Resto and Truilo for Council
Before COVID-19 affected us, Chatham Borough was losing two important demographics among the community. Residents age 60 and over were choosing to move out of state due to affordability issues and the inability to “scale down” their housing. Many felt under-represented. Chatham’s senior population makes up just over 10% of our community while the national average is 17%. In addition, young college graduates also leave Chatham for the lure of the “big city” and the lack of affordable rents as they start their careers. The pandemic only put more of a spotlight on the problem. We have created a Senior Citizen Advisory Committee charged with tackling the issues most important to seniors, which coincidentally track with the interests of college graduates. These are housing affordability, adequate transportation, the walkability of the community, leisure time passive recreation, etc. We will continue to study these issues and formulate recommendations that will be made to the governing body. A community can only remain as vibrant as possible if it is attractive to all ages.
I have been a Chatham resident for 25 years and as an avid walker, have come to know the community well. I have served 9 years on the Borough Council and seek to continue my service of care, compassion and commitment to the community. I am a retired insurance industry executive with a 42-year career as an insurance underwriter, broker and risk manager. As a risk manager, I handled budgets of up to $36 Million and had up to 22 individuals reporting to me. I am an empathetic individual who seeks common ground by being a pragmatic consensus builder. I will continue to bring those strengths to the Council.
Economically, our Mayor created the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) asking me to chair the group. The EDAC met with each business and merchant to determine the assistance needed. We helped with PPP loans from the federal government. We asked two residents, who created the website www.keepchathamthriving.com, to join EDAC and asked residents to avail themselves of ordering online or calling for curbside pickup of merchandise purchases. We promoted the buying Christmas gift certificates to keep businesses afloat. As restrictions eased, we allowed sidewalk dining for restaurants and assisted businesses with iPhone apps so residents could make appointments for services. On the social front, we recognized the need of food for those finding themselves food insecure and began a weekly food drive which has been used by as many as 50 families. We realized the stress caused by COVID and created a mental health initiative called "TriTown Cares" for those needing support.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we need to be doing more to keep our Main Street merchants thriving. I will initiate a forum of local shop keepers and their landlords to see how we can together sustain existing businesses in Chatham Borough. I would like to streamline the permitting process for new businesses coming into town. Business owners and residents alike would benefit from an active recruiting process whereby we seek the types of businesses that are most appropriate to support the needs of Chatham’s people: we should pursue those instead of simply waiting to see what businesses come our way. To further enhance our downtown, the long dormant Chamber of Commerce should be resurrected, since there is strength in numbers. As for our neighborhoods, they would benefit from a larger ratio of land to house size to stop the trend of large houses being constructed on small lots. These over-sized houses overshadow the existing street fabric and create an imbalance of scale leading to lopsided neighborhoods. In addition, these over-sized houses make Chatham less affordable.
As a small business owner in Chatham for the past 17 years, I know what it is like to start a new business from scratch and how to maintain it. As an architect, I have the vision on how to make our downtown more aesthetically pleasing as well as economically vibrant for our local merchants. I have also designed two businesses on Main Street and have gotten to know first-hand the challenges business owners face. I have greatly enjoyed living in the Borough for 24 years, seeing my daughter grow up here in K-12, and knowing what the residents of Chatham value.
I think all our brick and mortar merchants will need to bolster their e-commerce and not only provide a great in-person experience, but a virtual one as well. Expand on outdoor retail space with light-weight, fold-up tensile structures that can be easily taken down at the end of the day. On the social and personal fronts, we need to create virtual “neighborhood associations” since this pandemic has caused many to become isolated and disconnected. I support the food drive and the continuance of “Tri-Town Cares” since mental health is often forgotten even during good times.
Bob Weber For Chatham Borough Council
Redevelopment (Commercial & Residential): If re-elected I will continue to scrutinize the pending redevelopment projects to make sure they are right for the residents of the Borough. In doing so, I will make sure the Borough government takes into account the projects’ impact on our quality of life, the character of our town and our finances. Going forward, it is imperative that we pursue a balance between both commercial and residential redevelopment.
Traffic Congestion: Even before any redevelopment, we already have a traffic congestion problem. With redevelopment, it could get even worse. If re-elected, I will continue to work with the Borough government to pursue traffic mitigation solutions not only for our current traffic issues but also for those associated with the redevelopment projects. Since a lot of the vehicles on Main Street and Watchung Ave are “pass through traffic”, we need to work with neighboring municipalities as well as our County and State partners to develop regional solutions to the area’s traffic congestion. I will also vigorously push to have the redevelopers pay for infrastructure and other improvements to mitigate any additional traffic generated by their developments.
As a first term Council Member seeking re-election, I am already familiar with how the Borough operates as well as the ongoing issues/problems facing the Borough. If re-elected, I will continue to use this information to find common sense solutions to the problems facing the Borough.
As an Attorney/Assistant Prosecutor of 26 years, I have had a lot of experience analyzing cases, identifying issues, investigating facts and building prosecutable cases. I am able to use these same skills to analyze and solve the Borough’s problems.
As restrictions are lifted/loosened, I would encourage the Borough government to work with our business owners to increase opportunities for showcasing their goods and services, such as “Shop Local” events, “Evening Out” promotions, etc.
As restrictions are lifted/loosened, I would encourage the Borough government to organize social events so residents could gather to mingle and enjoy each other’s company (concerts, Christmas Tree Bonfire, National Night Out, etc.)
In order to prepare for the next pandemic, I think it is crucial that the Borough government examine the strengths and weaknesses of its response to the current pandemic and then devise solutions to address the identified shortcomings. I think it would be helpful for the Borough to organize a task force comprised of representatives of the various stakeholders that would be able to assemble quickly for the purpose of devising the Borough’s responses to the particular pandemic.