Bloomfield launched the holiday season on Monday evening with the annual tree lighting ceremony, which drew a large crowd.
The festivities were kicked off by Recreation Director Mike Sceurman. After brief remarks by Mayor Venezia, Councilor Wartyna Davis spoke about the upcoming Martin Luther King Day of Service. She said that the day of service has morphed into a month-long season of giving, and announced that they are holding a town-wide Food Drive and Baby Shower. She asked that people donate nonperishable goods to the Food Drive, and items such as disposable diapers, baby wipes, lotions and other items for the Baby Shower. She stated there would be drop-off locations at various locations around town, including the Library, Civic Center, police and fire stations, and Town Hall.
Following the speakers, Boy and Girl Scout troops sang “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” followed by seasonal carols sung by the Bloomfield High School Choir. and then the tree lighting. The two large evergreens on each side of the Town Hall were lit simultaneously, after a countdown from 20. That dramatic moment was followed by a visit from Santa, who arrived on the Police Mobile Command Unit with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Santa then met with all the children who wanted to tell him what they wanted for Christmas (and of course, assure him they had been good all year!).
The tree-lighting ceremony was followed by a brief Council Conference meeting in the mayor’s conference room.
The council voted to approve two settlements, one allowing the Dunkin’ Donuts located on Belleville Avenue to open a half hour earlier, at 5:30 a.m., rather than 6:00 a.m., and the other awarding $2000 for attorneys’ fees, to be paid to Pashman Stein. The Pashman Stein firm represented resident Patricia Gilleran in a suit stemming from an Open Public Records request she had filed requesting animal control records when the animal control function was being run by Bergen County Humane in 2015. After the meeting, Mayor Venezia and Township Attorney Michael Parlavecchio said that an agreement had been reached whereby Bergen County Humane paid about 2/3 of the attorney fees (about $4000) and the Township paid the remainder.
Police Director Sam DeMaio requested approval to promote 10 provisional police sergeants to full sergeant, to bring the total number of sergeants to 16, a reduction from the previous number of 21. He also said they would be promoting two lieutenants, bringing the total number to 11. The council approved the promotions. Township Administrator Matt Watkins explained that this is a reduction in the command staff and will control costs. He said that the table of organization, which will be revised in January, will reflect that.
The council approved the hiring of two police interns, Ethan Felix, who is attending New York University, and Michelle Valerio, from Caldwell College, both majoring in Criminal Justice.
Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano reported on recent ABC code violations by the go-go bar, Titillations, stating the venue had hired attorney Bobby Williams, who is working to convert the establishment’s suspension into a fine. She said the attorney spoke to the Deputy Attorney General, and that the case would be heard by the state Office of Administrative Law.
The governing body voted to approve Councilman Carlos Pomares as the liaison to the Bloomfield College Business, Industry & Community Council.
Councilwoman Davis, who had several items on the agenda, said she would like to see the council formalize a code of conduct by ordinance, to establish a baseline for how employees, council members, and members of the public interact. She suggested it should include the avoidance of personal/slanderous attacks and profane remarks.
She also elaborated on the Martin Luther King Day of Service activities. In addition to the Food Drive and Baby Shower, she said the MLK Day of Service Committee is creating a “Drum Major of Service Award” to recognize people in town who devote themselves to service of one kind or another. Anyone will be able to nominate someone, and there will be a subcommittee to determine the winner. She also said there would be the ability to donate to the MLK Day of Service Committee to honor someone who is committed to service. Anyone interested in these programs can email BloomfieldMLKday@gmail.com for more information. The MLK Day of Service event, which will be on January 14, will be staged at Berkeley School.
The MLK Day Celebration will be held on January 16, 2017, at the New Light Baptist Church. Dr. Annie Ellis-Williams, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church and a professor at New Jersey City University, will be the key note speaker.
Davis also requested approval to form a small committee of 3-5 people to explore ideas to hold a Bloomfield Gay Pride Event in 2017. She said the vigil after the Orlando shooting earlier this year inspired the idea, and the Civil Rights Commission is interested in pursuing it. Davis said last year Clifton held a flag raising ceremony for their event. The mayor and council unanimously agreed to move forward with the formation of a committee.
The meeting ended with liaison reports from Councilors Pomares and Davis. Pomares said the Bloomfield Cultural Commission, under the leadership of Roy Yokelson, recently held a very successful “Bloomfield’s Most Talented” event. He said the performance would be broadcast on Channel 35 this weekend. He also thanked the Township Engineer for facilitating the reuse of stones from the Hoover Avenue bridge to be repurposed as pillars at the entrance to the Morris Canal Greenway.
Davis announced the Civil Rights Commission is holding an essay contest for Middle and High School students. Two winners will be chosen, one from each level. The winners will be announced at the MLK Day Celebration on January 16th, along with the Drum Major of Service Award.
The final Bloomfield council meetings of the year will be held next Monday, December 12, 2016, as back-to-back conference and regular council meetings. The conference meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the mayor’s conference room in the Law Enforcement Building, followed at 7:30 by the regular meeting in the Council Chambers.