Election Wrap Up: Five questions with the candidates

PARSIPPANY — The primary election is almost here.  The polls will be open on Tuesday, June 6 from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. In Parsippany you can vote for:  (1 seat) Mayor; (2 seats) Township Council; (1 Seat) Morris County Freeholder; (2 Seats) New Jersey Assembly; (1 Seat) New Jersey Governor; (1 Seat) State Senate; (1 Seat) State Committee (1 Male); and State Committee (1 Female).

In New Jersey during a primary election only the state’s two most populous political parties have a primary election, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. You can only vote for the political party that you declared. If you are a registered voter currently not affiliated with a political party you may declare the party affiliation up to and including Primary Election day.

Republican candidates for Parsippany Mayor are James Barberio and Robert Peluso. Candidates for Township Council are Brian Stanton; Christopher Martino and Casey Parikh (Peluso Team); and Louis Valori and Vincent Ferrara (Barberio Team).

Democrat candidates for Mayor are Michael Soriano and Thomas Fulco. Candidates for Township Council are Janice McCarthy and Emily Peterson (Soriano Team); and Katie   (Katherine) Cassidy.
The primary will be held on Tuesday, June 6. To find your voting location, click here.
In all fairness, all candidates were emailed the same questions.  We are publishing the responses to the questions that were prepared by our Editorial Staff in the order we received their response.
Katie Cassidy

Katie Cassidy – Candidate for Township Council – Democrat

  1. Should the sewer and water department surpluses be transferred to the General Operating Fund, thus circumventing the 2% cap tax increase?
    I think that the sewer and water surpluses should be used to help minimize the costs to the township. However, I think that using said surpluses to balance the budget misleads the average citizen on the integrity of the budget. If the budget were truly balanced, there would be no need to use the sewer and water surpluses. I think the surpluses provide for an excellent rainy day fund, or an option to pay down portions of debt service that can cost more in the long run. One of my concerns is that Parsippany is not thinking long term. Using a surplus to prevent a tax increase, as opposed to minimize costs over the longer term or for an emergency, is something I would not support.

2. Should the Township Council and Administration consider hiring an in-house attorney?
The concern has been, for a while now, that Parsippany is spending too much money on attorneys fees. The fact we are getting sued so frequently should be a concern, but we should look into any option that may lower our legal costs. In addition to weighing the value of an in-house attorney, I think it may also be prudent to look into an in-house paralegal.

3. Should term limits be placed on all elected positions in Parsippany?
I believe that term limits are ideal for every elected position from Parsippany to Washington. Politics can be a career, but if you stay in one place for too long it is far too easy to become complacent. I won’t speak to the length of the term limits for each position, because that is something that can be debated and at the end of the day I would like to hear what the people think about it. However, term limits are an excellent idea. If someone can only hold office for so long, they are likely to be more concerned over their long-term impact as opposed to simply getting to the next election. In addition, it is much more difficult for private interests to affect the course of a government, if the faces running that government only remain for so long.

4. Should the public portion of the Council meeting be reinstated to the five-minute rule, instead of the current reduced time of three minutes?
Three minutes is not enough time to effectively get a point across, let alone more than one. I am in favor of increasing the speaking time. However, I do not think it is simply enough to give someone more time. The way Council President Valori currently enforces the time constraints on the Public Portion is a use it or lose it policy. There is no opportunity for a discussion with those on the dais, nor for follow up questions. I would hope that a change could be made that you have a total of five minutes with an option to use all five in one go, or to hold two minutes for follow up questions after the council and administration have an opportunity to speak. As someone who has had their words twisted after speaking, I believe the public should have an opportunity to respond to the answers they may receive.

