By John Burton |
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS — Four candidates are running for the two Borough Council seats available in the Nov. 7 election. All four are looking to maintain the quality of life they found in Atlantic Highlands.
“That’s what’s driving all of this,” said Jon Crowley, one of the Democrats looking to win a three-year term on the six-member council, explaining his interest in the office.
Crowley and his Democratic running mate, Thomas Hayden III, are squaring off against veteran Republican incumbent Peter Doyle and Susan Tidswell, who is making her second run for the council.
Doyle, a credit analyst who holds a Certified Public Accountant license, has served on the council for 12 years and said he was seeking his fifth term “to continue on working toward holding down taxes.”
This year Doyle served as the council’s Finance Committee chairman, responsible for drafting the municipal budget and raising money for the municipality to operate. This year, he pointed out, was the first time in 11 years without a tax increase in the municipal budget. “Cause and effect?” he asked. “I’d like to think so,” stressing his financial background.
Recently the council has been “setting a tone of no more long-term debt,” which Doyle said he supports and advocated for. What that means, he explained, is, “we basically cut up our credit card,” with borough officials “paying as we go,” for large capital expenditures.
“In a few years it’s going to start paying off,” he predicted of the practice.
Tidswell is a native of England who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years and in the borough for four. She works as a senior vice president for a national executive recruiting firm in its finance and accounting practices department.
Tidswell made her first run for elected office last year, narrowly losing the election. This year, as long-serving Republican Councilman John “Jack” Archibald Jr. opted not to seek another term, the local party asked her to give it another try. And that, she said, speaks to who she is, not someone easily dissuaded by setbacks. “I’ve lost but I’ve come back fighting again,” she said.
Taxes are the single most important issue facing the community, she maintained, and the issue she won’t let go of. “My position is I’m not going to vote for tax increases,” she said. In her professional experience, “We learn to do more with less and learn to do things differently,” she said, expecting to look for previously unrealized opportunities for savings. “Look at things in a different way than we looked at them before,” she recommended.
The area schools, both the elementary school and Henry Hudson Regional School, do wonderful work, she said. However, Tidswell would like to see their work better communicated with the public and greater interaction between the boards of education and the Borough Council, working to pull together for the greater good of all. “I want to see more collaborations and discussions and dialogue,” Tidswell said.
With their combined years of financial experience, Doyle said, “I think with both of us on the council you will continue to see us use taxpayers’ money wisely.”
“I feel we have some issues in town that have been kind of overlooked or not addressed,” said Hayden about his decision to take on the council responsibilities. “I think I have some creative solutions for addressing some of those issues.”
Hayden, who has lived in the borough since he was a toddler, is a former educator, who taught at Henry Hudson Regional School, where he attended, and now works as a union representative for the New Jersey Education Association. Hayden currently serves on the Henry Hudson Regional Board of Education, elected in 2015, and continues to volunteer for the borough First Aid Squad.
Both he and Crowley raised the quality of life issues of road conditions, parking and traffic. Plagued by potholes, the Democrats said, is something that residents and visitors often cite as a complaint. “It’s the first impression that people have when they drive into town,” he noted.
The Democrats have suggested working with New Jersey Natural Gas and other utilities that do work in the borough that requires digging up the street, to see if officials can strike an arrangement, beneficial to both parties, to have the utilities pave the entire roadway instead of just the work area.
Parking could be addressed on both a short- and long-term basis, he said. There are means to develop some additional on-street parking spaces that would offer immediate relief. On a longer term basis, Hayden suggested possibly looking at working on a public/private partnership to construct a parking structure containing commercial space on municipal-owned property to offset costs. “Maybe we can do this without raising taxes,” he said.
Crowley said officials should look at what Los Angeles, where he previously lived, does. He explained that commercial developments that can’t provide the necessary parking spaces pay into a general fund, with the money set aside for a future project to address the parking shortfall. “We should be open to exploring that,” he said.
Crowley is an Emmy-winning TV executive, writer and director, who has lived in the borough for 10 years. This is his first run for elected public office. He was motivated by former President Barack Obama’s call for people to become more involved in the political process. “So that’s where it starts,” he said. “I figured you don’t have any right to complain if you’re not willing to step up and effect change.”
Since living in the community, Crowley said he’s been active, working with the borough Arts Council, establishing the annual FilmOneFest, where he serves as a judge.
Along with roads and parking, taxes continue to be an issue of importance. Crowley, while not having been part of the process yet, said he and Hayden, would start by looking at additional shared service opportunities with the school districts and with other municipalities, “to get a little bit more purchasing power.”
Another issue he’s discovered concerns maintaining the traditional, historic character of the First Avenue business district, in light of new businesses looking to settle there. “So, we have to get that balance, to maintain that look and feel of First Avenue,” he said.
Crowley said he and Hayden are new voices of the community and, “We come with a lot of ideas and fresh energy.”
This article was first published in the Nov. 2-9, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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