Government

Democratic Bernards Twp. Committee Candidates Launch Campaign at Basking Ridge Gazebo

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Democratic candidates for Bernards Township Committee Bobby Mascia and Joan Bannan Harris. Credits: By Betsy Bacot-Aigner
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Democratic candidates for Bernards Twp. Committee Bobby Mascia and Joan Bannan Harris were joined by other Democrats to launch their campaign at the Allen St. gazebo. Credits: By Betsy Bacot-Aigner
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BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Democrats Bobby Mascia and Joan Bannan Harris, who are seeking election to the Bernards Township Committee this year, recently announced the official launch of their campaign at the Allen Street gazebo in downtown Basking Ridge.

Harris and Mascia, both officially endorsed by the local Democratic Committee, were accompanied by other Democratic candidates and Somerset County Clerk Steve Peter as they spoke about their goals and backgrounds at the gazebo, where local Township Committee candidates officially launch their campaigns. Harris ran a close race for Township Committee last year, and Mascia is a first-time candidate for Township Committee.

Parker and Tom Malinowski, candidate for U.S. Congress, were guest speakers. Candidates for Somerset County Freeholders Shanel Robinson and Sara Sooy, and Jacob Caplin running for Bedminster Township Committee, were also present. 

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Harris said the team's focus is to continue the conversation that she and Democratic candidate Sally Booth started last year. "It's time for a change and Bobby and I represent the best choice to bring not only fresh faces but new perspectives _ real change. As noted in our speeches, we will focus being fiscally responsible _ not only maintaining taxes, pay as you go, but avoiding wasting tax dollars on unnecessary legal, consultant and public relation fees. As leaders, we will make youth metal health a priority. We will advocate for smart development rather than over-development. We are committed to open transparent and inclusive government - ending the "closed club" mentality."

The Republican candidates for Bernards Township Committee have also launched their campaign at the gazebo. Their speeches are also online at TAP Into Basking Ridge.

The campaign speeches, as submitted by the candidates, are below:

JOAN HARRIS: 

Last fall while I was canvassing, I spoke to a gentleman who told me I had his vote if I could assure him of one thing. He asked me to promise I wasn’t a jerk. I quickly told him I was more than reasonably confident I was not a jerk and could keep that promise. This is how low the bar has been set. We need to raise it.

How do we do that? By electing Harris and Mascia, of course. As Township Committee members, Bobby and I will ensure fiscal responsibility, we will focus on the health and welfare of our community and we will commit to open, transparent and inclusive government.

Fiscal responsibility does not begin and end with maintaining taxes or pay as you go but, also recognizes it’s about not wasting your money in necessary legal, consultant and public relations fees. I believe it’s about careful consideration of every decision made and every proposed zoning ordinance to determine its potential impact on putting our tax dollars at risk.

Quality of life isn’t all about dollars, open space or services. It’s about smart development, not overdevelopment. It’s about supporting existing local businesses. It’s about people. It’s about inclusion, making our neighbors and township volunteers feel valued, heard and respected. It’s about supporting the most vulnerable members of our community when needed. Such as those left without power after a storm. And perhaps most importantly our children, who according to a recent school report are being seen in increasing numbers for mental health conditions.

Youth mental health is clearly an issue our township leaders must embrace because we know unaddressed mental health issues in this age group often leads to substance abuse disorders later on. We can’t tackle the opioid crisis without addressing youth mental health. That’s why I took a week off last month to become a Certified Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor and why I volunteered to teach his course members of our community, including the teachers and school administrators over the summer.

Finally, township business must be conducted openly and not behind closed doors. This is what residents want and expect. We don’t want a revolution, we simply want open, transparent and inclusive government drawing from the many different voices in our community. Fresh faces or new sets of eyes are not enough if the voice remains the same. It’s much like a choir. Each voice is different but working together they can harmonize and the sound becomes richer and fuller. One voice fills in where another may fall short. One may amplify another so it can be heard. They may be different, but they all share a common love, music. The same holds true for government. One voice can’t harmonize, different voices refusing to harmonize is just unpleasant chaotic noise; but different voices working in harmony brings balance and serves the common love shared by all of us, the love of town and country.

It’s our time, friend, bring your voices to the voting booth in June and again in November and vote for Harris and Mascia _ the choice for real change. Thank you.

BOBBY MASCIA: 

I want to thank everybody for coming out. It's amazing to be a part of this group and putting together this campaign. It's great to see the support that we've been getting since we've decided to run. We were at the Holi celebration last weekend and the support was overwhelming. For those of you that frequent Starbucks _ fun fact, last years candidates lost by less Stars than it takes to get a free coffee at Starbucks. Joan and Sally Ran a great race last year. We need to keep the momentum going for what I'm hoping is a strong victory for us this year. 

