Interview with Shawn Klein for Town Council


Name: Shawn Klein, MD
Current Occupation: Cataract Surgeon
Education: Burnet Hill, Heritage, Livingston High ’91, University of Pennsylvania ’95, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers
Family: Wife, Cindy; Jack 5, Leo 3.  Jack started kindergarten at Collins this year.
Years Lived in Livingston: Since 1977, with interruptions for school and medical training

Q: Why are you running for Town Council?

A: I am a product of Livingston.  I was born at Saint Barnabas.  I went to Burnet Hill, and then Heritage and I graduated from Livingston High School in 1991.  I left Livingston for a while after that (probably because there are no good colleges in town), and I went to the University of Pennsylvania.  Then I went to medical school at Rutgers, and did further training for Ophthalmology in New Jersey, New York and Chicago.  I met my wife, Cindy, and I brought her back here.  My parents live in Livingston, my twin sister lives in Livingston with her family, and now my children, Jack and Leo, both born at Saint Barnabas, are growing up in Livingston and are entering the public schools. 

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Out of my seven closest high school friends, six moved back here.  And there is a reason for this.  When you are starting a family and you are looking for great neighborhoods, wonderful schools and proximity to New York City, the decision is easy: Livingston is the place that people come back to.

Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job?  What qualifies you for it?

A: For the last several years I have been involved on multiple committees and spent my time volunteering for the town.  I have served on the 20/20 Committee, which has been responsible for implementing some big ideas in town, including the shuttle to New York.  I have served on the Recycling Committee which has been responsible for the extremely successful electronic recycling events at the Senior Community Center on Hillside.   For the last two years, I served on the Zoning Board where I was recently honored to be elected by the members to be the vice-chairman.  

My experience has put me in a position to understand how town government works and it has allowed me to begin to build the relationships which I think are the key to getting things done.  I think that I am ready for the next step and I want to be your Town Councilman.

Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?

A: Getting taxes under control is the most important issue facing Livingston.  Since 2009, our ratables are down $433 million dollars and much of that is due to the closing of businesses in town.  Empty storefronts mean less revenue coming in to town cofferswhich makes it difficult to keep taxes down while maintaining the services we all expect and enjoy.  To fix this, we need to make Livingston an attractive place for businesses.  I have heard complaints from builders and developers who feel that completing projects in Livingston is difficult because the town can be hard to deal with.  We need to change this.

Luckily, the town has already taken steps to address this crucial issue.  The PATH program is now in place which designates a single person at the building department to serve as the contact point developer with the purpose of streamlining communication.  But this is just one step in the right direction. We cannot stop there.

Once elected, I will seek to convene a panel of developers involved in the town’s recent major projects.  We need to be able to assess what we have done well, what we need to do better, and how the town can help to incentivize future projects.  The town has an important role in enforcing compliance of our ordinances but time delays and associated financial burdens need to be minimized.  For example, there should be a mechanism in place which allows for occasional additional meetings of the Zoning and Planning Boards.

The town has taken recent steps to increase the types of improvements that can be approved without having to go before the full planning board.  We need to continue and expand this effort.

Lastly, Livingston can assist new and existing businesses by establishing a PACE program for the town.  A PACE program allows for a broad range of green building improvements (including HVAC, windows, lighting, insulation, solar panels, etc) to be financed through a third party, using the town’s assessments as a mechanism for repaying the loan.  Buildings will become more valuable and the savings in energy cost would be greater than the cost of loan repayment which would benefit any business’s bottom line.  

Q: What other issues are important?

A: Livingston must strive to be as sustainable as possible.  For me, this is a moral issue.  Reducing fossil fuel consumption helps to ensure our climate security, and it is geopolitically beneficial since it lowers fuel demand which strikes against ISIS, and other bad actors like Russia.  When the 29,500 people in Livingston think globally and act locally, we can make a difference.

But, besides a moral imperative, we should remember that “being green, earns green for the greens”.  That is, being sustainable makes money for the Lancers.  Last year, the town earned $200,000 from the sale of our recyclables.  This was without full participation of our businesses, hospitals and country clubs.  We can do even better. 

Livingston has seized other opportunities as well.  Each year, the town saves money on our energy costs from solar panels we have installed.  We have also made money on the sale of SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates) generated by our solar panels. 

We can do more.  Studies have shown that heat generated from our solid waste at our sewage plant can be used to create usable energy.  Food waste can be valuable as well.  We need to explore all of our choices and any future options which may be viable and valuable for us.   

Q: Tell us about your other career.

A: I am an ophthalmologist specializing in laser cataract surgery and LASIK.  I have been fortunate to be able to work with my father, Warren, another Livingston resident.  We have offices in Roseland and Elizabeth. 

To be a successful surgeon you need to be prepared, you need to be creative, and you need to deliver.  Eye surgery is about problem solving.  I will bring my problem solving mentality to my work as a Town Councilman.

I went in to medicine because it was a way to make an important difference in people’s lives.  Running for Town Council is an extension of my desire to make a positive impact.  Livingston is a town of about 29,500 people and I have heard an estimate that that increases to 50,000 during the day.  This is a large amount of people.  If I can help so many people get value more for their tax dollars, or lower their carbon footprint to increase our climate security, or if I can improve the lives of that many people better, that will be a great achievement. 

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