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 Hey mayor, why don't you get on Pete's ass and get 10 meetings worth of minutes updated on your website. Since council meeting video's are edited, i'd like to know what his version is. 

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Wednesday
Jul012015

Dog Day's of Summer 

Since the nay side of the controversial Recreation Director controversy had their say at the June Council meeting, it would only be fair that the Yay side has their turn. Apparently from what I hear, that will be the case tomorrow night at the July Council meeting.

There has been much talk around town since the initial comments were made publicly at the June meeting, some believing a council meeting was not the place to air dirty laundry. Others felt since an appointment of the director is at the lone purview of the mayor, not needing advice and consent (from the council), therefore allowing people to speak their mind at the meeting was a mistake in judgement.   

Due to the seriousness of the complaints mentioned at the June meeting, I believe it was prudent of the concerned parents to inform the council of their concerns regardless of the council’s lack of power to “officially” remedy it.

The other side of the coin will apparently have their say tomorrow night which is fair and considerate to both parents taking offense to what was said in June, and the director himself.

From what the official agenda says for the Council Caucus/Council meetings, this issue will be the only one addressed from what was discussed at the previous June meeting. Unfortunately this is the way important topics usually fall through the cracks. Any given ‘hot topic of the month’ usually gets lost in the sauce when a new topic of the next month takes its place.

No mention is made of discussions regarding Lifetime Health Benefits for the some of the present and former mayors and council, or the Anti-Nepotism Ordinance, Veterans Field vs. building two new ones at additional cost, or even a completion date with the former township engineer’s Veterans Field contract. There is however a Resolution labeled: APPROVE PAYMENT OF BILLS – COSTA ENGINEERING. So maybe we’ll get some incite from this.

The council is to vote on ORDINANCE #1596-15 –SECOND READING, AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 196 OF THE TOWNSHIP CODE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF SADDLE BROOK (PARKING RESTRICTIONS- ORCHARD LANE). But under ITEMS UP FOR DISCUSSION it also states:  ORCHARD LANE PARKING ORD. – AWAITING CHIEF KUGLER’S REPORT, which makes it unclear if there in fact will be any informative discussion this month.

As with all things half-assed, since other items up for discussion have the words “see attached” adjacent to each topic (on the Agenda), with no attachments actually attached to the Agenda’s web version, it would be impossible to glean any information from what is supplied via the Township website.

Will this meeting be another 4+ hour marathon? I don’t know. But maybe that was discussed over dinner (see previous post). 

Wednesday
Jul012015

The Round Table

In case there is any question as to whom you should be rubbing shoulders with if and when you need something done in town, this “odd” compilation of people should clarify any uncertainty.

Since the new mayor is a bachelor now, I’m beginning to wonder if the police chief is bunking with the mayor in his empty house, considering I hardly ever see a picture of either one of them without the other.

Then to the right of the picture you see the “monthly opposition” to the two people sitting on the left and middle. You think they might have some conversations regarding the Recreation Department, or more specifically, the Director, or the Anti-Nepotism Ordinance, or the parking situation on Orchard Lane, or maybe the lifetime healthcare benefits for the some of the present and former mayors and council, or the two backstops at Veterans Field vs. building two new ones at additional cost, or even a completion date with the former township engineer’s Veterans Field contract?

My question would be: where are they putting on the airs? At these types of political dinners where the peons get to feel they are the bigshots, or at a council meeting where some appear to either not have the answers or know the answers better than everyone else?

If they can all break bread together then one would think they can actually speak to one another and do the job of governing. Apparently White appreciates and therefore associates himself with the likes of Kugler, Ratajczak, and Rodriguez, not allowing himself to be further from any of them then necessary.

Kugler, Ratajczak, and Rodriguez weren’t elected yet they are all the choir that continually sings the mayor’s song. Of course the mayor has the right to have dinner, share a beer, or rent out rooms, to anyone he likes. But personally I’d prefer to see him stand alone for the next few years where he can define who he is and not continue to lurk in the shadow of others. 

Monday
Jun222015

The Muck Stops Here

The first Flood Advisory meeting is scheduled for June 23, 2015, 8:00 p.m. at Town Hall. They are asking for anyone interested in participating, to call the Office of the Mayor at (201)587-2903.

I think one of the first people recruited should be former mayor Karen Chamberlame. Not for nothing but she was more than willing to raise her pant legs, get down and dirty, dive into the river, and start cleaning up the muck with her trusty shovel.

Since she is now about to enter into litigation by suing the Township to keep her lifetime health benefits; so much for showing some loyalty to the town after 20 years of elected service, the least she could do would be to work off some of that expense by raising her pant legs, get down and dirty, dive into the river, and start cleaning up the muck with her trusty shovel!