I’m the newcomer in this race. My wife Brooke and I have been living in Basking Ridge for the past seven years. We have three children, our eight year old, Aidan, seven year old, Danny, and our daughter Riley will be three later this year. With three young children, we have many more years in this town. After going through our recent renovation, we may never leave. 

You know when I was growing up my parents moved us to the border of Warren and Green Brook. When I got in the high school and I found Basking Ridge I got mad at my parents and wondered why we didn't we move here. When my wife and I decide to get married, my incredible wife (who hails from Connecticut) she said 'If I have to live in New Jersey, I get to pick the place." I told her I have the town for her and when I drove her through here she fell in love. This past winter I was joking… the weather was bad ….it was dreary….I said to my children, pack up your stuff we're moving to Florida! My oldest son looked at me and said, "Absolutely not Daddy. I love where we live, we're never leaving here. "

We love this town for its safety, kindness of the community, school systems, and charm. We want to preserve those attributes. We elect our representatives with the hopes that they will look out for our best interests while we do everything else as the busyness of life consumes our time.

While everything is good and status quo, people can go about their lives. But that hasn't been the case for us. We've had some troubling and complex run-ins with plans that have brought us into litigation, bad press around the township's tactics, and a lack of transparency that has led to mistrust. Now when I take on a new client in my financial planning firm, the first thing we do is set expectations. I let everyone know there are two things that are most important in creating a new relationship, communication and transparency. Our goal here is to bring those same thought process to the committee. 

When we win, the agenda items that cross our desk have to pass our litmus test. Does it make for the best Bernards Township; are we transparent in our communication with the residents, and what is the tax impact?

Does it make for the best Bernards Township –  not a good Bernards Township. Not an adequately made decision in Bernards Township. The best Bernards Township. 

How does it effect our quality of life? Land Use decisions like the quarry need careful consideration, planning, transparency, and weigh in from the community, working with the Board of Education on mental health awareness, the right safety measures in our schools to protect our children.

Issues of safety and convenience, such as the upkeep of the town infrastructure, clearing roads during snow, and infrastructure maintenance - knowing what and where are these issues. Let's calendar out when we can approach these issues so people know we are aware and have it on our agenda. We can't afford to fix everything at once and all the time, but we need to prioritize and inform the public.  

What are some of the struggles of our local businesses and how can we help to bring businesses to town and keep them in town?

Our second pillar in passing the litmus test  _ transparency _ there have been issues that have come up, in some cases a year or two later, that could have been resolved if we the people were informed and there was more transparency in the administration. Township officials are representatives for the people by the people. We need to make sure everyone’s voices are heard and considered 

Thirdly, efficient use of our tax dollars:  As a financial planner, there is a lot of tax planning we do.  Avoidance, not evasion. With business owners, it's working in their profit and loss statements, finding ways to reduce their costs, and increase their profitability. All the skills and mindset that I will bring to the committee. When I speak with business owners, especially ones that have been at their business for a while, we talk a lot about what they are doing, if it is working any why or how they came to that process. Often when something is not working, they are too close to it to tell if it isn’t working.  

Then when I ask them, so what is the thought process on why you are doing this a certain way, more often than not the response is, "That’s because that’s the way we have always done it."  It's amazing how much a fresh set of eyes from an outside view can open up possibilities for improvement.    

When I was first approached to put my name in the hat for the call for candidates, I contemplated and graciously declined the offer. Like most people in this town, most people everywhere, I'm preoccupied with my life of running my business, coaching my kids, and trying to spend some quality time with Brooke.  But then I started to think a little bit more and read more and develop a deeper understanding about what's going on in this town. And I didn’t like it. 

I'm the type of person that takes action. I'm not the type of person that sits on his hands and hopes that things get better. 

And all of the things that have come up, especially the position that we were put in as a town getting dragged into litigation that could have been avoided, really got me thinking that I need to step in and try and make a difference. 

I started by telling you the reasons I came to this town. 

Think of the reasons you came here _ stayed here_ perhaps are bringing up or brought up your kids here, or came here for the lifestyle 

Joan and I are here to bring that fresh new perspective: A challenger's perspective, not a counterpart's perspective as the current committee sits. We are here to represent you to make the best Bernards Township.  

We ask for your vote this November to help bring some real change, not just a change of faces, to the leadership in this town. Thank you for your support, your time, and your vote! 

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