Meet the Candidates: Priorities and communication

Learn about the candidates' priorities and methods of communicating with residents.

In this week’s edition of The Moorestown Sun’s Meet the Candidates series, candidates running for election on Moorestown Township council discuss their priorities and methods of communication to residents.

Voters will decide who will be elected to fill the three open seats up for election in the township on Nov. 3. Ballots can be cast either by mail, hand-delivered to the various drop boxes in Burlington County or by a provisional ballot at your district’s polling place. All mailed ballots must be postmarked before Nov. 3 to be counted.

Candidates are listed in reverse alphabetical order by last name.

David Zipin

My first priority actually is improving communications between the community and its elected officials.  I would like to see all of Moorestown’s residents, both people and businesses, become better consumers of their government service.  This can be achieved through improved communication and, if elected, will serve as my North Star.

I am saddened that the divisive politics we witness in Washington, D.C. have crept into Moorestown.  It seems that everything has been politicized – even our safety, from wearing a mask to relying on the police in the event of an emergency.  I will work to encourage more civility and open dialogue. I’d hope to see a community of neighbors who can hold differing opinions without those differences dictating behavior.  This starts by modeling the behavior I hope to see, encouraging all opinions and welcoming differing points of view. Further, local elected officials must be open to ideas borne from the community they represent. If elected, I would not assume that I was omnipotent before my service began; I think it’s crucial that any elected official remain open to ideas and perspectives they may not have previously considered.

Serving on council is not an opportunity for self-enrichment or accolades; rather, as the plain reading suggests, it is service.  So, I will pledge to ask more questions than I answer and listen more than I talk so that I can be of better service to my neighbors.

I also hope to see Moorestown’s fiscal health grow stronger without raising taxes; the residents of Moorestown already shoulder too much of that burden. However, costs go up every year, and a town of our caliber demands high caliber services which are not inexpensive, so I would like to see a more business forward approach to help defray some of that burden. I would like to see the town do a better job of marketing itself to future businesses and grow ratables to help Moorestown find revenues that will support a more sustainable budget without relying on new municipal taxes. To this end, I would like to see the addition of a business liaison on township staff.  Responsibilities could include working to help existing businesses communicate more freely with the town manager and ultimately council, streamline the process for new businesses wishing to open in Moorestown and work to eliminate many of the frustrating barriers that have existed for far too long.

Jake Van Dyken 

If elected, my primary goals would be to continue the strides made by the current council majority in ensuring and expanding transparent governance and supporting local businesses and providing tools for their successful operation.

  • Transparency:

More often than not, I think a lack of transparency stems from politicians trying to shield themselves from public criticism.  However, I believe that the people we serve deserve the truth, whether they like the policy decision or not.  You cannot earn the trust of your constituents without being forthright about how decisions were made.  While there are obviously times when debate must be handled outside of the public realm to protect the best interests of the town, even these situations must be explained to the taxpaying public.

The people in this town are smart, extremely involved and invested in the decisions that affect their lives, their children, and their property. So, you have my word that I will always listen intently to the residents and business owners in this town, will always make decisions with their best interests in mind, and I pledge to always be open and honest in how council makes those decisions.

  • Fiscal Health:

Given the COVID climate and its effects on small businesses, it’s more important than ever for our township to support them.There are important steps that I think council can take to help existing businesses and encourage new ones.

First and foremost, we must continue the current council’s work towards opening the lines of communication between council and businesses to better understand the struggles they face and to enact changes that allow them to operate more efficiently. If elected, I will support the creation of a business liaison working with the business community and township staff.  In addition, we need to better provide up-to-date information that is readily accessible by business operators through the township’s website. This is something that has been expressed by many business owners in town.

Second, there is room for improvement in terms of making it easier to do business in this town, including streamlining the process for approvals to operate a business.  I know there have been discussions about having a package store and possibly a brewery operate within the vicinity of Main Street, and I think this should be explored and supported in addition to other novel business ideas that would further diversify our business community.

Barbara Omert 

If elected, what would be your top priorities?

As Doug Maute, Vick Bobadilla and I have spoken with thousands of residents, it’s clear that affordability is the number one issue on their minds. The current town council raised property taxes even while sitting on an $8 million surplus. Rather than bring legal action against the polluters of Moorestown’s water to pay for the needed upgrades to our water infrastructure, the council chose to raise water and sewer rates. They raised fire inspection fees, recreation fees and library taxes and raised our township debt by over $20 million in just two years. Moorestown families simply can’t afford four more years of going down this path.

We intend to tackle the issue of affordability head-on. We will work towards a balanced budget that will provide for growth without increasing the tax burden on the residents and businesses of our town. We will move forward on holding the polluters of our water accountable and take a proactive approach to helping our local business community rebound following the COVID-19 pandemic. Last but not least, we will proceed on the long-delayed Lenola Redevelopment Project, the completion of Percheron Park on Main Street and the building of our town’s first-ever dedicated softball fields for our township’s young girls.

By voting for the Omert, Maute, and Bobadilla team, you are voting for lower taxes, increased transparency, sustainability and good government for all.

How will you keep the lines of communication open with residents?

The Omert, Maute and Bobadilla team is committed to transparent government. Over the years, politicians have offered empty rhetoric on transparency only to let it fall by the wayside once sworn into office.

If elected, we’ll ensure that all town council meetings are posted in a timely manner to the municipal website in an easy to find location. We will explore broadcasting other township boards to the public and better utilize Moorestown’s social media to connect residents with Town Hall. We will seek to hold regular listening sessions in times that Moorestonians can actually attend, create a new resident feedback portal that allows tracking of response to the issues facing our neighborhoods and ensure that major decisions are made in the light of day with full resident participation.

