Council Votes to Retain Lawyer in Petition Mess

BY  |  Saturday, Sep 17, 2011 12:29pm  |  COMMENTS (49)

With Third Ward Councilor Nick Lewis calling it “a fait accompli” despite his opposition, the Montclair Township Council passed a resolution this morning authorizing a contract for an attorney to advise the council in the matter of the petition for referendum on whether municipal elections should be changed from May to November.

Mayor Jerry Fried, who handed over moderation of the session to Councilor-at-Large Roger Terry, joined Lewis in voting against it, with the rest of the council voting for it. Deputy Mayor Kathryn Weller-Demming, having cited in advance a previous engagement, was absent.

Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville spoke for the majority, which wants a commission to study moving the election date rather than bringing the issue to the ballot earlier via petitions. She expressed the need for the council, which is on record as opposing the petition, to have its own attorney in light of what she called a conflict of interest involving Township Attorney Ira Karasick.

With the petitioners — led by the mayor, the deputy mayor, and Councilor Lewis in their capacity as private citizens — having their own attorney, and with Karasick advising Township Clerk Linda Wanat on the legality of the petitions, Baskerville said it was imperative for the council to retain its own legal representation.

“Today, we’re being forced to come here, and we’re being forced to spend tax dollars for something that none of us want to do,” she said. “But when you look around the table and realize that people have taken action that seemed to be moving toward legal activity, then for us not to hire someone to at least help us to learn what the laws are so that we’ll better understand them . . . the problem is, we’re treading waters that have not been clearly defined by the law. ”

Councilor Lewis said that the majority could hire lawyers but opposed spending township money on it, saying it did not constitute a municipal purpose and that such a lawyer would represent not the council but the concerns of four individual councilors.

“The lawyer has to be representing the entire council. You have four members of the council [who] have decided they want to hire a lawyer to represent them, and they want the town to pay for it,” Lewis said. “The other thing is that the role of the council in one of these initiative petitions or procedures is pretty limited. You get your … signatures, the proposed ordinance is submitted to the council, the council votes it up or down, and that’s it.”

Baskerville responded by saying that the three council members involved with the petition were coming forward as citizens, not as elected officials, and that was why legal counsel was needed for the legislative body. ”This gets to be very confusing,” she added.

Mayor Fried complained in an opening statement that the session was not about law or government but politics, and he announced that he would release to the press on Monday a strategic plan, developed with Lewis and Weller-Demming, to tackle the township’s ongoing problems.

The only public comment on the election issue came from two Montclair residents. David Herron challenged the petition as invalid and demanded it be withdrawn. Jed Posnick took the opposite view. As one of the official petitioners, he expressed disappointment with the council’s four-member majority for trying to block a public referendum on the matter. “Why would you oppose an open vote?” he asked. “Since when does the mayor forfeit his right to play a leading role in a political effort in his community?”

49 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  September 17, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    “But when you look around the table and realize that people have taken action that seemed to be moving toward legal activity…”

    did she mean “illegal” activity?

    My, there is so much demagoguery it’s hard to know where to start.

    “The lawyer has to be representing the entire council. You have four members of the council [who] have decided they want to hire a lawyer to represent them, and they want the town to pay for it, [Lewis said]”

    The entire conflict of interest and difficulty is caused by members of the council acting as private citizens and circulating the petition in opposition to the council’s actions (the previous “no” vote”) How could the outside attorney represent opposing sides at the same time? It’s total nonsense. Such a statement betrays a complete ignorance of legal ethics and fair-play. Or, is it just BS and a cheap attempt at scoring points? The councilors who are on the committee of petitioners are within their rights as citizens, but then they should not expect to also have access to the remaining council’s attorney. And I think they know this.

    [Lewis said.] “The other thing is that the role of the council in one of these initiative petitions or procedures is pretty limited. You get your … signatures, the proposed ordinance is submitted to the council, the council votes it up or down, and that’s it.”

    I don’t know if he’s simply ignorant of the law or if he might be trying to deceive, but the council is under absolutely no obligation to “vote it up or down”. They already “voted it down” that’s why the petition was created in the first place. The council can simply ignore it. Why should they facilitate a speedy timeline for their opposition to overrule their previous vote? The law is clear and states If, after 20 days from certification (something which has YET to happen, BTW) the council “does not pass” (ie. takes no action) THEN the item can be readied for the ballot (which at the earliest has to be 50 days after the 20 days). The council could vote it down again, but this would only have the effect of speeding up the clock but bypassing the 20 day period. Again, they’re not obligated (nor should they) help the opposition. Someone should ask Lewis to explain his legal reasoning as to why the council has to “vote it up or down”. But don’t hold your breath because there is none.

