From taxes to spurring new business in town, four candidates for two open Cranbury Township Committee seats fielded questions from the public at the Cranbury Democratic Organization’s May 22 candidates debate.
Incumbent Committeeman Glenn Johnson joined by newcomers Eman El-Badawi, Robert Christopher and Barbara Rogers, who are running in the June 4 Democratic Party primary, took part in the debate held at the United Methodist Church of Cranbury.
The seats, each a three-year term, are open due to Republican Committeeman Dan Mulligan not seeking re-election and Johnson’s term being up.
During the debate there was a divide among the four candidates when they were asked about how they would spend budget surplus if the township continues to be financially healthy.
Johnson said he would use the surplus to pay down some of the capital projects in town.
“One that comes to mind is dredging the lake. The surplus will enable us to pay some of it with that money as apposed to bonding for it,” he said. “We also have quite a few township roads in neighborhoods that need attention. We do not get a lot of funding from the state Department of Transportation for those roads.”
Johnson said he thinks it would be a good idea to pick one or two projects such as these a year and create a program each year for street crack filling.
El-Badawi said she would the surplus to target projects that are the most urgency.
“I would love to hear from the residents that are most affected and take on those projects, whether it is a road or something regarding flooding or storms I would focus on those first. I think after that we should move our agenda for information dissemination ahead,” she said.
El-Badawi explained that she would want to improve the township ability to reach out to the community.
Rogers said that the surplus is the resident’s money and the town needs to spend it like resident’s spend their own.
“What I would love to do is kind of get a list of what we need now and what we will need in the future so we can get a better plan on what we need to do and how we need to spend our money,” she said.
Rogers said the two projects she would spend the surplus on would be the town basin to help against flooding and the creation of a public electric vehicle charging station.
Christopher announced that he would focus on roads with the surplus.
“No one likes drive over pot holes and personal damage to vehicles. I think that would be a good use of funds,” he said. “The dredging of the lake is extremely important. I think communication and revamping of the website would also be ideal, even though it would not affect the surplus that much.”
Christopher said he also thinks an electric car charging station would be another addition to spend surplus on.
The question about spurring new businesses to come to Cranbury also resulted in different opinions.
El-Badawi said she would love to see a bakery in downtown.
“In addition this other idea of a charging station popped up while I was speaking to someone, which ties into what Barbara was saying earlier. We should use that as a way to attract tourists into our downtown area to charge their electric vehicles,” she said.
Christopher said he wants to be see more foot traffic as well in downtown.
“I think if we were to add some retail, which would allow for more interaction and foot traffic downtown. Consumer facing establishments and certainly some retail would be great for Main Street,” he said.
Rogers said she would provide a reusable bag to every new resident that would contain coupons or gift cards for purchase for any store or service in town.
“This is something that would generate interest into our town. I think also getting the word out either with a flyer or something to let people know that Cranbury has a downtown is important. We need to do better as a town to market what we do best,” she said.
Johnson said the issue of downtown business is a tough one because the town is competing with market forces.
“I would like to see more of a variety in our downtown. I think we need to look at permitted uses for the downtown to make sure we are not missing any that would get a business to come and form. Also, I think we need to redo our sign ordinance again it is just unnecessarily punitive. We need to give our business owners a great range of choice.”
Candidates were also asked about how they would make Cranbury open and welcoming to all in town as members of the committee.
El-Badawi said she is the face of something different in Cranbury.
“I think by education we will be able to bring our constituents in town together. I would love to see a program where we enhance each others international and cultural experiences. It would be nice to maybe celebrate not our difference but our culture,” she said.
Christopher said the panel of candidates represents the welcoming feeling of Cranbury.
“Cranbury has changed and I think it is important that Cranbury continues its welcoming feel. Partnership with the school when it comes to that is great,” he said. “Speaking from my own experiences my cohort of folks is certainly welcoming.”
Johnson said there are additional things the town can do to make it more welcoming.
“If a group came to town that want to do an international day or an international cuisine day I am sure that could be done. I am sure it can be like Cranbury Day, where it is a day dedicated to that purpose,” he said.
Rogers said she is on board with engagement and partnerships to help make Cranbury more welcoming.
“I find that people can rally around the environment and wellness. Events that bring the community together and better forms of communication can help get things going,” she said.
For primary voters who are voting in person can do so in Town Hall on June 4, which is located on 23 N. Main St. Voters from District 1 vote in the “Boy Scout Room” and voters in Districts 2 and 3 vote in the “Senior Center.”