Candidates for council give views

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    WEST MILFORD-As voters head to the polls next Tuesday for the primaries, five candidates are vying for two seats on the township council. Republican Councilman Dennis J. Kirwan seeks reelection. He is running with Kenneth Freedman, who currently sits on the board of education. On the Democratic ticket, Robert Nolan and James Warden seek voters' support for the council seats in November. James Novack is running as an Independent Republican. The West Milford Messenger asked the candidates about a number of local issues. Here's what they had to say. West Milford Messenger: At a recent council meeting the issue of the county Sheriff's Labor Assistance Program was mentioned as a possible solution to the New City dumping problem. Neither the council nor the township attorney were aware the program was available to the town. Some residents claim there is no communication between town and county officials. Do you agree that there needs to be more dialogue between the two? Kenneth Freedman: Communication between all sides - municipal, county, state, and school, can always be improved. This goes hand-in-hand with my goal of bringing both the West Milford Board of Education and the Town Council together to explore where we can share services. Shared services between the two sides are a way to make the dollar go farther. Dennis Kirwan: There is ongoing communication between township and county officials. For example, the dead tree limbs were a county problem and were satisfactorily removed within just a few weeks after the county was notified. Individuals who make the claim that there is no communication are not aware of the council and county relationship that this mayor and council have created. New City should be treated as any other property in the township. If there is a problem with property maintenance, a summons should be issued. Robert Nolan: The Sheriff's Labor Assistance Program does not involve hard core prisoners. It consists of people who have been ordered to commit to community service, not those in the orange suits that you see on state highways. These are ordinary people who have committed minor offenses. Their services are perfectly suited for cleaning up county roads in West Milford. I have spoken to Sheriff Speziale and he would like to see more information put out about the availability of the sheriff's program to towns in Passaic County. In order to get the program rolling, an elected official or the township administrator, someone, has to contact him. How would I do that? I would pick up the phone and call the sheriff. James Novack: Republicans say it is difficult for the all-republican council to communicate with democratic county or state officials. When the partisan officials bash the democrats for anything they do, our town is not going to get anything back. I have known both freeholders and the sheriff very well. You do not tell higher ups what to do, you ask for their help. You sit down and communicate with them. Right now, our republican council does not get along with the democrats down county. Last year we got along much better. I would like to change that. James Warden: Robert Nolan and I have met with the sheriff and discussed the labor assistance program and how it could benefit our town. This administration has not done anything to improve relations between township and county officials. If you want help from the county, you need to call the sheriff and ask for it. WMM: There is no discussion allowed at the public portion of council meetings. Do you agree or disagree with the way the council conducts the public part of the meeting? Freedman: When compared with the previous council, whose members behaved poorly towards each other with vulgar comments and total disrespect, I believe this council has restored professionalism to our council chambers. No longer do the majority of the residents of West Milford cringe every time one of the elected officials responds. Would I change anything? Well, I would like to be one of those people on the council. Kirwan: Although the decision seems drastic, it has been put in place for a good reason. Councils of the past have responded to accusations, ideas, and complaints without doing the research necessary to properly answer the questions. We intend not to answer until we research and find out both sides of any issue brought before us. Nolan: It's obvious there needs to be a dialogue. The fact that the council has eliminated petitions and requests from the public means they are not getting any input from the town. Basically, these seven people are saying, "we are the only ones with the ideas; we know what is best." We have a population of 26,000 living in our town; how can anyone pretend to know what's best for them if they are not willing to listen to the wants and concerns of the people? The problem is the partisan mindset. The time to listen to the public is before decisions are made, not after. Novack: I totally do not agree with the way the council conducts meetings. There is no discussion with the public at all. They do not have a dialogue with residents. The townspeople have no chance to speak before a resolution is passed, only after, and there is no discussion allowed at that time. Open up with the public portion, for a half hour, before the business part of the meeting. Depending on how many people want to speak, give each one a certain amount of time to voice their concerns on anything they want. Warden: We are running for council because we want to represent the people of West Milford; no one represents the people. The public portion of the council meetings is a slap in the face to residents. A representative of the town has to listen to the people he has committed to serve, in order to represent them. WMM: There is no more Open Space Committee, according to the new township code, posted on the Web site. The surcharge is still being collected. How do you feel about the Open Space Commitee? Freedman: As far as the money collected from residents, I expect the funds will be allocated only as the statute allows. The fund does not provide for use in arbitrary areas, as some might like to think. It is my understanding the Environmental Committee will be handling the functions of the Open Space Committee. The question is really about how I feel about things, and it should be based on maintaining strict compliance with the law. We all have personal feelings and beliefs on