    “Councilor Lewis said that the majority could hire lawyers but opposed spending township money on it, saying it did not constitute a municipal purpose and that such a lawyer would represent not the council but the concerns of four individual councilors.”

    Incorrect. Upholding the law is most certainly a “municipal purpose”. I am dismayed that he does not see it that way. And the lawyer would indeed represent the council — the subset of the council which does not have a self-created conflict of interest.

    “Mayor Fried complained in an opening statement that the session was not about law or government but politics”

    He can repeat this mantra all he wants. But the law is clear (see link below) and there is not enough time for the measure to get onto the Nov8 ballot. Yet he and the clerk maintain it’s going on the ballot anyway. So how is this not about the law and its proper interpretation? Again, someone ask him about his theory of the 20 period of action for the council, the 10 day “withdrawal period” and the 40 day waiting period.

    “[Fried] announced that he would release to the press on Monday a strategic plan, developed with Lewis and Weller-Demming, to tackle the township’s ongoing problems.”

    What on earth has he been waiting for?! Has he been paying attention the last 2 years? Only NOW he decides to make a strategic plan? Or, perhaps, is he just desperate to change the subject.

    “Jed Posnick took the opposite view. As one of the official petitioners, he expressed disappointment with the council’s four-member majority for trying to block a public referendum on the matter. “Why would you oppose an open vote?” he asked.”

    More demagoguery, does he think we’re not paying attention? No one has opposed a public referendum. The only question is the timing.

    The bottom line is that by council members joining in the petition effort (perfectly within their rights) THEY created the conflict of interest which necessitates the need for an outside attorney. To maintain the opposite, in my opinion, is dishonest.

    The laws related to the petitions begin on page 58:

    http://www.nj.gov/dca/lgs/miscpubs/other/optional_muni_charter_law.pdf

  2. POSTED BY jhartnett  |  September 17, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

    Question #6: Everyone agrees that the municipal clerk’s office is the one place that citizens must be able to count on for impartiality. It turns out that the review of the petitions for sufficiency was not even conducted by the municipal clerk, who was out of town when they were submitted. Instead of waiting until the clerk could come in, the official review was rushed ahead of the legal deadline and conducted by an employee in the clerk’s office who was a supporter of and signer of the petition, who then told the clerk that she (the employee) found that the petitions were sufficient and then the clerk told the Council. Should the determination of whether or not the petitions were sufficient been conducted by someone who was a supporter of and signer of the petitions?

  3. POSTED BY edremsen  |  September 17, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

    A strategic plan this late in the term? You’re kidding us, right? And a plan being submitted by three members of the Council with no input from the rest of the Council? This is bizarre.

  4. POSTED BY jwatson  |  September 17, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

    “A strategic plan this late in the term? You’re kidding us, right? And a plan being submitted by three members of the Council with no input from the rest of the Council? This is bizarre.”

    Ed,

    At this point, I am just waiting for a formal statement of secession. This would also be an interesting way of solving the whole moving the election debate.

  5. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  September 17, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

    “It turns out that the review of the petitions for sufficiency was not even conducted by the municipal clerk, who was out of town when they were submitted. Instead of waiting until the clerk could come in, the official review was rushed ahead of the legal deadline and conducted by an employee in the clerk’s”

    Is this true? It’s outrageous if so. Anyone get a quote to confirm from the clerk?

  6. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 17, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

    This story almost makes me wish I were unemployed, so I could have time to savor it in all its ludicrousness. Who needs an endless baseball game to watch or a salacious novel to read when you’ve got all this going on. As it is, I’m having trouble keeping up.

    Baristas, as soon as this story starts to come to some denouement, I suggest you throw together an eBook of all the items you’ve run, with the comments. I would read it. I’ll bet Ed Remson would write an intro for free. You might also invite an essay by ROC.

    In this instance, I waive my usual consulting fee.

  7. POSTED BY jhartnett  |  September 17, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

    It’s all in the public records. Below is the clerk’s email to Council, with the employee’s name redacted (XXXX). By looking at the actual petitions, you will see the employee’s name as a signee.

