LIVINGSTON, NJ- Running for two open seats on Livingston’s Town Council, Republican candidates, Chuck Granata and Allan Feid, and Democratic candidates, Al Anthony and Michael Silverman, participated in a public forum at the Old Guard meeting on Tuesday morning, at the Senior Community Center.
The candidates were provided seven questions ahead of time, to respond to throughout the forum.
In response to the first question, ‘What do you feel is a major role of a council member and what makes you feel you can fulfill this role?’, Granata opened the forum stating that due to his 24 years as a police officer, serving two terms on the Board of Education and being a Livingston resident for 15 years, he feels he is ready for the role.
Feid said that being a small business owner of Allan Feid Plumbing Inc. has allowed him to see what works and what doesn’t work throughout town. “I know how to run a business efficiently and this is the type of experience I will bring to the council,” Feid said.
Born and raised in Livingston, Democratic candidate Michael Silverman said he was and is still lucky enough to “reap the benefits of everything Livingston has to offer” and his presidency at Temple Beth Shalom will help him fulfill the position.
“Part of my experience is not only my community spirit, but my qualifications, as well,” Al Anthony said, referring to his positions on numerous clubs and organizations throughout Livingston as well as his Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Recurring topics throughout the forum were taxes and budget transparency to the public.
When asked the most pressing issue facing Livingston, the consensus was taxes.
“We knocked on over 2,000 houses and residents said taxes is the biggest issue,” Anthony said. “Taxes have gone up quite a bit, but with our qualifications and an open mind, we will see if we can tighten them up.”
Feid said that in 2012, Livingston increased spending by $3 million dollars. He added that when he first purchased his house, he was spending $7,500 in taxes and is currently spending over $17,000.
To back up Feid’s statement, Granata said that there has been a 12.3% increase in taxes.
When asked ‘How do you perceive current municipal spending and what measures would you take to reduce it?,’ Feid and Granata said that Municipal spending is too high.
“It’s no secret that spending is out of control in Livingston and we can’t do it anymore,” Granata said. “The town is in over $90 million dollars of debt which averages out to $9,000 a household.”
He added that all of Town Council’s projects are finished late and over budget, unlike the Board of Education’s projects.
Anthony and Silverman said they are not responsible for anything the town council has done thus far, but there should be more public input to the council.
“When questions are asked, they must be answered. We need to have a civilized discussion and come to a conclusion,” Silverman said.
Another topic for discussion was based on the question, ‘Our Township Manager’s salary range is $142,500 to $201,414. Is it necessary to pay in excess of $200,000 for a public employee position?’
“At first blush, it seems high, but we need to get in office and look at this further,” Anthony said. “We need to make sure taxpayers are getting every bang for their buck.”
In his response, Granata said that the salary is “absurdly high.”
“This is disgraceful that the Council approves this astronomical salary,” Granata said.
In closing statements, Silverman said that the upcoming election is very important for Livingston.
“Livingston needs change, it needs new blood, it needs Al Anthony and I,” Silverman said.
During Feid’s closing remarks, he made a reference to his family run plumbing business that has been in existence since 1955.
“I’ve seen the good and the bad,” Feid said. "I enjoy this town and I want to make it a better town. Take the plunge 2012.”
Registered voters will be given the opportunity to vote for the town council candidates in the general election on November 6.