Meet the Candidates: Answers how to improve council and protecting the environment

Below are Medford township council candidates’ responses, in alphabetical order, to questions regarding improving town council and how they would maintain Medford’s environmental beauty.

Kelly Clark

1. What are some things the township council could improve upon?

The council needs to be more proactive in reaching out to residents and getting more people involved in council and committee meetings. I think more people would attend meetings if they were educated on exactly what they are getting for the taxes they pay and if they felt their interests were being listened to and addressed by the council.

By getting more people involved, the council will have a better indication of the pulse of the town. As a result, the council will be in a better position to prioritize the issues (like the need for better snow removal), support different groups (like helping the Environmental Committee meet the certification requirements for Sustainable New Jersey), and promote the town as a great place to live, work, and play. All of these things must be done to add value to the lives of all Medford residents.

We want ALL Medford residents to feel included in and represented by the council. That is why we have run on the message, “Medford for All.”

2. What steps would you take to help preserve the ecology of the Pinelands in Medford?

My family chose to make our home in Medford because of the natural beauty of the area. With lakes, woods and farms surrounding us in every part of town, Medford is a beautiful environment in which to raise a family. As a mom, I would like to keep it that way.

But as a councilwoman, there are some other things I must consider. Business is needed in town to provide for the town’s needs and wants. There is also an ongoing demand for new housing. Both add to the tax base and are therefore important to the growth of Medford. But the key to generating prosperity in a sustainable way is to find a balance among commerce, neighborhoods, and green space.

As a town in the Pinelands, we must consider the economic, social, tax, and environmental impacts of any additional construction in the township. Maintaining a healthy environment for the people of Medford, as well as the unique flora and fauna native to the area, is a necessity.

We also must stand with our fellow Burlington County municipalities against building pipelines through our beautiful town and the Pinelands. With the potential for leaks, spills, and explosions, we are compelled to protect our air and water from such dangerous threats that put profits over the well-being of the residents of Medford.

Stan Czyzyk

1. What are some things the township council could improve upon?

A more inclusive council with more balanced viewpoints will help Medford across a number of fronts. Our campaign slogan, “Medford For All” speaks to this need to welcome different points of view, even those that we may not agree with initially. Medford is filled successful people in many fields. We do ourselves a disservice if we don’t harness this collective creativity and brainpower to address our challenges. You may hear stories of council meetings in other towns that run till 1 a.m., with a packed room and vigorous debate. In contrast, Medford’s meetings are sparsely attended and rarely last longer than 45 minutes. If elected, I would view improving participation at meetings as well as bringing more balance to committees as a core responsibility of council.

Inclusiveness is also important because it drives innovative solutions to our challenges. The referendum advocated by council that raised taxes 25 percent combined with significant cuts in services was a very direct approach to debt repayment. Now five years later, we should be discussing moving from recovery to prosperity and restoring services lost. This not being the case, it’s clear we need to add more creativity to the process. New approaches to increasing revenues and lowering costs, including those which look outside our borders (county, state, federal), shared services, combined contracts need to be on the table.

Lastly, human resources and workplace policies needs more attention. Whether it’s the total costs of unexpected turnover (such as the abrupt resignation of our last township manager) or costly legal settlements (such as the recent $150,000 settlement in employee discrimination case), these self inflicted wounds undermine and slow the recovery we are sacrificing to achieve.

2. What steps would you take to help preserve the ecology of the Pinelands in Medford?

Many of us love Medford because it’s NOT our western neighbors along the corridors to Philadelphia. Every tract of land is not developed. We appreciate the wooded areas, streams, lakes, and wetlands we have. We take new development seriously and limit it consciously.

The Pinelands is part of that unique ecosystem. How can a councilperson contribute to that preservation? When utilities want to extend pipelines through Medford, they should be met with strict scrutiny. We are the ones with bearing the risk long term. Our children will drink the water and our homes and forests will be damaged if there is a leak.

When we think about environmental impact, we need to also include business development. In this regard, we need to recognize Medford doesn’t have a supply problem. We have vacancies in many existing commercial spaces. If we continue developing new without supporting filling the old, we bear the cost to expand and upgrade infrastructure while we watch existing shopping centers fall into decline.

