MADISON, NJ – Four candidates, two Republicans and two Democrats, are running for two, three-year terms on the Borough Council. Democrats Ben Wolkowitz and Astri Baillie and Republicans John Hoover and Carmen Pico all bring specific skills and experiences to the table.
Questions from the audience ranged from taxes to sustainability, the Board of Health, open space and the abrupt firing and re-instatement of Borough Administrator Raymond Codey. The last question drew some of the most varied responses.
“It’s the reason I’m running,” Democrat candidate Wolkowitz said. He said he comes from a humble background and has seen how people abuse power. “I’ve never seen anything like it. No one apologized,” he said. “This was a truly low point. That’s not Madison.”
Baillie said she did not expect to run again after her latest term on council, which ended in 2010. She, too, found the issue to be a turning point. “It really made me mad. We don’t treat people like that,” she said. She recalled at the public meeting held in the Madison Presbyterian Church in February, “not one voice supported the council’s decision. We need accountability and to treat people with respect.”
Republican Hoover said, “It’s hard to disagree. I sat through all the meetings. Jim Burnet (assistant borough administrator) and Ray Codey handled it with grace and aplomb. We need to work collegially and as a team.”
Republican Pico said that everyone makes mistakes. “The general public does not know what went on in council chambers.” He said once the council realized that this was a mistake, “they did the right thing and corrected it.”
The candidates were each given time to introduce themselves and to make closing statements. Pico, who grew up in Madison, said, “I’m a hard working man. I love the town.” He noted he understands such issues as the condition of roads and numerous infrastructure challenges. If there’s an area he doesn’t understand, he will learn about it, he said.
Hoover said, “I don’t sit on the sidelines and critique. I do things.” He said he would maintain services while controlling costs, eliminate redundancies and work to preserve Madison’s “beautiful downtown.” Hoover has served as President of the Board of Health.
A question came up about the loss of three contracts with other towns. Wolkowitz said two of those that were lost were towns that had been with Madison’s health department for 30 years. He said the borough pays, yet the Board of Health is autonomous. Hoover responded that there is a CAP on how much the borough can fund. He added that, although two communities have notified the board, two more are on the brink of signing contracts. “All towns are seeking competitive bids,” he said.
All the candidates supported sustainability, although Hoover urged “taking a hard look at priorities.” The candidate agreed on open space and seeking grants for such projects as the Madison Recreation Center. Pico described the complex as “the best thing that has happened for the children in Madison” and that the children are the future.
In concluding statements, Baillie said, “I’m asking for your vote.” She vowed to keep an open and transparent government, expand shared services, seek bipartisan cooperation and restore balance. She would bring “experience, dedication and integrity,” she said, based on her 24 years of volunteering on council, the Planning and Zoning boards and other borough committees.
“Obviously, I would also like your vote,” Wolkowitz said. He said he and his running mate, Baillie, had challenged the Republicans to hold open discussions when issuing five working papers on their website. With a background in financial issues, he said, no one he hired had to ask him “Where do I stand? Where are we going? They know.” He said the same would be true of serving on council.