Brick Council Candidates Discuss Taxes, Quality Of Life

(Photo by Micromedia Publications)

BRICK – The three Democrat council members whose terms are up are running for reelection, and there are three Republican candidates who would like to unseat them in November’s general election.

The six candidates were asked several questions, including how long they have lived in Brick; have they ever held public office before; what is their educational and work background; why they are running for township council; and what do they think is the biggest issue facing Brick today.

The candidates responded by email and were limited to about 250 words each. Below are their answers in alphabetical order.

John Ciocco

John Ciocco (R), 53, has lived in Brick for 20 years. He has an MBA in executive management from St. John’s University in New York.

He has not held elected office before, but has served as a Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority Commissioner for six years, and on the Brick Township Housing Authority for two years. Ciocco is a past president of the Brick Morning Rotary.

“My work background covers over 26 years of management experience including Production and Operations Management, Project Management and Customer Service and Client Administration,” Ciocco wrote.

“The key aspect of each of these positions has been the responsibility for managing employees and providing services to customers and clients while controlling costs and allocating limited resources,” he said.

“I am running for council because I see the small town atmosphere of Brick slipping away due to the lack of strong leadership of the current council and mayor. Currently we have no checks and balances in our township government. The current council has acted as a rubberstamp to policies that have failed to effectively address empty storefronts, rundown commercial properties overgrown with weeds, rising drug abuse and the related crime that it causes. Despite election year gimmicks, our taxes continue to rise,” Ciocco said.

“My opponents have been in charge with a majority on the town council for 6 years. They have had plenty of time to make a lasting difference on the issues that affect our quality of life and have not. Every day I see Brick take another step to being an urbanized area with mega gas stations, new unneeded strip malls, townhouses and high-rise apartments,” he wrote.

Heather deJong (D), 37, has lived in Brick since 2009, and has served on the township council since 2013.

Heather deJong

She has a BA from Moravian College in Sociology and Political Science. deJong is currently employed by Community Services, Inc. of Ocean County as the Director of Finance which administers the Meals on Wheels Program and other services for seniors throughout Ocean County.

“I have experience in government, fundraising, grants, marketing, and budgeting. I worked for a veterans non-profit assisting our nation’s heroes with housing, and health and educational benefits,” she wrote.

“I am running for re-election because I am proud of the way the Ducey team has combined conservative fiscal responsibility with improved services and infrastructure. We renovated parks and added more police while reducing debt and cutting taxes for the first time in 30 years. I want to continue making Brick Better,” she wrote.

“The Ducey Teams needs to continue making sound fiscal policies. In the years before Mayor Ducey was elected to council in 2013, Brick’s taxes and debt exploded because of the waste and mismanagement of Mayor Acropolis and Finance Chair Scaturro. Since then, The Ducey Team has adopted sound financial policies which stabilized and decreased taxes all the while lowering the debt $18 million,” deJong said.

“The town could never get taxes under control unless the debt was down, and because of The Ducey Team, Brick yields a better credit rating and lower interest rates to borrow at. The

Ducey Team has gotten Brick’s financial house in order from years of mismanagement and we are still able to provide programs and services and continue making Brick Better,” she said.

Marilyn Lago (R), 70, has lived in Brick for 45 years, and has never held public office.

Marilyn Lago

She has a BA degree from Newark State College (now Kean University) and a MA degree, plus

30 credits from Seton Hall University, which gave her certification in Educational Supervision and Administration.

Lago taught in Newark for four years and then in Toms River for 35 years. She was a counselor with the Essex County Park Commission for eight years.

“I am running for council in Brick because I feel that I can make a difference in this town, that I could bring back the checks and balances that a thriving governing body should have and work on the re-establishment of businesses so Brick could continue to prosper to its potential,” Lago wrote.

“No doubt, the biggest issue facing Brick today is taxes,” she said. “Brick is slowly becoming urbanized. Let’s get it down to a reasonable and attainable level for all. I’d like to see us regain the title of the safest town in the nation, again. I’d like to promote our town so that businesses stop leaving and new ones start coming. I’d like to see an empty building like WOW become the home of medical and/or professional offices,” she said.

“I’d like to curtail the complaints I hear about the building department. My ideas are to get to the root of the issues by working together and discover an achievable resolve. I want to see a safer and better Brick for all,” Lago said.

Paul Mummolo (D), 58, has lived in Brick for 49 years, and has served as a councilman since 2013. He studied marketing and business, and for almost 40 years worked in the private sector dealing in the medical and construction fields.

Paul Mummolo

“I’m looking forward to continuing our progress in stabilizing taxes and lowering the township’s debt, while still maintaining roads, improving parks and providing police and staff with the resources they need to serve the residents’ needs,” Mummolo wrote.

“The mayor and council only control a portion of your taxes, roughly 30%. The remaining 70% or so of your property tax bill is controlled by the schools, county and fire districts,” he said.

“In years past, mayors and councils would use essentially all the surplus, leaving under $50,000. Our surplus now is over $8.5 million. What was done in years past is the type of fiscal management that led to the referendum and the 24% tax increase in 2011. Since 2014 until now, taxes have been stable – the net growth has been only 1.9%. The previous four years had a net growth of 28%. By being fiscally responsible, the mayor and council are able to reduce the municipal tax rate this year for the first time in three decades,” Mummolo said.

Marianna C. Pontoriero (D), 44, has lived in Brick for 12 years and has served as councilwoman since 2013, which is the only public office she has held.

Marianna C. Pontoriero

She has a BA in psychology from Adelphi University, and a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers University.

Pontoriero and her sister, who is also an attorney, own the Pontoriero Law Firm in Brick, which specializes in family law-related issues. Before that, she operated her own law firm after working for the Honorable Anthony J, Mellaci, Jr., J.S.C.

“I thought long and hard about running for re-election and determined that, ultimately, it was due to being diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer which made me agree to run for re-election,” Pontoriero wrote.

“It was during my fight with cancer that I realized just how many people in our town are plagued with this horrible disease and need services that are not provided. It is for this reason that I wish to begin a Mayor’s Advisory Committee for Citizens with Cancer. This committee can determine what resources can be provided by the town to assist residents who are suffering from cancer but have no means to have their needs addressed,” she said.

“I am also excited to continue working for this great town and continue our progress. We have made so many positive improvements to our town in these past four years and I hope to continue being part of them,” Pontoriero wrote.

She said she believes that opiate addiction is the biggest issue facing Brick today, and has worked with Police Chief Riccio as the chairperson of Public Safety in Brick.

Lois Turner (R), 60, has lived in Brick for 30 years and not held public office before. She has been a Brick resident for 30 years.

Lois Turner

Turner has a BS in Business Administration from Montclair State University, and has been a client finance manager for the Managed Care Division of York Risk Services Group for 13 years.

“I feel that there needs to be a new voice on the council. The current makeup of the council lacks checks and balances. Every vote is a yes. I have lived here long enough to remember how good this town once was,” Turner wrote.

“We need to reset our priorities and get a handle on spending and rising property taxes. We also need to work closely with our schools and community groups to provide as much assistance and education as possible about the dangers of drug use. Finally, we need to make this a business-friendly town to entice quality businesses to call Brick their home. This would also increase our tax base. Together we can make Brick better again,” she said.

“I feel that rising property taxes are the most pressing issue today. People are being forced out of their homes and others find that owning here is out of their reach. As I walk the many neighborhoods of town, the one common concern from everyone is our property taxes,” Turner said.

The election will be held on Tuesday, November 7.