Rumson & Fair Haven Dems challenge one-party councils

BY LIZ SHEEHAN Correspondent

On Election Day, Nov. 3, Democrats will be seeking seats on the borough councils of neighboring towns Rumson and Fair Haven, where Republicans now hold all the seats.

Michael Steinhorn Michael Steinhorn Rumson Democratic candidate Michael Steinhorn, in his race for the council last year, said he and his running mate were the first Democratic candidates for the Rumson Borough Council in 25 years.

Steinhorn said he is again running for council because “the big issue is to introduce bipartisan representation to my borough.”

He said a third of the borough’s voters had supported him in last year’s race, and he was imploring the rest of the voters to bring bipartisan representation to the town.

Steinhorn is a Realtor who has lived in Rumson for 31 years. He is running for a three-year term.

Also running on the Democratic ticket are Philip Wagner and Danielle Haub-Richmond, who said that with a council of all one party, there was no one to challenge any positions taken by the members, while with two parties there could be different ideas on a number of issues.

Philip Wagner Philip Wagner “It’s one party; it’s been one party forever,” Wagner said.

He said residents want responsiveness from the council and to be consulted on decisions made.

As an example, Wagner said that many people did not think their concerns about building the new borough hall were heard, nor were the suggestions to use green energy-saving elements in the building listened to.

Wagner heads a design and construction company and has lived in the town for 14 years. He is running for an unexpired two-year term.

Haub-Richmond said property taxes are especially important in this economy and questioned spending $8 million on the new borough hall. She said that as a councilmember, she would work to control costs and create a budget committee to analyze the budget line by line.

Haub-Richmond said residents didn’t have the information to know if the borough really needed a new borough hall.

Haub-Richmond is a homemaker and volunteer. She is running for a three-year term.

The three Republican candidates are incumbents.

Danielle Haub-Richmond Danielle Haub-Richmond Benjamin W. Day Jr. said the most important issue in the town is to keep taxes down. He said the municipal portion of the borough budget did not increase this year, but that the council was trying to find other ways of saving — for example, sharing services with other municipalities to hold down costs.

He said the council was also looking into sharing resources with the borough schools to control costs.

Day said he had been on other boards, including the school board, before, and said of the council, “My observation is we have done and continue to do a really good job.”

Day is a computer consultant. He was appointed to the council in March when Robert Kammerer stepped down, and is running for a two-year unexpired term.

Mark Rubin has served on the council for six years. He said the council is trying to control taxes, but much of the budget is not under the council’s control.

He said that 23 percent of the spending, such as salaries, cannot be controlled by the council, so it has to make more effective use of what dollars it can control.

Benjamin W. Day Jr. Benjamin W. Day Jr. Rubin said his area of expertise is technical issues, the police department and communications. He said he tries to make sure the technical needs of the town are first rate and state of the art.

Rubin has lived in the borough since 1975. He is president of Electro Impulse, Neptune, and is running for a three-year-term.

Incumbent Frank E. Shanley said the relentless increase in expenses such as hikes in salaries and pensions that the council has no control over is the top issue in the borough.

He said the council is constantly prioritizing to be more effective in spending to keep costs down.

Shanley said the municipal portion of the tax rate had not changed in three out of the last four years.

But there is continual pressure, such as a 20 percent increase in health insurance for employees in a single year, and the cost of maintaining equipment. He said employees are covered by the state health care system.

Shanley is an investment banker. He is running for a three-year-term.

Mark Rubin Mark Rubin In Fair Haven, there are two three-year seats up for election. One is open because Councilman Christopher Rinn, whose term expires Dec. 31, has chosen not to run again.

Incumbent Republican Benjamin Lucarelli said the most important issue the town is facing is that the borough will more than likely be losing state aid and will have to deal with providing services in the most efficient way while losing revenue.

“Things are going to have to change,” he said, adding, however, that there would be no drastic changes.

Lucarelli said the borough had cut expenses by having the police dispatching services assumed by the county system.

He said the town’s acquisition of riverfront property for a park on De Normandie Avenue was a wise capital investment and obtained the “finest beach” on the river.

Lucarelli was appointed to the council in March to fill the term of Thomas Gilmour. He is a real estate manager.

His running mate, Bob Marchese, said he is running because he thinks politicians in Trenton and Washington are out of control. He is an attorney.

Frank E. Shanley Frank E. Shanley But he said the council has done a good job and lowered the municipal portion of the town’s tax rate for two years in a row, and that the council has “to keep the trend continuing.”

He said to raise revenue, he would prefer not raising taxes; instead, the borough could give taxpayers discounts if they prepaid their taxes. The borough could then invest these funds, Marchese said.

Marchese said he was concerned about older residents of the town who were worried about their ability to remain in the borough.

Democratic challenger Matthew Cohen said he is running to bring transparency to the council. He said it is very difficult for residents to get information about such matters as contracts and the budget.

Cohen said the town “doesn’t do proper planning before making financial decisions.”

He said many residents who spoke at meetings said they are against using the county dispatch service. The council decided to combine dispatch services with Little Silver, but when that didn’t work out technically, the services were switched over to the county.

Benjamin Lucarelli Benjamin Lucarelli Cohen also said the council had not done a study before going into negotiations with owners of the property on De Normandie Avenue before deciding to purchase it for $1.3 million for a park, and did not approach other owners on the river to see if other sites were available.

Cohen is the owner of a title company.

His running mate Margo Tikijian also said transparency is a major issue.

“We don’t know where money is being spent until after the fact,” she said. She said she would work hard to improve long-term financial planning. In the case of the purchase of the property on De NormandieAvenue, Tikijian said, “The mindset of ‘It’s available, hence let’s buy it’ isn’t wise.”

Instead, she said, if the borough had an interest in buying waterfront property, funds should be set aside, earning interest until the purchase.

Tikijian is a homemaker and writer.

Bob Marchese Bob Marchese Matthew Cohen Matthew Cohen Margo Tikijian Margo Tikijian