5. Should the open space committee recommend all expenditures from the trust fund?
Before we can evaluate the way a committee functions, we should first ensure that the committees are active. Presently, the committees are not filled; some do not even have a quorum. Keep in mind, committees are filled with individual members of the community. Requiring a committee to make a recommendation for every expenditure may be too time consuming. However, the Open Space Committee should have an opportunity to comment on every expenditure and should be able to recommend expenditures that they deem relevant. The committee system is valuable because it is the Mayor and Council’s direct line to members of the public who are well versed on various subjects. Parsippany is hampered by the fact that most of these committees are not filled, do not meet effectively and are not called on to offer their expert opinion. Empowering the OSC to make recommendations is an excellent step, but until and unless they meet, it won’t make a difference.

Republican Council Candidate Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton – Candidate for Township Council – Republican

1. Should the sewer and water department surpluses be transferred to the General Operating Fund, thus circumventing the 2% cap tax increase?
In the past the township used surplus money to keep the taxes under the 2% tax which I did not have a problem with. I do have a problem with transferring over 3 million dollars from surplus to say that we had a 0% tax increase.  We have been overpaying on our water and sewer bills for years, its time to lower the rates for the residents so they can see a real savings.

2. Should the Township Council and Administration consider hiring an in-house attorney?
I do not believe we should be hiring an in-house attorney.  Do to the variety of cases we handle as a township we would have to keep outsourcing for attorneys. An in-house attorney would not be able to handle the workload for the township. 

3. Should term limits be placed on all elected positions in Parsippany?
I have no problem with term limits being place on elected officials.

4. Should the public portion of the Council meeting be reinstated to the five-minute rule, instead of the current reduced time of three minutes?
I am in favor of reinstating the five-minute rule. The rule should of never been changed.

5. Should the open space committee recommend all expenditures from the trust fund?
I do not believe the open space committee should have the power to recommend all the expenditures from the open space fund, I believe it should be a team effort between our elected officials and the committee on the recommendations.

Parsippany Council candidates Louis Valori and Vincent Ferrara stand by mayoral candidate, Mayor James Barberio

Team BarberioJames Barberio – Candidate for Mayor – Republican; Louis Valori – Candidate for Township Council – Republican; Vincent Ferrara – Candidate for Township Council – Republican. 

1. Should the sewer and water department surpluses be transferred to the General Operating Fund, thus circumventing the 2% cap tax increase?
Water and sewer surpluses. When Mayor Barberio took office, Parsippany didn’t have surpluses, we had near deficits.  We created surpluses without raising rates by bringing new businesses to Parsippany, which increases the number of users. This in turn increases the amount of money in our water and sewer utilities, resulting in surpluses. Fortunately, we are now in a position to use some of those excess surpluses to provide tax relief for our residential taxpayers. My opponent wants lower sewer and water fees for corporations and increase property taxes for our homeowners. We disagree.  We will continue to use excess surplus, generated from new corporate users, to provide tax relief for our residents.   This does not circumvent the 2% cap. It’s keeps property taxes low! That is why we were able to introduce a 0% tax increase budget. I as Council President voted for Mayor Barberio’s no tax increase budget. Rob Peluso, voted against a no tax increase budget because Peluso and his team want to raise our taxes.

2. Should the Township Council and Administration consider hiring an in-house attorney?
An in house attorney will  significantly increase the cost of our legal budget. First of all, one attorney doesn’t do all the work for Parsippany. We are a large town that requires many lawyers and legal professionals of different disciplines to represent our town. So the issue you are raising is whether to create a legal department. That means hiring many lawyers, and staff.  That means health benefits, pensions, creating additional space, computer upgrades and numerous other permanent costs.  And if your in house lawyers make mistakes, there is no one to recover the losses from. Our model of utilizing private firms under the direction of our town attorney, who currently gets no pension, no health benefits, and  no township overhead, is by far the most cost effective way to ensure that the legal needs of the Township are met at highest level of competence and at the least cost to our taxpayers. We note that Morris County utilizes the Parsippany model of lawyer structure and has saved the county money by doing so.

3. Should term limits be placed on all elected positions in Parsippany?
Term limits should be imposed on elected officials by the people. Our residents should not be deprived of the representatives of their choosing because of an arbitrary term limit. 

