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Montgomery Township Committee

MontgomeryTownship is governed by a five-member committee elected on a staggered basis to serve three-year terms.At its annual reorganization meeting, the committee selects which of its members will serve as Mayor and Deputy Mayor for the year. The mayor receives a salary of $5,006.The deputy mayor and committee members receive $3,752.
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    David Cheskis (Rep) Vice President, Wireless Telecom Group

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    Sadaf F. Jaffer (Dem) Postdoctoral Research Associate, Princeton University

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Biographical Information

What do you consider the most important challenges for Montgomery Township, and what personal and professional experiences have prepared you for addressing these challenges?

What spending and/or cost-saving items within the current budget are more extravagant or inadequate than you would support?

What is your position on meeting Montgomery's affordable housing obligation and on whether it can be achieved within the development currently underway?

The new developments in the northeast part of town are adding to the already excessive traffic on residential roads, such as Griggstown, Township Line, and River, and to the congestion at the Causeway. What measures will you promote to alleviate this problem?

Township Committee meetings, more often than not, have been going into closed session. This may present a public perception of lack of transparency. What measures, if any, will you take to bring more transparency to the meetings?

Current Elected Position none
Website www.gopmontgomery.org
The most important challenges facing Montgomery today are fiscal responsibility (keeping taxes down, paying off debt, spending limited resources wisely), preserving open space, fighting against reckless state COAH housing mandates, and reducing traffic in town. I have years of experience as a community leader, working with the township leadership to make Montgomery a better place to live.

As President of both the Pike Run Master and Greens Associations, I led efforts to reduce our budgets by consolidating services and establishing the basic organizational infrastructure. This resulted in 10% operational savings for the entire community.

Recently, I have served on both the Planning Board and Zoning Board. As the Chair, I led efforts to preserve as much open space as possible in new developments and worked to adopt the best housing plans for our community. I also worked to ensure that new developments build loop roads that are designed to reduce traffic.

Professionally, I am VP at Wireless Telecom Group. I oversee a $25M business that provides components to the largest telecom companies in the world. My educational and professional background provide me with the ability to lead issues such as cell tower applications, solar panel installations, cable TV and fiber optic system deployments.

As a member of the Township Committee, I will bring my experience, leadership and proven record of getting things done in our community. I will continue working for a better Montgomery.
I don’t think we have any specific extravagant or inadequate budget items. Spending is below 2005 levels and only focuses on mandatory or critical items. Efficiencies and cost reductions have been found including shared services agreements with other municipalities and smart debt financing. Shared services are an effective way to reduce costs by outsourcing some operations and also allows us to generate revenue by providing services to other municipalities.

We have continued to invest in our police, open space and recreation, while providing needed funding for critical road projects. We need to continue to spend on the necessities, share resources where possible, and be sure that we develop in the most cost effective manner. I have worked with developers to ensure that loop roads are built to help mitigate traffic in town, that new businesses will generate tax revenues and that there are no on-going operational requirements which would cause additional Township expenses.
In my role on the Montgomery Township Master Plan committee, I have participated in the negotiations with developers and understand the consequences of the COAH housing mandate. I have had a direct impact on our affordable housing plans and always fight to ensure Montgomery is protected as much as possible from the state’s reckless obligations. While on the Township Committee, I will work to keep our destiny in our own hands.

At this moment, there is no set affordable housing obligation for Montgomery Township. The process is still in the courts and we are working diligently to ensure Montgomery is not harmed and can grow as we see fit. We can meet our original Round 3 mandate of 501 units via new houses and bonus credits, but special interest groups are trying to greatly increase this number. We were fully compliant with Round 1 and 2 mandates, but this recent round has been ridiculous and irresponsible.
I live in that area and have a vested interest in the neighborhood and traffic in general. I was part of the team that fought the developer for years and greatly reduced the size of the construction in Belle Mead. The original plan that was approved in 1988 allowed the developer to build 600,000 square feet of office space including 2,000 parking spaces that would have created traffic beyond belief. Once the market for such office space dried up, the developer sued the Township to build 900 houses and expand the current Pike Run apartments into the former Route 206 by-pass land.

