I had an opportunity to attend the candidate’s forum in person. While I respect each of the candidates for mayor and council for putting themselves in this spotlight, I was concerned at the number of inaccurate statements made by candidate Brindle and her team, particularly related to the central issues of their campaign. Those inaccuracies, together with links to the correct information, are below. I’d encourage each resident to review for themselves:
Candidate Brindle and her team have made adoption of a new master plan the central tenet of their campaign. This is where the lion’s share of inaccuracies occurred. Paramount among the mistakes is that candidate Brindle and at least two members of her team incorrectly stated that Westfield has not re-examined its master plan since 2002. Westfield last re-examined its master plan in 2009. A link to the re-examination report on the town website is attached. http://www.westfieldnj.gov/vertical/sites/%7B57704CD8-22F3-44AB-BC43-B0B1CE80A3BB%7D/uploads/43_2009_Master_Plan_Reexamination_Report.pdf
This mistake is more than a simple error. State law requires master plans to be re-examined every 10 years. By claiming that Westfield has not re-examined its master plan since 2002, candidate Brindle and the council candidates on her slate have falsely alleged that Westfield violated wtate law. This is a concerning level of carelessness.
Candidate Brindle’s statement that our master plan is out of date is also incorrect. Westfield updated the land use element of its master plan as well in 2009, and the housing and fair share elements of the master plan in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively (http://www.westfieldnj.gov/masterplan, scroll down). The adopted Downtown Task Force recommendations update the Downtown portion of the master plan. Westfield’s work to keep its master plan up to date was a significant factor in the denial of the East Broad Street Townhouse application and saving of the Pierson house from demolition. Both the attorney for the opposing residents and the board of adjustment cited the currentness of the master plan as the basis for denying that application.
Candidate Brindle compared Summit’s 2016 master plan re-examination report to the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force Report, incorrectly describing those documents as each town’s master plan. The two documents are completely different in scope, and neither document is a master plan. Links to Summit’s and Westfield’s actual master plans are below, taken from each town’s website. https://www.cityofsummit.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1396; http://www.westfieldnj.gov/masterplan.
Positively, Westfield can point to results: the September 2017 Supplemental Task Force report details 29 task force recommendations completed in the five months since the task force report was issued.
Finally, candidate Brindle has stated that as mayor, she would replace our master plan. Master plans are foundational documents that are re-examined, not replaced. Re-examining a master plan is also not within a mayor’s responsibility. Under state law, planning boards prepare and re-examine master plans, not mayors.
Candidate Brindle claimed the Downtown Task Force was all Republican, except for a Libertarian. This is incorrect. The chair of the task force is a Democrat. The remaining 11 members are Republican, Democrat, Unaffiliated and Libertarian.
Candidate Brindle claimed town taxes have risen 65 percent during the mayor’s tenure. This is not correct. Town taxes have increased 33 percent in terms of assessed value since 2007, not adjusted for inflation. In the past eight years, town taxes have grown only 2.25 percent per year. Source: Union County tax data from NJ State Treasury website.
Candidate Brindle stated Westfield should aim to attract business such as Boston Consulting and McKinsey. She did not recognize that Avalon Bay is moving their corporate headquarters to Westfield.
Candidate Habgood stated that Westfield excised the library from the town portion of our taxes to keep under the state-mandated cap. This is not correct – a 2011 state law required all municipalities to remove library appropriations from a municipality’s general fund. http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2011/03/taxes_paid_to_support_librarie.html
Candidate Habgood also identified sewer and conservation center fees as additional taxes, but did not disclose that the conservation center fee has been decreased the last two years, and the sewer fee decreased incrementally this year.
Candidate Dardia claimed Westfield did not apply for grants for trees. Westfield received tree planting grants in 2017 and in 2016, when the Union County Means Green program was first initiated. https://patch.com/new-jersey/westfield/westfield-receive-57k-youth-programs-trees; http://www.nj.com/suburbannews/index.ssf/2016/10/union_county_awards_grants_for.html; http://ucnj.org/garden-grants/
Candidate Contract claimed surplus dollars were not identified in the town’s budget. A copy of the municipal budget document, which includes a line item for anticipated surplus, is on the town website. http://www.westfieldnj.gov/vertical/sites/%7B57704CD8-22F3-44AB-BC43-B0B1CE80A3BB%7D/uploads/2017_Municipal_Budget_Document.pdf.
Candidate Mackey stated she would like to see an ordinance prohibiting utilities from opening up recently paved roads, and requiring them to repair those roads in the event they do open them. She need only look at Westfield’s General Ordinance No. 2077, passed in December 2016, which provides for exactly this. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/westfield/articles/new-law-in-westfield-aims-to-stop-utilities-from
The failure — despite time to prepare and a paid campaign manager — to research the main points of a platform is a red flag. We should not replace a mayor and councilpersons who have brought us financial stability, an increase in property values and an award-winning Downtown with “new voices” that haven’t taken the time to fully understand what they are saying.