Meet the Candidates for the 2017 Voorhees Township Committee Election: Week 3

In the third week, committee candidates explains their stances on government’s transparency with the public and their longterm visions for the township.

The Voorhees Sun is running a four-week Meet the Candidates series ahead of this November’s Voorhees Township Committee election.

Below are profiles of the candidates running in the election. In the coming weeks, the candidates will answer questions regarding issues pertaining to the town.

Republicans

Names: Carmine Valentino and Lisa DeAugustine

Carmine Valentino
  1. Do you feel the township has done a good job regarding transparency with the public?

In short, we do not. For nearly twenty years, Voorhees Township has been governed by one- party rule. One-party-rule on our Township Committee has resulted in a lack of checks and balances. Without checks and balances, our local government has become complacent. Unfortunately for Voorhees residents, our opponents are career politicians who owe those careers to a political machine that works to benefit themselves and their campaign contributors instead of working for you. The Lack of balance on Township Committee has alienated many Voorhees taxpayers who feel that they have been left unheard.

Simply stated, there is no impetus for transparency on the Voorhees Township Committee. When was the last time our opponents held a town hall or even a simple coffee with residents (that wasn’t a political pitch during campaign season)? Due to their circle of political patronage, our opponents have unlimited power, control and have been susceptible to improper conduct, proving that one-party-rule does not benefit the residents.

We are astutely aware that our residents work long hours to provide for their families, and have less time to stay abreast with the current dealings of their local government. In the advent of increasing transparency, we will work to increase the social media presence of our local government. We will ensure that all recordings of meetings are readily available and clear, and utilize mediums like Facebook Live to hold virtual Q&A sessions giving everyone a chance to interact in a way that is convenient for them.

We are committed to bringing our community together, to keeping it safe, and bridging the gap between local government and you.

Lisa DeAugustine

2. How do you envision Voorhees Township five years from now?

If, and only if, we finally see change in this election and bring balance back to the Township Committee, we envision Voorhees thriving with economic prosperity. There are so many vacant store fronts in Voorhees. We will immediately work with the Town Center to devise a plan to market the space previously occupied by Macy’s, as well as work with the many vacant storefronts to help them succeed.

If elected, we would recommend that the committee review the process of permitting and zoning to ensure we make it easier for businesses to start up and remain successful in Voorhees. With these new businesses, comes new job creation as well as new tax rateables. We would also support Committeeman Friedman in encouraging and promoting corporate sponsorships to generate revenue, something our opponents have shown no interest in

doing. The combination of new businesses and revenue from corporate sponsorships will finally enable Voorhees taxpayers to enjoy real property tax relief.

We also see Voorhees land being used more wisely. We will continue to advocate the preservation of open space, and will also look into how we can leverage some of this land to install solar arrays. We will consider the benefits that clean, safe and renewable energy can have on our Voorhees residents as well as our schools. Our opponents have promised this for nearly 20 years, but 20 years later, nothing has come to fruition. Voorhees residents and schools would see cost reduction in their electric bills therefore putting more money back into our residents’ pocket.

When our opponents were elected nearly two decades ago, gasoline averaged $1 per gallon, and less than 20% of residents had access to the internet. Today, almost all of us walk around with the world in our pockets, and at our fingertips. It is time to bring Voorhees into the 21st century, and position our town for the future — For our families, and for yours.

Democrats

Name: Michael Mignogna

Michael Mignogna
  1. Do you feel the township has done a good job regarding transparency with the public?

The Township has done a great job keeping our residents informed and providing easy access to municipal services. For example, Voorhees Township recently launched a more user friendly website. While the Township’s web address remains the same, www.voorheesnj.com, visitors to the site will experience a completely new look and feel along with many increased capabilities.

The website was redesigned with a focus on providing our residents, visitors and businesses the ability to easily and quickly find Township information and answers. Visitors to the website can get the latest Township news and information along with the weekly Mayor’s Column and contact information for each Township Committee member.

Township Committee meetings, Planning Board meetings, Zoning Board meetings and all other meetings of our boards and commissions are posted on the calendar in advance with meeting agendas to encourage public involvement. Township Committee meetings are also streamed on the site and broadcast on the local public access channels for Comcast and Verizon Fios. For our esteemed veterans, there is a link providing information about local benefits, local organizations and honors. Local businesses are listed by category and their websites are available to allow a direct connection.