Twenty years of service as a councilwoman or mayor DOES NOT add up to 20 years of working as it would for any employee of Saddle Brook. She dealt her fair share of bull crap in those twenty years so this would be the time to shovel some away.

Former Councilman Bernard Goldshall, former Mayor and Councilman Edward Kugler, and possibly Mr. Bill Gorgone, are presently receiving fulltime/lifetime healthcare benefits for their families and themselves. Mrs. Chamberlame wants them and, as the ordinance stands now (the ordinance that circumvented the residents petition), Council President Flo Mazzer is destined to receive lifetime healthcare benefits as well.

That expense is enormous and this ‘perk’ is just too high to be justifiable. The previous mayor and council grandfathered themselves (and anyone else receiving these benefits), to CYA themselves and to hell with everyone else. The new mayor and council are now no longer entitled. But they are on the record, stating during their campaign, that if they were entitled, they all would still not take their benefits. Sounds good and very easy to say since it is a moot point. If they sincerely believe that it is not justifiable and want to save the township a bucket load of money, they should repeal said Twp Ord.#1539-12 – Lifetime Healthcare Benefits.

If this mayor and council wants to be different than most previous administrations and speak with actions and not empty words, then have the balls to do what you say you know to be the right thing to do! If this miracle were to actually happen, you’d be able to forget about your $95.00 tax increase along with your rapid dip in retables due to tax appeals, and still have a ton of money left over.

 We could do without the talk each and every month. Actions speak louder than words. 

Monday
Jun152015

Republican Talking Points

In 18 short months, you will be voting for councilman / woman again. Geez, Déjà vu all over again! One Republican and two Democrat seats are open: Councilman Cimiluca, Councilman Camilleri, and Councilwoman Mazzer. Obviously, all three incumbents will be running once again. 

If you’d like to try your hand at local politics and run for one of these positions, I’d suggest you run as a Republican.

Need talking points to get the ball rolling? There are more to be had then Lays has potato chips.   

All you have to do is sit back and watch the council meetings on YouTube for the past year and take notes on each and every little thing Mr. Larry Ratajczak, the Democratic Club President, and Mr. Omar Rodriquez, the Democratic Chairman, has said. Together they have found countless inconsistencies, mistakes, inaccuracies, miscalculations, blunders, oversights, and downright screw ups of their very own democratic people. The Republican Party won’t lose a night’s sleep trying to think up things to say when brochure time comes. With friends like these, who needs enemies? 

At higher levels of government, the “head’ of the party is usually the top dog. The President of the United States, right now, is the head of the Democratic Party. I don’t know if this applies to local government, but even if it doesn’t, it sure doesn’t bode well for the mayor being the “Top Dog”. If he can’t control his own people and party, it begs the question, what can he control?   

The buck is supposed to stop at the mayor’s office. Well it sure starts at the podium every month, but I don’t see it stopping or even slowing for that matter.

The past administration was Republican run. Ratajczak was all over them like flies on dogship. Now, although run by a majority of democrats, he’s still over them like flies on dogship. What is going on behind the scenes here that the public is totally unaware of? Something has to be because there is no rhyme or reason for this. 

Ratajczak and Rodriquez can blast the mayor and 4 out of 5 of the council people six days to Sunday each and every time they meet to caucus. They could argue up and down, back and forth, till the cows come home amongst themselves until they come up with a cohesive plan to get the things done they feel necessary to get done. What’s with the grandstanding at the podium each month? They both running for those open seats???

And what about the Council President, Flo Mazzer? She is the head and mouthpiece of the council. Why she is as weak as the mayor by not putting her foot down and just allows this to continue month after month is beyond me. 

I used to make jokes that Saddle Brook was not unlike Mayberry RFD (a small, quaint, unimposing town). I’m beginning to wonder now if it isn’t more like Petticoat Junction. No one wearing a jock strap! 

Friday
Jun122015

Anti-Nepotism Ordinance Update

Recently, in my previous post (click here), I had ridiculed Mayor White for not standing up to his campaign promise of implementing an anti-nepotism ordinance. My disappointment came from his public statements conveying his backing off and watering down any new anti-nepotism ordinance because his mentor, Chief of Police Robert Kugler, made an “emotional public comment” against the ordinance at a public meeting.

I felt further proof of the mayor’s kowtow to the chief of police in an Opt-Ed article he penned in The Record Newspaper on May 19th where he stated, “Whether we ultimately look to expand this (anti-nepotism ordinance) to department heads is a discussion much further down the road, when we can analyze the success of the limited ordinance. 

