically the Historic District. 

Even though they are a lot of work, there is nothing like the charm of an old historic home. We have been in our home, as stated, for over 20 years, and we are still working on “projects.” I love that the historic area for the most part has remained unchanged and is a lovely slice of history. Living near the dock and the new Robards park makes it even better.  

What is your professional career? What do you think is the most misunderstood perception about your line of work? How do you think dealing with this misperception makes you better equipped to serve the public?

I work in telecommunications, which is ever evolving. I started out selling phone systems, then data, then VoIP to cable companies (which enables them to offer voice) and now I work in wireless. I work on the wholesale side of the business. 

I would have to say I am not sure what the most misunderstood perception of my line of work may be, but I do know that folks think because I work in wireless I can fix their phones. That is NOT my strong suit by any means. LOL.

Aside from any misunderstanding, I deal with negotiations all day long, and that is an element of my work life that aids me in my public service, whether it is negotiating or giving advice on negotiating this is a skill that has come in very handy during my term. Sometimes even negotiating amongst the council. 

Incumbents: What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of local municipal officials’ work and/or character? What measures do you think you have taken to change that or make it better understood? 

Interesting question. What I get asked most about is “Where does the extra money go for the big McMansions that get built? And that the borough allows this because of greed.”  

I have actually met with some folks in town to review this with them. There is NO extra money and council does not make decisions on homes that are built. For starters, many of the larger homes that are built do not have to come before for the Zoning Board because they are built within the codes that have been in Fair Haven’s ordinances for decades. 

Next – there is not extra money. The budget is the budget is the budget.  The borough has a budget. Let’s say that the budget is a pie. Everyone in town pays their portion or their slice of the pie. The newer larger homes get a larger piece of the pie (or pay a larger portion of the budget), while the older smaller homes (that have not been renovated) get a smaller piece of the pie (or pay less). 

To help with this misconception we have included over the last several years with the tax assessment/bill a letter that helps to explain how a homeowners taxes are dispersed. This year the letter depicted a fictitious town to help clarify how a home is taxed and how the taxes are then dispersed.  In 2020, 64% of a homeowners taxes are for the schools, 21% for Fair Haven to run the municipality and 15% for the county. 

Fair Haven Borough Council members are volunteer public servants. There is no pay or health benefits involved. It is also a very time-consuming job that requires transparency and constant accessibility to the public. It’s often a thankless job. What benefit is there for you, specifically, besides the obvious serving the town in which you live?

There are many folks that believe we get paid or that we get benefits. We do not. 

I personally, have no agenda but to give back to my community. It is really amazing being part of protecting this community and helping to not only maintain its charm but to be stewards in guiding it forward for future generations. I believe the communications strategy is the biggest measure that has taken place to help residents understand much of the work we are doing for the borough. 

Critical, complicated issues in the borough presently are: facilities, gentrification, affordable housing, seniors. I know the incumbents have mulled these issues repeatedly, but the average resident has not conveyed a distinct understanding of the facts and circumstances. So, that in mind compounded with a retrospective look at the issues, please read the statements and provide thoughtful, insightful answers that may offer a perspective not previously shared.  

Facilities

Question Background: Council has been grappling with with settling the facilities issue for years. In recent meetings, it has been agreed among council members that a new police station is a priority. Police have told council members that they are happy with their current location. So, a new plan was hatched in the same spot that involves demolishing what many feel is a historic structure, what used to be referred to as the Youth Center and formerly housed the borough’s segregated school and kindergarten after segregation ended.

Former police chief Darryl Breckenridge went to kindergarten in the building. It hasn’t been brought up in meetings, but word on the street from old Fair Havenites is that preservation of the building is preservation of a big piece of Fair Haven history. Of course, the building is not on the official National Register of Historic Places, but it holds a lot of history. 

It has been well established that the building is a bit rickety and old and in dire need of renovation and mold remediation, though police have been in it for years and remain in it. When the subject has been broached of saving the building and renovating, it has been stated that it’s not worth saving and would be too costly to renovate. It will still cost a purported tens of millions (a rough estimate of about $11 million for police station and DPW a street over) to demolish and/or rebuild.

Drafting plans also costs a substantial amount of money. Council members have said in meetings, as has the mayor, that new facilities must be agreed upon now.

Question: In light of a new era in office work due to the pandemic and enhanced technology, can you tell residents, in simple terms, why you think think it is necessary to do such a major overhaul? Besides the mold issue, which has been managed, as police are still in the building, even though you may feel you’ve explained it repeatedly, explain again why you feel the facilities project is so critically important right now. Also explain to the average resident how, exactly, it won’t significantly impact taxes. 

The Police Station and DPW need – yes, need to be replaced.  These are not wants or wish list items – these are the cold hard facts – that have been provided by professionals. The borough did not do its best job with the first presentation of the facilities, and a huge misunderstanding began. 

The first presentation in January of 2019 was a presentation to the public to make them aware of the situation and to present options, but it was mostly to hear from the residents. 

We have continued to learn from this, but the continued misinformation that is out there is very hard to continually counter. 

A new police station will not cost tens of millions. The borough has explored several options, and continues to hone a solution that meets the borough’s needs as well as the residents. The goal is to provide new facilities with the least amount of impact to the homeowners taxes by bonding and possibly eventually selling off some property. Our residents and our borough employees deserve to a safe environment to come to or to work in. Renovating was cost prohibitive and not recommended.  

Affordable Housing

Question Background: Affordable housing and gentrification is a critical issue in Fair Haven, but with a median income level at more than $200,000 per year, and demographics and average income level that have shifted drastically since those who are now seniors moved into the borough, residents don’t tend to see it as important since the majority don’t need it. Fair Haven was once affordable for most income brackets. That is no longer the case. Change is inevitable and with the demolition of many small homes and replacement with very large, the answer has been “it’s what the market demands.” 

Yes, but that leaves out a significant segment of the former population of the borough that was priced out of their homes over the years more and more. Very few who raised families and were raised in Fair Haven have been able to stay. The borough has yet to meet its affordable housing obligation, as mandated federally, but officials have taken steps to satisfy the obligation with plans for potential future affordable units. Still, those plans are far off and not ironclad, they are tentative promises to the courts. 

