Little Silver Council Candidates: Dr. Richard Scott
Scott was appointed to the borough council in September and is running for one of the two three-year terms up for grabs on Nov. 6.
Patch asked each of the four candidates running for a seat on the Little Silver Borough Council to tell voters a little bit about himself and to answer a series of questions outlining his thoughts on issues facing the borough.
We are running the profiles throughout week. Next up: Dr. Richard Scott, who was appointed to the borough council last month to temporarily fill the seat left vacant after the death of Councilman Jon Bitman, is running for one of the two, three-year terms up for grabs in November.
Dr. Richard J. Scott
Scott lives on Little Silver Point Road with his wife, Leslie, and has three sons, Tyler, Colin and Riley, all of whom attended Point Road and Markham Place schools, and Christian Brothers Academy. He has served for three years on the Little Silver Planning Board.
Scott received his undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He earned an MBA from UMass-Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management.
He is the Senior Vice President of Clinical Effectiveness and Medical Affairs for Meridian Health, which includes Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, Jersey Shore University Medical Center and K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin and Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel.
1. Why are you running? What do you feel are the top challenges for Little Silver's governing body?
It was a great honor to have been asked to serve out the remainder of Jon Bitman’s term by the mayor. After serving for three years on the Planning Board, I had come to both respect and appreciate the special individual Jon was and knew that he was the type of person that would never shy away from public service. Little Silver has been my home for over 20 years, and thanks to the hard work of previous leaders, it remains today a uniquely warm, safe and welcoming community. My three boys all thrived at Point Road and Markham Schools, played baseball and soccer in town and went on to CBA. My wife Leslie and I break into a smile when we see the next generation with their children taking our places at the Boro, Point Road and Challenger fields on Saturdays. When Dave Gilmour and Don Galante asked me to join them on the ballot, the decision was easy. I have always taken an activist approach when things needed to be done. Whether it was petitioning for changes in the Master Plan, mobilizing the community to oppose over-development or serving on the Planning Board- I firmly believe that I would much rather try to be “part of the solution” than to simply complain from the sidelines. Much like being a physician, public service is a privilege.
I believe the biggest challenge ahead will be keeping Little Silver affordable, so that our children might someday have the same opportunity that we did. The governing body has been very progressive in making sure our schools are top notch, and what little open space and recreational land we have is well taken care of. The challenge going forward is to try and do more, with less. The “cap” on budgets will force hard choices for us all.
2. Town governments are under increasing restraints due to budget caps and growing fixed costs. What would you do to keep budget growth down while keeping services stable or enhanced?
Like many small towns, we seem to cherish home rule -- which in some ways preserves the familiarity between us all that is the fabric of our character. Little Silver is, after all, “little." But I do believe that more and more, we will need to explore coordinating our activities with other area communities in order to take advantage of any economies of scale we might benefit from. I think we need to redouble our efforts to coordinate purchasing with others -- whether it's insurance, supplies, services or even vehicles. Many hospitals do the same thing and take advantage of their contracting capabilities through buying cooperatives. But it takes a coordinated effort and willingness to compromise on choices to gain those economies. Similarly, if we are purchasing a large piece of equipment, it’s worth exploring the possibility of coordinating a shared asset with neighboring towns. On the revenue side, it is worth remembering that 76 percent of our tax bill goes for schools and county. We will need to be equally mindful of costs in those areas, which together are over three-times the 22 percent that is spent by municipal government.
Going forward, if we are to maintain services under the cap, we will have to ask the hard questions when new projects are proposed: Is it a luxury or a necessity? Will it benefit the many or the few? Is it a one-time expense, or will it add overhead in a way that is recurring? Similar to our choices in hospital administration, every good idea cannot be funded.
3. The Seven Bridges Road project has been a headache for drivers and required police participation to keep traffic, especially to schools, flowing. How can the governing body work most effectively with other governmental entities to schedule such projects with minimum inconvenience to residents? Is there anything officials could do to relieve increasing traffic congestion through town?
Great question! Living on Point Road, this impacts me several times a day. No doubt it is an inconvenience, albeit a necessary one. That being said, I tried to imagine just how inconvenient it must have been back when they built the first bridge. I have to commend the parents, crossing guards and police who continue to work hard to keep it all flowing smoothly and safely during the synchronized motocross of the morning drop off. Recognizing the need for safety, we did add a crossing guard west of the school for the duration of the construction.
It is important that we continue to hold the county responsible for the timely completion of the bridge. I was very pleased to hear they had agreed to re-pave at the same time so that we get the both projects completed in parallel.
4. What can the governing body do to fill the proliferation of empty retail/commercial space in town? How crucial are ratables to the overall budgeting process?
Ratables are important to any town- and it’s especially complex when we have so little open space for future development. When we do get investment in new projects, or redevelopment of existing space, and improved property will add to the tax base. But any new growth needs to fit within the limits and vision contained in the Master Plan. Although we do have some vacant space downtown, it’s not abandoned and still provides tax revenue. I think what we are seeing is continued evidence of an economy that has not really recovered, and business entrepreneurs remain in short supply. Economic uncertainty lowers the appetite for small business owners to take risk. Many towns grant special tax credits for a few years as an inducement to buyers or businesses when inventory stands vacant, but I don’t see the need for that in our case just yet.
5. Local governments are under increasing pressure to share services wherever possible. Are there opportunities to cut costs by working with other towns that LS is currently not taking advantage of?
I think every town is facing the same questions. Right now, we do share some services already. It’s difficult to say how much could be saved by sharing additional services without an in depth review by an outside third party. But it would be prudent for any governing body to keep an open mind, explore opportunities as they present themselves and carefully survey the voters as to what they might be willing to sacrifice in return for the projected savings.
The other place to consider changes, as I mentioned above, is in cooperating more closely with other towns for contract purchasing.
6. Anything else you'd like to tell potential voters?
The voters should know that the present leadership and council are all dedicated to maintaining the quality of life and level of service that makes this town such a great place to live and raise a family. It has been very refreshing that the acrimony we see on a state and national level does not exist in our municipal government, regardless of party affiliation. Members of this council work in the spirit of public service, not politics.
If I’m added to the council for a three-year term, I will always ask the hard questions constructively-- recognizing that good people can disagree. We need to stabilize taxes and remember that as property values rise, people’s ability to pay them often does not.
I hope to bring to the table the constant reminder that I started this conversation with: Keeping Little Silver affordable for the next generation should be a guiding principle of the governing body.