But now, within Mayor White's Monthly Update for May 2015, he seemingly reversed his previous statement by saying, “I have every intention of amending and reintroducing the ordinance – one that, at the very least, restricts hiring of relatives of the Mayor and Council. If supported by the council, I would be in favor of expanding the ban on hiring family members of department heads and division heads as well. 

Is this potentially a good thing or is it just a “cop-out”? (no pun intended) Has the mayor seen the error of his ways or just a setup to blame the council, and therefore keep his nose clean (and up the chief’s xxx)? I don’t have that answer. 

Does the new mayor have the political clout to get things he feels important, done? You would think with four out of five council people being his party, Democrats, he should have a relatively easy time of persuasion. Although, I do know personally that both Councilwoman D’Arminio and Councilman Accomando are not particularly smitten with their running mate and will not say “how high” when the mayor says “jump”. As with anything in politics, the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality is what gets things done. 

If the mayor truly wants this ordinance put in place, worded the way it should be which would cover all avenues of possible nepotism, he should invest any political capital necessary and not be worried about CYA.  

Thursday
Jun112015

June Council Meeting - Analysis Pt. 1

I fear the bloom is off the rose for the newly elected mayor and two council people. Within a short six months, the new administration has abruptly come to learn that running a municipality is neither “kum bah ya” nor fun and games. It is actually time to govern. 

It was a foreseeable eventuality that Enlacosa Video Productions, who is inappropriately called Saddle Brook Community Television because they have nothing to do with Saddle Brook and they are not run by its residents, initially produced pretty decent videos early on (to get their contract).  Then, slowly but surely, they cut their time and expense and now produce, at best, mediocre productions. What you are getting now is pretty much no different then what Councilman Halko did for SBC-TV during the previous administration.  The only real difference is he didn’t cost $1,666.00 a month. Audio production is subpar to say the least, and though they are using 3 cameras to Halko’s 1, I find no technical direction as to when they cut from camera to camera which would allow the viewers to see reactions, other than just the principal speaker, thereby conveying a more realistic indication of what is transpiring.  Hence, there's no real purpose for 3 cameras. And lastly, Council meetings should NEVER be edited (shortened) in any way. The videotape of the meeting is supposed to be an exact replication of the meeting. If any part, no matter how short, is removed (edited), one could then never be sure that what they are watching is everything that was said or was what really happened, and it cannot be  used for legal archived purposes down the road.  

I won’t harp on Enlacosa Video Productions any further other than to say the township is not getting their money’s worth if their intention was to hire “professionals”, thereby circumventing having to put up with volunteer Saddle Brook residents and presumably receive a better product. While Enlacosa Video Productions has so far produced videos above and beyond their contracted “council meetings and special meetings”, they were usually never the full length of the event, overly edited, and by no means free of additional cost. Having cost $10,000 for the contracted council meetings and special meetings during the previous six months, we’ll find out shortly what the “extras” amounted too. I’d have to assume the mantra of the mayor has been “half assed is better than nothing”.   I find it inexcusable since they are actually paying for this service. 

So much had happened and had been said during the four hours of this council meeting that I won’t attempt to address all of the more notable occurrences. Suffice it to say, it was heartening to witness average, everyday residents, come to the podium and voice their concerns. 

There was valid trepidation expressed by several residents concerning the presence of coyotes in certain areas of the township, an unnerving experience to say the least. The mayor and council appeared understanding and concerned, and they vowed to get the State and County Wildlife Commissions involved with meeting residents to better learn how to manage this problem. 

Causing a feeling of an elephant in the room were a few residents who were having a problem with the Recreation Department, or more specifically, the Director. The Township Attorney even voiced concern that discussing personnel in public is a slippery slope. The women who voiced their concerns seemed understandably uncomfortable trying to express their issue while not wanting to say anything which would appear disrespectful, which is a difficult onion to peel. 

I don’t have that problem. So I can say with some personal experience what they could not. 

It is widely known that former Councilman Joseph Setticase is the director under fire. It is also widely known that there have been many complaints about the director since day one. You’ll remember Mr. Setticase acquired the nickname “No Show Joe” during his council days in office. He was not known as being punctual, involved, or even present, at most meetings. 

It came as a shock to most volunteers of the White for Mayor Campaign when it was learned White was animate about hiring Setticase as director regardless of what anyone else suggested.  No-show Joe Setticase, then President of the Democratic Club and former Councilman, was expelled from the club for lack of attendance, lack of leadership, and endorsing a republican candidate during past elections. Emill Ciliento, past President of the Democratic Club and friend of Councilwoman Flo Mazzer, also voted in favor of Setticase's expulsion. Setticase is persona non grata within the County Democratic Organization, yet White goes against the political grain, and his party, and appoints Setticase anyway. 