The original need of 371 units deemed by the Fair Share Housing Committee has been debunked by a consultant hired by the borough to come up with an acceptable plan to satisfy affordable housing mandates. Such consultants are usually quite costly as well.

That number was diminished significantly in the consultant’s report with the most concrete plan in the works for a new mixed use development (where the former Sunoco gas station sat) calling for only a few units: one very low income, one low and another moderately low. In a workshop meeting, for example, it was discussed at length that the units should not have balconies because they can get too unsightly with residents leaving things outside and that parking should only fit normal sized vehicles, not work trucks. Yet, many of the large homes in the borough have front porches with a full view. 

There has long been a notion that low income housing, or even affordable, is equated with unsightly and undesirables in town. Fair Haven was founded by a low and moderate income population.

Question: Why do you think affluent commuities, such as the present Fair Haven, have this perception and have either avoided or tried valiantly to lower, sell off to other towns or not honor the obligation to provide a fair share of affordable housing? Please don’t use the schools burden argument, because it is flawed.

IF you had your way, what sort of truly affordable housing for young people starting out and seniors on a low fixed income, would you provide without question — all 371 units?

Fair Haven’s Fair Share Housing Committee worked very hard to not only meet the state mandated requirements but to also preserve the goals of Fair Haven’s Master Plan. 

The Borough has more than met — through overlay zones (that include Senior housing), above garage/secondary structures, an agreement with the property owner of the old Sunoco Station and donating land to Habitat to Humanity — its obligation to allow for affordable housing. 

The 371 number is from a state equation, which means that the amount of units that a builder can build is 5 times the amount, and the 371 is the total of 20% of the units that can be built. Fair Share Housing then takes into account several factors one of which is available space to build, which Fair Haven is lacking. The number is then dramatically reduced based on the specific town’s restrictions.  

What is very misunderstood, is that this does not provide affordable housing for Fair Haven residents that want to stay in town, these units go into a lottery system that includes Mercer, Ocean and Monmouth counties. The council’s desire while going through the Fair Share Housing process was to make sure that at least one of the overlay areas included senior housing, which it does. 

As for the larger homes that have been built, if a resident, and in many cases a long-term resident wants to sell their home to a builder, they should have the ability to sell their home for the maximum amount of money. 

The Borough is not in the business of stopping a resident from selling their home or from making a profit. If a builder purchases the home and chooses to replace the home with a new larger modern home that is their right as long as they build within code. I personally like my modest home in the Historic District, but that is not what the market demands. We should not penalize a resident that wants to make a profit on their home when they are selling.  

Seniors 

Question Background: Candidates have continually expressed a desire to keep seniors in Fair Haven to live out their lives. With each year and larger homes, high municipal and school taxes and the demolition of smaller, more affordable homes, it has been increasingly more difficult and unaffordable for seniors on a fixed income, who moved to Fair Haven as low- to middle-income residents when it was much more affordable, to do that. In fact, the senior population has dwindled significantly. Not only are the taxes unaffordable to seniors on a fixed or even average income, but they also have great difficulty with the upkeep of their homes.

Question: If you had your way, besides tax discounts that are helpful, but don’t make much of a difference for a person on a fixed income, how would you keep them here? How, besides things like the Snow Angels snow removal program and activities and larger-scale programs like Habitat for Humanity, would you propose helping them with maintenance sourced from borough residents? Decades ago, neighbors were known to rally and help neighbors in need with larger, necessary home projects. Again, IF you had your way, what would you do? 

Fair Haven has a strong “Helping Neighbor” program that helps seniors with shoveling snow and in many cases raking leaves. If you are senior or if you know a senior that has not signed up for any of these programs, please send an email to Bberube@fhboro.net and she will add the person to the list. 

Our Fair Haven Police Department is very active in checking in our seniors, especially during these strange COVID times. Years ago, my neighborhood rallied around an elderly person and we all scraped and painted her home. That is what I love about Fair Haven, we are a community of volunteers. 

About a month ago, the AME Church in town posted on Facebook an SOS regarding volunteers to come and help scrape and paint their Church — it was really great to be able to help and to see dozens of  residents participating. This is where social media can truly help a community. If there is someone in need, typically there are several folks that respond and help.  

Any other issues you see as critical? How do you propose addressing them? 

Getting to Know Fair Haven Council Candidates: A Chat with Chris Rodriguez

Christopher Rodriguez is an incumbent Democrat sitting on Fair Haven Borough Council. He is seeking re-election to a second full three-year term on the dais. Previously, Rodriguez filled the unexpired term of Democrat Aimee Humphreys when she stepped down due to a move. So, he has served for a total of four years so far, with one full term on council under his belt. Two seats are up for grabs on council. Both incumbents, Rodriguez and Susan Sorensen are seeking re-election.

Name, age, street address 

Chris Rodriguez, 47, 134 Buttonwood Drive 

How long have you served on Fair Haven Borough Council?

Four years

What prompted you to run initially?

There were damaged roads and curbs on my street and  wanted to get involved in the town to improve our infrastructure. 

Incumbents: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in your tenure on council?

My greatest accomplishment is to find time for the community and observe my obligations while still being a good parent to my exceedingly patient children and husband to my wonderful wife. 

Tell us about your volunteer work in and out of the borough.

I have worked with the cub scouts, recreational sports, volunteer days, Arbor Day events with the Shade Tree Commission and Foundation of Fair Haven events. and Your favorite charity organization and why. My favorite charity is Monmouth Conservation Foundation — I am a trustee, and my fellow trustees donate our time and money to preserve open space for the next generations in the county. 

This year is a presidential election year in a challenging time with the pandemic. Which president in U.S. history do you admire most for overcoming major hurdles/obstacles of his time? FDR

Your favorite motto/quote of that president? I don’t have a favorite motto, but he led our country in a dark time to overcome the Great Depression and did it as a disabled American with plenty of physical obstacles that compounded the situation. 

What do you consider the most negative component of your personality? Be very honest.

I have problems with time management.

How do you feel it can be used to a positive end as a council member? For instance: a temper could be a positive viewed as or channeled into passion for a cause. 

