McDowell: Let's Talk on Thursdays and Saturdays
Starting on Thursday, Sept. 9, Robert "Bob" McDowell, a Democratic candidate for Madison Borough Council, will be sitting outside or inside Drip on Main St. from 2:00 to 3:00 each Thursday afternoon and at Atlanta Bread from 10:30 to 11:30 each Saturday morning to listen to Madison residents' ideas and concerns about local government. "I'll be easy to recognize," says McDowell. "I'll be the guy with the name badge! In September, I will also begin walking the neighborhoods to chat and exchange ideas with residents. People can e-mail me at email@example.com or call me at (983) 822-0132. I hope to meet as many of the Madison residents as possible, young and old!" He will also attend the public meetings of Borough Council, to convey what he has been hearing from residents.
"We'll have a lot to talk about," McDowell says. "Everyone is facing serious challenges because of this tough economic climate, but Madison Borough is in good financial and physical condition, thanks to wise decisions that our bipartisan Borough Council has made over the years." McDowell points out that the Borough of Madison has made some important investments that will pay off in years to come, in terms of improved services and cost savings. They range from the purchase of 49 acres from the former Exxon/Mobil property to the construction of a state-of-the-art public safety building to upgrades in roads and sewers.
"The purchase of the 49 acres provides a perfect example of why it's important to have good planning and a good credit rating," says McDowell, a retired bank executive. "When that unique and valuable piece of property became available, the Borough easily secured the financing to buy it, even during the depths of the financial crisis, because of Madison's AAA bond rating and because of its Open Space Master Plan. Having this property means that Madison will have room to expand our popular sports programs, and have space for other kinds of recreation and environmental programs."
McDowell argues that the purchase of the 49 acres was a wise investment. "As the old saying goes, 'Buy land. They're not making any more of the stuff.'" He argues that the 49 acres will be an important addition to the Borough's recreational assets, which also include an extensive park system and a community pool. "Our parks, our pool, and our special events all help to keep Madison a great place for families to live."
McDowell emphasizes, "Our AAA bond rating didn't happen by accident, and neither did the Open Space Master Plan. One of the first things that Astri Baillie did after she was elected to Borough Council was to organize a referendum for the establishment of an Open Space, Recreation, and Historical Preservation Trust Fund. Once that was established, an advisory committee created the Open Space Master Plan, which was adopted by the Planning Board as an element of the overall Master Plan. Then Open Space Committee worked on obtaining millions of dollars in grants for acquisition of land, including the Luke Miller property, Livesey Park, the 49 acres, and Bayley Ellard. The next challenge, of course, is to raise the money that it will take to create the sports paradise that our sports teams dream about." McDowell is running to fill Councilwoman Baillie's seat, which she will be vacating after having served three terms.
McDowell notes that the 49 acres will be devoted to a mix of different uses, not just sports fields. Besides preserving some existing forest and wetland, the Madison Recreation Center Committee is considering other kinds of amenities on the site, including walking paths through the woods, a community garden, and an off-leash dog park. "The 49-acre site also offers some opportunities for Madison to expand its 'Green Initiatives,' which will help to improve the environment."
"One important environmental amenity in Madison is its historic train station, which since 1996 has provided Midtown Direct service to Penn Station in Manhattan as well as its traditional service to Hoboken. In recent years, New Jersey Transit refurbished the train station, providing elevators for wheelchair access. The station landscaping has also just undergone a major facelift, thanks to a grant secured by Friends of Madison Shade Trees, Inc. and Friends of the Madison Train Station. The appearance of the area will be further enhanced by a repaving project on Lincoln Place, which is on the downtown side of the tracks."
McDowell notes that Madison's downtown is so picturesque that it has served as the backdrop for scenes from several major motion pictures, as well as many commercials. The Hartley Dodge Memorial Building, which serves as Madison's borough hall, appeared in The World According to Garp, starring Glenn Close and Robin Williams, as well as in the 2005 Bernie Mac film Guess Who. Scenes from George Cukor's last film, Rich and Famous, were shot on Lincoln Place. Scenes from the movie The Family Stone were shot at the corner of Waverly Place and Main Street and at Drew University. The Hartley Dodge Memorial Building is currently undergoing major renovations, now that the police and fire departments have moved into the new public safety building. McDowell says, "We all need to thank former Councilwoman Carmela Vitale for her role in securing $660,000 in historic preservation funding for the Hartley Dodge renovations."
McDowell notes that Madison Borough has accomplished many other things that may be less evident. "Our police and fire departments are not only housed in a new public safety building, but they have the latest in technology and equipment, which enables them to effectively secure and respond to Borough residents."
"One of the most visible improvements has been the maintenance of our local streets. Major portions of many neighborhood roads have been repaved, and Borough Council has allocated significant funds to this effort every year. Remember also that the Department of Public Works has been saving taxpayers' money by doing milling and paving as well as repairing potholes. I've been hearing people's concerns about the need for repaving of Brooklake and Woodland Roads, and I want to make sure that those projects are given high priority."
Madison is practically unique among municipalities in New Jersey because it owns its own electrical utility, whose revenues have helped to offset local taxes. "Keeping up with maintenance and capital improvements on our electrical system is an important responsibility. We might have an occasional spot outage; but keep in mind that we still had power in Madison during the Northeast Blackout of 2003!"
"Less visible but no less important is our sewer system. The Borough government has undertaken a major upgrade of our sewer infrastructure. Besides doing routine maintenance and cleaning of the sewer lines, the Borough is upgrading the pumping facilities."
McDowell points out that public participation has been key to Madison's success as a community. "We all have a responsibility in these tough economic times to think about our priorities and to communicate our feelings about them to the Mayor and Borough Council in the most productive way possible. Madison has been a model of good local government, and we need to continue that tradition of civility and bipartisanship. In that spirit, I would like to invite you to tell me what you think about what we have achieved and what we ought to do next.