    ——Original Message——
    From: Linda Wanat
    Subject: Referendum Question
    Sent: Aug 23, 2011 5:37 PM

    XXXXX has notified me that enough signatures have been certified to enable the council to address the ordinance at the September 6th meeting. The procedure,according to state statute, would be for the Council to act on it as if it was a second reading of an ordinance, hold the public hearing and then put it to a Council vote. I will be back tomorrow and will be happy to answer any questions. LSW

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  8. POSTED BY chaw44  |  September 17, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

    Oops, I posted under the wrong article but here is wht I had to say…

    When I heard a certain employee in the clerk’s office had signed the petition a red flag went up. I thought well what if the Clerk is out and this person has to handle the petition, would that not be a conflict or at least give the perception of a conflict. I had no idea that person had already handled the petition , certifying the names. Oh my…I am of the belief that there might be a problem with an address or two of a petitioner(s). Also, I would like to know if this employee is the Deputy Clerk and if so, was the position ever posted or did this employee just slide in to this position? Also, did the council need to appoint this person as deputy clerk or what? It certainly is becoming a tangled web.

  9. POSTED BY dherron  |  September 17, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

    I firmly believe that the people should have a voice in the politics of our community. The Committee of Petitioners expects that they should be allowed to have the issue placed on the November ballot, and their rationale is sound. But the process has become so…….perverted. Dates for petition submission-missed. Petitions submitted; only to be returned-lack of signatures; no-wrong election figures were used. Allegations of conflicts of interest abound, not to mention the threats and counter threats of lawsuits, with everyone lawyering-up.

    It’s all about the process-Is the process sound, I think not.

    The petition, as submitted to the township, needs the required language, N.J.S.A. 40:69A-25.1, but it does not have it. Was the petitions reviewed by the municipal clerk, perhaps-perhaps not.

    According to N.J.S.A.40:69A-25.1 To Amendment of a charter to include alternatives under plan of government; referendum; ballot; form of question, shall be formulated-

    b. At any election at which the question of adopting an alternative is to be submitted to the voters pursuant to this section, the question shall be submitted in substantially the following form:

    “Shall the charter of (insert name of municipality) governed by (insert plan of government) be amended, as permitted under that plan, to provide for (insert appropriate language from below for the alternative to be voted upon)?”

    GROUP A.

    (1) “the holding of regular municipal elections in May;”

    (2) “the holding of general elections in November;”

    Now, we are hearing that the municipal clerk may not have reviewed the petition for sufficiency, that was left up to another employee, one who is also a supporter and signer of the petition. Such actions, if true, would certainly taint the process, and I fear that we are very close to the edge of, …… well you know. Brother, can you spare a dime.

  10. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  September 17, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

    “The procedure,according to state statute, would be for the Council to act on it as if it was a second reading of an ordinance, hold the public hearing and then put it to a Council vote.”

    This is just flat wrong. There is NOTHING it the statute mandating a vote. I challenge anyone to find such in the statute. We pay a $125k yearly salary for the clerk to uphold the law and advise the council accurately. She does not seem to be well versed in the law.

  11. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 17, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    I am sorry for being so dense, but would someone please explain why Fried wants this so badly he’s willing to make himself and the town into a laughing stock? Is it to extend his term another six months? To ensure that “his people” stay in office after he’s gone? (As opposed to, say, Cary Africk’s people, just to pick a name at random?)It seems like a ridiculous thing to wage war over. How can there possibly be so much at stake, in the mayor’s eyes?

    ‘Splain please. Briefly. I have a limited attention span.

  12. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 17, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

    We pay a $125k yearly salary for the clerk to uphold the law and advise the council accurately. She does not seem to be well versed in the law.

    Does anyone supposedly running this town know what they’re doing?

  13. POSTED BY jhartnett  |  September 17, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

    Question #7 (Back to ethics): In an environment where mayor and council are effectuating budget cuts and layoffs, is it ethical for the mayor or council member to solicit signatures from Township employees and appointees? Or is this once again simply “acting as a private citizen?”

  14. POSTED BY Nellie  |  September 18, 2011 @ 12:55 am

    Live from Montclair, it’s Saturday night!!!

  15. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  September 18, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    The mayor and council don’t hire or fire (or layoff) paid township employees, The Township Manager does. So I don’t see an ethics issue here. As far as political appointees, it’s hard to exert influence from a minority of the council when appointments take a majority.