I find that I don’t cut off activities and shift to other parts of my life when I probably should. This was referred to as the Municipal Black Hole by Jake Rue to me many years ago. The office of serving the public can suck you in.

Who in your family or extended family do you admire most and why?

I admire my wife, Karen Rodriguez. She is a dedicated mother, spouse and financial professional. She is able to balance work and life in a way I truly aspire to. The pandemic has shown a bright light on her capacity to balances divergent aspects in an elegant way.

What was the best advice that person gave you that you have implemented most of your life?

Follow your heart and you can’t go wrong.

Where did you grow up?

Elizabeth, NJ

What about your hometown do you think ultimately shaped your desire to serve the town in which you live? Any specific incident or experience?

As a child, I was a scout and my father is an Eagle Scout. I have been serving the public good since I can remember. I don’t know any other way. 

What did you admire most about your hometown?

Elizabeth, NJ was founded in in 1664 by settlers from England. For centuries, it has been home to many different groups seeking a better life in America. I can relate to the pursuit of happiness these folks aspire to. I admire the grit of the people that pass through the streets of Elizabeth on the way to the American dream. 

How long have you been a Fair Haven resident?

Eight years

Other than the obvious (good schools, highly rated, PR spin, nice people … things we often hear) why did you choose to make it your home?

My wife and I liked the neighborhood feel and saw the kids riding their bikes to school and we decided this is where we want to raise our family.

What, specifically (incident or even moment) while visiting town cemented your decision? 

When visiting the home of Mr. James Greene, the former home owner and an active member in the community, he insisted we come by many times to get to know him and was a gatekeeper of sorts to the next family in his home. His passion for Fair Haven was palpable and that was it for us. 

What is your professional career?

I manage financial technology.

What do you think is the most misunderstood perception about your line of work?

Most folks don’t generally know what technologies power finance.

How do you think dealing with this misperception makes you better equipped to serve the public?

My skills in finance are directly applicable to my role as a council person. I am not sure the lack of understanding of my professional endeavors impacts my role that much. 

Incumbents: What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of local municipal officials’ work and/or character?

I think that people sometimes lose sight of the fact that we are a community of 6,121 people in town. This is a large number of folks with differing views.

What measures do you think you have taken to change that or make it better understood? 

I try to provide analogies and examples of the broad perspectives of our residents and that one size usually doesn’t fit all. 

Fair Haven Borough Council members are volunteer public servants. There is no pay or health benefits involved. It is also a very time-consuming job that requires transparency and constant accessibility to the public. It’s often a thankless job. What benefit is there for you, specifically, besides the obvious serving the town in which you live?

I serve because I get enjoyment out of public service. I feel there is no higher calling than public service. When I look back in 40 years on what I accomplished, I feel like very few people will care about my profession but rather appreciate the time and dedication I had to the greater good. This to me is a worthwhile pursuit and is why I serve. 

Critical, complicated issues in the borough presently are: facilities, gentrification, affordable housing, seniors. I know the incumbents have mulled these issues repeatedly, but the average resident has not conveyed a distinct understanding of the facts and circumstances. So, that in mind compounded with a retrospective look at the issues, please read the statements and provide thoughtful, insightful answers that may offer a perspective not previously shared.

Facilities

Question Background: Council has been grappling with with settling the facilities issue for years. In recent meetings, it has been agreed among council members that a new police station is a priority. Police have told council members that they are happy with their current location. So, a new plan was hatched in the same spot that involves demolishing what many feel is a historic structure, what used to be referred to as the Youth Center and formerly housed the borough’s segregated school and kindergarten after segregation ended. 

Former police chief Darryl Breckenridge went to kindergarten in the building. It hasn’t been brought up in meetings, but word on the street from old Fair Havenites is that preservation of the building is preservation of a big piece of Fair Haven history. Of course, the building is not on the National List of Historic Places, but it holds a lot of history. 

It has been well established that the building is a bit rickety and old and in dire need of renovation and mold remediation, though police have been in it for years and remain in it. When the subject has been broached of saving the building and renovating, it has been stated that it’s not worth saving and would be too costly to renovate. 

It will still cost a purported tens of millions to demolish and rebuild. Drafting plans also costs a substantial amount of money. Council members have said in meetings, as has the mayor, that new facilities must be agreed upon now.

Question: In light of a new era in office work due to the pandemic and enhanced technology, can you tell residents, in simple terms, why you think think it is necessary to do such a major overhaul? Besides the mold issue, which has been managed, as police are still in the building, even though you may feel you’ve explained it repeatedly, explain again why you feel the facilities project is so critically important right now. Also explain to the average resident how, exactly, it won’t significantly impact taxes. 

The Police Department building is not built for purpose; this means it was built for a different purpose and not appropriate for its use.

We explored saving the building in the past. In order for it to serve the police properly, it would all need to be brought up to code (meet current electrical, plumbing, ventilation, and department of corrections guidelines including FEMA and earthquake standards). The price tag to retrofit the existing building was higher than a rebuild adjacent to the current facility and it would take a longer time and still not function properly for its intended use. 

When building a new building for the current and next generation, there is a cost to the taxpayer. The costs will be bonded and spread that out over decades so the people of the next generation will share the price load. The current Fair Haven inhabitants will only participate in a portion of the cost.

Affordable Housing

Question background: Affordable housing and gentrification are critical issues in Fair Haven. With a median income level at more than $200,000 per year, and demographics and average income level that have shifted drastically since those who are now seniors moved into the borough, many residents don’t tend to see it as important since the majority don’t need it. Fair Haven was once affordable for most income brackets. That is no longer the case. Change is inevitable and with the demolition of many small homes and replacement with very large, the answer has been “it’s what the market demands.”

Yes, but that leaves out a significant segment of the former population of the borough that was priced out of their homes over the years more and more. Very few who raised families and were raised in Fair Haven have been able to stay.

The borough has yet to meet its affordable housing obligation, as mandated federally, but officials have taken steps to satisfy the obligation with plans for potential future affordable units. Still, those plans are far off and not ironclad, they are tentative promises to the courts.

The original need of 371 units deemed by the Fair Share Housing Committee has been debunked by a consultant hired by the borough to come up with an acceptable plan to satisfy affordable housing mandates. Such consultants are usually quite costly as well.