Trouble was foreseen many months in advance of Mr. Setticase’s appointment. But what I find even more telling is Mayor White’s politically un-savvy and condescending response to the lady who stated she found the director’s letter to her “insulting and condescending.”   

You can tell Mayor White is new to politics. Not only his words, but his facial features showed his anger with this young lady at the podium. Even Karen Chamberlain didn’t develop that puss on her face until many years as mayor. If I were her, I would feel more insulted now than I did before I spoke at the podium. It was more than obvious that White felt the need to justify himself, and his Setticase appointment, which was much more important than trying to answer one of his constituents in a way that allowed her to feel ‘heard’ and validated. He gave the woman an argument instead!! HE did not feel she was justified in her feelings regarding the director’s letter. Who the hell is Mayor White to tell anyone they cannot feel the way they feel? Chalk it up to inexperience and egotism? Maybe arrogance and the need to not let the opposition to his appointment be a “we told you so” moment? The bottom line is the lady gets a “tough luck” answer from the director and a tertiary, “your argument has no merit”, answer from the mayor. The mayor has a lot to learn on how to speak to his constituents, and more importantly who should be more important to him when governing. Mayor White tends to lose his temper rather quickly and doesn’t like being brought to task. He better learn quickly that he isn’t a cop anymore and needs to lose the attitude of its “his way or the highway”.  Until he can be more comfortable in his own skin, no one else can. 

Another resident complained that she sent three registered letters highlighting her husband’s expertise in recreation to Mayor White, Councilman Accomando, and Councilwoman D’Arminio. While never receiving an answer from any of the three, their answer to this resident was another blunder. D’Arminio said she did receive the registered letter, but due to the fact recreation appointments are a mayoral appointment and purgative, it wasn’t her place to do anything. A shortsighted and misplaced answer. Assuming most residents don’t have personal knowledge of the inner workings of government, this lady was entitled to a quick response from D’Arminio explaining her limited powers and nonetheless could have been told her concerns would still be conveyed to the mayor. Councilman Accomando had a similar non answer. Accomando stated he spoke with her husband many weeks later and explained his similar predicament. He did say he never answered the registered letter in the first place or in a timely manner. Mayor White on the other hand, had the best excuse by stating he never received this registered letter though this resident made the point that she received three signatures of receipt for the letters. Well which is it then? Either White received the letter, signed for it, and then forgot, or this resident’s allegations are incorrect. An admittance of an oversight and an apology would have been sufficient instead of another justification of a defense by the mayor once again. This kind of lack of attention to residents’ concerns at such an early stage of a new administration does not fend well nor leave a feeling of confidence. In my opinion, as statesmen, it would have behooved D’Arminio, Accomando, and White to just accept blame even if none existed and apologize without a left-handed excuse. 

Resident Nancy Murray, while commenting at the podium about the anti-nepotism ordinance, or lack thereof, said it best when she said, “If you are going to have it then you have to have it. You have it or you don’t. You don’t pick and choose who you can have it for.” She very eloquently explained that corporate anti-nepotism policies cover everyone, and the Saddle Brook ordinance should be no different. Ms. Murray also touched upon the mayor and council’s belief that volunteerism is in very short supply in the township. This was not unlike when I expressed my opinion to both the mayor personally and Ms. Mazzer at a Caucus meeting, that I believed SBC-TV could be staffed by resident volunteers as had been done during its first five years. Both the mayor and Mazzer disagreed with my assertion claiming it would be too difficult. Though Ms. Murray was not referencing SBC-TV specify, all of a sudden the council was all in favor, expressing an opinion that she had a wonderful idea by advertising for volunteers. My reply to the mayor and council would be the words of Ms. Murray: “You have it or you don’t.” Lip service need not be expressed! 

Then two young ladies representing the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission came to the podium. I have no comment about their attendance other than to say I found it ironic they were talking about sewage.  

SEE PART 2 BELOW

Thursday
Jun112015

June Council Meeting - Analysis Pt. 2

I have to admit that when Mr. Ratajczak took his familiar place at the podium I was conditioned to assume I’d be hearing more of the usual from him. Though I find it improper for him to continually use that podium to express his opinions (get a blog) rather than legitimate questions, he did have intelligent points to make. Regarding the parking situation on Orchard Lane, Ratajczak said what I believe no mayor or council member would have the ba!!’s to say but should say: the township is not a gated community. Streets are ALL public streets with no one having more of a right to park on a particular street than anyone else. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the Township Planning and Zoning Boards. They allowed 5 homes to be built where there should have only been 3. Whether for political or pay-to-play payback, it was allowed and now just water under the bridge. You can sympathize with the affected homeowners but you can’t grant them special privileges. 

