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BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETINGS

 

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Friday
Feb272015

Understanding A Budget

Mayor White was out and about today selling his budget to anyone that would listen. He found a wonderful audience at Long School who listened very intently. But all kidding aside, seeing the mayor, a police officer, and a fireman, taking the time to interact with children was very much a positive thing. Though I have a funny feeling if the mayor had worn his white police shirt and sidearm he may of come across just a bit more impressive to this age group. 

All good unless of course one of these children were to go home and tell their parents they were just told a fantasy by the Mayor of Saddle Brook. These parents might have thought there was a field trip to a council meeting! 

Thursday
Feb262015

Special Meeting - Tonight

Be advised that the Township website posted this morning:

UPDATE: The tentatively scheduled meetings for February 25 and 26, 2015 have been canceled.

Wednesday
Feb252015

Special Meeting - UPDATE

First a few caveats to what I say here. I couldn’t make it to last nights meeting unfortunately. Babysitting my 8-month-old grandson is a lot more fun so I was by no means disappointed in not making the meeting. However from what I have been told, there was no real reason for a meeting in the first place. 

According to the Townships posted agenda, the meeting will cover the 2015 Municipal Budget and Veterans Field.  They were unable to discuss Veterans field because they (council) didn't receive the necessary information.  Their discussion “touched” on the budget but the other auditor wasn’t done with his end of year report so the council could not proceed further.  They then talked about the TV studio and how the mayor intends to reinvent the wheel but again tabled their discussion. This meeting was NOT videotaped for later broadcast or video-on-demand. 

So, unless you were actually present, you’ll never know exactly what transpired. With no video of the proceedings and no realistic hope for meeting minutes to miraculously appear since there is a backlog of over 12 months worth of meeting minutes already, transparency is still only visible through a thick cloud. 

I also know that the new democratic council members are not happy with the time it is taking to fulfill one of their main campaign promises of transparency, nor are the remaining council members for that matter. I also know that the mayor has made many promises regarding transparency and the TV station, intending to get things squared away as soon as possible. After all it has only been two months in office. However as I have said in the past, when you make a mountain out of a molehill it takes time to build up to a point where it is actually a mountain; in this case an unnecessary one. Reinventing the TV wheel is becoming costly when there was simply no reason for it. The infrastructure the township has in place can still be viable even though 8 years of the previous administrations neglect has taken its toll. 

The television station was always previously run by township residents volunteering their creative time, energy, and pride, to cover as many township events as possible. SBC-TV had always been a public channel that allowed every resident the possibility of having their own show to feature a wide variety of interests. The mayor’s insistence to now do away with public’s participation is frankly a slap in the face to each and every resident. Is it really advantageous to now hire third-party vendors to tape just government programs? Hiring al a Carte leaves the door wide open for hirer costs in the future. Meetings will be covered I would assume but will special meetings, regardless of how many; parades, Christmas, Halloween, Easter, ballgames, as well as a host of other possible events? I had suggested to Councilman Acccomando (field liaison) the periodic videotaping of the construction progression of Veterans Field so residents would be able to see where their two million dollars is going, a suggestion the councilman intended to pursue; a 3rd party vendor going to do this for free? The mayor has already hired a firm to attempt to fix the TV transmission issue keeping SBC-TV off the air. He intends to hire a vendor to tape meetings. He intends to extend the Township webmasters contract (at additional cost) to do the TV bulletin boards on TV. His stated intention is to save money. Should he weight saving money (which by no means has been substantiated) vs. taking away a public right and no longer intending to “building a community base of volunteers to cover all areas of community interests.” as he once promised on his campaign website? 

I believe the next scheduled meeting is this Thursday, 7:pm at Townhall. At that time we will learn more. That’s only if we attend!!! 

Sunday
Feb222015

Special Council Meeting

Special? If they have anymore of these they should just call them ‘Another’ Council Meeting. 

Please take notice that the Township Council has scheduled Special Public Meeting, for February 24, 2015 and, if needed, February 25 and 26, 2015 at 6:30 PM at the Saddle Brook Municipal Building, 93 Market Street, Saddle Brook, NJ. The agenda will be the 2015 Municipal Budget and Veterans Field. Please contact the Township Clerk at 201-587-2909 Mon- Thurs. between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM for any changes or cancellations of meeting dates or the Township website – saddlebrooknj.us 

Other items not specifically listed may also be discussed and acted upon. Portions of these meetings may be held in closed session. Formal action may be taken at these meetings. Peter Lo Dico, RMC CMC, Township Clerk” 

But seriously this is an important meeting, as they will be discussing the 2015 Municipal Budget, a new administration doing what they see fit for the betterment of their constituents. Going by past administrations you’ll be hearing the new mayor explaining the mess they were left with, how the zero tax increase screwed everything up, and since they didn’t know any better until they got in office, the reasoning for his now drastic measures. I mean its ALWAYS the past administrations fault right? I would expect Ms. Mazzer and Mr. Cimiluca having something worth saying if it comes to that. 

