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VIDEO: Candidates Square Off on Electric Rates, Health Department, BA Dismissal

League of Women Voters forum draws 60 attendees.

Approximately 60 people attended a forum for Madison Borough Council candidates Tuesday evening at the Madison Community House to hear the four candidates give statements and field audience members' questions.

Two three-year seats are up for vote, with Democrats Astri Baillie, a former councilwoman, and Ben Wolkowitz running against GOP nominees Board of Health President John Hoover and Carmen Pico.

The event was hosted and moderated by the League of Women Voters, with audience members submitting questions about electric rates, taxes, Health Department contracts and the dismissal and reinstatement of Madison's borough administrator earlier in the year.

Attendees wrote down questions on index cards, and before long moderator Louise Murray had a stack of them, many about similar subjects.

On the issue of taxes, Hoover criticized what he said was an average 6 percent annual tax increase the years during Baillie's tenure on the Council, and said the increases have been under 3 percent in recent years. Wolkowitz said tax increases are smaller because of a new, state-mandated tax levy cap and the 6 percent increases were lower than the state averages at the time.

Health Department

A question about the possibility of Madison losing some of its Health Department contracts drew spirited responses from Hoover, the Board of Health president, and Wolkowitz, who said the lost contracts are "disturbing" and part of Hoover's record.

Wolkowitz said Madison was formally notified it is losing two of its five Health Department contracts, and a third contract has said it won't be renewing. He said the Health Department should not be autonomous and the Council should have a say in how it's run.

Hoover said he was glad to clear the air on the issue. He said the five contracts expire at the end of the year. A contract with Springfield and an expanded contract with Chatham are on the verge of being signed, he said.

"I don't think we're going to lose any money," he said. "I think we're doing really well."

Wolkowitz asked for a chance to respond, and the moderator said she could tell it was an important issue and gave the candidates another minute to respond.

Pico offered his minute to Hoover, saying people were "attacking" Hoover on the issue.

Wolkowitz said it wasn't an attack, but the candidates are running on their records and voters need to know what the records say.

"I hope we don't lose all three," he said. "I could be wrong and I hope I'm wrong."

Hoover said the Health Department has saved money and made the department more efficient by reducing full time staff, changing animal control providers, automating marriage and dog and cat licensing, adding a time tracking system for employees and giving sanitarians computer tablets to avoid duplicating work.

Check back for more information and a link to the RosenetTV video of the debate.