    One could make the case that raising this appointee issue like Africk did publicly is an attempt to dissuade appointees and potential appointees from signing because you would anger Africk and the majority of the council.

    But that’s an equally weak argument. Neither Fried’s circulation of the petition nor Africks statement are unethical.

  16. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  September 18, 2011 @ 7:49 am

    “It’s all in the public records. Below is the clerk’s email to Council, with the employee’s name redacted (XXXX). By looking at the actual petitions, you will see the employee’s name as a signee.”

    I still don’t understand how you know “xxxx” is the employee who also signed the petition. Isn’t there more that one employee in the clerk’s office?

  17. POSTED BY dherron  |  September 18, 2011 @ 8:39 am

    It does seems like we have some ethical issues, if the Montclair Township Cope is being examined. The states ethics codes also indicates not only that elected officials avoid any conflicts of interest, but also any perceived conflicts on interest.

    The Montclair Ethics Code states the following in Article XVIII of the Montclair Township Code.

    § 3-63. Conflicts of interest.

    A. Disclosure and disqualification. Whenever the performance of his/her duties shall require any official, advisor or employee to deliberate, act or vote on any matter involving his/her own financial or personal interest, he/she shall publicly disclose the nature and extent of such interest and disqualify himself/herself from participating in public or private deliberations or voting and shall not take any action in his/her capacity as a Township official, advisor or employee relating to such matter.

    B. Representation of private persons. No official or employee shall appear as an attorney on behalf of or represent any private person other than himself/herself before any public body in the Township of Montclair.

    C. Gifts and favors. No official or employee shall accept any gift, whether in the form of money, thing, favor, loan or promise, intended to influence any official action.

    D. Confidential information. No official, advisor or employee shall use or permit the use of any confidential information to advance the financial interest of himself/herself or any other person or entity or to the detriment of the financial interests of the Township.

    § 3-64. Political activity.

    A municipal officer or employee shall not:

    A. Use his/her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with the result of an election or nomination for office; or

    B. Directly or indirectly coerce, attempt to coerce, command or advise a state, county or local officer or employee to pay, lend or contribute anything of value to a party,committee, organization, agency or person for political purposes.

  18. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  September 18, 2011 @ 8:47 am

    To answer ‘roo, my best guess is, and always has been, that this is not about extending their terms. I honestly believe we are dealing with a megalomaniac who has a “vision” for Montclair. You don’t even have to read between the lines. He rarely posts on the ‘cooler and just this past year he posted an old New Yorker article from the ’90′s about how special Montclair is because of it’s “diversity”. Just like the Upper West Side. It’s an eye opener. Mind you, it’s an article that is now almost 20 years old.

    His publicly stated reasons for moving the election include saving the town $50k (I doubt that matters at all since it amounts to $12k a year) AND getting increased participation from renters. In his ward, homeowners disproportionately carry the vote. There are some big old houses in his ward.

    He fired Temulak and made sure Ira Karasick would be hired by buying Renee’s vote with a seat on the planning board. Ira’s background is in tenant/landlord negotiations, he’s pro rent control. HIs wife is an outspoken advocate for appointed school boards. Why that attorney and why just at the time it was going to become possible to move the election?

    Jerry did his best to be sure that the petition to “elect the school board” would fail.

    The ties to Bluewave are really tight – they even had a table set up at a High School fund raiser.

    If the election change question gets on the ballot this year and passes, the next local election will be in a presidential election year. If it’s postponed, it’ll still be in November, but not in a presidential election years. That’s the reason for the rush and the push to do it NOW. He wants local elections to be held at the same time as national elections.

    When Corzine was still governor (remember him?) I recall having my hair stand on end once when I read that our Mayor was working with the governor find a way to get more funding for schools in towns like ours. In addition to the real estate tax he thought it would be a good idea to add an income tax to higher earners in Montclair that would just go into the school budget.

    You never see the Mayor at events in Upper Montclair (only once, regarding the save the Bellevue branch).

    The list could go on and on – but if you start connecting the dots you see someone who has an agenda, a crusade if you will, to have his own world to shape and mold to fit that vision. His own little utopia in which everyone buys free trade goods, sustainability and green initiatives are key , and the diverse population of renters is protected from gentrification and charter schools and people who only care about taxes and property values. He wants to be sure like minded “progressives” (like Nick, and Kathryn and Ira and that other attorney with the white beard!) can continue to be in control of the school board, the BOSE, the planning board and the be assured that it’s not just homeowners voting in local elections. The “fringe” voters, as he calls them.

