Candidates Night a forum for incumbents, challengers

Four candidates in race for two Red Bank council seats


Four candidates vying for two seats on the all-Democratic Red Bank Borough Council debated at the 13th annual Westside Community Group Candidates Night, held at River Street Commons on Oct. 14.

Arthur V. Murphy III Arthur V. Murphy III Democratic incumbents Arthur V. Murphy III and Michael R. DuPont are running for re-election and will face Republican challengers Kim Senkeleski and Robert Lombardi in the Nov. 3 election.

The forum, moderated by Amy Goldsmith, president of the West Side Community Group, drew approximately 50 borough residents and taxpayers.

Issues surrounding borough finances and development dominated the meeting, with DuPont, who is running for his second term, and Murphy, running for a third term, standing by their fiscal decisions.

DuPont said that during his term, the municipal tax rate has decreased as has the borough’s debt.

The newcomers said that the borough is in too much debt and that new zoning to permit for higher density around the train station is the last thing the borough needs.

“Red Bank has a multitude of problems, it’s $27 million in debt, the downtown has 20 vacant stores and taxes have been raised in six of the last seven years. Red Bank needs to stop taxing and spending,” Lombardi said.

Kim Senkeleski Kim Senkeleski DuPont, who chairs the council’s finance committee, countered that the budget increased by a modest 1.2 percent over 2008, and the council lowered the municipal debt by $162,000 and $300,000 of money owed by the water and sewerage authority.

He said all of that was done in an economy where the town saw a “severe drop in revenues and state aid cuts.”

“We reduced our operating expenses and our debt. Don’t let people play with the numbers. Our record reflects accountability and responsibility,” DuPont said.

When asked by a resident to outline their personal agendas if elected, Murphy said his agenda involved the revitalization of Monmouth Street, the completion of the Cedar Crossing affordable housing project with grant money and seeing a park on the borough’s west side at the former incinerator site on Sunset Ave.

“I will not allow Red Bank to revert back to ‘Deadbank,’ ” DuPont said.

Michael R.DuPont Michael R.DuPont Lombardi said his priorities include lowering taxes and the borough’s debt. He said he plans on doing so by reviewing items included in the budget.

“Fiscally responsible?” Lombardi retorted to DuPont, “How is $27 million in debt responsible? We will go line by line and get rid of anything that’s not important.”

Senkeleski said that Red Bank is becoming unaffordable and that she is running for office to make a difference in the borough.

She said she plans to use competitive bidding to hire engineers and attorneys for the borough. She would also like to utilize competitive bidding for the borough’s health insurance provider.

Senkeleski said she would reduce taxes and change government contracts to include bonuses instead of salary increases, which count to the borough’s pension obligation.

“Each department would be held accountable. If they can’t tell us exactly where that money was spent, then it would be taken away,” Senkeleski said.

DuPont said he’d continue saving the borough money through increasing the borough’s participation in shared services, which he said earned Red Bank $215,000.

DuPont said he believes in the expansion of the Red Bank RiverCenter business alliance and affordable housing.

He said he would continue his work on green initiatives, which include open space preservation, conserving natural resources, the utilization of solar panels and reducing energy use.

“During my three years of service, we have been bold, accountable and transparent,” DuPont said.

He cited the borough’s new website as an example of how his term helped increase government transparency by allowing for easy access to borough information, including the budget.

Senkeleski said that Red Bank is at a tipping point with density, water issues, and drug and gang problems plaguing the borough.

“They’re pushing to make Red Bank bigger. A larger population in a smaller space makes for higher taxes.

“The mayor and council never ask anyone their thoughts because too many opinions would complicate their plans,” Senkeleski said.

Senkeleski expressed her opposition to the new zoning ordinances that allow for higher density development in the area surrounding the train station.

“Red Bank is at a breaking point. Our infrastructure can’t handle any more. Our schools can’t handle any more,” Senkeleski said.

“Our 3-year-old [preschool] program has to use outside care to accommodate the students as it is. The more people in town equal more problems,” she continued.

Instead of increasing density, Senkeleski suggested renovating the dilapidated Victorian homes in the area.

“I’m standing here because the borough is changing. We don’t want Red Bank to become a city,” Senkeleski said.

“I’m against development of this scale. It will change the quality of life here. I want it to be easier to live in this town,” Lombardi said.

Murphy expressed his pride in the borough’s police department, which increased its force to 42 officers this year.

“We have the best police and fire departments in Monmouth County,” Murphy said.

“Crime in the borough has reduced by 11 percent. We have an ever-present police department,” Dupont added.

Senkeleski said the police need to do a better job. She cited gang and drug issues, specifically three MS13 gang tags at Count Basie Park.

Senkeleski voiced her support for the Boys and Girls Club, as it provides an outlet for children who could have turned down other paths, she said.

When each candidate was asked if he or she would accept health care benefits from the borough if elected, DuPont said that he doesn’t and he wouldn’t. Senkeleski and Lombardi agreed. Murphy said he would continue to take the benefits, noting that he puts in a great deal of time as a council member that takes him away from his family.

The candidates also were asked their opinions on accepting grants, with the knowledge that grant money comes from the taxpayers.

Murphy and DuPont said that they are in favor of grants.

“We’d apply,” DuPont said. “Everyone shares in the burden and it benefits the whole of Red Bank.”

“I wouldn’t take grants,” Senkeleski said. She later said that she would.

Lombardi said he disagrees with grants on principle.

“We have to really think what will be required of us. Will the grant fund the entire project? What are the other impacts? It’s always a trade-off, and funding can run out,” Lombardi said.

“Without grants,” DuPont responded, “this building wouldn’t be here.”