As Election Day creeps closer and candidate signs are going up, I wanted to take the opportunity to let Warren residents know about an excellent opportunity to learn about our candidates for Warren Township Committee and throughout the state by visiting the League of Women’s Voters of New Jersey website at www.vote411.org.  I would have relished the opportunity to debate the candidates running for Warren Township Committee in-person at a Candidates Forum, but sadly to date no such event has been agreed to and organized.  

Given the absence of for voters to attend a Candidates Forum for the two positions up for election on November 7th, I would like to at least provide everyone with the questions presented to the candidates for Township Committee by the League of Women Voters and my responses to those questions.  I believe a voter who is well educated about the candidates running for office is needed participant to contributes to and ensure a vibrant democracy.

Please read my responses below and visit http://depinhoforwarren.comfor more information.

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What do you consider the most important challenges facing your municipality? What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for addressing these challenges? Lastly, how do you intend to address these challenges?

The most important challenges facing our town are managing the Supreme Court mandated obligations to conform to the mandate from the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and ensuring our town’s Master Plan for development is serving the best interests of our residents.  While our town has been working on COAH requirements since the 1980s and has provided over 1200 affordable housing units between 1987 and 2015, reaching a settlement by supplementing the fair share plan and adjusting to comply before the temporary immunity expires on January 2018 is most important.  The Master Plan needs to continue to evolve in a fair and prudent manner so as to maintain the rural character of Warren while ensuring residents’ concerns regarding traffic, development, recreation, open space and services are heeded and incorporated.   

 

My work experience and education as an engineer and lawyer prepared me to be an effective problem solver that can effectively advocate our resident’s best interests.  I intend to apply my skills to find the best solution to the COAH requirements, and bring fresh ideas, an inclusive approach, and a commitment to government transparency to effectively incorporate resident’s concerns into the evolution of the Master Plan.

What, if any, new proposals for local ordinances and/or resolutions do you think are needed, and please explain why you believe this is so?

I would propose an ordinance to protect and preserve the visual character of the community with respect to the installation of cell towers, including but not limited to reviewing and potentially amending zoning restrictions, design regulations, standards of care, co-location requirements, penalties, etc.. While this issue is of paramount concern to residents of the Greenwood Meadows community, it isn’t limited to those developments with underground utilities.  One of our existing township council members was surprised by a cell tower that was installed in recent years very near to his home, and he purportedly didn’t remember receiving notice about it and thus had no chance to oppose its installation.  

Such as ordinance is needed to protect our residents’ property values.  Adopting such an ordinance should facilitate having more discussions where tower installers could reengineer their systems to mitigate our residents concerns and minimize any negative impacts.    

A municipality has two budgets - the annual operating budget and a capital budget. What are your priorities for each of these budgets? Please specifically address whether the previous year's goals are goals you think are properly identified as priorities.

Both budgets require sound financial stewardship and I support wise investment in a capital program especially where benefits pay off in the long run.  Continued vigilance is needed to evaluate operating expenses and I advocate periodic reviews of existing expenses to identify ways to reduce spending.  While I generally agree with previous years goals for both the operating and capital budgets, I would have advocated that township residents have had the opportunity to vote to approve the building of the new Municipal Building.  While the new building is beautiful and address space needs, future plans regarding the existing building were not truly vetted.  

My priority for the capital budget is to invest in new technologies that deliver better services to our residents, such as GPS tracking for snow removal.  Another priority for the capital budget is to invest in emergency notification systems and equipment that improve the town’s abilities to respond more effectively and communicate better in times of need.  A priority for the operating budget is to quickly determine how best to minimize costs for and effectively utilize assets like Wagner Farm and the old Municipal Building in the future.  Another priority in the operating budget is to develop programs to support the various businesses in our community and enhance the reputation of our town, such as establishing and promoting a Restaurant Week.