Alarmed Teaneck Residents Speaking Out

Wednesday’s Teaneck Council meeting for the first hour was devoted to recognizing the many years of service of its Township Manager William Broughton who had just announced his resignation. In Teaneck’s form of government the Manager, a full-time position with a salary of $185,000, is one of only a few staff members appointed by the City Council. The Manager is responsible for carrying out all policies established by the Council and for the proper administration of all affairs.

Mayor Hameeduddin

Nonetheless, Teaneck Council members, essentially legislators, often enmesh themselves in various other matters. One prime example is Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, whose only two powers, as distinguished from other council members, are to convene meetings and sign contracts. That does not stop him from trying to exert strong control.

Last night’s meeting was an example of enmeshing themselves. A proposed ordinance for which many members of the public were in strong opposition was one that would designate the Township Council to act as a Redevelopment Entity. Alan Sohn, previously a Council member, pointed out that rather than first determining specific areas in need of redevelopment, the council’s approach, urged by the Mayor, was to designate the entire town as a redevelopment zone, which alarmed the public. Also rather than hiring experts to manage the process, the Mayor and some of the Council members members wanted to handle the process themselves. The part-time Council members who, with two exceptions receive an annual stipend of $7,000, were thought of as not having the time and being ill-equipped to manage this complex endeavor.

Deputy Mayor Katz

Residents were particularly concerned about the possibility of conflicts of interest on the part of council members who themselves, family members or associates may own property in areas designated for redevelopment, or who accept campaign donations from local developers. According to ELEC, Deputy Mayor Elie Y. Katz is a stand-out example. In the election years of 2018, 2014, and 2010, respectively, he received campaign donations of $15,500, $10,960, and $16,600 primarily from family and associates of developer Sanzari Corporation. 

 Another issue which seemed a no-brainer was the public members’ insistence that the Council oppose the North Bergen Liberty Generating Project – a gas-fired plant (see above) that would more than double the air pollution already caused by PSE&G’s Bergen Generating Plant. Particularly galling is the fact that the power generated is not for New Jersey but for New York – a lose-lose situation for our area. Not all council members agreed with the need for this opposition, and no formal resolution has been introduced, but the issue is under consideration. 

In other matters Dr. Chuck Powers, a retired professor and frequent critic of the council, reminded council members that for years the official Teaneck Township website has provided wholly inadequate data about public meeting dates and agendas of Township entities. On the website Teaneck TransparencyPowers lists over ten entities for which information is not yet regularly and/or accurately provided. 

The issue of whether Teaneck should allow a medical and/or recreational marijuana dispensary in the township remains a controversial topic with the public taking different positions and the Council still undecided.

In one final matter it was pointed out that the Township lost a lawsuit and had to pay a substantial fine over mishandling an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request. Rather than showing concern for transparency which OPRA requires, the Mayor viewed the whole matter as an impediment because of the large number of requests the township receives. He wondered out loud whether it was worthwhile for the township not to hire additional staff and simply make payouts on future lawsuits.

The meeting ended (probably with many exhausted) shortly after 11:30 PM. The Agenda Outline (brief), Agenda Package (236 pages) and Video are available here.

What is happening in your local Council meetings?

Comments (4)

  1. Rosi Efthim

    When municipalities suggest they may have to hire staff just to handle OPRA requests – or in Teaneck’s case just make payouts on future lawsuits (usually said in a complaining, put-upon tone) – it usually suggests they should be making more information freely available themselves, especially on their own website, instead of making residents and others challenge them for it.

    Reply
  2. Alan Sohn

    The most instructive part of the evening was the “discussion” about the proposed redevelopment agency. Councilmembers Gervonn Romney-Rice and Henry Pruitt raised concerns about the scope and powers of the proposed agency, only to be dismissed in patronizing fashion by the mayor. In the wake of the Freeholders Meeting incident, where Mayor Hameeduddin attackwd an audience member and had to be restrained and removed by a Sheriff’s officer, the failure on his part to be able to engage in civil discourse is a fundamental issue of fitness for office.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Embree Fisher

    Readers should be aware that the Teaneck mayor’s disdain for public opinion is not limited to the Teaneck Council chambers….
    https://www.facebook.com/mark.fisher.752/videos/10214342386686773/

    Reply
  4. Wilmerding Tietjen VI

    Transparency is so important regarding our officials and Teaneck has its history regarding full disclosure and the issues they bring up, like this public link

    http://akroncanton.oh.networkofcare.org/aging/news-article-detail.aspx?id=70529

    It’s commendable when Blue Jersey fully discloses all,so voters can be informed and learn themselves that local full-Transparency organizations are really just frimts for candidate campaigns.

    Reply

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