BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the November 5 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Republican Township Council Candidate Manuel "Manny" Couto for Week 3.

Week 3 Question:

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Please give the definition of transparency in politics and how would you try and expand it? Change is often used as a campaign buzzword -- name the most important things you believe need change and why?

I believe I stated it best at the debate. We all need to get involved. For me, leading by example is setting the best example. I have been transparent and working for what I’ve felt is best in the community by taking an active role in the community and listening to what community members have to say.

For the last three years, I have been transparent, honest and active in the community. I have stated my position and thoughts as a member of the Township Council. I have explained my rationale regarding how and why I voted for certain positions, all for the short- and long-term benefit of the community.

The following is a sample of ways that I’ve demonstrated transparency - all through community involvement and my ability to understand residents’ concerns:

  • Rolling up my sleeves (literally!) to help clean up our community, assisting the Environmental Commission, Sustainable Berkeley Heights, and other groups at in-town litter clean-up events. As a result of this participation, I have pulled sinks and counters from local streams and have gathered hundreds of cigarette butts from along the roads.
  • Assisting seniors and those community members needing assistance with snow removal and ice removal. Once again, it’s been my pleasure to roll up my sleeves and shovel driveways and walkways so that my fellow community members had clear walkways and safe paths to walk upon.
  • Advocating on behalf of and assisting seniors in working together with the Township Council to improve transportation in the form of a newer bus with more user-friendly access. I’ve also attended several meetings “seniors only” meetings and bingo sessions to hear and understand their concerns while enjoying their company.
  • Attending many of our Recreation Department’s events, and enjoying the concert nights with our residents in Memorial Field and, most recently, at Connell Park.
  • Supporting our township’s rich heritage and embraced its diversity by attending events sponsored by the YMCA and The Diversity Council.
  • Being available both before and after Town Hall meeting to speak to our residents.
  • Working with the Downtown Beautification Committee on design standards, Restaurant Week, and Beauty & Wellness Week in support of our business community.
  • Attending Boy Scout Breakfasts, Good Scout Awards, and Rotary Breakfasts to support the good things that are happening in Berkeley Heights.
  • Supporting community events, including Winter Walk and visits from the Easter Bunny and Santa as well as the famous fireworks at Mt. Carmel.  
  • Attending The Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad’s Open Houses, Bake and Flower Sales, and Anniversary Events as well as supporting the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) Referendum. I have transparently supported the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Fire Department, even going so far as to offer to make meatballs for the Spaghetti Dinners.
  • Supported the Police Department’s events.

In addition to the above, I have been transparent to the community in my support of both the settlement of our Affordable Housing Agreement and the long term vision for our new Municipal Complex which will house our new Town Hall, Library, Community Center, and Police Station.

It was Heraclitus that stated, “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change.” While not all change may be welcome, it is inevitable. It takes listening to those affected to handle change effectively. And it takes a balanced and diverse Township Council.

As it was said at last year’s debate, “Making sure there is balance in our township and diverse opinions and voices.” Gentiana Brahimaj and I guarantee that diversity by keeping the Township Council balanced between the two political parties. We provide continuity of community support, a diversity of work backgrounds, and business experience. This is a path that I undertook three years ago, and I ask the community to support that commitment by electing Gentiana and me to the Township Council on November 5th, Column B.