A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Chat with Aberdeen Republican Candidates

Republican mayoral candidate Tom Aljian was kind enough to make himself available to me this evening for questions and discussion at Starbucks on Main Street. Mike Vail, candidate for Councilman, joined us. As a local resident, taxpayer, and voter, I brought up issues of concern to me. I listened not only for their particular views but to gauge how the candidates carried themselves. I took the opportunity to have them clarify issues I wasn't very familiar with. We had an excellent exchange lasting over an hour.

The gathering was totally on the record and I intend to report the highlights. I imagine that much of what I learned will fall into the category of background, as I have more than a thing or two to learn about what's going on in Aberdeen before I can speak authoritatively on things. I try to avail myself of the wisdom of a range of sources, and that includes Council and BOE candidates. Hopefully I'll be better informed as a result and can help my readership to be well informed also. I relate some of what we discussed below.

Many of my published questions to the Republicans dealt with development -- Anchor Glass, the train station, the Cliffwood Avenue and Route 35 intersection, and COAH housing on County Road. We touched on development in the following ways:
  • The candidates said they can see no evidence that the current Council has a comprehensive plan for development. Mr Aljian said he would host half a dozen public meetings seeking immediate input from the community on what needs to be included in a township plan. All sides would have a chance to read and discuss it, then there would be periodic public gatherings for feedback and re-evaluation. 
  • Mr Vail pointed out how Old Bridge and Keyport have begun developing their waterfronts, while Aberdeen Township continues to only promise development. Mr Vail suggested that residents ought not have to tolerate irregular beach cleanings and beach access through a large, ugly guard rail. (At least we have a volleyball court.)
  • Mr Aljian suggested that Aberdeen could be more innovative in meeting its COAH obligations by seeking Federal incentives like the Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP) to build affordable housing. Aberdeen should look into Lower Township, which is developing 90 units at Cape May Senior Housing with TCAP funding.
One of the other issues I asked about in my published questions was seeking economies through regionalization and the merging of our Township with Matawan Borough. Mr Aljian said he would jump at opportunities to economize through cooperation with other towns and consolidation of functions. He pointed out the obvious inefficiency of paying to operate part time courts in both municipalities. Mr Aljian remarked as well on Aberdeen and Matawan paying the same man to provide building inspections. Mr Vail saw no benefits coming from the recent imposition of a 4-day week for township employees except as a perquisite for employees.

I asked Mr Aljian to explain what the big deal was with state pension payments and our local budget. I was unfamiliar with the story of how Governor Corzine had agreed to permit local towns to defer their payments to the state pension system in order to avoid increases in property taxes in the short term. Mr Aljian explained that this one time benefit to our budget this year will not only result in annual budget payments in the future to cover the 2009 debt, but next year there will be no deferral. So Aberdeen residents, who faced a tax increase this year despite the deferral of pension payments and the infusion of library fund monies, will have to pay the full 2010 pension payment plus a share of the 2009 pension payment, all without the benefit of this year's one-time offsets. And we know what that means for next year's property taxes. . .

Mr Aljian hopes to see Republican inroads into the Council, if only to keep the Dems from continuing their complete control of information. He would welcome a debate before the November elections and hopes people will encourage the organization of such an event.

Mr Aljian was well spoken, confident, and knowledgeable of the issues. He's been talking politics throughout the township for many weeks, with only a couple of weekends off -- one when he was sick -- so he is mentally sharp as a result. Maybe I just enjoy politics too much, but I must say he is pleasant to chat with over coffee. He obviously enjoys discussing his community and what he would do if given the chance to lead the Council.

This was my second conversation with Mr Vail, whom I first met at Aberdeen Day. At that event, I found him pleasant and excited to be campaigning. He contributed astute observations to this evening's conversation, especially on issues related to Cliffwood and Cliffwood Beach, but he appropriately deferred to the mayoral candidate on most questions.

I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with these two candidates. I would welcome an email from the Democrats if they would like to arrange for a similar on-the-record discussion. I'd say, 'Have your people contact my people', but I am 'my people'.

1 comment:

  1. I know Mr.Aljian He is very Honest hard working young man He has courage to make change and he keeps his promises