WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield candidates for mayor and ward council seats sounded off Oct. 24 at a forum sponsored by The Westfield Leader in conjunction with TV36. Lauren Barr of The Leader moderated.
When asked about how Westfield could be improved, Third Ward Council seat candidate David Oliveira, a Republican, said that, among other things, that he would make sure public safety officials are properly equipped and measures were taken to improve pedestrian safety, get the town a better return on taxes, that he would work with the Downtown Westfield Corporation and Chamber of Commerce and get more people to volunteer.
In his rebuttal, Democrat Matthew Sontz began by saying, “Let’s listen to our residents.” Sontz said he would like to see the council members take on less and delegate more to volunteers.
Regarding shared services, Sontz said he wanted to see the town save money with shared services, such as merging the municipal court with other towns’.
Oliveira countered that he had served on the Westfield Regional Health Department, which itself serves seven municipalities, and pointed out that he has experience in finance.
When questioned about the HAWK pedestrian-activated light and crosswalk on Central Avenue, Oliveira said he would continue to listen to input about the issue.
“I would move the light to the intersection of Central and Clover because it’s safer,” rebutted Sontz. He said that drivers frequently stop in the middle of the light and added, “It’s dangerous where it is and it needs to be moved.”
Sontz’s position on the fire department was that it needs more firefighters. “It’s sad that during a fire firefighters show up and have to stand outside,” he said.
Oliveira said that the fire department was fully staffed and pointed out that Westfield is one of the few towns in Union County to have a paid fire department.
Asked about creating new revenue, Oliveira said the council has to explore every opportunity possible, including grants and shared services and that he would use his experience and financial background to explore grant opportunities.
Sontz suggested adding sponsorship opportunities to town events, putting ad space on town properties and increasing shared services.
Sontz was asked if he thought the town was being responsible with purchases of a new fire truck and mobile command center.
To the fire truck he answered, “Yes.” To the command center, he said, “I don’t believe we need a mobile command center.”
Sontz said there should be more public meetings about spending and added, “If I’m on the town council, I’ll bring things like that back.”
In his rebuttal, Oliveira did not answer about the truck or the command center, but said that he wants to be on the finance committee and would use his experience as a CPA and a business administrator.
In closing, Oliveira said he would push for more street paving, put a renewed focus on pedestrian-friendly policies and bring fresh ideas to the council.
Sontz told the audience, “I promise that I’ll work hard for you every day.”
The entire debate will be available for viewing on TV36 and on The Westfield Leader’s Website, www.goleader.com.
To learn more about the candidates, visit our Candidates Statements section by clicking here.
To read our recap of the mayoral debate, click here. To read about the first ward candidate’s remarks, click here. To read about the fourth ward candidates' debate, click here. Republican Vicki Kimmins, running unopposed for re-election in the second ward, was absent from the forum.