4. Should the public portion of the Council meeting be reinstated to the five-minute rule, instead of the current reduced time of three minutes?
The Council President determines the amount of time each member of the public has to speak. Three minutes is ample time for members of the pubic to voice issues and concerns. While it is always helpful to hear from the public, there is a lot of business that the Council needs to conduct, and therefore, the three minute time limit seems appropriate. But, that can change if Council agendas become shorter.

5. Should the Open Space Committee recommend all expenditures from the trust fund?
Currently, the Open Space Committee does make recommendations on the Township’s open space acquisitions. That is our practice and we plan to keep that practice going forward. We value the recommendations made by this committee very much and act on virtually all of their recommendations. Ultimately, it is, of course,  the governing body who determines how the public’s money is expended.  

Parsippany Council candidates Chris Martino and Casey Parikh stand by mayoral candidate, council vice president Robert Peluso

Team Peluso: Robert Peluso – Candidate for Mayor – Republican; Casey Parikh – Candidate for Township Council – Republican; Chris Martino – Candidate for Township Council – Republican.

1. Should the sewer and water department surpluses be transferred to the General Operating Fund, thus circumventing the 2% cap tax increase?
No. If water and sewer are generating surpluses they should be applied to capital improvements of the water and sewer systems, or returned to tax payers. If there are consistently large surpluses the rates should be revisited and adjusted accordingly. The Mayor has used these fees as a slush fund to cover his tax increases and increased municipal spending.

2. Should the Township Council and Administration consider hiring an in-house attorney?
Yes. The legal bills have skyrocketed. The current legal costs are nearly 300% of the amount spent when Mayor Barberio was first elected. He has refused to consider alternative legal representation or in-house counsel. The tax payers are being drained by his refusal to address this issue.

3. Should term limits be placed on all elected positions in Parsippany?
The question should be placed before the voters in a referendum. If the public wants term limits, I would support it.

4. Should the public portion of the Council meeting be reinstated to the five-minute rule, instead of the current reduced time of three minutes?
Yes. Citizens wait for hours for an opportunity to address their elected officials. The Mayor and his running mate, Lou Valori, unilaterally decided to limit public comments to three minutes. The public deserves an opportunity to be heard.

5. Should the open space committee recommend all expenditures from the trust fund?
Yes. Otherwise, what reason would there be for the committee. Open space is a valuable asset that affects every aspect of our community. The committee’s role is to assist the Mayor and Council in preserving this irreplaceable resource.

These are team responses. We have pledged to work together to implement changes in Parsippany, such as the ones set forth.

Janice McCarthy, Michael Soriano and Emily Peterson

Team Soriano: Michael Soriano – Candidate for Mayor – Democrat; Janice McCarthy – Candidate for Township Council – Democrat; Emily Peterson – Candidate for Township Council – Democrat. 

1. Should the sewer and water department surpluses be transferred to the General Operating Fund, thus circumventing the 2% cap tax increase?
An adequate reserve should be professionally determined to cover normal contingencies and an adjustment should be made to bring the reserve down to that level. Water and sewer rates should then be reduced to reflect a more realistic cost to homeowners for these services.

2. Should the Township Council and Administration consider hiring an in-house attorney?
The town should contract on an as needed basis with attorneys that have the necessary legal expertise to address various issues such as land use planning, labor relations, tax policy etc. not one attorney or legal firm to address all issues.

3. Should term limits be placed on all elected positions in Parsippany?
Yes, there should be reasonable term limits for elected offices.

4. Should the public portion of the Council meeting be reinstated to the five-minute rule, instead of the current reduced time of three minutes?
The 5 minute rule should be implemented at Town Council meetings as it was previous to Mr. Valori reducing it to 3 minutes. Additionally the Council needs to show respect for residents who take time to address concerns and issues with the Council. Currently there’s more focus on counting down the minutes than addressing the residents issues or concerns.

5. Should the open space committee recommend all expenditures from the trust fund?
The Open Space ordinance should be updated to require comment by the Open Space Committee prior to any expenditures from the Open Space Trust Fund.

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