The Madison Truth Squad October 24, 2012 at 12:24 PM
The best that Mr. Wolkowitz can offer is, "the 6% increases were lower than the state averages at the time?!" Good thing the state average wasn't 10%, otherwise we'd all be moving to Florida. If the Baillie/Wolkowitz team gets elected, we may be headed there shortly. But seriously, the period in question - 2003 through 2009, had some of the lowest CPI increases in our lifetimes. 6% was more than DOUBLE the average for the period. If you can't hold down tax increases in that environment, then caps won't stop you today. It's also proof that the council members during that period had no idea how to make "the hard decisions," since they never chose to put the needs of the taxpayers over their own agendas. There was also one other illuminating quote from the B/W team's last press release, " . . that no borough employee will be treated adversely because of the transition to a different services acquisition method." Translation - We will never try to economize or save tax dollars if it requires us to downsize the borough's workforce, even if it will provide a better service at a cheaper rate. This is why government never gets any cheaper, and in fact, continues to grow at an unsustainable rate - Politicians are too worried about garnering the votes of a tiny subset of the electorate that they refuse to do what is right for the tax payers. Any other promises made by this team on Shared Services cannot be met as long as they hold to that promise.
Larry Bruce October 24, 2012 at 02:06 PM
A nice summary of the teaville mentality albeit an anonymous i.e. gutless one. The "name" she uses is particularly ridiculous since it implies she speaks for others when she won't even speak for herself.
Barry Luce October 24, 2012 at 05:04 PM
The Astri Baillie Record of Failure: * Property Taxes Increased - 45% * Electric Rates Increased - 80% * Water Utility Rates Increased - 60% * Debt Incurred - $30,000,000 * Contaminated Properties Purchased - 2 * Surplus Savings Used to Avoid Hard Decisions - $3,400,000 Remind us why anyone thinks she's a great steward of the hard earned money we pay in property taxes.
The Madison Truth Squad October 25, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Interesting that Mr. Bruce has no answers when Ms. Baillie's abysmal fiscal record is noted, even though her campaign partner claimed at the debate that, "the candidates are running on their records and voters need to know what the records say." Larry's silence speaks volumes. As for running on your record, at the Truth Squad HQ we all say, "Amen Brother Ben."
Larry Bruce October 25, 2012 at 11:12 AM
No answers because there were no questions by real people. Besides that, this was addressed at the debate as noted in the article. Question for you Truthie, when the Truth Squad gets together at headquarters, do they wear disguises, maybe something to cover their faces, in case someone walks in on them? PS - You see the endorsements in today's Eagle? It pretty much addresses all your points and also reminds of the "debacle of the aborted firing of the Borough Administrator". I know you want to forget that but nobody else has.
David Arthur October 25, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Mr. Bruce: What does Mr. Codey's firing have to do with either Mr. Hoover or Mr. Pico? If people choose run on records...then they run on their record. Seems the history is pretty clear.
Larry Bruce October 25, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Did they speak out against it? Were they handpicked by the big 3 who were behind the firing? "Seems the history is pretty clear". Please explain. The history of what?
David Arthur October 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM
I don't just assume that because someone is in the same party that they would only vote the party line...do you? Neither of these gentlemen had anything to do with what happened...an whether they said anything about it isn't relevent either. By record...I'm refering to anyone that runs on what they did...not what others think they will do.
Larry Bruce October 25, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I didn't assume anything - are you admitting that the sneak attack was a "party line" thing? The fact that they didn't say anything about is very relevent in my opinion, we can just disagree on this point. We'll soon see what the voters think. We already know what the Eagle thinks as they cited the incident in their endorsments. If you're talking about Astri's record then she seems to be quite proud of it and once again, the Eagle agrees. I think I addressed all your points even though you skipped over the "handpicked" part when responding to mine.
David Arthur October 25, 2012 at 01:13 PM
That's not correct...you mentioned "hand picked". I only said that to say these two candidates were connected with any action against Mr. Cody is not right. Hand picked implies party line. It is you who made the "assumption" and I don't think that's either correct or right. As for the Eagle...that's what democracy is all about. The Eagel them as they see them. No problem with that.
Larry Bruce October 25, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Ok, we disagree then. If you're correct and if they are on the other side of the Codey thing, then why wouldn't they come out and say so? I think it would get them some undecided (if there are any) votes.
The Madison Truth Squad October 25, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Interesting that you have such faith in an unsigned editorial, but doubt The Truth Squad just because we remain unnamed. Guess you also don't have issues with the Eagle's reporters, who write "news" stories and commentary (and probably the endorsement) since they are solidly in your camp. Still no response on the massive tax hikes, from you or the crack Eagle Editorial Board. You can keep trying the dodge The Truth, but the community knows what will happen if we get Astri IV. More borrowing, higher taxes and no rate cuts. And we were shocked, SHOCKED, when they endorsed the Dems. Typical Eagle move - Endorse Republicans where it doesn't matter - Freeholder and Congress; but in tight races and at the top of the ticket, always pick Dems. Bipartisan, NOT As for how the Republican candidates were "selected," there was this small thing called a Primary. We know the Democrat hierarchy always selects their candidates (just ask Mr. Brunner, who was outvoted by a write-in ghost several years ago), but in Morris county, the Republican party lets its voters decide. It's called Democracy.
The Madison Truth Squad October 25, 2012 at 03:17 PM
This issue was discussed at the debate. Trying to pretend otherwise, just to continue your weak talking point, is a joke. As for Undecided voters - Most people barely know the candidates, and few know who Ray Codey is. In the end, most people will be voting based on who will deliver services and not raise their taxes. On that score, the choice couldn't be more stark - * Democrat councils, lead by Ms. Baillie, jacked up taxes and utilities to the tune of THOUSANDS of dollars in additional taxpayer costs annually. They also larded on Debt, and sucked millions from the surplus account. * Republican councils have brought the increases down to a third of the rate that the Dems were spending, WITHOUT increasing the annual debt service line. And they've stopped the draining of the borough's "savings" account. We Report, You Decide!
Larry Bruce October 25, 2012 at 03:44 PM
@ truthie in her rambling post at 11:04 - Unsigned? What do you think Editorial means? I think his name is Herzog. He's the same guy who endorsed MAH all the time. I guess you forgot about that. Speaking of MAH, I'd love to know her reaction to your repeated implications that Astri ran the town singlehanedly for all those years. Finally, who did Hoover beat in the primary?
The Madison Truth Squad October 25, 2012 at 04:39 PM
It means it could have been written by anyone on the staff. If you're going to complain about unnamed people commenting here, be consistent and complain about the lack of Transparency there. Seven of the nine the years that Ms. Baillie served she had a solid majority on council that voted in lock step to increase taxes, increase debt, increase utility rates and use millions in savings to avoid the "hard choices."
Larry Bruce October 25, 2012 at 04:48 PM
He put his name to it, end of story.
Larry Bruce October 26, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Yes, the issue was discussed at the debate. One guy said we should move on and your man Hoover commented that Burnett and Codey handled it very well. Obviously not the point but I guess he had nothing else he could say without annoying his backers. At least it was better than the answer he gave me when I asked him, face to face at Bottle Hilll Day, whether he though it was a good idea to run on his BoH record when they were losing either 60% or 40% of their clients/customers. His response was to pretend that he didn't know what I was talking about. Nice.
Barry Luce November 06, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Where did you see a name

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