    I’m not suggesting I disagree – or agree – with much of this agenda. I’m just saying I think the Mayor sees himself as a crusader. That’s why he is so aggressive about what he wants – and why the financial situation doesn’t seem as important as these other issues which are about the greater good.

  19. POSTED BY jcunningham  |  September 18, 2011 @ 9:53 am

    “You never see the Mayor at events in Upper Montclair (only once, regarding the save the Bellevue branch).”

    —off with his head! OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!

    there is a level of analysis here that is entirely non-factual (the above statement, for example—are you REALLY tracking all of the mayor’s coming and goings with such exactitude?). Take a deep breath…

  20. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:05 am

    Okay, ‘gurl, hmmm. That was pretty good. Thanks.

    I have some sympathy for this vision, in a general sense, if I squint so that everything is kind of blurry around the edges and lacks detail. But when you think about it, it’s no good. By futzing around with this kind of politics, and getting nothing done to address our actual problems, which are real and present and structural and very difficult even for the most talented and focused of leaders, which the mayor is not, he is helping to usher in the very future he wants to avoid. While he scurries around being ineffectual, squandering attention–precious management bandwidth–on this circus attempt to get his way, taxes continue to rise and push out the very people most sympathetic to the mayor’s vision. Oh, sure, a few rich liberals who value diversity and all that nice stuff can afford the high taxes on those big ass homes, but in general they’re Wall Street republicans like deadeye. Not that they’re bad people, just different from what the mayor has in mind for the new Montclair.

  21. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:08 am

    are you REALLY tracking all of the mayor’s coming and goings with such exactitude?

    Yes, cunningham. In fact, I slipped the mayor a mickey a few years ago and implanted a chip in his brain that allows us to control him from afar. The ‘gurl has the remote. What would you have her have him do?

  22. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:09 am

    I hate to have to defend the mayor. But he’s allowed to be a crusader, and to seek to democratically change how elections are conducted. There’s nothing wrong with any of those actions. One person’s “utopian crusader” is another’s “responsive public servant”.

    But in doing all this it has to be done precisely in the way the statute prescribes. There is no possible way this referendum can be put on the Nov 2011 ballot and be as prescribed by law. All the rest is posturing, chaff, aspersion casting, and a waste of time.

    What’s sad, is that the Mayor, Lewis and Weller-Demming can’t seem to admit an obvious defeat here. Their insistence on pursuing a failed attempt is why the council must hire a lawyer and why the township must waste money on this.

    Serious issues about the Clerk’s actions have been raised and should be pursued and investigated.

  23. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:13 am

    I know any kind of agreement is odious to you, ROC, but nevertheless I agree with you.

  24. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:20 am

    I agree, ROC. That’s why I pointed out that I don’t necessarily disagree with all that he’s doing. I’m just saying that, in my opinion, the motives behind this move have nothing to do with his remaining in power for six more months, as many people believe. I think, that for him, it’s much bigger than that. And I applaud anyone who fiercely believes in something and tries to realize that vision. I am, however, dismayed by the circus this has become and the fact that this has taken up so much time and energy when there are some real issues facing the town that I would rather see addressed. And I do expect our elected officials to follow the law, as naive as that may be.

  25. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    Jerseygurl,
    I’m curious how you got an advance copy of the new Master Plan?

  26. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:39 am

    It’s not the vision or the passion that’s objectionable, it’s the sheer incompetence and boobism.

  27. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:40 am

    At this point, almost any vision would be preferable to this chaos. Any vision that can be executed.

  28. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:42 am

    Well said, ‘roo. There’s way too much boobism. Frank, I have my spies.

  29. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:47 am

    And speaking of boobism, there’s this from KWD on Patch:

    Weller-Demming said her priorities including the following:

    1) The 2012 budget

    2) Tax appeals for sure!

    3) Road surfaces

    4) Buildings, especially roofs where we may be able to put solar panels

    5) Health insurance broker

    6) Development—DCH, South Park, Bloomfield Ave at Mission and New, Wildwood, Lincoln Properties Neighborhood Childcare space

    7) Accepting credit cards and online payments

    8) Fire contract with Glen Ridge

    9) And many more

  30. POSTED BY jhartnett  |  September 18, 2011 @ 10:57 am

    1. Notice I said “effectuating,” not implementing. The mayor and council fund the positions, the manager implements. When they defund positions in an office, the result is job eliminations. 2. You or anyone else can easily do your own research as to who signed petitions. It’s all public information. 3. When I say/write something, I put my name to it and stand by it; anyone else is entitled to post however they choose. 4. You might feel differently if you were the public employee being asked by the mayor to sign his petition, a petition which seems incredibly important to him and which he urgently needed to add signatures to.

