BRIDGEWATER, NJ - He has been involved in politics and government for the last 25 years, 12 of them in Bridgewater, and now Michael Kirsh wants to continue giving back to his home as a member of the township council.
Kirsh is running on the Republican ticket for one of two open seats on the township council.
“I am proud to be running with Matthew Moench for mayor and Timothy Ring for council as the team committed to preserving the residential character of our community and implementing strong, fiscally conservative budget principles,” he said.
Kirsh has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University and an M.B.A. from Rutgers University. He works as a marketing and business development professional.
He served on the township committee for three years in Green Brook, and one year as deputy mayor. In Bridgewater, he has served as vice chairman of the zoning board, and with the Bridgewater Republican Party as municipal chairman.
In addition, Kirsh has been a volunteer manager and coach with Bridgewater Baseball and Softball, and, in 2018, was principal driver of the fundraising raffle that allowed four 12U travel baseball teams, and more than 40 kids, to play at Cooperstown.
He has experience with land applications on the zoning board, and Kirsh said that, at this point, Bridgewater is nearly at complete build-out.
“A slow, traffic-choked drive on our main roads at peak times tells this challenging story in a more alarming way,” he said. “The residential character of our community is under attack along with our collective quality of life.”
“We must be exceedingly careful about the real and full impacts of any new development,” he added. “Projects that look pretty on paper, promise new tax rateables and make money for out-of-town developers, but leave us with the long-term mess, simply cannot happen.”
Kirsh said Bridgewater needs a thorough update of its master plan to account for current conditions and future needs. Any new development going forward, he said, should protect residents with reasonable restrictions.
“While Bridgewater hugely values the employment opportunities and tax contributions of our vibrant commercial sector and will remain ‘open for business,’ we must require that any new project place Bridgewater first,” he said. “The mayor and council must work collaboratively here to shape the face of Bridgewater for years to come.”
For example, Kirsh said, the much-publicized Center of Excellence is a “disaster,” and should go back to the drawing board to reflect the community better.
“Promised and required traffic improvements along 202/206, the north-south spine of Bridgewater, remains elusive,” he said. “Over the several years since planning for this project began, more questions have arisen than have been answered. The need for the proposed hotel seems to be very different now given all the other hotel projects within areas that are already zoned for this.”
Kirsh said that, if elected to council, he will work collaboratively with the mayor and council to appoint board members to strike a balance that complex projects require.
But also when it comes to change in the township, Kirsh said if he is elected he will work to demand a comprehensive and public report to the community within 90 days of taking office regarding roadwork and construction. From there, he said, they can generate a realistic plan to move forward.
“Piecemeal paving projects based on secret priority lists won’t cut it,” he said. “Any reasonable solutions must be considered here, from a greater focus on maintenance to packaging neighborhood projects together to partnering with neighboring communities or Somerset County to achieve optimal economies of scale.”
Kirsh said everyone in Bridgewater faces the same problem, that the town’s collective 200-plus miles of roads need work.
But of course, doing more work in town requires the funds, and Kirsh said government budgeting is not all that different from what happens in homes around town, identifying need versus want.
“The property tax is the most regressive tax since it essentially penalizes wealth the families accumulate through home ownership,” he said. “To make matters worse, high tax communities become places where nobody wants to live, threatening the high property values sought by those selling a home.”
Kirsh said local government budgets can be managed better when elected officials are willing to make tough decisions.
“And previous record is critical for informing future behavior,” he said. “The difference between the principal two mayoral candidates cannot be clearer here. While the current township council has approved multiple recent budgets with no tax increase, the next time our school board does the same, or even comes close, will be the first time.”
In terms of debt, Kirsh said Bridgewater should regularly pay as it goes instead of bonding.
In addition, Kirsh said, it is important for the mayor and council to develop a budget framework that extends for three years and beyond.
“By understanding significant changes on the horizon for tax revenues or spending needs, we can avoid expensive surprises while appropriately paying down and limiting debt,” he said.
Kirsh said he is running for council to ensure Bridgewater remains desirable and affordable, while the township council must exercise sound planning.
“Among the most important traits of an effective council person are vision, ability to listen, sound judgment, willingness to work toward the common goal and an understanding of the impact today’s actions have on the future,” he said. “I am running for office to do my part to give back to the community that provides a great life for my family.”