That number was diminished significantly in the consultant’s report with the most concrete plan in the works for a new mixed use development (where the former Sunoco gas station sat) calling for only a few units: one very low income, one low and another moderately low. In a workshop meeting, for example, it was discussed at length that the units should not have balconies because they can get too unsightly with residents leaving things outside and that parking should only fit normal-sized vehicles, not work trucks, which can be prohibitive. Yet, many of the large homes in the borough have front porches with a full view and driveways.

There has long been a notion that low income housing, or even affordable, is equated with unsightly and undesirables in town. Fair Haven was founded by a low and moderate income population.

Why do you think affluent communities, such as the present Fair Haven, have this perception and have either avoided or tried valiantly to lower, sell off to other towns, or not honor the obligation to provide a fair share of affordable housing? (A personal perception was asked for, not official.)

Please don’t use the schools burden argument, because it has been proven as flawed. IF you had your way, what sort of truly affordable housing for young people starting out and seniors on a low fixed income, would you provide without question — all 371 units?

I really can’t opine on what has been done by previous councils. I have been an active participant in the Fair Share Housing Committee in town and was charged with years of plan development to comply with the NJ State Court Mandate known as Mt. Laurel.

I believe as a mature fully built out community, we have done our best to find interesting solutions like accessory apartments over garages, a Habitat for Humanity project, age restricted zones for seniors and the requirement for a developer at the former Sunoco site to build conforming Fair Share units. 

I mentioned above, that we have accessory apartments for young folks and senior housing envisioned in what are called overlay zones. We can begin to meet our Fair Share obligation by deploying the plan and putting ordinances in place to allow for future deployment of these plans. 

Seniors. 

Question Background: Candidates have continually expressed a desire to keep seniors in Fair Haven to live out their lives. With each year and larger homes, high municipal and school taxes and the demolition of smaller, more affordable homes, it has been increasingly more difficult and unaffordable for seniors on a fixed income, who moved to Fair Haven as low- to middle-income residents when it was much more affordable, to do that. In fact, the senior population has dwindled significantly. 

Not only are the taxes unaffordable to seniors on a fixed or even average income, but they also have great difficulty with the upkeep of their homes.

Question: If you had your way, besides tax discounts that are helpful, but don’t make much of a difference for a person on a fixed income, how would you keep them here? How, besides things like the Snow Angels snow removal program and activities and larger-scale programs like Habitat for Humanity, would you propose helping them with maintenance sourced from borough residents? Decades ago, neighbors were known to rally and help neighbors in need with larger, necessary home projects. Again, IF you had your way, what would you do? 

This is a difficult issue, nested and complex in so many ways. But there is a bright side. There are many programs in our boro, county and state level.

We can help them be educated on programs like the “good neighbor” program as mentioned in the question above, but also broader programs they are entitled to or appeal to them.

Education with pamphlets, electronic communications and other means would help our seniors stay put for as long as they want to be in the community. Over the years, the Homestead Rebate also know as the Senior Freeze has factored in. 

Simply put, we as a community need to do our best to support our seniors and get them the help they want or need to make their lives the best they can be. Its not an easy or straightforward task with the cost of living and recent surge of popularity of the community. 

Any other issues you see as critical? How do you propose addressing them? 

I have tried to cover as many topics as I can above. I believe that balancing the task of building quality replacement facilities with the cost of construction is a difficult job.

The next council will embark on foundational construction projects that need to fit in with the community today and for the future. It will be a tricky and sometimes noisy process to get to a quality outcome that reflects the will of the people. Previous councils have made progress advancing ideas and designs, but I feel we are at a point where we’ve refined and improved the plans to start making decisions resulting in tangible outcomes. 

Fair Haven Elections: How The Governing Body Works & Who’s Representing You

This is a unique election year, transpiring during an international pandemic. While most have already voted by mail, there are some facts about the borough governing body and its function and history that may have eluded many.

So, the notion in mind that an informed voter is a better voter, here are some facts that may enlighten and inspire whether or not you have cast your vote yet.

Continue reading Fair Haven Elections: How The Governing Body Works & Who’s Representing You

Prosecutor: How County Officials Plan to Ensure Election Integrity In COVID Times

Representatives from the Monmouth County Election and Prosecutor’s offices will be available to assist county voters with questions or issues that may arise with voting in this year’s general election, Monmouth County Clerk Christine G. Hanlon and Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced on Thursday.

Continue reading Prosecutor: How County Officials Plan to Ensure Election Integrity In COVID Times

Dems Win with Historic Sweep in Fair Haven Council Election

It’s a first in decades, at least. A historically Republican-dominated governing body will change to an evenly split bi-partisan Fair Haven Borough Council dais in the New Year, according to the unofficial vote tally from the Monmouth County Board of Elections.

The team of Fair Haven-raised Democrats, Meghan Chrisner-Keefe and Mike McCue, have won the two seats up for grabs on council by a landslide, ousting 15-year Republican incumbent Jonathan Peters and his running mate GOP incumbent Jacqueline Rice, who was running for her first full term.

Continue reading Dems Win with Historic Sweep in Fair Haven Council Election

Elections: How The Governing Body Works in Fair Haven

As people go to the polls to vote in Fair Haven today, there are some facts about the borough governing body and its function and history that may have eluded many.

So, the notion in mind that an informed voter is a better voter, here are some facts that may enlighten and inspire at the polls:

Continue reading Elections: How The Governing Body Works in Fair Haven

Fair Haven Council Candidate’s Q&A: Meg Chrisner-Keefe

In Fair Haven’s Borough Council elections on Nov. 5, four are vying for two three-year seats on the six-seat dais: two incumbent Republicans and two Democrat challengers. Meghan Chrisner-Keefe is making her first run for public office as a Democrat candidate. Below is R-FH Retro’s Q&A with Chrisner-Keefe …

Democrat Fair Haven Borough Council candidate Meghan Chrisner-Keefe

Name, age, street address 

Meghan Chrisner-Keefe, 36 years old, 25 Beechwood Pl, Fair Haven.

Where did you grow up? What about your hometown do you think ultimately shaped your desire to serve the town in which you live? Any specific incident or experience? 

