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Get to know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Julie Figlar (D): Week 3 Question

Get to know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Julie Figlar (D): Week 3 Question

Please give the definition of transparency in politics and how would you try and expand it? Change is often used as a campaign buzzword — name the most important things you believe need change and why?

“Transparency” is the state of being “Transparent,” the latter of which means:

free from pretense or deceit, easily detected or seen through, readily understood, and/or characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.

In a nutshell, it means being straight with taxpayers, making the governing process as simple as possible so it is easy for residents to understand, and providing as much information as possible about township happenings, as well as the why and how decisions are made.

For Rina Franchino and I, transparency in local politics means the following:

  • Being open and accessible to the residents of Berkeley Heights. Whether this be out and about in the community, talking to residents and hearing their concerns and feedback, communicating with them on social media, being sure to respond to their emails and/or phone calls, and overall just being willing to not just hear them, but to listen to them, as well. Then acting on what we hear.
  • Not being afraid of pushing as much information out as possible through the many different communication venues we have available now, including our township website, official township and Council members Facebook pages, Instagram, newsletters and e-newsletters, TAP into Berkeley Heights, in-person community forums and videos, as well as Council meetings themselves. There is no “silver bullet” in this area but we should use all of these options to reach as many people as we can.
  • Educating residents not only about what we’re doing, but why and how it affects them. Residents appreciate straight, honest answers even if they don’t agree with the decision being made.

Based on these criteria, it’s safe to say that Team Purple has greatly improved transparency in local politics, and we want to join their efforts to expand on the progress that’s been made in this area.

These are some important changes that I would like to have effect if elected – and all are part of being transparent with our residents.

  • I want to improve our sports and recreation programs for children and families. Our Recreation Commission does a great job in all their programming and volunteers put a lot of effort into fundraising.  As an active PAL parent I know we have to build on our progress in this area and we need to give the Recreation Commission and its volunteers the tools to succeed.  I will work to bring together the different stakeholders in order to bring about these critical improvements. Adding more transparency here means having a Township Council member serve as a non-voting member of the Recreation Commission.  That member will be responsible for reporting on fields and recreation during Township Council meetings, helping ensure our elected officials are well aware of plans being discussed to make these much-needed improvements. This will also allow our local leaders – from the top down – to help secure the money and resources to meet our recreation goals.
  • We can’t afford to be in separate “silos” anymore; we must pool our collective resources, knowledge and experience and prioritize a long-term plan to not only improve and increase our playing fields and recreational opportunities, but in improving services for residents in all areas. One hand always needs to know what the other one is doing.
  • Long-term planning and responsible management of redevelopment projects that have PILOTs attached (payment in lieu of taxes) will lead to Berkeley Heights being better able to keep taxes down in the future.
  • We need to make sure more roads are repaired, and that they are fixed correctly the first time around. It’s frustrating to see roads like Dell or Riverbend being torn after they were paved because the initial work wasn’t done properly. So what are we doing to ensure that doesn’t happen? NOW, we are installing proper drainage underneath if roads need it before they are milled and paved, and we have hired a professional engineering company to design the roads projects, oversee them as they go, and make sure no vendor gets paid in entirety until the job is done to our satisfaction.

I encourage everyone to read more about Rina and me, and our detailed plans for Change We Can Agree On at www.bhteampurple.com. Please vote for Julie Figlar & Rina Franchino for Township Council on November 5th, Column A. Thank you for your support!

Get to know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Rina Franchino (D): Week 1 Question

Get to know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Rina Franchino (D): Week 1 Question

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 5 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Township Council Candidate Rina Franchino for Week 1.

Week 1 Questions:

  • Why are you Running for Office?
  • What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the elected office you are seeking?
  • What do you think the major issues facing Berkeley Heights are at this time?

Why are you running for office?

Berkeley Heights is my hometown.  I’ve lived here for almost 30 years; my husband Frank and I chose to raise our family here – our daughter, Ava, and our son, Leo.  We have a huge investment in the future of our town.  In 2015, I ran for Council and lost by fewer than 100 votes.  Quite simply, I ran then – and I’m running now – because I want to give back to my hometown and make it the best it can be for my children.

