TOMMY DECATALDO for Borough Council
Please give the definition of transparency and how would you try and expand it? Traditions and Pioneer Pride run strong in New Providence. How does the borough maintain this small town pride in changing times? What is your 10 year vision for New Providence? Please include your vision for economic development in your response.
In my mind, transparency in government requires that our leaders (1) take steps to ensure that the public readily understands the issues being addressed, (2) that there is shared and open access to the information shaping these decisions, and (3) that the public be invited to participate in open discussions before decisions are made.
If I were elected, I would try to promote improved transparency by establishing greater public awareness of the issues before the council and the council members themselves. Over the course of this election, I noticed it was not uncommon that our residents did not know the elected officials comprising the borough’s current council. I would also work to see that the borough’s official website was improved, as it currently contains outdated information and even links to blank pages with no information at all.
Additionally, the borough could make improved efforts to provide the public notice of important issues facing our community so that greater public participation could occur during council meetings. This could be accomplished by posting the agenda more widely, rather than just on the borough’s webpage which requires the public to seek it out and locate it for themselves. The agenda also could be made available with greater lead time ahead of council meetings, so our residents could investigate the issue(s), and ideally participate in council meetings.
While it is true that our community is always evolving, most residents of our community continue to embrace and enjoy the many wonderful traditions of New Providence. I don’t believe the evolution of our community compromises any of our small-town traditions. New Providence offers so many wonderful traditions that help make this a special place to live.
Whether it is cheering for one of our championship caliber sports programs at NPHS, watching our residents march in the Memorial Day parade, marveling at the talents of our acclaimed marching band, or walking downtown to judge the clever entries to the annual Scarecrow contest, there really is something for everyone. I don’t see any reason why that would change going forward.
In the next ten years, there are certain specific targets I would seek to achieve for New providence.
First and foremost, property taxes are always at the forefront of resident’s minds. Although there are limits to the borough’s control over property taxes, we should still take great effort to improve the areas that we can control. Property taxes are a source of frustration and misunderstanding for our residents. I would like to see New Providence offer greater transparency in how public dollars are utilized so that residents are informed as to where and why their tax dollars are spent. New Providence has the third-highest average tax bill in Union County, and depends more significantly on property tax revenue than our neighboring communities. There is potential for improvement if we take a deep dive into our municipal budget, and make greater efforts to avail ourselves to county, state and federal grants
Second, it is critical that we get it right with downtown development. As of October 2022, we currently have disagreement among the council and the public as to whether to expand permissible building heights for our existing downtown. There is also public concern over allowing the current structures to expand to three stories in height. It is important that this decision be thoroughly vetted with widespread public comment, to address the potential benefits and detriments to the community. The outcome of this issue will have lasting consequences and impact New Providence’s cherished downtown over the next ten years.
Finally, over the course of the next decade, we should continue to embrace transparency in all forms. As stated earlier, there are steps that can be implemented to encourage greater public participation in the decision-making process, and we as a community at large would be benefit from a better functioning website. I hope to see more consistently contested elections, which pushes our representatives to remain accountable, and mobilizes the public to have their voices heard.
While our borough truly is a wonderful place to live, there is always room for improvement.