When I think about growing up in Fair Haven, I think about my lifelong friends and the places around town where we spent time together, our shared experiences and how it made me feel.

I want to serve the community that raised me and fostered my dearest memories and relationships which are the result of Fair Haven’s strong traditions and sense of community. I am grateful to raise my own children here and hope my grandchildren have the opportunity as well. 

What did you admire most about your hometown? Its greatest attribute?

Fair Haven has an incredible sense of community. It values its residents, both new and old, supports its children and fosters strong relationships. I am grateful that we can call our neighbors and friends an extension of our family and part of our village. 

How long have you been a Fair Haven resident? If there were periods in which you relocated, please explain why and where you lived? What prompted you to move to Fair Haven or come back, if that’s the case? 

My family moved to Fair Haven when I was 8 years old. After graduating from RFH, I spent four years at Syracuse University, followed by several years working in New York City. I lived in downtown Newark during my 1L year of law school and then moved to Red Bank. When my husband James and I were expecting our first child, we began looking for our first home in the area.

Moving to Fair Haven was the only option in my mind – I wanted my children to have the same experiences I had growing up. I met my lifelong friends in second grade at Knollwood when I moved here as a kid and we can now tell each other’s life stories.  

What do you consider the single most important issue facing Fair Haven residents? Please choose one issue only on which to focus. How do you propose it be remedied? Please be specific.

Taxes are on everyone’s mind. Every single decision of the governing body has a tax impact and component. While municipal taxes only account for 20 percent of everyone’s tax bill, it is critical that every cent in and every cent out reflects the collective desires of our residents.

Opening the budget and finance committee meetings to the public will engage more residents in the process and allow more collaboration on our town’s spending, particularly as it relates to bigger ticket expenses, as well as fixed and variable expenses. When we increase awareness of Fair Haven’s finances by making the public part of the process, there is an opportunity for improved understanding and appreciation of our property taxes. 

What is your professional career? What do you think is the most misunderstood perception of your line of work? How will your professional skills and make you a more effective public official? How does the particular misperception of your career that you cited make you better equipped to serve the public? 

I am a practicing attorney at Smith Eibeler in Holmdel. We primarily represent employees in both litigated and negotiated matters including unlawful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination and whistleblower cases.

If elected, my skillset will be particularly effective in advocating for our residents, analyzing complex legal issues, drafting ordinances and communicating with Fair Haven’s residents — things I do on a daily basis in my professional life. This skillset and perspective are not represented on the current council.

There’s a misperception that attorneys like to argue when in reality we’re simply advocating for our clients’ positions and trying to reach a resolution of the conflict. My ability to advocate, negotiate and craft settlements and solutions will be an asset to both representing residents’ needs and managing Fair Haven’s current litigations.

What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of local municipal officials’ work and/or character? Why do you think that is? How would you propose changing that perception?

I believe the amount of time our municipal officials, both elected and appointed, spend taking care of Fair Haven is not well understood.

When borough business takes place behind closed doors or happens over calls, citizens cannot appreciate how much time they spend away from their jobs and families to do Fair Haven’s work.

If elected I will urge the council to engage in more public conversation on all agenda items, advocate for public meetings of boards, commissions and committees and commit to instituting streaming of borough meetings. 

Do you have any past experience on any governing body, local board or commission or committee? If not in Fair Haven, then where, in what capacity and for how long?

In law school I was part of a research team and served as a senior member of the team during my 3L year. Last year I worked with a small group of community members to raise funds for the new toddler playground at Fair Haven Fields. I am a current member of the Natural Area Committee, for which I served in a volunteer capacity for one year and have been a member of for the past year.

Cite a specific accomplishment in your life that has made you most proud — anything, from having an effect on one person or thing to initiating some sort of worldwide change. Why? How do you think this equipped you for public service? 

Attending and graduating law school has been an accomplishment that I return to daily as the reason many things have happened in my life. I never expected law school to be along my life path and I am proud of the not-for-profit clinics I participated in as a student, the research team I was a part of and that I am now a litigator advocating for my clients’ rights every day against small and large employers alike. If elected, my legal training and advocacy skills will be an asset to our council. 

Fair Haven Borough Council members are volunteer public servants. There is no pay or health benefits involved. It is also a very time-consuming job that requires transparency and accessibility to the public. What benefit is there for you, specifically, besides the obvious serving the town in which you live? 

I have a strong appreciation for democracy and believe there is opportunity for improved representation in Fair Haven. I’ve been speaking up at council meetings for some time now and decided it’s time to step up.

Time after time, despite attending meetings and asking questions, I was not afforded the information I sought. In the absence of transparency and accountability, democracy cannot function.

Enabling Fair Haven’s residents to have access to information, participate in the process and receive answers to questions are all goals of mine. If elected, the benefit for me is the benefit for all — restoring the trust of the governing body to one that is approachable, inclusive and communicative. 

In response to the contentious outcry from residents over a new business coming to town, a new business committee has been formed. The committee is designed to serve ONLY in an advisory capacity with respect to the community’s wishes involving incoming businesses. Do you think it will be effective? Why or why not? 

The governing body has appointed the Restaurant Committee to explore possible land use and zoning ordinances to replace the ones that resulted in the extensive hearings on the Dunkin’ application.

I believe the committee itself has already been and will continue to be effective in engaging in open and honest discussions and hearing Fair Haven’s citizens. I am hopeful that the governing body will honor its duty to embrace our representative form of government and strongly consider the committee’s recommendations once issued.

Affordable housing is another hot button issue in Fair Haven. The borough has not met its obligation. From a PURELY HYPOTHETICAL vantage, if you were given the ultimate power to satisfy the original need of 371 units deemed by the Fair Share Housing Committee, what sort of units would you propose bringing into the borough and where would you put them if the sufficient land were yours for the taking? 

Hypothetically, I would propose a variety of housing solutions to satisfy the need, including some typical units such as houses, condos and apartments, as well as creative housing solutions such as small scale housing solutions (think tiny houses), co-housing concepts and accessory structures (as was recommended in the 2016 Master Plan).

Again, hypothetically, a healthy mix of housing styles woven throughout our community would be an interesting approach to meet the varying needs and income levels of our community.

Which local municipal governing body member, in Fair Haven or the surrounding area (any town), do you admire most and why? Past or present. 