In my opinion, Ratajczak faltered in his argument regarding the consideration of possible re-write of the anti-nepotism ordinance. His argument actually became more incoherent as he spoke. Obviously, he is against this ordinance being applied to the police department. Why, I’m not sure. He wasn’t at all clear. His ‘dig’ to Councilman Cimiluca inferring that a Councilman and an attorney couldn’t re-write a portion of the ordinance “during his lunch time” was uncalled for and expressed for no other reason than to besmirch the councilman. 

Mr. Ratajczak then enlightened me, if no one else, by asking the Township Attorney where the township stood with regard to former Mayor Karen Chamberlain’s lifetime benefits. It was a welcomed surprise for me to hear that it was determined Mrs. Chamberlain was not entitled to lifetime healthcare benefits. However, there is of course an anticipation of litigation by the soon to be plaintiff, Mrs. Chamberlain. For that reason, the township attorney could not go into specifics regarding the issues involved or how they may apply to existing council people who are receiving benefits. 

If you remember, a group of township residents organized a petition drive to eliminate health benefits for council members and part-time professionals. All elected officials and professionals in Saddle Brook do not take public health benefits, but they are eligible to do so. The residents' petition sought to ban the practice through either an ordinance or a referendum on the November ballot. The council opted for the ordinance route. Instead of adopting an ordinance eliminating health benefits for council members and part-time professionals, the council amended the ordinance that residents recommended to exclude those elected or hired prior to Jan. 1, 2011. That exempts all members of the governing body. As an Opinion piece of The Record Newspaper said: “Clearly, excluding elected officials through grandfathering is a significant change from what residents had in mind. Saddle Brook residents behind the petition drive did a service to their community. The council erred by cynically amending the ordinance to benefit themselves, which is something the court should correct.”

Then, low and behold, Ratajczak quickly schooled the mayor and council on three other issues for which there was no logical rebuttal. The first was moving two backstops at Veterans Field vs. building two new ones. He pointed out “moving them at $26,000 was more expensive than replacing them at $15,000". As I said within the first paragraph, since Enlacosa Video Productions does not cut from camera to camera to view reactions of the council, we were only able to see Councilman Camilleri’s, what appeared to be befuddled expression, while seeming to look to others on the council for help. Waste was Ratajczak’s example; an example well taken. 

Mr. Ratajczak now on a roll, asked everyone on the council if they do a cost benefit analysis when they decide these kinds of issues. No one on the council opted to answer. His well-made third point was right on the money. Does the township have a completion date with the former township engineer’s Veterans Field contract? Another “no-brainer”. The unfortunate answer again was shrugging shoulders. The council wasn’t even sure who is in-charge of the Veterans Field project! 

Mr. Ratajczak’s made his last point about the possible detriment of the 0% tax increase of last year and depriving the township of needed funds for this year. Only Councilman Cimiluca could be seen on camera making a vain attempt of justification.

I found it very amusing that a resident of Van Luyn Terrace, who hasn’t attended a council meeting in some time, was aghast at learning that the township approved an ordinance making a homeowner legally responsible for clearing a fire hydrant of snowfall. It was and is a stupid, uncalled for, and misplaced, ordinance. What are you paying taxes for? D.P.W. or the Fire Department, which is essentially the same, can and should be obligated to care for this. If, God forbid, push comes to shove and someone gets hurt in a fire and a homeowner is sued, it would be adding insult to injury! Although, I doubt a court would let this ordinance stand. 

One thing less noticeable but apparent to me was the fact that both Accomando and White were pretty much silent during the open part of the meeting except when a ‘police’ issue came up.  That issue was when a resident complained of Bergen County Police / Sheriffs using Caldwell Avenue’s future low-income housing building for training purposes. Again, the cops stood up for the cops. White’s contention that although the township does not receive any compensation for allowing the county to use the building, it’s a “one hand washes the other” arrangement, which is essentially true. However, both White and Accomando should also be mindful that a lot of residents who are not cops would be less likely to accept or see the benefits. The administration’s explanation of “trust us” leaves little comfort for an average resident. 

Last on the list of podium dwellers was Omar Rodriquez. Though he is in campaign mode for Councilman of Saddle Brook, he said nothing of value. Therefore, I have no reason to comment.