To the Editor,
I watched the debate of candidates for Township Council on October 13. My impression is that Tom Maciejewski is the clear winner on issues.
The town has been exploring the idea of new municipal complex slightly to the west of the existing one. This new complex would include a new library. The existing library would be sold to Little Flower Church and the town would also give them $2.845M. In turn we would acquire about 15 acres of land on Hamilton Avenue owned by the Church. Presumably we would sell that land to a developer. The entire cost of all this would mean the town takes on $23M of new debt to add to the $21.3M of existing authorized debt.
In the normal way of doing things the town would proceed under the Local Land and Buildings Law and pass an ordinance to authorize a bond issue and sale of property. In fact, in August of 2012 this option was researched by the township after a request by Councilman Kevin Hall. Then in February of 2013 the Planning Board attorney researched another option and that was to use the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL). Under this law the Council has enormous power and can issue bonds without any voter approval!
We cannot tell from for the February 5, 2013 executive session minutes where this choice was discussed why the LRHL was chosen but it probably indicates that the Council feared that the voters would not approve this deal. Mr. Maciejewski made very clear at the debate that he wants a vote on this matter by the citizens. I agree.
Now it turns out that of the 6 current Council members, 2 have a conflict of interest so will not vote on the final ordinance to complete the sale. With the addition of Tom Maciejewski to the Council he can vote NO so the land swap is stopped since 4 yes votes are needed to pass an ordinance. The Council could still proceed but under a different law where a citizens can petition for a referendum.
Mr. Bavoso’s comments indicate that he really does not understand what the situation is, and said the current contract that is proceeding and cannot be stopped. He even misled the public by saying that all litigation has been settled. The ongoing case of Matula v. Berkeley Heights which alleges a conflict of interest by certain Council members is yet to be decided at the appellate level. In that case it has come out through discovery that the Council actually approved some contracts for the architect and planner prior to the public vote on those contracts on February 19, 2013. Reports had already been prepared prior to the public vote. When I asked at that meeting when the work would begin, the Township attorney misled the public by stating it would begin after the 19th.
On taxes Mr. Maciejewski indicated clearly how a 5% tax cut is possible with tighter budgeting and no reduction of services. I think we would all welcome some tax relief at the local level. He has not proposed a 10% budget cut as some have stated.
On open government he favors more information to the public on a timely basis. The newly created town website will shortly incorporate live streaming of Council meetings. Large number of viewers have already indicated they like this feature that he has been doing for a few weeks now. He also wants to see more documents on the website plus timely release of executive session minutes. Timely release allows citizens to see how their representatives acted prior to campaigns for re-election. It was Tom’s demonstration of how easy it was do live streaming that led to the coming inclusion into the town website.
On improving roads he clearly understands that some acceleration of the 15 year plan, which started in 2014, is necessary and possible to get the Poor and Poor-Fair rated roads done within the next 4 years. The cost do so could be less than the projected cost in the 2014 plan since current repaving cost is about 76% of what they had planned for. The other candidates have distorted what he wants in order to discredit the idea. Some have claimed he asked for all roads to be done immediately. With careful planning we should not lose any grants for roads.
Finally, the residents have always been well-served by having an independent voice that is willing to consider and initiate new ideas. I believe Tom can very well carry out that role. I suggest a “bullet vote” for him on November 8th. A “bullet vote” means you just cast one vote.
Dr. Thomas H. Foregger