In addition, in an effort to offer our residents multiple options to stay connected with the Township, we have a Facebook page with almost 2500 followers, our Township App (Voorhees Township ONE), a Twitter account (Voorhees Twp), Instagram (Voorhees Twp) and Nixle, which allows our residents to be informed timely about local emergencies, road closures, police activities and community events. Our NextDoor App allows residents to sign up and share neighborhood information, similar to a community bulletin board.

2. How do you envision Voorhees Township five years from now?

I envision Voorhees Township to be an even better place in which to live, work and raise a family five years from now. I look forward to being an important part of that continuing evolution.

I foresee public safety continuing to be the top priority since the safety of our families should be first and foremost. I expect our police officers in our schools to continue to protect our most valuable asset, our children. I also anticipate our Police Department will continue their safety initiatives such as “Voorhees Saves Lives,” the Safe Exchange Zone, the DNA Home Asset Program, the Next Door App. and the SafeCam Program.

I expect to see our Township’s parks and athletic facilities continue to be the best in the area. Through grants, I expect our playgrounds to be safe and accessible to our children.

Environmentally, Voorhees has preserved 203 acres of land as open space since 2003. I expect that in 5 years additional land will be preserved for future generations. I expect that the Kirkwood Lake will finally be cleaned up by the EPA and once again become a majestic body of water. I look forward to our Environmental Commission and our Sustainable Voorhees group working hard to make Voorhees “greener” over the next five years.

In five years, I expect our Veterans Wall of Honor, which presently has 381 heroes on it, to have several additions to pay tribute to those who fought for our freedom. I look forward to our community events such our Summer Twilight Series, our Halloween Fall Festival, our “National Night Out” and “Voorhees Got Talent” to be bigger and better than ever.

I also look forward to seeing Voorhees once again voted the most “tax friendly” municipality in Camden County by the Asbury Park Press.

Name: Harry A. Platt

Harry A. Platt
  1. Do you feel the township has done a good job regarding transparency with the public?

Voorhees Township has done an excellent job to make our residents aware of community and government events and activities.

Our newly revamped Township website makes finding information about Township news, events and meetings easy to find. The site has links to many community services and contact information for all departments and members of Township Committee.

Voorhees began televising our Township Committee meetings in 1997, a practice that continues today. These meetings are broadcast on our local Comcast and Verizon channels. Televised meetings provide open government and is a great way for residents to stay connected with Township government. Agendas for all meetings of Township Committee, Planning Board, Zoning Board, Environmental Commission as well as the Business Development Committee are published on the Township website. Minutes from previous meetings are also available on line to provide residents with the latest information on Township meetings.

The Open Public Records Act (OPRA) provides everyone the opportunity to access government records permitted by law. Voorhees Township responds to all OPRA requests in a timely and open manner. We believe honest, open and transparent government is not only our duty but is the right of every citizen.

Voorhees was one of the first municipalities to establish the Nixel program in order to text residents important information about road closings, events and police activity. Our Facebook page keeps residents up to date on community happenings and our Twitter, Instagram and new Voorhees App are more ways to stay connected with our residents.

2. How do you envision Voorhees Township five years from now?

Ever since I started serving on Township Committee, I have always tried to plan ahead. The foresight to address future concerns has paid dividends today. This resulted in the Open Space Preservation Program of over 200 acres since 2001, the 5 Year Road Program and consolidation of public safety services. The decisions that we make today will determine how Voorhees will look in 5 years and beyond.

Over the next 5 years I envision having more responsible zoning laws that will not overburden the Township with residential development which could add to the cost of

running our Township and impacting our schools. We have recently re-formed our Economic Development Committee into the Business Development Committee. This was done to focus on repurposing our existing buildings and shopping centers. With new and stronger development tools at our disposal we can have an influential role in how commercial property owners to properly fill their vacant sites. This will bring in more tax ratables through smart growth initiatives and revitalize and retain existing businesses.

Voorhees will continue to keep public safety for our families and children a top priority. I envision our Police and Fire Departments to be recognized as the regional model for how to integrate and maximize these necessary services. Other municipalities are now looking into combining their local police and fire services as we have. In an age of consolidation of public safety departments, I believe Voorhees Township will remain a leader in providing these important services to our residents.

I also envision our parks and recreation facilities to improve. We will continue to use State and County grants to develop and enhance these facilities for our children which are known to be the finest in South Jersey.

With proper leadership and planning today, Voorhees will continue to be the best community to live, work and raise a family well into the future.