  31. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 18, 2011 @ 11:25 am

    JH,
    If you have a moment, would you mind clarifying for me?
    Q1?: How is it the State requires our operating annual budget by the Fall and yet our capital budget finalization can actually carry into 2012?
    Q2?: Does it matter if public employees solicit/collect petition signatures in their workplace?

  32. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  September 18, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

    “1. Notice I said “effectuating,” not implementing.”

    I don’t know how you can be afraid of the mayor firing you when he’s not in a position to do so. He can’t even “effectuate” without a majority of the council to go along with him, which in this petition, he doesn’t have. He has as much “effectuational” power to raise everyone’s property tax. So then perhaps it’s an issue of ethics to ask any property owner to sign his petition? No. You’re stretching.

    “2. You or anyone else can easily do your own research as to who signed petitions. It’s all public information.”

    All my years of Gadflydom empower me to effectuate a translation of this. Usually when someone won’t name the specific person they’re accusing of something untoward, it’s because they can’t. For all we (and perhaps you) know the clerk asked someone who works in the clerk’s office and is NOT a supporter of the petition, to check the petition. Simply because someone in the clerks office signed the petition is not proof that the very same person was the one to do the checking. When and if that’s ever substantiated in ANY way, THEN it becomes a legitimate issue. Until then it’s speculation. That doesn’t excuse the errors made in my mind, and ultimate responsibility of how the petition was handled by the Clerk. But unless someone actually knows that this happened, and is plainly able to say it openly, I don’t think it should be believed.

    “4. You might feel differently if you were the public employee being asked by the mayor to sign his petition, a petition which seems incredibly important to him and which he urgently needed to add signatures to.”

    I feel we should focus on actual ethics violations and not merely perceived one. There can’t be coercion without a mechanism for coercion despite what anyone “feels”.

  33. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  September 18, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

    I’ll retract/rephrase one sentence:

    Usually when someone won’t name the specific person they’re implying may have done something untoward, it’s because they can’t.

  34. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 18, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

    I’ll retract/rephrase one sentence

    Let it be noted and entered into the record.

    I go away for a couple of hours and come back to see… what? Nothing except ROC retracting a sentence that I hadn’t noticed anyway.

    Come on, people. I need human contact…

  35. POSTED BY jhartnett  |  September 18, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

    FR -

    A1. It’s a little confusing, but not too bad. Here’s the short answer. With respect to capital, a municipality is required to do three things within the timeframe of budget deadlines; 1, appropriate money they anticipate needing to make down payments on new capital projects for the year (minimum 5% required); 2, appropriate funds for any principal and interest payments coming due in the current budget year for past projects; 3, adopt a non-binding capital “program” which indicates what you think you will be spending in the current year plus five years into the future for capital improvements, typically done in broad categories (e.g., street improvements, new equipment, sewer improvements, building improvements, etc.). Note this last item is non-binding and can be amended at any time. Consequently, capital projects can really be decided upon anytime (typically accomplished via adopting a bond ordinance which sets forth the specific projects and projected costs) as long as you have a source for any required down payment, such as the operating budget, as per above, or perhaps a grant received. Thus, capital “budgeting,” – that is, planning the specific projects you are going to undertake and their projected costs − can pretty much occur anytime. Certainly, good management would dictate that it involve both long-term planning and constant on-going evaluation.

    A2. I think this would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    A3. I’m giving a seminar on local government, December 6th, at 7:30 p.m. for the Adult School of Montclair at Montclair High School. All are invited to sign-up; it should be a lively class!! I’m looking forward to it.

  36. POSTED BY agideon  |  September 18, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

    “…taxes continue to rise and push out the very people most sympathetic to the mayor’s vision.”

    Indeed.

    As long as “diverse population” includes *economic* diversity, I simply don’t see how the Mayor can have the described agenda – “…diverse population of renters is protected from gentrification and charter schools…” – while being so disinterested in our taxes. Or does he envision that rents are somehow independent of property taxes? As taxes go up, how can gentrification not occur?

