Editor's Note: This is Part II of a series. Click HERE for Montville Township Committee Candidates' Debate - Part I
MONTVILLE, NJ – Residents gathered at the Senior House on Oct. 25 to hear Montville Township Committee candidates Matthew Kayne, Emily Ryzuk, Lucy Tullo and June Witty debate.
With long-term committee members Mayor Jim Sandham and Deb Nielson stepping down, two positions will be opening on Jan. 1, 2018. Kayne and Witty are running for the Republican party, while Ryzuk and Tullo are running for the Democrat party.
The candidates were given two minutes to make opening statements, answered seven questions, and closed for two minutes. The debate was moderated by TAPinto Montville owner and publisher Hope White. The order for answering questions was rotated, but candidates were kept in the same order for opening and closing statements.
5. When a resident comes to you with suggestions for improvements to the township such as a town center, a town pool or tennis courts, sidewalks along all of Changebridge or simply a request to lower taxes, how will you answer that resident?
Kayne said he has nine years of experience answering questions and research needs to happen for large projects, with committee members and administration.
Ryzuk said it’s important to listen to citizens but to also encourage them to join a committee, to come to meetings and get involved – community engagement. But promises can’t be made without encouraging citizens to come forward at meetings, she said.
Witty said the town had wiggle room for fees when a citizen came to them in the past regarding a hookup fee. She also said she would like to start “town hall meetings” on a Sunday instead of a weeknight when township committee meetings are held.
Tullo likened connecting with residents with due diligence. She said she wanted to change how residents are treated at township committee meetings. At both township committee and board of education meetings, when public portion is opened, residents state their question and sit back down; there is no dialogue, and Tullo wishes to change that system.
“Without a dialogue, nothing is going to get understood,” she said. “You’re not going to understand what people are asking for.”
Tullo said there are many ways to connect with citizens, citing the website as being poor, using social media, and getting the word out.
6. What do you bring to the dais that will help you make decisions for the township?
Tullo said she brings her experience as a mother and a passionate woman, and someone who has lived in town for 25 years and been an educated and involved citizen.
“My passion for knowledge and being open-minded is very important,” she said. “I’m not bringing any pre-conceived notions to the township committee. I want to see a new voice, not the same old, same old.”
Kayne said he has a proven sense of leadership, respect and collaboration that anyone who has seen him in action has had the opportunity to view.
“Listening is an important trait, but most importantly hearing every side of an issue,” Kayne said, “and bouncing ideas back and forth before making a decision.”
Ryzuk said she has a lot of experience with program development at the county level in a hospital setting, funding a program and making difficult choices, “like cutting items you don’t want to cut.” She said she is a fair-minded person with a new voice that represents the constituents.
“It has been the same team over and over again for a long period of time, and at this time we need to change things up,” she said.
Witty said she is a new voice, too, who has never held an office before, who grew up here and raised her family here, and volunteered in Montville or related to Montville. She has a Master’s degree and is a forensic nurse, she said.
“I think medical people approach things differently [gestured to Kayne] – we’re pragmatic – we look at something and if there’s an issue we evaluate it right away to see if our outcome needed corrections or changes,” she said.
7. What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election and specifically how would you approach the issue?
Witty said the opiate issue is most important because it affects “all of us at some level. If you’re lucky enough not to have someone you love who has an addiction, you may be affected by robberies, car theft and other activity.”
Tullo said if the current [national] administration removes property tax deductions, the town will suffer because property values will decrease.
“People will not be able to move into newer homes, people will have a hard time selling their homes, and we need to look out for our town on a township level and be careful of what’s trickling down from the top,” she said.
Kayne said affordable housing is an important issue because, with Lincoln Park accepting 220 units, the face of Lincoln Park will change.
“You will see the difference in Lincoln Park fairly soon,” he said. “To accept the type of numbers that the Fair Housing Council is telling us, would change the nature of our town. We, as a community, need to look into every aspect being proposed by judges who are out of our town by interveners who are only going to benefit from a financial standpoint and do our homework as citizens of this town to make sure that we do the best in protecting ourselves.”
Ryzuk said that several positions in town are under-staffed or partly staffed. When police officers retire they are not being replaced, there is a part-time zoning officer who is making sure that bushes are trimmed, and Ryzuk said it’s important to make sure “are we manning our posts?”
Ryzuk said everyone running loves the community. She said she brings useful experience, energy and passion. She has a strong voice that will stand up to party politics that have dominated “for so long,” she said.
“I want a place to raise my children that is environmentally safe, and socially engaged, with information easily accessed by our residents, where heroin and opiate deaths are not on the radar, let alone number one in the county,” she said.
Montville is a gorgeous village and one she is proud to call home, Ryzuk said, and she said she would work hard to get the facts to residents, listen to the needs of the community, and when there is not a clear path forward, she will do everything in her power to find one, she said.
Witty said all four candidates want to do what they think is best for the community. In order to prepare for the position, she has attended township committee meetings, meetings with department heads and staff, and has learned the inner workings of the township, she said.
“Matt and I are ready to continue our dedication to the community as township committee members,” she said.
She has been meeting with residents since April, she said.
“I feel I can connect with and understand our residents’ needs and concerns as well as bring my passion, experience and leadership to the township committee,” she said.
Tullo said she is not a politician but she is extremely passionate, and loves her town. In her role as a theater professional, she has taught people and has learned to listen and work well with others, talk to others, and do her research.
“I do not have an agenda, and I come to the table as an independent voice,” she said. “I’ve connected to the residents already, because I’m part of this community as a mother, as someone who has been on committees, as a community leader.”
A dialogue is what is needed to make the community great, she said. She is also not looking at the community in the same way, she said, with the same eyes, and she wants to challenge the status quo.
Kayne called all four candidates potential new voices at an important time when the committee is losing two members with vast experience.
“Their replacements need to understand how their leadership and decisions impact the residents of our town,” Kayne said. “What separates the two teams is that June and I have the depth and breadth of experience and familiarity with our town and our citizens.”
Kayne said when he was elected to the board of education he quickly learned the facets of the job. He said he is in a similar position, broadening the scope from the children of the district to the entire town.
“The difference now is I have nine years of experience to draw upon,” he said.