Four residents in race for 3 seats
Cochise Doucette is the lone Democrat on the Nov. 2 ballot. The two men who ran with Doucette in the June primary and gained spots on the November ballot later withdrew from the race for personal reasons.
No other residents applied to fill the two available slots on the Democratic ticket.
“It’s a little disappointing,” said Doucette, who made an unsuccessful bid for a council seat in 2009.
Doucette will face incumbent council members Republicans Pauline Smith and William Gotto, both of whom were elected to one-year unexpired terms in November 2009. Robert Nicastro is running on the GOP ticket with Smith and Gotto.
There are three four-year terms up for grabs in the Howell election. The terms will run from January 2011 through Dec. 31, 2014.
Councilwoman Angela Dalton, who was elected as part of an independent ticket in November 2006, is completing her fouryear term on the governing body and is not seeking re-election.
Doucette, 55, is a receiver at the Stop & Shop store in South Brunswick. He has an associate’s degree from Brookdale Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business from Rutgers University. He is married and has four children.
Gotto, 45, is a fire protection engineering consultant with Clark-based Global Risk Consultants. He has served on the Planning Board and master plan subcommittee. He has lived in Howell for 14 years. He is a graduate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has been a volunteer firefighter with the Ramtown Fire Company for more than 25 years. He is married and has a daughter.
Nicastro, 44, is a retired New York City police officer. He is a graduate of the New York City Police Academy. He owns the New Era car wash in Brick Township. He is married and has three children.
Smith, 67, has lived in Howell for 47 years. She and her husband have two sons. She is a former secretary at McGraw Hill, a former teacher’s assistant at a nursery school and has been volunteering for years.
Each candidate was asked the same questions. Their answers to those questions appear below.
What do you believe is the most important function of a public official?
Doucette — “ The most important function is to set policy.”
Gotto — “ You have to be able to do the best you can to help as many people as possible. You have to do it in a public way and make sure everything is done transparently. Any concerns we have had have occurred during council meetings and out in the public. There are no back-door conversations. What you see is what you get. That’s really important in a town like Howell.”
Nicastro — “Listening to the people. Obviously you want to represent your constituents. Stay as honest and open as best you can.”
Smith — “To represent the people. Sometimes it’s very easy. Sometimes it’s very, very difficult in a place like Howell, with such a diversity of lifestyles, to be fair to everyone.”
What aspect of your professional background/training will make you a successful member of the Township Council?
Doucette — “ I decided to run again because of the apathy that runs through our political system. The present council members are very nice people. They think of it as more of a ceremonial position. They spend months and months talking about paint chip ordinances, dog barking ordinances. It makes no sense at all. We kind of need a new look at the local level.”
Gotto — “I’m an engineer. By nature, engineers are problem solvers. I don’t always claim to know every single thing about every item that comes up at council meetings. I do have the knowledge and the background to understand where to get the answers from. I have learned to listen to both sides very well and get involved in negotiations to solve the problem.”
Nicastro – “I think being involved in law enforcement and my business background suits me well to serve on the Township Council.”
Smith — “I have taken a lot of courses in land use law, courses in municipal government, municipal finance and municipal forms of government. I have taken the New Jersey Planners Association’s basic course at least a dozen times.”
A 2 percent cap on the increase in local taxes is in effect for next year. What specific action will you recommend to help your governing body meet that tax levy cap?
Doucette — “ It’s simple. The state mandates all these requirements on us. They need to pick up their part of the bill. They should really be matching dollar per dollar. Two percent caps are not really solving the problem. The 2 percent cap has about a thousand loopholes. It’s like Swiss cheese.”
Gotto — “ I can’t tell you exactly what it is I will recommend. We are going to take a top-to-bottom review of every department. We are not only going to look at where we can save money, but look to see how we can do things better. We are looking into shared services with the Board of Education. The bottom line is we need each other. We are going to try to really whittle down the services to what our residents demand and need. We will look to see if we can get that all within the cap and do it in a cost-effective way, so we don’t have to keep taxing people to the limit of the cap ceiling. If there’s a better way to do it, we are going to do it.”
Nicastro — “I think we are going to look at everything. No stone is going to go unturned. We have to reinvent how government operates. Nothing is off the table. People realize we are in an economic crisis and we have to govern toward that.”
Smith — “We have to do things differently. Not do more with less, but do less with less and accomplish the difference. We are going to survive. We have to take care of the necessities first and go back to basics. Life will still be good. It will just be a little different.”