Morristown Council Fourth Ward candidates: B&B’s and Beyond

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In Morristown’s Fourth Ward, which includes the Historic District, Councilwoman Alison Deeb seeks a fourth term on Nov. 5, 2019.

She faces a challenge from Democrat Sandi Mayer.

We put these questions to the candidates.  You also can see them tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at a League of Women Voters candidates forum, 7 pm at the Alfred Vail School.

 

MG: Please share some details about yourself?

Alison Deeb: I am a full-time councilperson, and take my job in public office very seriously. I have lived in Windmill Pond for the past 21 years, was on the Windmill Pond Townhome Association for 10 years and served two terms as Board President.

Councilwoman Alison Deeb poses a question, July 16, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

I love living in Morristown and care passionately about the town and people. I am a native New Jerseyan and care deeply about the future of our great state. My husband, Stan, and I have been married for 15 years. I couldn’t be more grateful for his devoted support of all my civic and volunteer activities including being a Seeing Eye Puppy Raiser and volunteering with Therapy Dogs International.

I am passionate about dogs, animals, nature – a lifelong interest. In April, I was the recipient of the Leadership Morris Alumni Achievement Award by the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.

Sandi Mayer: I am a 28-plus year resident of Morristown. I currently work in an accounting firm as support staff to the CPAs after a career as the general/finance manager in international manufacturing.

Sandi Mayer, a Democrat, is running for council in the Fourth Ward. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

I don’t have any children nor am I married. I currently serve the Town as a Shade Tree Commissioner. I am actively involved in the Parsons Village (PV) community, having served on the Board of Directors and as Chair of our admissions, maintenance, pet and Pool committees and serve on the gardens committee.

A few of my accomplishments in PV are getting new stoops and sidewalks throughout the complex, new building numbers for easier visual identification, new dumpster enclosures…all quality of life issues for our residents.


MG: Why are you the best person for this council seat?  

Alison Deeb: I am an experienced public service office holder and believe this kind of work is a calling. I have served as a local elected official in Morristown for the past 12 years. I have a Master’s degree in Public Administration and 13 years of corporate management consulting experience, most recently for Accenture.

I understand our government and the local issues, and leverage my work experience and qualifications to benefit the Town and the taxpayers of Morristown. Through good working relationships with elected officials at all levels – local, county, state and federal – I have achieved and can continue to achieve positive results for the people of Morristown.

Sandi Mayer: I enjoy being a part of the process to bring positive change and feel my energy, enthusiasm and work ethic can be brought to a larger scale and positively effect the residents of the 4th Ward.

As a Shade Tree Commissioner, I was instrumental in getting three trees planted in Lidgerwood Park this Fall, the cleaning of Pocahontas Park and support the effort to remove invasive species from all our parks. I’d like to continue that type of work as a Council member. I’m looking forward to working with all the residents and neighborhood advocates.


MG: What are your priorities for your ward?

Alison Deeb: My priorities for the Fourth Ward are and will continue to be: Park and town beautification and maintenance; neighborhood and historic preservation; economic growth and tax stability; public safety; growing the town while maintaining and keeping up with our town’s infrastructure; walkability and connectivity; environmental protection and preservation.

Regarding the last point, my proudest achievement as Fourth Ward councilperson has been to double the size of the Foote’s Pond Wood property by collaborating with the Mayor and Administration and County to apply for open space grants.

This demonstrates my strong commitment to the environment as also evidenced by my involvement on the Environmental Commission as Council Liaison. Moving forward, I would like to see the pond cleaned up and the growth of invasive plants kept to a minimum.

Sandi Mayer: Quality of Life issues are important to me-maintaining and expanding our tree canopy, protecting green spaces and parks, traffic and pedestrian issues, etc. As a Shade Tree Commissioner I created a form for tree donations to expand the tree canopy. If we all listen and work together, we can get things done.


MG: For years, Fourth Ward residents—including homeowners in the Historic District— and the council have opposed bed-and-breakfasts. Next month, the council is poised to approve B&Bs. 

Alison, you voted for this on first reading. Why?  

Alison Deeb: I not only voted for the first reading, I was invited to comment on the original draft and to provide input on the law. Realizing this could be a controversial issue and that there were many aspects of the concept that needed to be addressed, I met with many constituents, including a member of the Historic Preservation Commission over a period of a year, and discussed the public policy goals and objectives for the law.

I believe that what is proposed is a thorough and thoughtful piece of legislation and look forward to its adoption. I have distributed a copy of the proposed ordinance to constituents in the fourth ward and have not received any negative comments about it. I look forward to its adoption next month.

I feel confident that Bed-and-Breakfasts will help to encourage historic preservation and stimulate heritage tourism and economic and business growth, while at the same time ensuring the protection of our residential neighborhoods.

MG: Sandi, how do you feel about B&Bs in the Fourth Ward, and in Morristown?

