Each candidate answered the same questions, which were emailed. Candidates were asked to answer the questions individually, not as one ticket. Candidate responses were not edited.
Candidate Profile: Karen Strickland, Democratic Challenger
1. What are your motivations for running for elected office?
I have lived in Holmdel for 16 years and watched the open spaces disappear while our taxes have doubled. The current practice of promoting development in order to lower taxes has not proven to be true. Rather our taxes have steadily gone up while our quality of life has declined. I want to contribute my experience in public office and my expertise at project management to protect the attributes that brought us to live here: the green open spaces, the beautiful country roads, and the good schools.
2. What are your new ideas for Holmdel Township?
My new idea is to support an established idea that has been wrongly disregarded by the current members of the Township Committee. They have ignored decades of planning that created a well-designed Master Plan, a plan which reflected the values of our community and set the parameters for how the town should grow. The current Township Committee is developing the town in an ad hoc manner by allowing the redevelopment of a large parcel (the 472 acre Lucent tract) by an out-of-town developer who wants to create what he called a “virtual city.” (Kaysen, Ronda. “Future Takes Shape for Bell Labs Site.” NYT, 9/11/13, B5.) We don’t need the traffic and noise of a “city” in the middle of our town.
3. What are some of the challenges Holmdel is currently facing, and what are your ideas to get past the obstacles?
Our largest obstacle is deciding what is to happen to the last parcels of open space we have and how we will pay for it—either in higher taxes or lost quality of life. We need to decide as a community what we value. Is filling our town with businesses our future? Or do we take steps to protect our natural resources? Do we encourage development so we can have busier streets so we can spend money to widen them to allow traffic to move faster? Or do we take steps to develop thoughtfully keeping in mind what attracted us to choose Holmdel as our home. Keeping the “home” in Holmdel is a goal I subscribe to.
4. Last year, the Holmdel Township property tax increase was above the state average. What are your ideas to limit spending and increase revenue in the township, effectively working to lower property taxes?
We need to examine the budget carefully looking for opportunities for shared services, ways to spend smartly, and ways to cut taxes. The township’s spending has increased every year since 2005. The current Township Committee has, on several occasions, approved bonding ordinances without any public discussion as to the effect it would have on taxes. This has to stop. Every Township discussion and decision should at some level be driven by the impact on our taxes.
5. What experience in your private life translates positively to a life of public service?
For the past 20 years I have been involved in community service activities. When my children were young I was active in HYAA serving as a soccer commissioner, league president, and coach. I led a Cub Scout troop, had leadership roles in the Parent Groups of the schools and in Citizens for Informed Land Use, and served for six years on the Holmdel Board of Education serving on the negotiations, budget, curriculum, and technology committees. I also worked as a project manager on the Manasquan Watershed Management Plan bringing together the various stakeholders to create a successful master plan for the protection of the watershed.
6. (Reader question) The Lucent redevelopment plan prominently mentions " higher education" as one of the permitted uses. Aren't most educational institutions tax-exempt, and how would it benefit the town in that case?
The Redevelopment Plan was haphazardly created with minimal community input. It seems to be designed for the benefit of soliciting business with no insight into how development of this land will affect the residents of Holmdel. While the TC’s implied goal is to attract ratables, they are limiting tax revenue with their plan to accept “payment in lieu of taxes” from the developer. Another example of this contradictory thinking is their acceptance of tax-exempt educational institutions.
7. Expanding on Lucent, while the board hasn't approved the housing development phase of the property, what are your visions for that portion of the project? What is your vision for that property, and how can the township work with the developer to make the situation a win for Holmdel residents?
My vision for the housing component is to minimize the impact on our community as much as possible. Allowing sewers in southern Holmdel, which is the watershed for the Swimming River Reservoir, leads to unlimited intense development and threatens the quantity and quality of our drinking water. We had water shortages and rationing during the past few years. Imagine the problems that will come with increased development.
Also, I want to keep Crawford’s Corner Road which passes our Middle School and High School from becoming a busy stop light-controlled thruway. I will work with the developer, read all fine print, ask questions, and encourage community input so we have the best plan possible.
I don’t know how the flawed Redevelopment Plan, as approved by the TC. can be a “win.” I expect every dime in revenue will be spent in increased costs: wider roads, traffic signals, sidewalks, street clean ups, extra police, more town employees, increased costs of water and sewer services. This Redevelopment Plan evokes the old adage, “The more they build, the more we are billed.”
Candidate articles will be published throughout the week of Oct. 21, and will be linked below as they become available. You can also find them in our elections category.