The two budget-cutting measures I personally know the mayor is pushing extensively for are the personnel reductions within the police departments Table of Organization, and doing away with SBC-TV as a public access, community run TV station, keeping it as essentially a Government channel. More with less seems to be the new mantra for the mayor. Initially residents should be happy with this way of thinking and embrace the concept. However, costs are not the only factor to be considered by any stretch. Within recent memory I can’t say I recall any arguments or even discussions about the township spending money foolishly or willy-nilly that their spending habits were ‘out of hand’. Yes there was broad displeasure with committing to over Two million dollars on veterans Field and also top-heavy ranks within the police department. Both of which seem to now be water under the bridge. And although good arguments can be made on both sides of these issues, in my opinion they don’t amount to any where near exorbitant spending. So therefore, cutting existing programs just because of their budgetary impact is not in and of itself a justification. These are just two of the issues I am aware of. Of course we’ll lean of many more at the meeting(s).    

To end on a humorous note, did you see the last sentence of the first paragraph of the Township Clerk’s official notice: “Please contact the Township Clerk at 201-587-2909 Mon- Thurs. between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM for any changes or cancellations of meeting dates or the Township website – saddlebrooknj.us? Now that IS laughable!! When is the last time you’d ever find timely information regarding meetings, agenda’s, or meeting minutes on their website? Can’t blame their webmaster, he just puts up what he is given. In retrospect maybe Mr. Lo Dico was just inserting some humor of his own. 

Friday
Feb202015

PointLESS Man!

Politics is a cutthroat profession. In Saddle Brook, as well as other small communities in Bergen County, it’s a cutthroat hobby. More than not our local politicians are no more than amateurs looking to make a name for themselves. Many, not all, just want to be the biggest fish in their small pond. A few only want to help their own communities be a better place to live while despising the political games they are most times forced to play. Unfortunately a bitter pill they have but no alternative to swallow. 

Being privy to more then most during the mayoral / council campaigns of last year, I have witnessed among candidates and pundits, a disenchantment regarding a certain past politician having unusually direct influence to policies and procedures within the mayor’s office. I say disenchantment, which could be misleading since that infers past enchantment, which was never the case in the first place.  Even though not in office most past politicians stay in the loop with their counterparts to gain or keep their influence and thereby their ‘power’. As in a chest game a good player will look at the board and envision many possible moves down the road each time they move their piece in their effort to place themselves where they want to be in the future. This was becoming increasingly apparent to most pundits during the campaign and not looked at favorably. An irritant at council meetings, considered to have a holier then thou attitude, and no more helpful to the community then Larry Ratajczak, this politician who helped me coin the phrase “By A Hair” losing a previous election to Mr. Cimiluca by only 3 or 4 votes, was becoming the mayor’s point man!

Omar Rodriguez, a pointless person to most within the inner circle of the campaign, was trying his best to reinvent himself and by the looks of things he is well on his way; influence-wise maybe, but I doubt when he runs again. Omar appears to be the one who put all the professionals together for the township so he can get financial help when he runs in 2 years God forbid.

I can’t fathom the one person having such an undue amount of influence on who will get a job, who will get a contract, or who will have the strongest say, is the one person most people in town despise the most. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it. I can’t say with any convincing argument why this man’s 2 cents is even worth 2 cents but apparently the mayor believes he’s worth his weight in gold. Either that or that jail cell he tried to fill years ago is still a dangling carrot for a different occupant. Got to be a smoking gun somewhere!  

Keep a close eye on who gets what in the coming months based on who knows who and pray I am 100% wrong. After all, politicians can admit to mistakes. Anything is possible. Even Obama could wake up tomorrow and admit he doesn’t have a clue. I just wouldn’t hold my breath!!

Wednesday
Feb182015

Old Question, New Concern?

Most of you who keep up with the news would be aware of the train derailment and ferocious aftermath fire that occurred in West Virginia yesterday. A Record Newspaper article: “Oil train derailment in W.Va. raises concerns in New Jersey” revisited concerns that were once a hot topic in Saddle Brook. 

In West Virginia this derailed train was carrying crude oil, which exploded in what was thankfully a rural area. This article once again brings to light that trains such as these pass through 11 Bergen County communities: Northvale, Norwood, Harrington Park, Closter, Haworth, Dumont, Bergenfield, Teaneck, Bogota, Ridgefield Park and Ridgefield; none through Saddle Brook. But back in the day Saddle Brook was struggling with similar concerns questioning what type of materials were actually passing through Saddle Brook on the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway system, a freight rail system that passes through town essentially cutting the township in half.  

For as long as I can remember there were always complaints about these trains being so long and stopping at the NYS&W 20 acre Bulk Transfer Facility located at the intersection of the NYS&W main line and Mayhill Street, to couple or decouple trains. This procedure caused long traffic backups at all 3 major township intersections, Midland Avenue near Kenny Place, Mayhill Street, and Saddle River Road, all at the same time and by only one long train. One concern was being able in an emergency to get Fire apparatus and/or an ambulance to the north side of town. The other concern was if something similar to what happened in West Virginia could happen here in Saddle Brook. 

