In this week’s edition of The Mullica Hill Sun’s Meet the Candidates series, candidates running for election on Harrison Township Committee discuss their priorities and methods of communication to residents.
Voters will decide who will be elected to fill the single seat up for election in the township on Nov. 3. Ballots can be cast either by mail, hand-delivered to the various drop boxes in Gloucester 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 alphabetical order by last name.
If re-elected, what would be your top priorities?
Based on these unprecedented times, the No. 1 priority of our leadership is to help our residents and businesses through this pandemic and transition to the new norm in 2021 and beyond. Our role is to inform and assist in every way possible.
The COVID-19 influence aside, our focus remains the execution of our Master Plan. This includes a philosophy of controlled SmartGrowth and maintaining the third-lowest tax rate in Gloucester County.
Our plan includes the expansion of our commercial ratables, building on the 300-percent increase over the last decade. We have several new businesses opening soon, most of which are contracted for PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) programs. This fiscal strategy greatly benefits our community long-term.
Our Master Plan has always emphasized the need for open space and farmland. The current zoning and planning protects us from over-development. As a member of the Joint Land Use Board, I’ll always raise awareness of the importance of farmland preservation and open space.
How will you keep the lines of communication open with residents?
We pride ourselves on having the best communication platform in the region. It starts with the ability to contact our mayor and township committee members directly, as we all list our cell numbers on the township website.
Connecting to our residents is paramount and we use multiple channels to do so. This includes our social media pages, The Mullica Hill Sun and Happening in the Hill. We are currently developing a new township website, based on resident input, to make it more intuitive and helpful. I have a lead role on this project.
Our response to the COVID crisis was to leverage these communication channels to keep our residents informed and as calm as possible, considering the circumstances. In March, Mayor Louis Manzo began to write what became a nightly email to residents. The feedback has been amazing! We also just launched a new video platform to report on specific developments in town.
Additionally, we created an outreach program for seniors and disabled residents. I worked with Committeeman Adam Wingate on this project that includes a team of resident volunteers to help with groceries or other essentials for 500-plus residents in need. This program will be in place permanently going forward.
Our communication platform enables us to freely share ideas and information. It’s part of the foundation that makes us Harrison Strong!
When elected to Harrison Township Committee, I am eager to bring a ballooning budget under control. We’ve seen property taxes for Harrison Township residents explode over the past several years, driven by municipal cost over-runs and diminishing values in township contracts. Taking advantage of shared service savings and reviewing the top-heavy budget, line by line, I will put a halt to tax breaks and experiments for big businesses and stop the annual property tax increases for Harrison Township homeowners — all while prioritizing our multi-million dollar municipal budget for those things which matter most to our residents and children.
Importantly, I will form the first Municipal Ethics Committee, charged with oversight and investigation of all township committees, boards and councils, ensuring that transparency and accountability are key. No elected or appointed official should reap financial windfalls while Harrison Township homeowners watch their tax bills rise year after year, and a Municipal Ethics Committee will guarantee that every individual is held to the principles of openness and fairness.
There are few things more critical than communication, an open line of dialogue with township residents ensures that desires are heard and critical needs are acted upon. As a member of Harrison Township Committee, I’ll continue my engagement throughout the community, meeting with local residents and businessowners to ensure my fingers remain on the pulse of Harrison Township. I’ll work with county and state leaders as an advocate for our wonderful community and I’ll guarantee that every resident of our town has an opportunity to be heard.
I believe strongly that the “big issues” begin at home … that we all have a voice and a role to play in the greater national conversation. Progressive ideals like social justice, equality and the importance of the environment begin at in our neighborhoods and on our streets. I’ll increase transparency and accountability while building local and regional relationships to benefit Harrison Township residents, and will leverage shared services as one of many components of bringing the budget back under control and ensuring funds are used for things that benefit us all.
If I am honored on Election Day with a majority of the vote in Harrison township, my top priorities will be (1) fiscal responsibility (2) smaller government and (3) innovation and technology. New Jersey homeowners are taxed to the point that living here is simply unaffordable. The state is in trouble with an out-of-control governor and a single-party rule, which has led to thousands upon thousands of residents selling their properties and moving away. As a young adult, I worry that living in N.J. will be unaffordable for my generation. If many of our young people feel the same way, N.J. will lose a critical part of its tax base, leaving our seniors and retirees, that can’t afford to leave, with a huge tax bill. While, as a township committeeman, I cannot change Trenton’s spending, I can and will vote to limit spending locally. I will work hard to identify the areas of bloat in our budget and to determine how the township can benefit from reducing expenses to lower the tax rate. I believe that smaller government translates to lower taxes. Government simply cannot continue to spend money without regard to the impact on its tax base. We need to keep in mind that Harrison Township has always drawn young families who want to raise their children here. We need to make it affordable for them to do so.
My third priority — innovation — speaks to the last issue which is- how I will keep the lines of communications open with residents. In 2020, prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Harrison Township residents didn’t have the routine option of attending township meetings over Zoom or through cable, leaving them with in person attendance as the only meaningful manner of participation. As we have all learned post-COVID-19, social media, Zoom and other means of instant communication is available to allow citizens to participate remotely in public meetings. I intend to use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to let residents know what we are working on and to seek their input. I also intend to push for publication of all township meetings, including the boards, on Zoom or local cable television so that residents can participate and stay informed as decisions are made.
I am Dan Ross and I am asking for your vote on Nov. 3rd.