GOP target: To add second voice to council

Republicans put up
council slate but have
no candidate for mayor

By libby kesil
Staff Writer

GOP target: To add
second voice to council
Republicans put up
council slate but have
no candidate for mayor
By libby kesil
Staff Writer

Jennifer BeckJennifer Beck

RED BANK — The borough’s Republican Party is focusing its attention this year on strengthening its voice on the Borough Council.

Incumbent Councilwoman Jennifer Beck, 35, of McLaren Street is joined on the GOP ticket by Michael Tolan, 33, of Spring Street.

Beck, currently the only Republican on the council, and Tolan are opposed by Democratic candidates, John Curley, 49, of Manor Drive and Alan Soden, 50, of Herbert Street.

Three-term Democratic Councilman Ivan Polonsky, 73, has decided not to seek a fourth term.

Michael TolanMichael Tolan

Last week Beck and Tolan spoke, along with the Democrats, at the West Side Community Group’s Sixth Annual Candidate’s Night.

In their opening remarks, Beck and Tolan emphasized the importance this election holds to the future of the borough, particularly with regards to development.

The two candidates cited fighting overcrowding, making road improvements, cutting spending and improving communication between the council and residents as topping the list of their campaign issues. They said they believe overdevelopment could diminish the quality of life in Red Bank and that particular issue needs to be monitored closely, especially over the next five years.

"I think what we should be concerned with is what Red Bank could become," said Beck. "I think we risk losing all the things that we love about town. The traffic, congestion, and development could get out of control. The area could become Hoboken or Fort Lee if we aren’t very measured in our approach to development," said Beck.

Tolan, who described himself as a seeker of knowledge and a news show junkie, echoed similar sentiments, and said that changes needed to be made.

"People care about what happens to this town. I’m not going to sit and tell you about how bad things are. That’s not what I’m about. That’s not what this campaign is about. Let’s talk about direction we need to take in the next few years. The question is, ‘Where do we go from here?’ "

Beck is the general manager for the Trenton office of the MWW Group, a public affairs and public relations firm. Prior to that, she was the director of operations and marketing for the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She was also the legislative director for Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina (R-13).

Tolan, who has been living in the borough for one and a half years, and is originally from Colts Neck, works in Trenton for the Republican Party as a staff member of Paul DiGaetano, deputy director of member services.

Beck describes herself as a lone voice on the council on issues that concern residents, as well as an accessible representative to her constituents.

"I’ve been a voice to the residents. I’ve been a voice that has a different opinion. I’ve provided balance to the council," said Beck. "Some of you have called me at home, and expressed your concerns, issues you would like to have raised at the council. I’ve taken that to heart and committed myself to making sure your concerns were aired. To that end, I’ve been able to accomplish many things."

Beck said that during her first campaign she was hearing concerns from residents of the west side about the lack of parks in the area and that in the last two years a park was established in the vicinity.

She said she also heard concerns about the conditions of the roads: that the side streets weren’t well paved and that there didn’t seem to be a lot of attention to paid them. She told the audience that in the last four years the borough paved more roads than it had in the previous eight years.

"I’ve been advocating for paving more streets, and the borough has been paving more streets," said Beck.

She also cited her recent work on an ordinance designed to crack down on absentee landlords and advocating for lowering taxes.

When the candidates were asked how they would cut property taxes, Beck offered some suggestions.

"There are areas where we could save. The borough has 40 vehicles and 140 employees. I think that’s a lot of vehicles. We don’t need that many. That is $600,000."

When asked what the candidates will do to address the issue of keeping kids off the streets at night, Tolan had some ideas.

"I think it would be great if we could find a place where teens can meet," said Tolan. "We also need some kind of meeting place between the recreation department and our parents so they can organize every two weeks what they can do together to get our kids involved."

Beck also offered the suggestion of using the senior center, currently in use only during the day, as a meeting place for teens.

Tolan promised that, if elected, he would make sure his constituents’ needs were met and that their way of life was protected.

"I will keep a careful eye out for overdevelopment, taxes and our educational institutions," said Tolan.

When asked if it has been difficult being the only Republican on the board and if that impedes the free flow of ideas, Beck said it has. She said that is why she would like to see Tolan elected as well.

"It would be nice to get a second on a motion every once in a while," Beck said.