I’ve spent a lot of time attending borough meetings in the past few years. I am particularly impressed with Councilwoman Betsy Koch. I knew her from my days attending Knollwood and always felt she was an encouraging teacher and mentor for all students.

Now in her role as councilwoman, I see her advocacy for residents and appreciate her approach and effort to address needs and concerns. Councilwoman Koch’s energy and involvement is admirable and I am grateful for her continued commitment and work in Fair Haven.

All candidates expressed at the debate a desire to keep seniors in Fair Haven. It is a dwindling population, due to the high cost to live in the borough. If you won the lottery and became a billionaire, what would you do, personally, to help your senior neighbors live their lives out in Fair Haven? 

There are many tools and programs already available to reduce, limit or freeze eligible seniors’ taxes and Fair Haven should examine programs that would help our seniors remain in Fair Haven — we can do this and help our senior neighbors NOW.

If I became a billionaire, I would use the funds to establish a sustainable, well-researched program to support Fair Haven’s senior residents. 

Is there anything you would like to add that you feel is critical to your platform/candidacy? Please explain why. 

I’d like to thank all of our elected and appointed officials who work hard and generously volunteer their time and skills to our amazing town. I hope to earn your vote TOMORROW and have the opportunity to serve the Fair Haven community as an elected official.

Fair Haven Council Candidate’s Q&A: Jonathan Peters

In Fair Haven’s Borough Council elections on Nov. 5, four are vying for two three-year seats on the six-seat dais: two incumbent Republicans and two Democrat challengers. Jonathan Peters is a Republican incumbent candidate. He is currently Fair Haven Borough Council president. He has served on council for 15 years and is seeking a sixth three-year term. Below is R-FH Retro’s Q&A with Peters …

Republican incumbent Fair Haven Borough Council candidate Jonathan Peters

Name, age, street address 

Jonathan Peters, 56, 100 Park Avenue

Where did you grow up? What about your hometown do you think ultimately shaped your desire to serve the town in which you live? Any specific incident or experience? 

I grew up on the South Shore of Staten Island.  I was involved with recreational sailing and fishing from a very young age.  These experiences gave me a strong connection to the natural environment and the ocean.  That probably drew me to this community.  My desire to serve came from my father — who volunteered in our community — and who was a role model as to how one should help your community. 

What did you admire most about your hometown? Its greatest attribute?

A strong sense of community and family. Growing up on an island is much like living on the Rumson Peninsula, where we have strong geographic boundaries to our community and that helps us bond over common challenges.

How long have you been a Fair Haven resident? If there were periods in which you relocated, please explain why and where you lived? What prompted you to move to Fair Haven or come back, if that’s the case? 

My wife and I moved to Fair Haven in 1999 from Hunterdon County, New Jersey.  Being a waterman since I was a kid, I wanted to get back near the ocean and bays. The great schools, proximity to the water and my wife’s new job in Freehold motivated us look around the area. The walkable aspects and nice downtown attracted us to Fair Haven.

What do you consider the single most important issue facing Fair Haven residents? Please choose one issue only on which to focus. How do you propose it be remedied? Please be specific.

A continued focus on evolving the community to meet the needs of our residents.  The onslaught of online shopping options is changing the nature of downtown business districts.  As a community, we need to explore options as to how we can maintain a walkable and useful downtown commercial district for the benefit of our residents and businesses. As the government, we need to “set the table” — we need to manage the public infrastructure and business rules so that we encourage responsible private investment — an then we need to let the business owners do what they do best — provide goods and services.  

What is your professional career? What do you think is the most misunderstood perception of your line of work? How will your professional skills and make you a more effective public official? How does the particular misperception of your career that you cited make you better equipped to serve the public? 

I am a professor of economics and public finance at The City University of New York.  I think there is a perception that professors are somewhat detached from society.  I have not found that to be broadly the case, but I do think that it is unfortunate that more professors do not serve in public office.  

I believe that would help the professors understand society better as well as bring more cutting edge ideas to the public sector.  My training in economics and public policy have greatly aided my efforts in Fair Haven.  

My knowledge of public finance I believe has been very useful in helping the borough design the funding methods for our public facilities, be it fire engines, roads, parks, sports fields or open space.   Professors are very good a focusing on the long term — we do it all the time as we work on our research projects — which may take years or decades. I am very good at maintaining focus on the long game here in the Borough, and that is very helpful in solving major problems.

What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of local municipal officials’ work and/or character? Why do you think that is? How would you propose changing that perception?

I think some members of the general public think that municipal officials can solve every problem that arises to their personal satisfaction. In many cases, problems may not have a consensus solution — where most townspeople agree on what is the right solution. That presents a challenge to an elected official, as we generally want to represent the views of our constituents. But it is not possible to represent all views if there is not complete consensus on an issue; and most issues do not have complete consensus from the residents.  

Talking about issues in an open way I think is the best way to help residents develop a sense of engagement and compromise as well as get the best ideas on the table.

Do you have any past experience on any governing body, local board or commission or committee? If not in Fair Haven, then where, in what capacity and for how long?

 Yes, I have served on Borough Council for the last 15 years. I am currently the Borough Council President.  My service on Borough Council has taken up most of my volunteering time over the last decade or so.

Cite a specific accomplishment in your life that has made you most proud — anything, from having an effect on one person or thing to initiating some sort of worldwide change. Why? How do you think this equipped you for public service? 

I have spent the bulk of my professional life as a university professor with a specialty in economics and public finance. I hope that I have been a role model for my students and that I have inspired them to be engaged members of their home communities.

I have had the great pleasure to see a good number of my students become productive business leaders, good citizens and parents, and that has been a great joy.

Serving on Borough Council here in Fair Haven offers me an opportunity to use my academic skills in a practical way, and to continue to learn and change based upon my service. Serving as an elected official has taught me a great deal about practical politics and working with people that has contributed to my research and teaching.

Fair Haven Borough Council members are volunteer public servants. There is no pay or health benefits involved. It is also a very time-consuming job that requires transparency and accessibility to the public. What benefit is there for you, specifically, besides the obvious serving the town in which you live? 

