SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Nearly 100 residents turned out for the South Plainfield mayoral and council debate on Wednesday night and the candidates spent much of the evening sparring over accomplishments, taxes, borrowing; Superstorm Sandy, public works and traffic.
Incumbent Mayor Matthew P. Anesh is seeking re-election against democratic challenger Chrissy Buteas. Incumbent councilmen Alex Barletta and Derrick White are seeking re-election against democratic challengers Jeffrey Seider and Joe Lambert.
In Mayor Anesh’s opening remarks, he touted his administration’s fiscal record saying, “South Plainfield is home to the third-lowest tax rate and second-lowest debt ratio in Middlesex County. The Borough’s finances are strong and they will continue to be so in 2015.”
In Buteas’ opening remarks she said, “I see traffic, budget concerns and overdevelopment that will impact the fabric of our community.”
Councilmen Barletta and White echoed the mayors’ comments about taxes and fiscal stability saying “we reduced taxes by $179.00 in 2010, and $88.00 of that tax cut is still in affect today.”
According to Barletta, it isn’t all just numbers. He said ‘in the past four years we have paved 33 roads, and in contrast the democrats in 2009, they paved just one.”
Council candidates Joe Lambert and Jeffrey Seider stressed the need to work better with Middlesex County as well as working with one another. “We must work together and govern from the middle,” Seider said. “Whether it be balancing budgets or negotiating labor agreements, we must find that common ground that protects our values while moving us forward.”
One of the more contentious moments of the evening centered around the former Motorola site on Durham Avenue. A question was asked of the Mayor regarding its status. Mayor Anesh said he met with dozens of potential purchasers, including GE Healthcare as well as the current developer and he said “the property will not be rezoned under his leadership.”
“I live on that side of town and we wholeheartedly do not want to see any redevelopment in any way shape or form to a residential standard," Buteas said. “It is surprising I heard more plans right now than I did for the past year. I’d like to know where those plans are being discussed with Jack Morris.”
In response, Anesh said, “Where do I have conversations with people? At Borough Hall, not at councilmen’s homes discussing personnel issues or jobs like the Democratic Party did in the past.”
The mayoral candidates sparred over traffic, both giving examples of traffic problems on Durham Avenue. Candidate Buteas questioned how McDonald's could be approved without a dedicated lefthand turning lane, and Mayor Anesh retorted saying the democrats approved two high-density housing projects, a strip mall and an office complex, all on Durham Avenue without requiring road improvements and now they are complaining about traffic?
In closing, the Democratic Team said they have the vision to handle the traffic, budget and public safety issues that challenge the Borough. They are not interested in looking back in the past, but the future for the Borough. For that the democrats asked the residents to vote for them on Election Day.
In closing, the Republican Team said they faced the challenges presented by Superstorm Sandy and the loss of State Aid. They said they met those challenges by cleaning up the Borough faster than neighboring towns after Sandy, having a lower municipal tax rate today than in 2009, and implementing a K9 Unit to enhance public safety. For this the republicans’ asked for the residents to re-elect them on Election Day.