PATERSON, NJ – One person said Paterson should install red-light enforcement cameras. Another suggested stricter code enforcement. Others urged the creation of new fees for city services or increases in existing ones.
That’s what folks had to say at a community forum early last month about Paterson’s financial problems. The January 10 event at the Masonic hall on Broadway was sponsored by the Best For Paterson, a civic organization founded by Freeholder Theodore Best. It was the first of six being run by the group, with the next one scheduled for Mon., Feb. 11 at Passaic County Community College’s Paterson Room at 6:30 pm.
Some city political players see the series of meetings as part of Best’s efforts to test the waters for a mayoral candidacy next year. Others who have declared their intentions or have been mentioned as possible candidates include incumbent mayor Jeffery Jones, Council members Rigo Rodriguez and Andre Sayegh, former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, and city activists Maria Teresa Feliciano, David Gilmore and Lydia Robles.
Although Best acknowledges he is considering making a run for the city’s top job, he said he has not yet made a decision and he said the community meetings are simply a way to get public input on critical issues facing Paterson.
Among the issues addressed by the approximately 40 people who attended were the role of the Paterson Parking Authority and the regulation of liquor stores’ hours of operation.
Best told the audience that something to consider might be an additional license required for liquor stores to stay open late, one that would have a steep fee and stricter oversight. Best also proposed an new city fee, one that would charge property owners for "public works" including garbage collection.
"The same way we have a fee for sewer... because everybody uses it," Best said.
Best started the event with a presentation about Paterson’s “Fiscal Cliff," and the city’s multi-million dollar budget shortfall.
"There's not one magic bullet that is going to come in and save this city,’’ Best told the group.
Best also warned the audience that the state may take over city government. "I can almost guarantee you that the state is going to come in if we don't get our fiscal house in order," he said.
At Monday’s meeting, the freeholder said he planned to have representatives of the Paterson police department, Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and Paterson Public Schools’ security office to discuss the city’s public safety problem.