For me, I have a strong sense of duty and I believe that if I want to have the right to critique our systems, I have to be willing to serve in a policy role in our community.  I also think that this is the best way that I can serve.

As a professor of public finance, I like to put my professional training and theories into practice.  So far, the financial community has liked the performance of our financial controls, awarding Fair Haven a AA+ bond rating that we have maintained over the last 10 years —five rankings above the State of New Jersey that is ranked A-.

In response to the contentious outcry from residents over a new business coming to town, a new business committee has been formed. The committee is designed to serve ONLY in an advisory capacity with respect to the community’s wishes involving incoming businesses. Do you think it will be effective? Why or why not? 

I think it is key to have a good discussion of the issues that face the borough. The committee seems to me to be the best mechanism to gather opinions and ideas about this issue. 

The results will be shared with the Borough Council and the land use boards.  At that point, we need to see if any changes need to be made to the land use rules for Fair Haven. It is very important to understand that municipal land use ordinances can and do provide guidance to land owners, but they have limited scope as to what the private sector can do with the property that they own.

Affordable housing is another hot button issue in Fair Haven. The borough has not met its obligation. From a PURELY HYPOTHETICAL vantage, if you were given the ultimate power to satisfy the original need of 371 units deemed by the Fair Share Housing Committee, what sort of units would you propose bringing into the borough and where would you put them if the sufficient land were yours for the taking? 

Our current obligation looks to be two units — based upon our existing vacant land — so 371 units is a very big leap from a plan that reflects on the fully built out nature of our community. That being said, it has been hard to develop a plan in Fair Haven, as we have had a number of targets over the years set by the state agencies and the number of units needed varied widely. That made it hard to develop a firm plan that we could execute, as the scope of the units would impact how the plan should develop.

Best practices in this area (and I teach Urban Planning) generally tend to favor both mixed use facilities and transit accessible development, where you have housing over stores in a downtown and lower income housing along transit routes. This would make the River Road corridor our best potential site for low and moderate income housing. 

A second issue to consider is inclusive zoning, where the town gives a certain bonus in terms of housing units, typically 20 percent additional units, that are provided by a developer of a property and are mixed in with other market rate units. Those two solutions seem to me to be the most helpful in solving your hypothetical question.  

Which local municipal governing body member, in Fair Haven or the surrounding area (any town), do you admire most and why? Past or present. 

I have had the opportunity to work with a number of great people who served on Borough Council in Fair Haven. I value what each one has contributed to my understanding of politics, public policy and personalities.  

Some of my best lessons came from people who I did not admire – but they still taught me important lessons. It would be unfair for me to pick a favorite — I have served with so many.  I would say that one event that stands out is when Mayor Joe Szostak and the council members came together to lead a bipartisan group in building a better community after a very turbulent election. 

I was impressed by the bipartisan behavior on both sides during that time, and I continue to work to foster a sense of collegiality on the council between our members from both parties.  

All candidates expressed at the debate a desire to keep seniors in Fair Haven. It is a dwindling population, due to the high cost to live in the borough. If you won the lottery and became a billionaire, what would you do, personally, to help your senior neighbors live their lives out in Fair Haven? 

The key thing is to try to control costs and limit the increases in the tax bill for seniors. It is also critical to maintain support for critical services such as the Fair Haven Rescue Squad who provide important services for senior residents.   

A billion dollars would offer an individual a significant amount of money to donate annually to the community.  I would suggest that if we could provide a partial subsidy to property taxes for low and moderate income residents who have paid taxes in the town for 25+ years that might help a lot, and that is what I would probably do.

Is there anything you would like to add that you feel is critical to your platform/candidacy? Please explain why. 

I want to continue to serve the community. I think I still have a bunch of good ideas to move forward. I also am pretty good now at balancing our community goals with the financial realities of a town where 95 percent of the local government expenditures come from our local taxes and only 5 percent comes from the state.   

I have been a leader on shared services and privatization of public services in our community over the last decade. Fair Haven was recently ranked #21 in New Jersey Monthly’s Best Town’s report, and I hope that I have contributed along with many others to make our town one of the best in the state. I hope to continue to provide calm and thoughtful guidance to the community and borough staff that helps the borough continue to be a leading community in our region.   

Fair Haven Council Candidate’s Q&A: Jacquie Rice

In Fair Haven’s Borough Council elections on Nov. 5, four are vying for two three-year seats on the six-seat dais: two incumbent Republicans and two Democrat challengers. Jacquie Rice is a Republican incumbent candidate. She filled an unexpired term and is now running for a full term on council. Below is R-FH Retro’s Q&A with Rice …

Republican incumbent candidate for Fair Haven Borough Council Jacquie Rice

Name, age, street address

Jacquie Rice, 52, 45 Maple Avenue 

Where did you grow up? What about your hometown do you think ultimately shaped your desire to serve the town in which you live? Any specific incident or experience? 

 I grew up in Union Beach, NJ. When I was growing up I did not imagine that I would one day be very involved in my future town. The desire to volunteer and give back came much later in my life. 

I did have family members who volunteered though. My Uncle was a member of the Union Beach First Aid squad for all of my childhood. My Father coached grammar school basketball teams for Holy Family & St Joseph’s.

What did you admire most about your hometown? Its greatest attribute?

What I liked about Union Beach was that everyone seemed to know everyone. People who grew up there chose to stay and raise their families there also. 

I also like the fact that we were by the bay. I spent a great deal of my childhood exploring the marsh lands and crabbing in all of the creeks. 

How long have you been a Fair Haven resident? If there were periods in which you relocated, please explain why and where you lived? What prompted you to move to Fair Haven or come back, if that’s the case? 

 I moved to Fair Haven in 2005. I didn’t know anything about the town prior to meeting my husband. He grew up here as did his father. He was adamant that we were going to live in Fair Haven and raise a family here. As we started to have children I came to realize how unique this town is and what a great place it is for kids. 

What do you consider the single most important issue facing Fair Haven residents? Please choose one issue only on which to focus. How do you propose it be remedied? Please be specific.