Incumbent Deputy Mayor Brad Denn

  1. What are some things the township council could improve upon?

Medford community events are thriving. The cost of these events used to be carried solely by concerned private civic groups. They tirelessly work year around to make them happen. These events include the Medford Art, Wine & Music Festival/Car Show, the 4th of July Fireworks, Oktoberfest, the Halloween Parade and the Dickens Festival. I will ensure Town Council eases this burden while increasing citizen involvement. Medford is gaining a reputation with our neighboring towns as offering high quality, family-friendly, seasonal celebrations. This brings in revenue from outside our town. We can harness that revenue and funnel it back into maintaining these memorable celebrations. I want to recognize the Medford Business Association for their successful Oktoberfest last month. Our Halloween Parade provided by the Medford-Vincentown Rotary and is second to none in South Jersey. In addition, our Medford Celebrates, Inc. is a tenacious and hard working group who provide us with a small town 4th of July and includes a big town Fireworks display. Medford is proud to have two Rotaries supporting us in so many ways; our Medford Sunrise Rotary gives us our unique and magical Dickens Festival in December. Our residents and their civic organizations provide us with four seasons of celebrations and are committed to maintaining community-building opportunities. I will ensure Town Council provides support to these groups in a more concrete way.

Secondly, I will continue to support infrastructure improvements to our recreation facilities. This past year we installed a turf field at Bende Park and we are installing a deck floor for the hockey rink at Hartford Crossing this fall. Medford is a town that is family-centered. We support our families by providing quality services for our children to help parents point them in the right direction. I am a firm believer that the pride of Medford is our children.

2. What steps would you take to help preserve the ecology of the Pinelands in Medford?

We have already made future forward decisions to preserve the remaining open space in Medford and these areas will continue to be free from development in perpetuity under the Pinelands Preservation Act. I will ensure Medford remains dedicated to our recycling initiatives. I applaud our School Board for using biodiesel in our school buses and solar power in the schools. In addition, the Township currently has solar panels to power our sewer plant. Lastly, Medford is approximately 70 percent designated Pinelands Preserve south of Route 70. In short, the steps have already been taken to ensure Medford is a good steward of our shared environment. I grew up in Medford, swimming and fishing in Birchwood Lake, and camping in the surrounding woods. It is a privilege for me to safeguard the sylvan backdrop of my childhood.

Linda Goldman

1. What are some things the township council could improve upon?

Listening would be first. The government belongs to us.

There are big differences between 1.) focusing on transparency versus civic engagement, 2.) focusing on fiscal responsibility versus sound financial understanding and 3.) focusing on a town versus its people.

The town’s kneejerk reaction to resolving unwarranted mounting debt was not well thought through. The current town council insists you accept their austerity plan because their way is the only way. You do not have to inherit that belief!

Your family paid someone else’s credit card bill; you got a 25 percent tax increase in 2012 and loss of services. Where is the money that should be used to restore your services now that the credit card has been paid off? It’s not logical. When do you get an answer?

As property values in surrounding areas begin to increase, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Medford home values have declined by 13% since 2012. This is, in part, due to the town we’ve become. Smart homebuyers are looking for more than we offer.

Do you remember Medford Summer Camp, children and teen classes for chess, cooking, nature, dancing, book clubs, pre-K sports, etc.? It was low cost. It’s gone. The current council wants you to pay for your children’s activities from expensive commercial vendors, often in other towns. Who can afford that? My running mates, Stan and Kelly have younger children; they never knew of these services. Medford, we forget who we are and have accepted this new norm.

We don’t want our council to spend time on failed cemetery deals, chicken coops, deer fences or failed library negotiations. We want our park bathrooms open. Women do not want to use a portable toilet. We want more lighting in our parks. We want safe roads in winter and summer. We want recreational programs for children.

We want council people with the creativity, financial and technical acumen to make decisions that will increase home values, create innovative solutions, work with other parts of government to keep taxes down. We want to be able to afford to stay here.

2. What steps would you take to help preserve the ecology of the Pinelands in Medford?

Medford is special, because we have the unique, alluring Pinelands in our backyard.

About, 82 percent of us live in the Pinelands. The Pinelands are approximately 22 percent of New Jersey’s total acreage. Its aquifer holds about 75 trillion gallons of fresh water. It is an invaluable ecosystem that deserves our protection. It is rare birds, hidden lakes, and wild orchids.

The Pinelands is vulnerable to dangerous natural gas pipelines that are illegal, but have been allowed to invade.

The good news is there is a lot we can do to maintain its beauty and environmental importance for future generations. We can take care of the parks in our town, the Wharton State Forest and our vast Wildlife Management Area land. Our children can get involved with nature-based recreation programs. We can visit Cedar Run, enjoy Pinelands outings, hike and discover our surroundings and extend the Medford Canoe Trail.

The town council needs to be active in taking advantage of conservation initiatives. In July, Medford initiated the process of getting Certification from Sustainable New Jersey. Sustainable New Jersey provides the support and education and to get started in preserving our environment and saving money. Medford Council has not led the unpaid Environmental Committee to reach their certification goal. Per public record, Medford has not earned the certification or pursued the grant money.

