Long Branch:League of Women Voters, (LMV) moderator Bill Madden laid out the rules for the Tuesday evening Mayor and Council election debate at the historic Long Branch High School filled to audience of about 300.
Mayoral candidate Avery Grant started off the debates with his, "Bringing Back the Long Branch Community" slate with council candidates Edward Anastasia and Dennis Mikolay.
The second speaker was current Council President John Pallone and teammates Councilwoman Dr. Mary Jane Celli, school board and NAACP President Bill "Lorenzo" Dangler, school board member Rose Widdis, Mario Vieira and Executive Director of Brookdale College Dr. Anita Voogt.
Current Mayor Adam Schneider's "slate" includes current council women Joy Bastille and Kate Billings and current Councilman Michaela Sirianni and teammates Diana Dos Santos and Adam Ponsi.
At the start, the candidates offered public statements of their qualifications and positions on what they see as programs for addressing city needs by the governing body along with city agencies, administration and staffs. Following intros, they responded to questions.
The mayoral candidates announced their goals and how they see their contributions serving the city.
There were considerable opinion on a number of topics - one being that developers, focused on Pier Village developments have been given more governing body care and concerns than the rest of the city and its community members.
Important to all was the attention made to youngsters in terms of activities for them: athletics, and leisure time, opportunity to learn practical job skills and find work, as well as activities that could fit into neighborhood events, not just at the city level. A couple of times the current governing body members and mayor listed parks, events and summer activities that meet those needs while opponents said more is needed and publicized for all.
Some argued that quality of life was and issue, not just financial matters like tax losses from concessions made to developers. Some said the concessions have left gaps in school financing, and has cut tax support for city services like and attention to local streets and keeping the city clean
Adequate public safety and police service was questioned with counter points made that the current force and methods meets the needs of the city with more closeness of police to the public than was the case in past years.
Several times things got vicous with boos from the audience but for the most part, order was achieved. The debate ran from 6-9pm. Election day is Tuesday, May 8. Get out and vote! This looks to be a close one next week.