MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The three candidates running for the one open seat on the Maplewood Township Committee in the upcoming election on Nov. 5 met for a forum presented by the Hilton Neighborhood Association on Thursday evening at the DeHart Community Center. Incumbent Marlon Brownlee was joined by challengers Arthur Gartenlaub and Kurt Kiley to discuss a range of issues.

A full video of the event is available here, courtesy of SOMATelevision:

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Each candidate offered an opening statement that presented an overview of the issues central to his campaign.  Then each addressed a list of questions that had been presented to them prior to the forum.

In the order in which the candidates gave their opening statements:

Kurt Kiley expressed concern and disappointment that the current Township Committee does keep the public well informed and does not seek input from local residents on important issues, in particular, the redevelopment of the Post Office site. 

“We have a great number of professionals, brilliant people, that are effectively put on the sidelines during this redevelopment,” Kiley said.  “We had two committees, the Transportation Advisory Committee as well as the Economic Development Advisory Committee that consisted of residents, expert residents, that were both dissolved.  These two committees could have provided valuable input into the development of the Post Office property had they not been dissolved, and we are less for it.”

Marlon Brownlee focused his opening remarks on crime.  As Chair of the Public Safety Committee, he said that when he meets with residents, the topic they want to discuss is crime.

“The realty is that overall, crime is down, but we’ve had a number of high profile incidents lately and with all the online media, talk about each incident travels further and more quickly, so the perception is that crime is up,“ Brownlee said.  After the incident of shots being fired in Maplecrest Park, he organized a public meeting with residents and Police Chief Cimino.  As a result of that meeting, as head of the Public Safety Committee, he authorized new security cameras to be installed in the park as well as research into the township’s other parks.  He also authorized the increase in police overtime pay to allow police presence to be increased in areas where and when needed.

Arthur Gartenlaub focused on the lack of communications and transparency in Village government.

“It’s very simple.  We need to hear more and we need to get more people involved,” Gartenlaub said.  “We have a number of citizens who are experts who can help guide us, and certainly the Post Office is one of those issues right now.”

He is also concerned about the lack of a citizen budget advisory group.  He notes that such group used to exist and would prove helpful today, as the budget contains many line items that are not readily identifiable by the average citizen.  In a time when residents are so concerned about the high taxes being paid, having an outside group of citizens do a line item audit of the township budget would be helpful, he said.