 Our single greatest issue is deciding what to do with our facilities. Our Police Department must be replaced. Renovating it is not an option. Renovating was explored and it was deemed more costly than a complete rebuild. The community center is attached to the current PD so a decision needs to be made on where to rebuild that also. I would like to move the PD to River Road and get it out of the residential area it is in now and combine it with new Borough offices. Over the past year many options have been explored as far as property and where to move PD. Cost is a huge factor in deciding where to put the new building. I do not want to build anything that will cost the taxpayers money. Until the best location is decided and we can ensure a zero tax increase, we will not be making any decisions. 

What is your professional career? What do you think is the most misunderstood perception of your line of work? How will your professional skills and make you a more effective public official? How does the particular misperception of your career that you cited make you better equipped to serve the public? 

In 2006, when my son was born, I stopped working full time. Since then I have been a stay at home mom who has always had a part time job. I currently work part-time at Knollwood as a paraprofessional. For this question I would have to say that my professional career is being a mom. I think the greatest misperception about stay at home moms is that we don’t do anything worthwhile all day, are dissatisfied in life and gossip all of the time. This could not be further from the truth. 

I feel that being a mom full time helps me be more effective because I look at the issues from a different point of view. I want to make sure that Fair Haven remains a town where everyone wants to live so my kids will want to raise their future families here also. 

Knowing that people misperceive what a stay at home mom does has helped me develop thicker skin which is definitely a requirement when you are in a public role. It also drives me to prove the misconception wrong by working hard and making thoughtful decisions that are for the good of all of the residents.

What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of local municipal officials’ work and/or character? Why do you think that is? How would you propose changing that perception?

 Lately I feel that a lot of people seem to think that municipal officials have ulterior motives. There is a baseless distrust of all levels of government. I honestly think this is because most people do not understand how government works.

There are circumstances where not everything being discussed amongst council can be made public. Those circumstances are clearly laid out by the state of NJ and strictly adhered.

It’s a shame because everyone at the municipal level is giving their time, away from their families, for free and there are some people who continually go around trying to disparage their reputations simply because they are ill-informed of how the process works. 

Do you have any past experience on any governing body, local board or commission or committee? If not in Fair Haven, then where, in what capacity and for how long?

 I spent one year on the board for the Junior League of Monmouth County. I was the recording secretary. In that role I learned a lot about leadership, decision making and basing decisions on the future of the organization. 

Cite a specific accomplishment in your life that has made you most proud — anything, from having an effect on one person or thing to initiating some sort of worldwide change. Why? How do you think this equipped you for public service? 

This may sound strange but I was proud of the fact that I went back to work downtown after 9/11. I didn’t enjoy going back to work. I was scared every single,solitary day but I did it.

I did it because the President asked me to … he asked that we all move forward with our lives and show the world we would not be broken. Continuing to work downtown I felt like I was part of the front lines of the war on terror so I got up every day, held my head high, buried my fear and moved forward. It wasn’t easy. 

I am better equipped today to deal head on with things or matters that I find frightening or uncomfortable. I feel that if I could survive that first year after 9/11, I can survive anything. 

Fair Haven Borough Council members are volunteer public servants. There is no pay or health benefits involved. It is also a very time-consuming job that requires transparency and accessibility to the public. What benefit is there for you, specifically, besides the obvious serving the town in which you live? 

The benefit I receive from serving is knowing that I am making a difference. I am making decisions to help move us into the future while maintaining our awesome community. I want to be a part of the solution not a part of the problem so I help make the decisions. I want to be impactful, I want to leave my mark on this world, serving the community helps me do just that. 

In response to the contentious outcry from residents over a new business coming to town, a new business committee has been formed. The committee is designed to serve ONLY in an advisory capacity with respect to the community’s wishes involving incoming businesses. Do you think it will be effective? Why or why not? 

I 100 percent think it will be effective. There was a lot of division in the town over a Dunkin Donuts application. I feel the committee allows for all members of the community to have their voices heard. The committee will advise council on how the cooperative public wishes to see the town move into the future. We all have a stake in the future of this town, I think the committee is a perfect example of how democracy works. 

Affordable housing is another hot button issue in Fair Haven. The borough has not met its obligation. From a PURELY HYPOTHETICAL vantage, if you were given the ultimate power to satisfy the original need of 371 units deemed by the Fair Share Housing Committee, what sort of units would you propose bringing into the borough and where would you put them if the sufficient land were yours for the taking? 

Hypothetically speaking I would have the town buy individual houses as they come onto the market, update them and sell them with a 20-30 year deed restriction allowing for low/moderate income families to purchase them. 

Which local municipal governing body member, in Fair Haven or the surrounding area (any town), do you admire most and why? Past or present. 

I admire Paul Smith,Jr. the current mayor of Union Beach. I do not know him personally nor have I met him. I admire him for his leadership during and after Super Storm Sandy.

My childhood home was flooded during that storm and my parents lived through a very trying time. Mayor Smith organized the recovery process immediately and communicated very clearly with the residents. His leadership helped pull that town back from the brink and the town is thriving today because of it. I can only hope that if I am ever faced with a crisis of that magnitude that I would be able to lead as he did. 

All candidates expressed at the debate a desire to keep seniors in Fair Haven. It is a dwindling population, due to the high cost to live in the borough. If you won the lottery and became a billionaire, what would you do, personally, to help your senior neighbors live their lives out in Fair Haven? 

First, I would use my money to hire professionals to meet with all of the seniors in town to help them apply for a freeze on their taxes with the state of NJ. 

For those who still couldn’t afford the taxes I would look into setting up a foundation that would assist seniors in paying the portion of their taxes that would be a hardship to them. 

Is there anything you would like to add that you feel is critical to your platform/candidacy? Please explain why. 

The only thing I would like to add is that this past year on council has been my honor and privilege to serve. I hope the residents of Fair Haven can see how passionate I am about this position and that they choose to vote for me again for a three year term. If elected, I promise to continue to serve the community to the best of my abilities. 

Fair Haven Council: The Candidates’ Debate

It was a first. A debate between Fair Haven Borough Council candidates. And it was last Wednesday night.

With two seats up for grabs and a host of controversial issues on the local government’s plate, two Fair Haven-raised Democrats running on a hometown “time for change” slate are challenging incumbent Republicans raised out of the area, but with a record of service to the borough, and running on an “experienced team” platform.

Continue reading Fair Haven Council: The Candidates’ Debate