With eight days remaining until the election, which will determine who would fill the remainder of the two-year term of former Commissioner for Public Works John Moscatelli, the Haddonfield Civic Association held a candidates’ forum inside the library at Haddonfield Memorial High School.
On stage in front of a packed house of almost 100 spectators were the four candidates: Kathryn Raiczyk, Gregory Peltz, Colleen Bianco Bezich, and the man appointed to replace Moscatelli, Bob Marshall.
“The turnout was wonderful. We didn’t think we would get this many. It shows interest in the candidates, there’s issues out there on the table the candidates need to address. It’s good to hear what’s on the residents’ minds and what the candidates can do going forward,” noted HCA President Eric Johnson.
Questions asked of the candidates over the 90-minute session were selected from two separate sources: prior requests from community members through the HCA’s website, as well as those from audience members submitted on index cards just prior to the meeting. Harriet Snyder, treasurer of the League of Women Voters of Camden County presided as moderator.
The opening question dealt with communication between principal groups regarding school district matters.
“One of my platforms involves the creation of the liaison role with the board of education, and … if elected I would serve in that role myself. I believe that over the past several years, we’ve observed a breakdown in communication, and in some sense the trust, between the board of ed and the borough commissioners, and I’d like to re-establish that trust,” said Bezich.
Among the other hot-button issues the public wanted the foursome to tackle in three-minute segments were: how best to deal with bids and bidders for public-works projects to enhance cost efficiency, flooding concerns as they relate to the Haddonfield Public Library, county roads and existing properties, and whether or not to permit liquor sales in the borough.
“I’ve worked with bidders on that subject. I also have a degree in ornamental horticulture … I have also been an educator for how to properly take care of trees along with any public or private property in the past, so I have an insight for how to negotiate with these individuals, and how to make it so that Haddonfield can prosper and have proper work done,” Peltz explained on the subject of pursuing public-works projects.
Also among the queries from the borough, the possibility of shared services with Camden County, preserving the historic character of Haddonfield’s homes and buildings, along with addressing issues of diversity and inclusion.
“We pay about 25 percent of our property taxes to the county … we want to make sure that we get our fair share. We don’t get our fair share from the state, particularly for our schools. The county should not be the same situation. We need to make sure we get our fair share of open-space funds. Recently, we’ve been working with the county on stormwater system upgrades and road networks within the town; that relationship has been very promising,” Marshall mused on county-borough discourse.
One issue foremost in certain residents’ minds in recent months, which was saved for the end of the forum, was the situation with “affordable housing” placement on the proposed Bancroft and Snowden sites.
“There’s a lot of controversy regarding both. But it’s needed; it’s (state) mandated. And what I want to do is … to form a commission. But we need people in the community and we need a commission of people of all ages. Once that can be done, we can proceed to what we are allowed to do and what we want to do,” Raiczyk stated.
Discourse among the candidates and reactions from the audience during the forum were civil and respectful, in stark contrast to the national political climate.
“They all did well. They’re getting a taste of what it’s going to be like in the next year, year-and-a-half, and if they continue on after that. But they did well. We’re happy with who we have; all four candidates are qualified and it’s now up to the residents to show up at the polls on Nov. 5 and make their vote,” Johnson added.