I do remember mayors and councils from many years ago fighting with the State and Federal Government and getting relatively nowhere since the rail system legally enjoys the right of way. With regard to the first concern of emergency vehicles and personnel having access to the north side of town, all surrounding communities have put into place a Mutual Aid system to help each other deal with this type of scenario. Regarding the second concern of dangerous materials passing through the center of town being quite close to private homes and condominiums, I really can't remember if these concerns were quelled with adequate answers. 

From what little my own investigation (a strong word) has been able to ascertain, the W. Va. derailment occurred on rail owned and maintained by CSX and not on tracks operated by NYS&W. However NYS&W does share track, and therefore cargo, with CSX but apparently not in Saddle Brook. NYS&W advertizes Plastics as their main commodity within Saddle Brook and never mentions oil or crude oil as in W. Va. But they do however advertize Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage and transportation. This can and should be considered dangerous cargo. LPG may leak as a gas or a liquid.  If the liquid leaks it will quickly evaporate and form a relatively large cloud of gas that will drop to the ground, as it is heavier than air. LPG vapors can run for long distances along the ground and can collect in drains or basements.  When the gas meets a source of ignition it can burn or explode.

You should be aware that the Saddle Brook Fire Department is also well aware of this and find no small comfort in that knowledge. But based on what has just transpired in W.Va., I wonder if the mayor and council should once again be asked to look into this issue. 

By no means do I want to make this a doomsday issue, which is not my intention at all. I just think it better to be safe than sorry. 

Monday
Feb162015

K.I.S.S.

For those who have never attended a Council Caucus meeting you should be made aware that THIS is the meeting where you get to hear how the townships sausage is made, not council meetings. Though I got there 20 minutes late I was able to listen to a healthy exchange of ideas between council people, mayor, and former Twp. Engineer Bob Costa, regarding Veterans Field. Both Councilman Cimiluca and Councilman Camilleri asked extensive questions of the former Engineer who is responsible for construction of Veterans Field. Listening to their exchange of ideas was very informative. Much more informative than anything you might learn while at a council meeting. Being less formal you are therefore privy to the individual councilmen / woman’s way of thinking giving much greater incite as to why they may vote a certain way at a council meeting. 

One of the issues on tonight’s agenda was: MAYOR’S APPOINTMENT – VACANCY OF MUNICIPAL JUDGE – UNEXPIRED TERM NICHOLAS P. NASARENKO MOTION FOR ADVICE AND CONSENT:

Here again though their discussion was briefer, you learn the mindset of some council members and understand much better why they voted the way they did. 4 to 1 in favor was the vote with Councilman Cimiluca voting against. But if you only heard (and would hear at a council meeting or on the street) was “Councilman Cimiluca voting against” you’d wonder why and never really know his reasoning. Caucus meetings are much more informative and therefore should be mandatory for broadcast and not just council meetings. Knowing why a councilman or councilwomen votes the way they do is significantly more important then just knowing how they voted. Of course just like sausage you’ll never know everything that goes into the mayor or councils thinking, you will over time learn much more about each person giving you greater tools to form your opinions. 

This brings me to my last comment about their brief discussion regarding SBC-TV or lack thereof. To my surprise because it wasn’t on the agenda for this evening, it came up for discussion. When the mayor was asked by Cimiluca what the status of getting SBC-TV back on the air the mayor replied that they (he) was indeed having trouble getting things worked out but he was working diligently to get everything fixed. I then learned while listening to Mayor White that he was going to formally present a contract he developed with Enlacosa Video Productions (Omar’s crew) to the council for their next regular council meeting. This would be a contract to record a council meeting a month and, I would assume, other duties. The mayor also stated he will extend the township website’s webmasters contract to include TV bulletin boards at an additional cost. He then followed with his hiring a Rochelle Park firm to “fix” the servers at Coolidge School TV station to get SBCommunityTV back on the air. 

To be clear there were NO cameras recording this meeting. 

Not for nothing but talk about making a mountain out of a molehill! Hiring three different companies to do what volunteers once did? Yes it is true with those volunteers came with one full or part-time employee. But township residents did all the bulletin boards with esthetic polish. These volunteers reached out to every club, organization, Church group, etc soliciting each and every board thereby having as much information as possible available for residents. Why must the mayor reinvent the wheel here? How can it possibly be cost-effective for the Township to be in a position to have to hire a la carte? Why would you want to remove resident volunteers from the equation? According to the mayor saving a buck is the ONLY thing that concerns him. I’m sure some residents would feel the same. And though it is now common knowledge that this is the very point where the mayor and I strongly disagreed, I vehemently assert the mayor has absolutely no idea what he is talking about while taking away a service to the people that many of its average residents once loved to do. 

There is more then one way to skin a cat and the mayor is fixated on just one. Hence my post title: Keep It Simple Stupid!