I believe in Team Purple and am an advocate of Democrats and Republicans coming together to make our community even better.  Our motto – “Change We Can Agree On” – is about a collaborative government that respects our residents and seeks to put an end to the caustic political tone that divides our community.  It’s about creating positive change free of partisanship, as we work together to bring more services to our town at lower costs, improve our quality of life, and manage tough challenges together.

What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the council?

As an educator, my job requires me to have the ability to listen to and learn about new ideas and policies, patience and understanding of what others think and feel, careful time management, and being a positive role model for children – all of which are important skills for serving in local government.  I am passionate about shared services and working with neighboring communities. We have seen great results from sharing services with Union County on both the salt dome and the Public Works Director.  The salt dome shared service agreement will bring in a $1 million over 20 years and by sharing the DPW Director, BH taxpayers are saving $70,000 a year.

I want to serve as the Council’s point person to give shared services the attention it deserves, such as:

  • Pushing for BH to host a shared services summit in 2020, inviting neighboring township officials and department heads, shared service experts, and other experts so we can find ways to work together.
  • This year, the State appointed two Shared Service Czars and allocated $10 million for collaborative efforts in New Jersey. Berkeley Heights needs to engage these czars so we can be at the front of the line when it comes to obtaining grant money.
  • Specifically in Berkeley Heights, we should look to partner with our neighboring towns to expand senior citizen programming.  In addition, we need to analyze and update our sewer agreements with neighboring towns to ensure we are receiving adequate amounts of revenue for services we are providing them.
  • Working with Union County to identify ways we can preserve green space in our town.  There are only a few acres of land that can’t be built upon by developers, making it critically important to do all we can to preserve and create open space.

Shared services will promote fiscally responsible policies that will make communities like ours more affordable, especially for senior citizens who want to continue living here after they retire.

What do you think the major issues facing the town are at this time?

Residents for too long haven’t seen enough services coming to them for their hard-earned tax dollars. Under the leadership of Team Purple, Berkeley Heights has enacted new significant measures to reduce unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars, including “triggers” on previously open-ended contracts that require contractors to demonstrate the need for additional funding. They have saved tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars with smart, shared service agreements with Union County that have helped us pave roads, introduced new environmental programs, and implemented better communicating with residents. Going forward, we need leaders who will build on this record.

Also, with all the forthcoming development projects, it is important to keep them on track and on time. PILOT revenue to be generated from those already-planned redevelopment projects is supposed to help pay off the municipal complex debts and offset the costs of other services needed to accommodate more residents. As of now, there is no “hammer” with which the town can use to ensure developers move quickly on their projects.  Julie and I have proposed that any future (re)development agreements include penalties for if/when developers do not meet certain project deadlines.

This is the positive vision that Julie Figlar and I will bring to the Council if elected on November 5th.

Get to know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Julie Figlar (D): Week 1 Question

Get to know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Julie Figlar (D): Week 1 Question

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 5 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Township Council Candidate Julie Figlar for Week 1.

Week 1 Questions:

  • Why are you Running for Office?
  • What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the elected office you are seeking?
  • What do you think the major issues facing Berkeley Heights are at this time?

Why are you running for office?

Earlier this year, my daughter asked me a question about what was going to happen to the Mondelli property across from Town Hall, and whether it was going to be a park. After inquiring with Mayor Angie Devanney, and learning it was going to be a small park along with some housing units, I realized I needed to roll up my sleeves and be part of the team that is working to ensure our town develops in a responsible way that benefits our community. I realized that I could play an important role in making Berkeley Heights an even a better town for my three daughters to grow up in.  That’s why I’m running for Township Council.

Together with Rina Franchino, I want to join Team Purple to bring about more Change We Can Agree On. We are running a positive, issues-driven campaign that focuses on how we can make Berkeley Heights government work better for everyone, building on the record of accomplishments already made in Year One.

What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the council?

Understanding our community and the needs of our residents is something I value and live every day. As educators and involved mothers of young children in town, Rina and I interact daily with members of  community – listening to your concerns, getting feedback on what you feel needs improvement, and how you want to make this town better for our children. Whether it is on the sports fields, at PTO events, neighborhood barbeques, the dance studio, Girl Scouts events or even the grocery store, we are part of the fabric that makes Berkeley Heights great.  Running for Council was a decision we made because we are here for the long run, and we’re ready to get to work!