Erik Rebstock

1. What are some things the township council could improve upon?

Our existing council has already made so many improvements in the past five years. They outsourced trash collection to reduce costs. They expanded snow removal to vastly improve winter road care. They increased leaf and brush collection in Medford districts. They worked closely with sports and recreation programs to install a new turf field and budgeted funds to install a new deck hockey rink, plus many other improvements for the benefit of youth and adult recreation. They worked closely with new business owners to make Medford an attractive town to open a restaurant, bank, drug store, office, brewery, coffee roastery, and the many other businesses that have recently opened as Medford’s multiple business districts expand and thrive. Our present council has vastly improved discourse at council meetings, and provided complete transparency by streaming all meetings live and archiving recordings of past meetings for all interested. Additionally, they altered the council meeting process to open the floor for residents to speak uninterrupted regarding their concerns and compliments. This council has served Medford well.

While so many items have been accomplished, we can continue to improve in certain areas. Our infrastructure and roads need a plan to expand improvements. As a dad with four kids who were/are engaged in MYAA sports, and as a former assistant coach in four MYAA sports, I believe we should continue to improve our sports facilities and closely support our great sports programs, families, and coaches. They help our youth learn the value of competition and teamwork and channel their energies in the right direction. Our library is aging as well; a great community like Medford deserves a dynamic center for learning. Sound leadership never accepts the status quo and always pursues ways to improve — even when so much has already been accomplished.

2. What steps would you take to help preserve the ecology of the Pinelands in Medford?

In Medford, we have a rare privilege to border 1.1 million acres of the Pinelands National Reserve — a privilege that must be protected with diligence and wisdom. The Pinelands Commission’s mission is to “preserve, protect, and enhance the natural and cultural resources of the Pinelands National Reserve, and to encourage compatible economic and other human activities consistent with that purpose.” Working closely with the Pinelands Commission and other entities in ways that steward the resources of the Pinelands and Medford is the key approach to managing this beautiful area. Preserving and caring for our land is already a high priority in Medford, with over thirty designated ‘Green Acre’ sites. We have only one opportunity to pass on a beautiful Earth to the next generation. It would be a privilege to work with a town council that believes in protecting and expanding what we have now as a responsibility to those who come after us.

Incumbent Mayor Chuck Watson

1. What are some things the township council could improve upon?

There is always room for improvement, and we constantly look at everything we do to see what can be done better. Over the last few years we have hired more police officers and are in the process of hiring a new firefighter for the fire department to keep our town safe. Our Neighborhood Services Department has done a great job in recommending new equipment, hiring more personnel, and providing the services that we all appreciate. Funding has been provided to assist our civic organizations with all of the great events that they put on for our town and are part of our identity. Infrastructure upgrades have been increased yearly as our budget allows including over $4 million in road repairs over the last three years with the plan to increase this budget item again next year. Improvements to parks and recreation facilities have been increased, including new artificial turf at the Bende Park field, re-coating of basketball courts at Freedom Park and recently approved new decking for the hockey rink at Hartford Crossings. We have improved our snow plowing operations by purchasing new equipment, freeing up funds to have outside contractors assist when needed, and contracting with the County to plow their roads within our boundaries. We are hopeful that by taking over these roads, which are the most travelled roads in Medford, they will now be plowed in a timely manner. Communication with our residents is critically important. Several years ago our website was updated and we began live streaming our meetings to allow more residents to see them. Recently our Neighborhood Services Advisory Committee (NSAC) was charged with the task of looking at how we communicate. NSAC is working on a communication initiative, which has included a survey of residents. The idea is to come up with more efficient and effective ways to communicate. These are a few of the ways we can improve the Township.

2. What steps would you take to help preserve the ecology of the Pinelands in Medford?

With the majority of our town in the Pinelands National Reserve, we are fortunate to enjoy the legal protections that this affords us. Born and raised in Medford, I certainly remember when we were less developed. I spent many hours and days in the woods or on the lake while growing up. I was fortunate to be able to spend time with my son doing the same and now look forward to doing it with my grandchildren. We still have those lakes and large portions of protected woodlands. While there are more houses than when I was a kid, fortunately those before us allowed that development with a vision to protect our environment. Our lakes are a big part of Medford’s character. I will always look for ways to protect them and support legislation in this regard. Our water, sewer plant and infrastructure are monitored and have been recently upgraded to make them more efficient and thus more environmentally friendly. All of this combined helps to assure that the ecology of Medford, particularly within the Pinelands, is preserved.