The Freehold Township Democratic Club hosted an “Evening with your Municipal Candidates” on Tuesday, introducing the community to the Democratic challengers who are vying for spaces on the Township Committees in Freehold, Manalapan, and Howell.
The event, held at the Monmouth County Library, was moderated by Jennie (JJ) Jeannette Mistretta, the Municipal Chair of the Freehold Democratic Club. The Democratic candidates present were Ed Horigan and Kenneth Sullivan for Freehold Township, Suzanne Wolf for Howell, and Seth Ptasiewicz for Manalapan.
Each candidate introduced themselves to the public and explained what changes they want to make in their respective towns.
While each candidate discussed specific problems within each township, there was one theme among the Democrats - money. All four democrats mentioned that frivolous spending is the cause of many of the high taxes within the towns.
Wolf, a mechanical engineer, said that Howell needs to stop frivolous spending and bonding for daily items which raise municipal taxes by millions every year. “Right now they’re spending money like it’s water,” Wolf said.
Small businesses ownership Howell has diminished, according to Wolf, with 300 empty storefronts within the township. Wolf said that this is because the attitude at Town Hall is “small business unfriendly”; with business tax ratables down, the municipal taxes went up.
Sullivan said that Freehold should look at how they can generate revenues that are do not exist right now. He indicated that using more solar and wind power at the township level could generate revenue. Another option is to use gas generators to create power for township buildings since natural gas is cheap right now.
“There are a lot of options that are out there other than just raising taxes on existing situations,” Sullivan said.
Within eight years the taxes have doubled in Freehold Township, according to Horigan. He also said that 13 percent of Freehold's budget is going to service the Township’s $51 million debt.
“We cannot continue to increase the taxes that we charge everybody,” Horigan said. Nevertheless, Horigan stated that he and Sullivan, if elected, would not cut taxes, but rather use the money that is collected more effectively.
Another issue discussed at the event was transparency. Wolf said that the Howell Township Committee has disbanded every residents’ committee run by volunteers making it difficult for residents to voice their concerns and have input.
In Manalapan, Ptasiewicz said that the car dealership proposal on Route 33 is unnecessary and not a service needed by southern Manalapan residents. Ptasiewicz said that all residents should be better informed of what potential changes are being made so that the community can vocalize their opinions.
Freehold also needs to be more transparent, according to Horigan, who said that he and Sullivan are interested in taking the Township meetings out of Town Hall and around the Township to better inform residents.
“We want to change the whole philosophy and make it a truly open government, for the people and by the people,” Horigan said.
Brian Froelich, the Democratic candidate for the 4th U.S. Congressional district, was the guest speaker of the night. Froelich, a successful businessman from Spring Lake, is running against Chris Smith, who has represented the area for 32 years.
Froelich discussed his stance on job creation, women’s rights, education, Veterans, and the economy. Froelich said he is in favor of tax cuts on the middle class and opposes the Republican plan to cut Medicare and Social Security.
“[The Republicans] had their hand on the wheel, they droves us into a ditch, and now they want their hand back on the wheel and I say no,” Froelich said in regard to nation's debt.
The economy and healthcare are the two biggest issues in this year’s election, Froelich said. Froelich supports the Simpson-Bowles Plan, also known as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was created in 2010. This plan called for both spending cuts and tax increases as a way to address the national deficit. However, it did not pass the House of Representatives in March 2012.
In terms of healthcare, Froelich said he is in favor of “Obamacare”, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and said that the Republicans' idea of privatizing Medicare will “bring this country back fifty years.”