What do you think the major issues facing the town are at this time?

There’s no doubt that our town could use more passive and active recreational space for our residents of all ages. Cultivating and developing current and future recreation space is a priority for me. It isn’t just about fields for our children, it’s also about having passive open air spaces such as walking and biking trails that all residents can enjoy, including our senior citizens.

I want to become the Township Council’s point person in tackling these changes and implement a plan during my first 24 months in office. This plan will include:

    • Establishing a formal joint taskforce to ensure repairs and improvements of our fields takes place.
    • Create a Recreation Maintenance fund which could receive contributions from the PAL, Board of Education and the town.  Additionally, monies raised from fees levied from future development can help fund recreation maintenance for the next 20 years.
    • Help ensure a new turf baseball field will be completed in 2020 at Snyder Park
    • Look for alternative additional options for field space by conducting an inventory of undeveloped land throughout Berkeley Heights
    • Include walking and biking trails in that inventory with an eye towards making them wider, safer, and more enjoyable.

In addition, our motto,  “Change We Can Agree On,” means no longer neglecting our aging infrastructure, not being afraid to tackle tough problems like our municipal debt head-on, looking for any and all sources of additional revenue to fund much-needed road or drainage projects, doing away with antiquated approaches to increasingly complex challenges, coming up with creative ways to offer more services for our taxpayers, and so much more. It means overseeing smart development in a way that works for our town.

But perhaps most importantly, “Change We Can Agree On” means working together with YOU to make Berkeley Heights a town we are all proud to call home.

‘Change We Can Agree On’ Means Better Senior Services

By JULIE FIGLAR & RINA FRANCHINO

‘Change we can agree on’ means changing how we perceive our seniors. Our seniors have built Berkeley Heights on their backs —now it’s our turn to give back to them.

Township Leadership means that we are tackling the three most important needs of senior living: 1) health 2) wellness, and 3) socialization.

We must strive to create programs exclusively for our senior population whether you live independently in your home, in age restricted housing, participate in seniors’ clubs and organizations or simply looking to take advantage of community programs.

Health – Studies show seniors need to be healthy to age in place. Walking and movement improve seniors’ independence, life expectancy and also improves cognitive function. That’s why we are proposing partnering with the County to develop walking paths along the Passaic River. Further, we would work to help create a separate, “seniors only” trail that would allow for slower movement, like walking, as opposed to running or biking.

Wellness – Once our Municipal Complex is completed, we propose investigating programs ranging from yoga to line dancing by rewriting our Community Development Block Grant, utilizing federal funds we currently receive, to include funding for these programs.

Socialization— Giving our seniors an opportunity to socialize and congregate fights isolation, depression and memory loss, while supporting brain health. That’s why it is important to provide town-wide social events like a “Valentine’s Day Bingo” party, “Seniors Rock- Block Party” or “Give Thanks to our Seniors Thanksgiving Bonanza” sponsored by the Township. This will seek to engage all of our seniors, but it is going to take all of us doing our part to volunteer to help make this happen.

Recently, we were happy to learn the Mayor and Township Council took quick action in forming a Berkeley Heights Senior Citizens Advisory Board, but there is more work to be done. Many surrounding towns offer great senior citizen programs and if elected, we are eager to learn from our neighbors and even partner with them to make our community the best it can be. We look forward to working with our senior community.

 

Bringing People Together for Progress: Julie Figlar on Sports and Recreation

Bringing People Together for Progress: Julie Figlar on Sports and Recreation

By JULIE FIGLAR

One of the many reasons my husband Jason and I chose to move to Berkeley Heights was to start and raise a family in a town with the wonderful quality of life it offered.  (Being a teacher in our great school district didn’t hurt either!)  Now, Rina Franchino and I are raising our young families in Berkeley Heights and are committed to the long term prosperity of our town.  With our young children all actively involved in sports and the community, we see areas where Berkeley Heights can be even better!

For years, leaders have talked about improving the quality of our fields and offering additional recreational opportunities.  There is no doubt that our Recreation Department and Commission does a great job with their given resources, and the County continues to be generous in providing grant funds.  Just this year, thanks to the new leadership of Mayor Angie Devanney and Team Purple, we’re finally seeing some progress with the fast tracking of the turf replacement at the Snyder Park’s multi-purpose field and an overall improvement in field maintenance resulting from the restructuring of the Department of Public Works (DPW).