Moorestown’s greatest resource is its people and diversity of thought can only make good ideas better. Along with Doug Maute and Vick Bobadilla, I will break down partisan barriers to build a more collaborative spirit in Town Hall that always puts people before politics.

Doug Maute 

If elected, what would be your top priorities?

There are many issues facing Moorestown, but Barbara Omert, Vick Bobadilla and I are up to the challenge.

First and foremost, we will fight for lower taxes to make Moorestown a more affordable place to call home or open a business. This includes avoiding unnecessary increases on property taxes; avoiding hikes on township fees and water/sewer rates and the responsible management of our township debt.

We will aggressively pursue litigation against those who polluted Moorestown’s water to recoup the millions of dollars paid by the taxpayers to repair our long-neglected infrastructure.

Our team will bring forward fresh ideas on sustainability and open space preservation that are both good for the environment and for the taxpayer, such as a food waste recycling program that will lower trash collection contract costs.

We will focus on implementing best practices in government transparency; encourage business development by streamlining the processes in place to open or expand a business within our borders; stay on top of our water systems to ensure we are delivering the cleanest water possible and remove partisan politics from the decision-making process in appointments of township professionals and volunteer boards or committees.

How will you keep the lines of communication open with residents?

Listening to our neighbors is one of the most important cornerstones of the Omert/Maute/Bobadilla plan for Moorestown’s future. Barbara, Vick and I bring years of professional experience and volunteerism to the table that will serve us well over the next four years on town council, and nowhere will this be more obvious than in our approach to communication and transparency.

I’m a firm believer that the more input and ideas brought to the table, the better the process and the better the result. This requires time, respectful dialogue, listening with intent to understand other points of view and knowing one’s self well enough to keep emotions in check to disagree respectfully and find common ground.

We will hold regular listening sessions and office hours with our constituents and ensure they are scheduled in times where the public can be there to take part. There will be a renewed focus on harnessing the power of social media and technology to transmit information to the public, an evaluation of the township website to ensure information is easy to find and the exploration of a resident feedback portal that allows citizens to track the status of their concerns.

Sue Mammarella

If elected, my top priorities will be to attract more high-quality businesses to Moorestown. The more commercial ratables, the less residents bear the responsibility for the tax levy. That means we must shake off our unfortunate reputation of being a difficult and expensive town for businesses to get started. To that end, there have been numerous business savvy ideas put forth by various committees and boards, such as creating a marketing plan, a streamlined, business web presence, identifying and removing cumbersome barriers and creating a dedicated business resource whose sole focus will be to pull these ideas and elements together and push them forward. Town council needs to ensure that improvement projects that bring our residents out to these business districts stay on track and come to completion as quickly as possible.  This is one of the reasons why the completion of the Percheron Park plan is so important for our historic town center. Residents want a place to meet and gather. That foot traffic will be a great asset to new and existing businesses alike. Our long neglected Lenola Business district now has a workable and funded plan that will revitalize the area both aesthetically and practically. I pledge to do everything I can to adhere to the project timeline.

Over these past several months, I have studied issues concerning town government communications with residents and listened to residents’ concerns. I want to continue the good work already in place, such as live-streaming town council meetings and storing the recordings on the website. I will work to improve the Moorestown government website to make sure it is as user friendly as it can be so needed information is easier to find. I also hope to have my own office hours so I can listen to residents at times convenient for them.

I will strive to keep those lines of communication open with all Moorestown residents and work to ensure that all feel welcome and engaged in this strong and vibrant community.

Vick Bobadilla 

If elected, what would be your top priorities?

The most immediately pressing issues I see facing our community are taxes and business development. Barbara Omert, Doug Maute and I will make these issues a priority.

Our taxes are high, and the council is not doing enough to ensure that every dollar is being maximized. Our town’s perfect credit rating is now in jeopardy thanks to declining business revenues and increased government spending. Town council must explore grant opportunities and public/private partnerships, thinking outside of the box and continue delivering great services without increasing the tax burden.

In spite of raising taxes, the council cancelled construction of a dedicated softball field for our town’s girls, sending a message to our daughters that they are less important than our sons as we lose potential revenue dollars for use of these fields for events and tournaments.

Business development ties in deeply with the tax conversation. Without an aggressive and forward-thinking plan for rejuvenating our business districts (Main Street, Lenola, Moorestown Mall, East Gate, K-Mart Shopping Center), we are heading in a direction that will be difficult to pull back from. Council needs to move forward on the Lenola project after countless unnecessary delays, then keep that long-neglected business district a constant priority.

In partnership with groups like the Moorestown Business Association and bringing together the many successful business minds who call our community home, we need to figure out what the future of Moorestown looks like in terms of building a sustainable business model that encourages shopping local and explores new concepts that have worked in other communities around the country.

How will you keep the lines of communication open with residents?

The Omert, Maute, and Bobadilla team has a 5-point plan for transparency:

  1. Ensure an open bidding process for government contracts.
  2. Hold regular listening sessions with constituents.
  3. Post recordings of Township meetings in a timely manner.
  4. Create a resident feedback portal that allows rapid response to issues facing our neighborhoods .
  5. Utilize Moorestown’s municipal website (which is in desperate need of an overhaul), and social media to connect residents with Town Hall.

We are now, as we will be on town council, accessible and ready to answer any questions you may have. Barbara Omert, Doug Maute and I don’t pretend to have all the answers — no one person or team does — but we have the love for this community and willingness to listen that can get Moorestown back on the right track.