    I can definitely see much of what jerseygurl has written, but it seems to be an incomplete picture until one can explain the Mayor’s lack of concern about rising taxes, and the rent increases that need to follow.

    …Andrew

  37. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 18, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

    As taxes go up, how can gentrification not occur?

    It has occurred, and will continue. That’s the optimistic scenario. If Wall Street slumps and even the bankers can no longer afford to live on Upper Mountain Ave., the town will go bankrupt. That’ll fix the debt problem, fo shizzle.

  38. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  September 19, 2011 @ 6:32 am

    Higher taxes don’t mean property values will go up. They can easily continue to decline.

  39. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 19, 2011 @ 8:06 am

    Yes, ‘gurl, that’s what I meant.

    Walleroo’s nightmare scenario: Prop taxes go up, Wall Street goes bust, nobody can buy the houses, wealthy liberal move to Vermont, prop values plummet, houses shuttered, rat infestation, Jerry Fried elected to 14th term by the remaining seven people who live in the decaying remnants of what once was a vibrant town like survivors in some future urban dystopia (I’m thinking “I Am Legend”).

  40. POSTED BY njgator  |  September 19, 2011 @ 8:58 am

    But Walleroo – those lucky seven will be hunkered down luxuriously in the new LEED certified building on the former DCH property and will have some kick ass bike lanes and will not have a problem parking at any of the electric car charging spots.

  41. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  September 19, 2011 @ 9:37 am

    I’m stocking up on canned goods, gold coins, weapons and looking into buying some hens. I’ll be ready for Vermont and since I won’t be able to sell my house I will hopefully be able to rent out rooms to MSU students…if any of them will still want to live near campus.

  42. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 19, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    Yes, gator. I happen to have a transcript of a recent closed-door town council session in which they discussed the demographic makeup of this remnant. (I have changed the names of the council members to keep myself from getting sued):

    General Buck Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn’t that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

    Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious… service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

    Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, doctor.

  43. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 19, 2011 @ 10:18 am

    Thank you JH.
    If I understand what you said, would the Council be required to amend such a non-binding 5 yr capital spending program to account for new capital spending each year and is encumbered the same as appropriate?
    If you prefer, I can wait for your Adult School class to get my answers.

  44. POSTED BY jhartnett  |  September 19, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

    FR -

    The capital program must be amended if you decide to pursue a project that does not fall within its descriptions. But, as long as have the funding to do it, this is very simple to do and is typically done simultaneously with authorization of the non-included project (authorization usually being a bond ordinance).

    Appropriation = you have included the funds in the budget because that is what you plan on spending.

    Encumbrance = an accounting posting against an appropriation of an amount you have legally committed to spend, e.g. by a contract or purchase order, but have not yet spent. When you actually pay it out, the encumbrance is reversed and the money is actually deducted from the account balance.

    Hope this helps.

  45. POSTED BY agideon  |  September 19, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    “Higher taxes don’t mean property values will go up. They can easily continue to decline.”

    Clearly, I missed the nightmare scenario. Absent that, though, higher taxes mean that only people with money can afford to live here. If I understand such things correctly – and I probably do not – this is what leads to tear-downs and McMansion building on postage-sized properties. No?

    That class on Dec 6, 7:30p-9p, looks interesting.

    …Andrew

  46. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 19, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

    JH,
    Thanks again and hope to see u in Dec.

  47. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  September 19, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    Depends, Andrew. Look at West Orange. Property values can go down significantly when people perceive the home is not worth the expense – a lot of factors come into play including schools, crime, ease of commute, and walkability has become a big factor over the past decade. TImes change, demographics change, etc. Montclair may have some nice big homes on Upper Mountain Avenue and in the estate section, but so did Newark at one time.
    There are some locations in town that have seen a much bigger drop than others. And people can just as easily choose to live in Summit, or Millburn or Westfield or Essex Fells. At some point, the scales can tip. And that can go either way. Who would want to buy a $300,000 home with a $20,000 annual tax bill?

  48. POSTED BY jhartnett  |  September 19, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

    Thanks, Andrew. Hope you cam make it. I’ll be sure to allow a good Q&A period. Maybe b-net will even cover it!

  49. POSTED BY essen  |  September 19, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

    Correct Jerseygurl. Most people look at their monthly mortgage payment when buying a house. The payment includes real estate taxes. If the monthly payment is too high, buyers will either look elsewhere or sellers have to lower their price – which usually will still not be enough to offset the taxes.

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