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 Democratic Township Council Candidate Rina Franchino for Week 1.

Week 1 Questions:

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  • Why are you Running for Office?
  • What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the elected office you are seeking?
  • What do you think the major issues facing Berkeley Heights are at this time?

Why are you running for office?

Berkeley Heights is my hometown.  I’ve lived here for almost 30 years; my husband Frank and I chose to raise our family here - our daughter, Ava, and our son, Leo.  We have a huge investment in the future of our town.  In 2015, I ran for Council and lost by fewer than 100 votes.  Quite simply, I ran then – and I’m running now - because I want to give back to my hometown and make it the best it can be for my children.  

I believe in Team Purple and am an advocate of Democrats and Republicans coming together to make our community even better.  Our motto – “Change We Can Agree On” – is about a collaborative government that respects our residents and seeks to put an end to the caustic political tone that divides our community.  It’s about creating positive change free of partisanship, as we work together to bring more services to our town at lower costs, improve our quality of life, and manage tough challenges together. 

What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the council?

As an educator, my job requires me to have the ability to listen to and learn about new ideas and policies, patience and understanding of what others think and feel, careful time management, and being a positive role model for children – all of which are important skills for serving in local government.  I am passionate about shared services and working with neighboring communities. We have seen great results from sharing services with Union County on both the salt dome and the Public Works Director.  The salt dome shared service agreement will bring in a $1 million over 20 years and by sharing the DPW Director, BH taxpayers are saving $70,000 a year. 

I want to serve as the Council’s point person to give shared services the attention it deserves, such as:

  • Pushing for BH to host a shared services summit in 2020, inviting neighboring township officials and department heads, shared service experts, and other experts so we can find ways to work together. 
  • This year, the State appointed two Shared Service Czars and allocated $10 million for collaborative efforts in New Jersey. Berkeley Heights needs to engage these czars so we can be at the front of the line when it comes to obtaining grant money.
  • Specifically in Berkeley Heights, we should look to partner with our neighboring towns to expand senior citizen programming.  In addition, we need to analyze and update our sewer agreements with neighboring towns to ensure we are receiving adequate amounts of revenue for services we are providing them. 
  • Working with Union County to identify ways we can preserve green space in our town.  There are only a few acres of land that can’t be built upon by developers, making it critically important to do all we can to preserve and create open space.

Shared services will promote fiscally responsible policies that will make communities like ours more affordable, especially for senior citizens who want to continue living here after they retire.

What do you think the major issues facing the town are at this time?

Residents for too long haven’t seen enough services coming to them for their hard-earned tax dollars. Under the leadership of Team Purple, Berkeley Heights has enacted new significant measures to reduce unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars, including “triggers” on previously open-ended contracts that require contractors to demonstrate the need for additional funding. They have saved tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars with smart, shared service agreements with Union County that have helped us pave roads, introduced new environmental programs, and implemented better communicating with residents. Going forward, we need leaders who will build on this record.  

Also, with all the forthcoming development projects, it is important to keep them on track and on time. PILOT revenue to be generated from those already-planned redevelopment projects is supposed to help pay off the municipal complex debts and offset the costs of other services needed to accommodate more residents. As of now, there is no “hammer” with which the town can use to ensure developers move quickly on their projects.  Julie and I have proposed that any future (re)development agreements include penalties for if/when developers do not meet certain project deadlines. 

This is the positive vision that Julie Figlar and I will bring to the Council if elected on November 5th