After years of holding firm, we successfully negotiated down to build only 148 houses and preserved the Route 206 by-pass land. The current plan that is being built now generates only about one fourth the traffic of the original plan. I have worked with, and will continue to work with, our traffic experts, Somerset County, and the NJDOT to minimize impact and ensure the developer sticks to his promises.
All of the Township Committee meetings are open to the public, with the exception of a small amount of business required for state approved reasons. All of the Planning Board and Zoning Board meetings that I have chaired have been open to the public and broadcast over local closed circuit television. All of these meetings are recorded and are available on the Township website for viewing at any time.

Transparency is important to me and we follow all state mandated open meeting requirements. We do go into closed session for a small amount of state approved reasons - such as lawsuits, negotiating purchases including open space, and personnel issues. It is appropriate to discuss these matters in closed session, but for only these topics, while everything else stays public. The frequency with which that occurs is only based on those matters that are in front of the Committee. I encourage all community members to attend and participate in our meetings.
Website http://www.voteforjaffer.com
One of the major challenges facing Montgomery is to ensure that the Township leadership represents our town in all of its complexity. The Township Committee makes appointments to local boards and commissions. We need to fill these boards and commissions with people who bring diverse perspectives. I have a background in cultural education and that makes me well qualified to bridge the divide between various stakeholders. There are far too many people in Montgomery who do not understand how our municipal government works. It would be my goal on Township Committee to work to build a vibrant, civically-engaged community.

The other challenge is making our town more affordable. That is more difficult, but requires communication and advocacy at various levels of government, including with the county and state. My experience working in public service prepares me well for this type of advocacy and cooperation.

Finally, we need a clear vision for the future. With terrible and damaging Republican leadership at the state and national level, people in our community are scared. We need to be sure that local leaders will protect ethnic and sexual minorities, women, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. The Republican tag line of “do more with less” is far from an inspiring model. I’m a researcher, with experience conceptualizing long long-term projects and coming up with creative solutions. We must work towards a brighter future and a sustainable and inclusive Montgomery.
My issue is not so much with the budget but what the Township does with its resources, how inclusive they are in their planning processes, and the outreach to the broader community that is lacking. My focus on civic education and engagement programs and bringing diverse talent to our boards and commissions will help address these problems.

Most of the costs that drive up property taxes in Montgomery are not actually costs from the Township’s municipal budget, but rather from the schools. I say this not to shift blame, but to bring attention to the fact that the abysmal school funding plans instituted by Governor Christie have hurt our community. I look forward to working with the the new gubernatorial leadership to alleviate the problem of local school funding and hence help address the biggest chunk of our local tax bills.
All communities need housing that is affordable. Importantly, the best way to get more state funding for schools – and thus lower property taxes -- is to have economic diversity in Montgomery.

In Somerset County, a family of four with an income of almost $83,000 qualifies for subsidized housing. “Low income” for a family of four is nearly $52,000. People who need affordable housing look like you and me. They are teachers, elder care professionals, cashiers. They are millennials; they’re our parents. I firmly reject the idea that we must protect our community from the people who live in affordable housing. It is our responsibility to work creatively and in cooperation with policy makers throughout the state of New Jersey to assure that affordable housing is accessible.
Though I believe that the clear-cutting of lots for development was unnecessary, now that construction is underway, the developments should have every available pedestrian and bike access feature so that as many people as possible can get across Griggstown Road or across 206 without driving. We should also work with NJ Transit to extend bus service up 206 to Pike Run, and improve access to Somerset County’s bus service.

We must also be aware that we are seeing symptoms of a regional traffic problem. The population in central New Jersey is increasing and public transportation options are not as robust or utilized as we would like. Decision made by previous Township Committees, such as suing the NJ department of Transportation not to widen 206, are manifesting their impact now. We need visionary, long term planning, as well as the ability and willingness to advocate for our town at all levels of government. I intend to pursue all avenues to serve our community.
The Township Committee should be open and honest about even the toughest issues it deals with. Because of the advocacy of Montgomery residents, the meetings are made public and available on video. Certain matters do go into closed session. Yet, relevant information from closed sessions is incorporated into the minutes. The key problem is that many people in town do not feel as though they are included, consulted, and informed about their local government. I will make sure that all information that can be shared with the public is shared. I will do this through organizing town halls, social media posts, and other initiatives to keep the public informed.

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