Sandi Mayer: B&Bs can be a positive if regulated. Our historic homes are expensive to maintain as homes and the additional income from short term rentals could benefit the homeowners but only if they don’t have a negative impact on the neighborhood and neighbors.

Many issues would have to be addressed-parking, noise, length of stays, number of units vs size of home, etc. And the total number allowed in town. A registration and guidelines list would be needed but I would welcome the discussion and would like to hear from the residents to get their input.


MG: For several years, the Council has attempted, unsuccessfully, to impose alcohol curfews—early shutdown of alcohol sales—as conditions of the Iron Bar’s liquor license expansion on South Street. What is at stake here?  

Alison, why do you support imposing this condition even though courts and the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control keep overturning it?  

Alison Deeb: I no longer support these conditions for this very reason. Once I saw that the lawsuit with the Iron Bar was ongoing, I reconsidered my view on the topic, and at a previous Executive Session meeting of the Town Council, I made a point of speaking out on the fact that the town needs to be consistent in how we treat all of our businesses and not spend taxpayer money on appeals we cannot win. It is more effective from a public policy standpoint to deny applications than to impose conditions otherwise we put the town at risk for additional lawsuits.

MG: Sandi, what is your position on this?  If elected, how will you vote if/when these conditions come up again?

Sandi Mayer: I feel the residents impacted the most by the Iron Bar deserve to have their quality of life issues addressed and heard. They should not have to have their lives disrupted by noise and rowdy behavior late at night. The bar owner should have respect for the neighborhood and try to maintain control, as much as possible, of the patrons leaving the establishment. I support the effort to maintain the quality of life for the residents of Morristown but I will limit my opinion since I don’t know all the facts yet.


MG: Alison, last year you were the only council member to vote against a town grant (recently rescinded by the council) to a group home in the Historic District, for the developmentally disabled.  Are you in favor of this group home?  Why / why not?

Alison Deeb: This was one instance where my leadership on the Town Council, which has the fiduciary responsibility first to all the taxpayers of Morristown, was clearly evident. Yes, I voted against the subsidy because at that time I did not think the Town should be in the business of providing subsidies to non-profit start-ups, especially those with no financial history.

My leadership led the Town Council to rescind this resolution unanimously. Let me be very clear. I do not oppose group homes; I am a lifelong volunteer for people with disabilities. I do oppose group homes that are not well managed, as was the case with the group home on Headley Road that resulted in hundreds of police calls costing the Town thousands of dollars in emergency response expenses, as well as disruption to the quality of life and peace of the neighborhood.

As this home was in the Fourth Ward, it was up to me to see that the Administration did something about this as it was impacting the quality of life in the neighborhood. By my doing so, by collaborating with the Mayor and the Administration, and with the invaluable assistance of the late Senator Tony Bucco, that group home is no longer located in the Town.

As a ward council representative, I feel strongly that we need to take a leadership role in protecting our neighborhoods and taxpaying residents. If we don’t, who will?

MG: Sandi, are you in favor of this group home?  Why / why not?

Sandi Mayer: Yes, I am in favor of this group home. Being able to provide housing for the disabled is a positive for the Town, in my opinion. The historical look of the home was maintained and it provides housing within walking distance of downtown and transportation. Being disabled should not be a deterrent to housing, jobs and transportation. We should embrace the diversity of all and encourage it.
 


MG: Alison, back in April you said you would not seek a fourth term, stating you were upset that your neighbors had signed a campaign petition for your opponent, and you were fed up with the “meanness” of politics.  Why did you change your mind about running?

Alison Deeb: Perhaps most importantly, I received tremendous community support for my council work over the years, as I was written in as a candidate for my ward seat, in which I am honored to serve.

As noted earlier, I view my public service as a calling. So let me explain. Last spring, with the prolonged illness and death of my father, I found I just didn’t have the energy to engage in a campaign. When I resigned, I received hundreds – and I mean hundreds – of personal notes, emails and phone calls encouraging me to stick with my service to the Town and to find more appropriate outlets for my grief and sadness than bowing out of a community that has been so important to me.

I am happy to say I am doing well and moving forward, as is evidenced by my ongoing council, ward and town activities. As one person put it, being a councilwoman is who I am.

MG: Sandi, how would you feel if your neighbors signed a campaign petition for your opponent? 

Sandi Mayer: I love this question.

I had a good friend tell me that he signed the independent candidate’s petition to get on the ballot this past Primary election. My response–that’s democracy at its best.

Competition breeds excellence, it makes everyone work harder and creates improvement in oneself. Why be upset about democracy? I don’t understand it. That is what this country stands for and is built on.

It is not disloyal to my friendship nor would it ever effect my opinion or relationship with that person. I’m not threatened by it. And I would certainly never “call out” that person in public or private nor cause them to feel shame in supporting an opposing candidate. Again, that is democracy and as a council member -all constituents should be respected and heard.

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