Open Space, Taxes Take Priority at Pequannock Debate

Pequannock's Republican Club Candidates Night ran for a grueling two hours Thursday night as residents grilled the candidates on the topics the public is most concerned with.

The Pequannock River Walk

Herd and Hardaker stood in staunch opposition of the Pequannock River Walk, while Lotito noted that it would be "silly" not to complete a project 30 years in progress which is 90% completed.

Open Space & Buyouts

Hardaker faced off with Pequannock Open Space Commission Chairperson Frank Spizzirri over Hardaker's continued claims that 88 homes in Pequannock are slated for flood buyout.  Though silenced by moderators, Spizzirri's case was bolstered by incumbent Vanderhoff and Open Space / Flood Committee Secretary Lotito who noted that the "88 homes" figure had previously been debunked by Mayor Phelan at an April Council Meeting.  Vanderhoff referred to the issue as "grandstanding" and Hardaker responded that the figures he had were taken from a report on a Morris County website (which has since been provided via the candidate's website).

Council Compensation

On the topic of Council compensation, the candidates were strongly divided.  Herd stated he would do the job for nothing.  Hardaker stated he would do the job for nothing and had "been doing it for years" on the Board of Education.  Cascone stated that he would require the stipend, which he plans to use to pay for his attendance at political events and political fundraisers, but stopped short of indicating how this would benefit the Pequannock people.  Cascone also stated that the current council needed to be more visible to the higher branches of government and that they were not representing the citizens of Pequannock to the best of their ability as a result of their non-attendance at state and federal fundraiser events.    Kohle decline to answer the question, stating that he did not wish to pledge on the matter at that time as the Council will likely make a decision about reducing the stipend prior to the next election, rendering the point moot for current discussion.  Vanderhoff asserted that he needed the money to cover his personal expenses of working on council.  Lotito stated that all Councilmembers should receive the same stipend, regardless of what that stipend is, and that the current stipend was far too high, but any future arrangement must work to reimburse Councilmembers for their expenses in order to avoid discouraging those who are not "independently wealthy" from running for public office.

Why Should I Vote for You?

Even the wives got involved, much to the amusement of the audience, as Jan Vanderhoff asked the candidates, "Why should I vote for you?"

  • To this, Lotito cited preparation for the position due to experience and attendance at governmental meetings, stating that he would not need the gear-up time that many other candidates would require.  Unlike Board of Education members who have 3 months before the start of the school year, council members take office just under 60 days after the election.  
  • Cascone responded citing his political connections to the Republican Party throughout the region.
  • Hardaker discussed his tenure on Board of Education.
  • Others provided responses relying primarily upon passion and assertions of strong leadership.


A Question of Value(s)

Cascone's wife, Heather, took the last question of the night asking about Republican values.  The responses here varied, with Cascone himself providing a strong defense of the Republican platform and announcing that anyone who did not consider themselves a Republican should not participate in the election.  Lotito, a 2 year member of the Pequannock Republican Club, was the odd man out, avoiding the use of the word Republican in his response to highlight that the needs of the people must come before all else, though reaffirming his strong commitment to small government and reduced taxation and referred to his position as "common sense."  Lotito stated several times that the needs of the people need to come first, before party politics.  By comparison, Kohle confessed to being a 60 day member of the Club, though a long time member of the party.  Hardaker alluded to his experiences in college with the Reagan campaign, but also stated that the Republican Party "sometimes wanders off the reservation." Vanderhoff stated that Pequannock had done "more with less" over the past 6 to 8 years and he anticipated increasing his networking within the Republican Party in order to further that goal.

Surprise Presentation

One point that all agreed upon was Councilman Engelbart's long service to the community.  In a special announcement after his closing, Lotito read the following statement, "Before we move along, I just want to take a moment to say that though running for Council is a happy occasion, there is a little bit of sadness in tonight as well as we sit with veteran Councilman Engelbart in the audience instead of up here with us. Councilman Engelbart is not only an amazing resource to this community, but has been a mentor to many of its youth and contributed to quite a few Eagle Projects over the years.  All of the Council Candidates would like to thank Mr. Engelbart for his 16 years of service to this township."  The last two sentences were delivered over a unanimous roar of clapping as much of the room rose in recognition of Engelbart, who for his part grinned broadly and declined calls to comment.

All readers are encouraged to watch the debate here:

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