HAWTHORNE, NJ - The men and women who make up the elected leadership and the municipal administration of Hawthorne were, for a time, high school students. That is to say more precisely, on Wednesday night, the annual Youth in Government Day brought current high school students in to sit as proxies to their respective adult counterparts for a council meeting. The tradition of Youth in Government has been in place for many years, and select students get an opportunity to learn about how the local government is run by being paired off with a member of the borough government, whether a councilman, mayor, attorney, engineer, clerk, or other municipal employee.
Before the students took over, Mayor Goldberg delivered an address, expressing his hopes and prayers for the speedy recovery of DPW worker Don Turner, who was injured while plowing a pedestrian walkway after his Bobcat plow fell through onto Route 208, and for the Hawthorne Mechnical Contractors who were injured by the falling plow.
The meeting was carried out as a normal one would be, but with the officials seated behind their students who spoke for them, prompted and guided by their adult partners. Among the items on the agenda for the evening's business were adopting an ordinance for road reconstruction and two for the sewer system. Three other ordinances were introduced, one for maintenance of the Hawthorne swimming pool, the other for the acquisition of a new fire tower truck, and another fixing the salaries and wages of borough employees following a collective bargaining agreement between the borough and UPSEU white collar unit.
The reports of each of the councilmen, borough administration, and police chief were delivered during the evening by the students. Both Mayor Goldberg, through Aubrey Lewis, and Police Chief Richard M. McAuliffe, through Ezekiel Somma, reported that Hawthorne was ranked as the 17th safest city in the United States, according to the 2019 SafeWise Safesty Cities in America Report, which can be found here.
Police Chief McAuliffe said the police were partnered with the Mayor and Council, the Board of Education, Boys and Girls Club, and Hawthorne Municipal Alliance to provide 16 public education programs from kindergarten to our seniors in town, one being the Junior Police Academy, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Monday, March 11, at Lincoln Middle School for 6-8 graders. The Annual Leadership Camp will be held at Lincoln Middle School from August 12-16 and applications can be had online or at the police station. Residents were also reminded to report crimes or suspicious activity to the police department, and not on social media. The Chief also thanked the mayor and council for the proclamation he received at an awards dinner on Saturday evening held by the Passaic County Police and Fire Emerald Society. "It was an enjoyable, heartwarming evening spent with many friends and borough hall employees."
Victor "The Chickenman" Alfieri of Wayne, a self-described urban homesteader who in 2012 successfully won a municipal court battle for the right to keep hens on his property, addressed the borough to encourage Hawthorne to adopt an ordinance to allow residents to keep chickens. Alfieri said that the CDC had 21 issues that reflect disease for dogs, 16 for cats, only 5 for chickens. "Dogs and cats carry more disease." Bird flu, he said, has never manifested in New Jersey. "It's all about health and sustainability, putting things in perspective is important." Alfieri asserted that "dangerous" dogs such as pit bulls and rotwietlers could be kept, but not chickens, who are unlikely to cause comparative harm. "I encourage the mayor and council to adopt a new ordinance to enjoy this wonderful hobby. It's all about health and sustainability, being healthy. I think we have to start considering things like this. Remember, it's just a chicken." Alfieri said that Hawthorne should put forward such an ordinance and evaluate the results from there. "If it's something the residents can't handle, you can always get rid of it."
Richard Spirito, Superintendent of Schools, thanked the borough for hosting the Youth in Government program.
"We had a great group of youngsters this year. Very enthusiastic. Very engaged. They asked a lot of questions and seemed eager to learn and participate," Councilman Bruce Bennett said. "I don’t know if the experience coaxed any of them to ponder a future career in politics, but hopefully they came away with a better understanding of how their local government works."
"I love Youth in Government day because it teaches the next generation about serving their community," Mayor Richard Goldberg told TAPinto Hawthorne. "We teach them that there is no Republican way to plow the streets or Democratic way to collect garbage. Local government is neighbors helping neighbors."
"Our Student Counterparts did a great job representing the Borough last night," Council President Matthews said. "It's one of my favorite meetings of the year. We had a full agenda of meaningful ordinances and they handled themselves well. Before the meeting they asked questions about the items they were voting on and were eager to be Elected Officials or Department Heads for a night. At the end of the night, I asked each student to introduce them self, state their grade, and what they are interested in majoring in at college. I think they all had a good time and now have a better understanding of how our Borough government works. I hope we sparked some interest in local government and perhaps one of them might be sitting up on the dais in the future."
"Thanks to the Hawthorne Mayor and the Council for providing this opportunity for our high school students to learn about Municipal government," Spirito said through social media. "We also appreciate our continued partnership and the many programs supported by the borough that benefit the students in all of our schools."
The following students participated:
- Mayor Richard Goldberg - Aubrey Lewis
- Council President Frank Matthews - Bianca Corbo
- Council Vice President John Bertollo - Caitlin Carone
- Councilman Bruce Bennett - Adriana Ramos
- Councilman John Lane - Maria Angeles Molinelli
- Councilman Dominic Mele - Kyleigh Rica
- Councilman Garret Sinning - Lila Kawash
- Councilman Joseph Wojtecki - Ximena Gonzalez
- Borough Administrator Eric Mauer - Josh Kobuskie
- Borough Attorney Michael Pasquale - Nick Sokolofsky
- Borough Engineer Stephen T. Boswell - Alexandra Clavijo
- Borough Clerk Lori DiBella - Alex Nadirashvili
- Borough CFO Laurie Foley - Erin Foley
- Police Chief Richard McAuliffe - Ezekiel Somma
- Director of Public Works Robert Scully - Chris LaRosa
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