RED BANK, NJ: TAPinto Red Bank posed a series of questions to the candidates running for borough council.  Their responses are to provide the residents insight on their personal background as well as their views on issues and the future of Red Bank.

TAPinto Red Bank will offer the responses of all the candidates this week.

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Red Bank Council Republican candidate Jonathan Penney responses:

TAPinto:  Tell us about yourself, where you grew up, your family life and how long you’ve been living in Red Bank

Penney:  I grew up in Lincroft, since the age of five, but Red Bank has always been a big part of my life.  I remember when my father, a long-time Riverview physician, would take me to the hospital with him and then take me for pizza in the afternoon in downtown Red Bank. 

When my fiancée and I were looking to move in together, Red Bank was the easy choice for a young couple and aspiring family.  There’s always something to do, it’s easy to walk our dog Baron, and we like having easy access to Juanito’s grocery.  We have now been living in our apartment on Prospect Ave. for nearly five years.

I am employed as staff counsel for a major insurance company and licensed to practice law both in New Jersey and New York.

TAPinto: Why are you running for Borough Council?

Penney:  There are multiple reasons I am running for Red Bank Council. When I was asked to run, I was honored to be Red Bank’s first Mexican-American Borough Council candidate.  I believe I am uniquely positioned to give a voice to a large portion of the town which is often ignored by the council.  I was very disappointed that the Council failed to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month this year.  I am also disappointed the Council does not have the ability for Spanish speakers to comment at Council meetings.

Another reason why I am running is because I believe I can help bridge the political divide which too often holds Red Bank back.  While I am running on the Republican ticket, my fiancée is a strong-willed registered Democrat, and we have both learned that national politics has no place in Red Bank politics.  

While we have been door-knocking and listening to Red Bank resident’s concerns this fall, we quickly understood that the town’s concerns are diverse and separate from party ideology.  We should all do what’s in the best interest of Red Bank residents.  Period.  I am not going to worry about whether I’m currying favor with state party operatives or wealthy business owners.

I am also running for Council because I truly believe I can do better for the people of Red Bank than any Washington politician ever could.

TAPinto: What are the most significant issues that Red Bank is facing and what are your positions on those issues?

Penney:  I think there are too many out-of-town interests influencing the Red Bank Council.  I would like to wield the power of the council for our residents.  While Red Bank will always be a regional business hub, we must ensure that their interests never override those of us who live, invest, and raise our children in the town.  I would also like to create a more open and transparent forum for local business owners and residents to interact.

I would also like to create a Red Bank that is more integrated.  Too often Red Bank can feel like multiple towns within one.  What I have learned while knocking on doors in different parts of town is that each neighborhood faces different issues.  East Side, West Side, Downtown, that’s not the way to build a community.  We should be “One Red Bank.”

TAPinto:  What policies, procedures, and Borough ordinances will you, if elected, advocate to be changed, and what changes do you suggest?  What is your first priority?

Penney:  To have only one priority would be a total disservice to the residents of Red Bank.  It’s not about me and my agenda.  It’s about the needs of Red Bank residents.  I often feel the council has forgotten that.

With that said, my first priority would be to make our town budget and expenses more economical and transparent.  While many municipalities share services, Red Bank’s Council does not play well with others.  As a result, we spend far more on services than most towns.  And while businesses in town get tax breaks, the resident’s foot this ever-growing bill.  If we can reduce this spending, we can utilize the money better, whether it be by lowering property taxes or allocating more to our schools. 

I would also like to end partisan rancor on the Council.  If I am elected, I will fight vigorously for Red Bank to switch to a form of non-partisan elections.  This form of government has served towns like Asbury Park excellently as they have endured their economic boom over the past twenty years.

TAPinto: Why should the voters elect you to the Borough Council?

Penney:  The voters should do what their conscience dictates.  That being said, as an attorney, I believe I have the requisite skill, knowledge, and youthful energy to affect change.  I am unafraid to stand up to long-time policymakers who may have grown too indebted with favors or become too complacent to be effective.  

Too often people run for office because of the perks it comes with rather than because they have the know-how to actually govern and get things done.  I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

As a Council member I will prioritize two things that go hand-in-hand: accessibility and transparency.  A common complaint which repeatedly comes up when I talk to people is a lack of response from inquiries to the Council.  People often feel ignored when they have a problem. I will ensure the Council is as accessible as ever and that I’m personally available to assist people with their concerns.

Secondly, I will make sure the Council is far more transparent.  I will look to webcast and archive council meetings.  And I will seek to publish minutes both in English and Spanish. I will also hope to create meeting summaries so that laws and ordinances are put in plain language for people to better understand the new laws and ordinances.  This transparency will allow for more public debate of issues which will ultimately lead to a better Red Bank for all.

TAP: If you have any additional comments, please include them here:

First and foremost, I would like to thank God for allowing me the good fortune of this  unique and challenging opportunity.  I would also like to thank my fiancée Liza Benovenli for her resolute support in this endeavor. I know due to our political differences she was initially skeptical, but she has been a true pillar of strength for me during the campaign. 

And finally, I would just like to say that I have been incredibly heartened by the conversations I have had with Red Bank residents while campaigning door-to-door. In this toxic political climate, I was expecting some hostility, but I have to say, I have not really received any.  These conversations and interactions have made me very hopeful and even prouder of our town than I had been when I started.

Candidate debates are scheduled for Thursday, October 24th, 7:00pm at the River Street Commons, 49 Catherine Street, Red Bank.

To see the Red Bank District map, click HERE.

For voter information showing where you should vote, click HERE.

The General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 5th, 2019.

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