However, we need to take the next step in truly improving our fields and recreation facilities – for residents of all ages.  As Mayor Devanney said in her campaign last year, progress can only come from leadership that brings together the different stakeholders: the PAL, the Recreation Commission, Berkeley Heights Youth Soccer Club, the Township, the Board of Education (BOE) and the County of Union.  We can’t afford to be in separate “silos” anymore; we must pool our collective resources, knowledge and experience and prioritize a long-term plan to improve and increase our playing fields and recreational opportunities.

If elected, I propose that we add a non-voting Council member to the Recreation Commission.  That member will be responsible for reporting on fields and recreation during Township Council meetings, helping ensure our elected officials are well aware of plans being discussed to make these much-needed improvements. This will also allow our local leaders – from the top down – to help secure the money and resources to meet our recreation goals.  For us to make considerable progress and improve our fields to the level of our neighboring towns, we need to get out of our silos. Improved coordination and communication is the key to success in the next decade.  This non-voting Council member will be the key to ensuring all relevant stakeholders are on the same page and are “all in” on each and every recreation project. This “power in numbers”  will allow us to make progress like never before.

I would like to become that “point person” on Council and take on the changes we need to make for Berkeley Heights’ sports and recreation venues to be worthy of our quality of life (and the taxes we pay for that quality of life). Here are some examples of additional things we can do:

  • Establish a formal joint taskforce to ensure repairs and improvements of our sports fields takes place. This coalition of stakeholders would partner with groups like the Grants Committee to obtain additional funding for upgrades (covers for dugouts, new/repaired fencing, landscaping, bathrooms etc.).
  • Help to ensure a new turf baseball field to be completed in 2020 at Snyder Park.
  • Actively look for alternative, additional options for field space by conducting an inventory of undeveloped land throughout Berkeley Heights; approach landowners about the possibility of converting or using for sport fields or passive recreational space.
  • Conduct an inventory of walking and biking paths throughout Berkeley Heights with an eye towards making them wider, safer, and more enjoyable for our residents to use.  We will also work with the County on property they own to create, compliment and connect with Berkeley Heights properties.

Rina Franchino and I are proud to be running a positive, issues-driven campaign.  We’re focusing on doing everything we can to build upon the progress seen in Berkeley Heights’ government in 2019. You can learn more about us and the rest of our ideas for Progress We Can Count On at www.bhteampurple.com or by emailing us at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively. You can also find us on Facebook at Julie & Rina 4 BH.

‘Change We Can Agree On’ Means Coming Together

‘Change We Can Agree On’ Means Coming Together

This election is about a style of government.  It’s not about a party label or control.  “Team Purple” advocates Democrats and Republicans coming together throughout town to make our community even better.  With the Republican Party unfortunately choosing to repeat the mudslinging tactics of the Republican ticket in 2018, we want to reemphasize our commitment to running a clean, positive campaign that focuses not only on what Team Purple has done in 2019 but what we will do as part of that team if elected. That is what our team’s slogan, Change We Can Agree On was and is all about.

Change We Can Agree On is about a collaborative government that respects our residents and seeks to put an end to the caustic political tone that continues to divide our community. It’s about creating positive change free of partisanship, as we work together to bring more services to our town at lower costs, improve our quality of life, and manage tough challenges together.  It’s an inclusive approach which embodies:

  • Our leaders working together across party lines
  • Respecting our rich heritage
  • Capturing the spirit of our younger population
  • Placing value on what our elders have given to this community
  • Embracing our diversity and welcoming all voices
  • Ensuring an open and transparent government

Change We Can Agree On means no longer neglecting our aging infrastructure, not being afraid to tackle tough problems like our municipal debt head-on, looking for any and all sources of additional revenue to fund much-needed road or drainage projects, doing away with antiquated approaches to increasingly complex challenges, coming up with creative ways to offer more services for our taxpayers, and so much more.

But perhaps, most importantly, Change We Can Agree On means working together with YOU to make Berkeley Heights a town we are all proud to call home. That means making town government more open and transparent so that residents can see positive change happening for themselves.

Together, we can change Berkeley Heights politics for the better and ensure more open, transparent government at Town Hall.