Town spending among hot topics at debate


EAST BRUNSWICK — Republicans attacked the Township Council’s spending record, while Democrats applauded the recent accomplishments of the governing body.

So it went during the Oct. 1 candidates’debate at the East Brunswick Public Library. Republicans said Democrats have misused their power and spent in a wasteful manner.

The debate pitted Republican candidates Jim Wendell and Dr. Gene DeMarzo, both newcomers, against the Democrat team of incumbentNancy Pinkin and newcomer Denise Contrino.

Wendell started off the debate by saying that Pinkin, who is seeking her second term, and Councilman David Stahl, who’s running for mayor on her ticket, did not begin to ask questions or issue criticisms until their terms were about to expire.

Pinkin stood by the council’s record, saying it has voted to cut millions of dollars from defeated school budgets and also trimmed municipal budgets. She also said the council must change with the times, referring to the weakened state of the federal and state economies.

There was really no theme to the debate, although economic responsibility was brought up several times.

Contrino said she would like to see a “top to bottom” review of the municipal budget, adding that the township has a number of “talented” employees who could be used more efficiently.

She also defended the council’s decision to build a cultural arts center at Heavenly Farms, saying it will be used by all residents. Earlier, GOP contender DeMarzo said Democrats overspent on building million-dollar athletic fields and on the $2.6 million cultural arts center. The council could have made use of a school theater instead of building a new facility to replace Playhouse 22, he said.

Pinkin said she is dedicated to improving the business climate in town, noting that she even goes into stores and asks how they are doing and what the township could do to help them. The Democrats have made the revitalization of the Route 18 business corridor a major part of their platform.

Perhaps the most striking comment came from DeMarzo, who said he would support the construction of a parking deck at the Brunswick Square Mall if the mall were to add another level. He said he feels the deck and extra level would help the mall and, in turn, the township’s economy.

DeMarzo also touched on school funding, which is always a hot topic, saying that many seniors cannot afford the constant tax increases and believe the schools could function with less. The Republicans are calling for more shared resources between the township and school board, as well as with surrounding towns.

On another topic, the parties differed on whether two-party representation would bring about more effective leadership. Contrino said she feels it is better when the mayor and council work together and avoid arguments that stop progress.

Wendell said the Democrats’ biggest mistake has been the sale of the land known as the Golden Triangle. The Republicans have criticized the town’s sale of the Route 18 property to Toll Brothers and said they oppose selling township-owned assets for the sake of plugging budget gaps.

As for traffic in the township, Pinkin said the new commuter parking deck will help to ease traffic on Route 18, and that residents need to also make more use of county transportation. However, DeMarzo said the town must stop overdevelopment, and that a parking deck at an already crowded location will only add to traffic problems.

Wendell said Democrats have overspent on purchases such as athletic fields and the arts center facility. While the town has used county grants for recreation facilities, he said that residents have had to pay more in county taxes.

Pinkin countered that residents voted to support the county open space fund, and there is a great demand for such athletic fields.