BRADLEY BEACH — At a candidate forum held last week, two candidates vying to become the next mayor of the borough sparred over taxes, development and the future of the borough’s downtown area.

Held by the League of Women Voters of Southern Monmouth County on Sept. 23, the virtual forum held via Zoom is so far the only debate scheduled between Councilman Al Gubitosi and borough resident Larry Fox.

For his opening statement, the councilman said that he is running for mayor because he “cared about Bradley Beach.”

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“As a candidate for mayor, I believe that my biggest differentiator is experience, specifically Bradley Beach experience,” he said. “I care passionately about Bradley Beach, I care about our Main Street, our national resources and our sense of community.”

Mr. Fox, during his opening statement, said that the borough has emerged as one of the “jewels of Monmouth County” and that strong leadership is needed to help the borough recover from the pandemic. “Affordability is an ongoing challenge we must meet in Bradley Beach.

Our businesses are our lifeblood to a vibrant Main Street and local economy and independent leadership is a key underpinning of a successful municipal government,” he said. “These will be my focus as your mayor and these will be my focus to take Bradley Beach to the next level but continue to serve to galvanize the community and make us the model, again, in Monmouth County.”

The one-hour debate started with an examination of the biggest issues facing the borough in the future.

Councilman Gubitosi, who served on the borough planning board before being elected to council, said that the borough needs to straighten out its zoning regulations and be cognizant of the increase in demand from buildings and applicants wanting to expand. He also said the borough needs to focus on COVID-19 and the threat it poses to the community. Natural resources, like Sylvan Lake, are a critical concern that need to be protected, he added.

For Mr. Fox, the first thing he highlighted was COVID-19 and the immediate challenge posed to the borough. Taking note of the closure of ShowRoom Cinema, he said that Bradley Beach, being a restaurant town, is going to struggle when the winter comes. Affordability, he said, is a continuing issue in the borough.

The first confrontation of the night came over property taxes. Both candidates committed to manage spending, but Mr. Fox called Councilman Gubitosi on the budget that the borough council passed this year, which carried a nine percent increase to the tax levy.

Hitting back, Councilman Gubitosi said that this year the council worked to straighten out the budget. In previous years, he said, the borough council had used funds from the borough’s sewer utility and surplus monies to balance the budget. While the municipal tax rate did increase this year, rates for the sewer utility were decreased to reflect the change.

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