Teaneck Council Meeting with outspoken, rambunctious folks

This reorganization meeting on July 17 followed the election of two new council members and the council’s vote to continue Mr. Mohammed Hameeduddin as Mayor. The reform-minded Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Teaneck resident, had endorsed two other candidates who lost, leaving the mayor and his supported council members in control. In the past Hameeduddin has complained about Weinberg’s “continuous meddling in Teaneck elections,” which she probably holds as a badge of honor. Resident Margot Fisher sought the council to censure the Mayor for his “hateful and libelous comments” about the two council candidates who lost – a brave move. 

 After months of delays and inaction the council passed its 2018 $70 Million Appropriations Budget, but not without complaints and controversy. It continued its four year practice of “0% budget increases.” To achieve the goal, in part, it reduced the 2018 Anticipated Surplus to $4.9 Million from the 2017 $5.7 Million. One resident testified that the council was ignoring important infrastructure needs for the municipality’s facilities. 

Teaneck resident Art Vatsky complained there was too much juggling in the budget, and said, “I can read a federal budget but not Teaneck’s budget.” Resident Dr. Chuck Powers’ public testimony began with “I am completely confused about where we are with this budget.” He pointed out that between the budget resolution amendment during the last meeting, the posted Public Notice, and the last minute further changes there were numerous embedded but unclear alterations. He felt this lack of transparency made it impossible for residents to comment on the final version. That did not stop the council from approving the budget with one abstention.

Two impassioned speakers were in support of an ordinance against puppy mills. Catherine Gibson proposed “Sparky’s Law,” named after her dog she purchased from a pet shop and originating from a “puppy mill.” She said she spent $50,000 on medical bills over her beloved pet’s truncated life. “We must protect consumers and the puppies,” she added. Larry Cohen documented past abuses of NJ pet stores linked to large mid-west for-profit commercial breeders. Currently there is a state law which does not go as far the one they proposed. 

There were some 50 or more residents attending the meeting and close to 200 at the last meeting. Although these may not seem like high numbers, a political consultant pointed out to me that many  municipalities typically have a considerably lower attendance. Teaneck residents can be rambunctious, outspoken folks. 

What is happening in your municipality’s council meetings?

You can view a video of the part of the  meeting open to the public here. 

Preview image above of a 2017 Teaneck Council meeting. ( Photo: Megan Burrow/NorthJersey.com)

Comments (8)

  1. Loretta Weinberg

    Thanks Bill for following local politics in One of Bergen’s Largest municipalities. I hope Margot Fisher shares her full statement with you so it can be printed on full.. very little local press coverage. So what you do is important

    Reply
  2. Mark Fisher

    Nice job, Bill!

    Reply
  3. Mark Fisher

    Interesting that the Mayor was not in attendance last night. We were told by Deputy Mayor Katz that the Mayor was in DC working on getting money for the Township. One hopes he will provide full details at the next meeting. He left the June meeting early for matters more important (to him at least) than fulfilling his elected duties. You might think he was building his resume to run for higher office.

    Reply
    1. cecilia fasano

      bingo!

      Reply
    2. B L TOFFLER, Ph. D.

      If you checked online, the mayor was in Washington with a group of Indian Business Association leaders meeting with some legislators as a kick-off to the annual India Day parade which is August 12th. 40,000 attend the parade each year.

      Reply
  4. Alan Sohn

    As stated, the budget passed for 2018 “continued its four year practice of ‘0% budget increases.’ To achieve the goal, in part, it reduced the 2018 Anticipated Surplus to $4.9 Million from the 2017 $5.7 Million.”

    As money used from surplus is counted as revenue, the budget was balanced *despite* using $800,000 less in 2018 than 2017; reducing surplus made the goal that much harder.

    The reason that less surplus was used in the 2018 budget was because there was less surplus available to be used. As shown in the 2017 Annual Financial Statement, we started 2017 with $8.3 million in surplus but ended the year with $6.2 million. The drop of $2.1 million was a mix of overspending on expenses and under-earning of revenues.

    Teaneck needs competent administrators to ensure that we spend within our means, but we have no professionally trained and experienced full-time Chief Financial Officer (the Township Manager is acting CFO).

    A continuing trend of fiscal mismanagement showing surplus dropping year after year is a red flag to our rating agencies; lower ratings on our debt would mean paying higher rates of interest to service our debt, and the new council has shown its willingness to raise debt levels significantly.

    The multi-million-dollar question is will we spend within our means or will we see another year of declining surplus at the end of 2018? After seeing several million in surplus squandered on tax appeals from 2010 to 2014, we can’t afford a return to the bad old days of mismanagement without adequate and effective oversight.

    Reply
  5. Barbara Ley Toffler

    Mohammed Hameeduddin was with a group from the Indian Business Association to meet with legislators as a Kick-off to the India Day parade on August 12.

    Reply
  6. Stephen Gruber

    Find out more about what’s going on in teaneck and join teaneck newsroom

    https://m.facebook.com/groups/1674127012807838/?ref=group_header&view=group

    Reply

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