The Berkeley Heights Council introduced a new Administrative Code Ordinance at the Feb. 16, 2008 meeting without much explanation or discussion, not to mention essentially cutting off a fellow councilperson from speaking on the topic. This process is not proper for a new ordinance that could result in substantially increasing the size of government in direct contravention to the campaign platforms of the two newest members to the Council, Mr. Pastore and Mr. Hall. Last year, Mr. Pastore and Mr. Hall campaigned on a platform of civility, courteousness, ethical behavior, fiscal responsibility and better budget processing. Unfortunately, this first important vote demonstrated the opposite of that campaign platform. When the vote roll call had started and I thought it was to open a public hearing both Cohen and Bruno indicated it was "too late" for discussion. Pastore and Hall were silent- no sense them living up to their pre-election platform. It appears a "Gang of Five" has now been established. The problem is that they are voting to support what could lead to uncontrolled spending and in a manner that lacks transparency.
Here are some facts that Berkeley Heights' taxpayers should be aware of:
The Administrative Code they introduced and will likely pass on March 9, 2010 could increase the size of government in this beautiful little town. The costs will surely follow. How, you should ask? This is how:
• It allows for more Departments and higher paid positions instead of the current 3 and 3.
• It allows for 2 new departments and potentially downgrades up to 2 others involving the Police Department and Department of Public Works
• It provides for adding up to 6 or 7 new positions in the organization chart unknown costs
• It provides for the addition of a Local Ethics Board that could have expenses, office space, secretarial help and legal help at future costs when we already have Ethics Code 2.64 in our current Code Book that follows the State Ethics Code and Board.
• It allows for a Police Director appointed by the Mayor. The Police Director could be someone other than the Chief and does not appear to have clear duties.
• It allows for adding an Assistant Administrator instead of secretarial help, which could also result in higher costs.
It is now left to concerned voters to come to the March 9, 2010 meeting to demand an explanation for which they are clearly entitled. The people should know how the current Council majority proposes spending resident tax dollars.
The relevant history of our current status is contained in a recent letter that I authored and that was published on Feb 13 and 15 in local online and print newspapers. Is there opportunity for public consideration of any Council discussion? It does not look likely.
They will likely tell you some of these new positions will be coupled and not cost extra money. However, I remember the movie "Field of Dreams" when he said, "if you build it they will come". Well if they structure these government jobs, don't you think they will fill them soon? Filling those jobs will certainly add costs and increase taxes at a time when smarter local governments are holding the costs or scaling back spending, not increasing it.
It has been said by people who know a lot more than I do that "we get the government we deserve". Do the residents and voters in Berkeley Heights deserve this?
Editor's Note: Regarding Councilman Bonacci's first paragraph, as someone who attended the February 16, 2010 Council meeting, I did not witness any attempt to intentionally stop Councilman Bonacci from speaking nor did I witness any incivility.