The Jersey InsiderOpen for BusinessDecember 12, 2008
Vol. X, Issue 1. Friday, January 1, 2014
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Open for Business

Published:

December 12, 2008

By:

Nicholas J. Veliky

The city council's recent decision in selecting individuals for appointment to Clifton's Board of Adjustment, has proven once again to be an arena for select council members to pay back sitting board members for voting in opposing to the Board of Education application to build a school at 290 Brighton Road. It's no accident that the commissioners who voted against the project have been systematically removed from the Board of Adjustment. Commissioner Paul Graupe who opposed the project could not muster the support of the council when his appointment came up for renewal. I too was a sitting member of the Board, however I chose not to pursue reappointment when I realized that I would not receive the four votes from the council. Most recently Commissioner and Board Chairman Steven Lataro could not get support for his reappointment to the Board. The real loss in Lataro's case will be felt by the residents of Clifton.

Lataro, a licensed architect, who designs schools for a living knows municipal zoning law ordinances better than any recent sitting commissioner, bar none. Lataro's decisions were based in fact and not in personal preference as some of the decisions we've heard from Board members lately, for example the recent application for a Brazilian Barbeque Restaurant on Market Street. The plan for the one hundred seat restaurant had serious flaws and could have caused hardship to the surrounding businesses and residences. The application was not approved; however, one of the sitting commissioners, when casting his vote for the project, stated that he thought this would be an ideal project so he would not have to travel to Montclair when he wanted a Brazilian Barbeque dinner. That is no basis for a zoning decision. . . unfortunately if the pattern continues two more commissioners next year will face removal from the board, all because they voted their conscience on the 290 Brighton Road application. The question remains, are appointments made to "settle a personal score or to stick it to the neighbors", or are they made with zoning criteria in mind and in the best interests of the community? . . . Continuing to cast blame does not change a thing, but what will change things is true leadership on the part of our elected officials.

The residents and tax payers of the City of Clifton should be outraged! The City of Clifton is on the fast track to financial devastation and people still don't realize the severity of this situation. . . There is no benefit to anyone in finger pointing, as to who or what is to blame, regardless of whether it is mandates from the state, federal cuts, officials in Trenton who just don't care, or mismanagement in Clifton City Hall. There needs to be a shared responsibility for our current local economic situation and a unified effort to fix it quickly.

It's amazing that no one not even our seasoned city leaders, some who have been in office for over twenty years, saw this coming and even if they did, they did little to avert our current fiscal crisis.

What is amazing is the fact that our neighboring communities of Passaic and Paterson seem to be fairing well in spite of funding cuts. Both Passaic and Paterson have recently been in the spotlight for corruption, having elected officials that have been indicted, convicted and imprisoned. Yet there are no calls for layoffs and cutting services in these cities . . . It makes one wonder why? How did they avoid the cuts and shortfalls Clifton is now experiencing?

Clifton stands to lose its cultural base, that being the Hamilton House Museum and the Clifton Art Center if they are deemed to be non-essential and in today's climate expendable. These services are as essential as a police department with a full table of organization, fully staffed fire houses, and DPW and recreational services, they all add up to a quality of life we have come to expect living in Clifton.

You have often read in this publication about the "Renaissance" Clifton is experiencing. Looking around today it's more like a crumbling community where all progress has been lost and its back to bare essentials.

Sure the national and world economies are in crisis, but to have this type of collapse at such an early stage of our economic dilemma, leads one to believe that for a good long time our elected officials haven't been working in the community's best interest, but rather working to keep their constituents happy and their elected fiefdoms secure.

Not only are our services being cut, but Clifton City Hall is crumbling. It's like taking a step back to pioneer times where the outside comes inside with leaking and drafty windows, climate control that changes with the weather and for the most part a total lack of aesthetics. This crisis will be with us for some time, so where will we go from here?

Did you know that the voters of Clifton are responsible for the Board of Education budget surplus dropping to $13,000? Board of Education (BOE) Commissioner John Traier stated that it was because the voters did not approve the budget that the surplus reserve was used. Just one year ago the surplus was over $3,000,000. I know I didn't spend any of it, did you? What is it the BOE doesn't understand about the budget? When voters say NO to a budget, it means they don't want to spend the money! That's the whole idea of a budget. No wonder we are in the shape we're in.

BOE Commissioner Paul Graupe seemed to ruffle some feathers when he questioned change of construction work orders in excess of $170,000, which were presented to the BOE for approval after the work was done. Since the whole idea of approving change of work orders is to give authorization for spending additional funds, Graupe's point was well made even though, for the most part, it fell on uninterested ears. To remedy the change of work order issue, Graupe proposed a $20,000 cap on work orders that could be approved without going before the full BOE. It seemed like a workable solution, however he couldn't get the support of the Board to approve his motion. So once again it's business as usual.

Christmas Tree Lighting ceremonies were held throughout the city and by far the Athenia Business Association with their lighting ceremony attended by over 200 was the best attended this season. While Botany Village's crowd wasn't as large, their presentation was impressive with Miss New Jersey and Mrs. Clause who distributed cookies and shared tales of how she keeps Santa in shape for his annual global run. For some reason, only a handful of residents attended the Downtown Clifton Economic Development Group's lighting in spite of the fact that the tree was brought back to its original location at the intersection of Main and Clifton Avenues. The City Hall tree lighting, always a hit, was moved to Saturday December 6th out of respect for those who gave their lives at Pearl Harbor on December 7th. A great deal of credit has to go to Barbara Novack and the Clifton High School Madrigal singers. These young performers sang with great enthusiasm and intensity at each consecutive tree lighting event.

Clifton's City Planner Dennis Kirwin is working in cooperation with The United Way to collect outerwear, Gloves, hats, scarves and unwrapped toys for children, food, and grocery gift cards for the less fortunate. Let's make this a special Christmas for so many. Please drop off all items in the box in the lobby of Clifton City Hall by December 15, 2008.

Hog Heaven continues to develop a loyal following of regulars stopping by to partake the great barbeque cuisine. Among the regulars are Matt Priore city attorney and his legal team. Mayor Anzaldi and City Manager Albert Greco have been known to nosh at this popular new eatery as does BOE Commissioner John Traier who was accompanies by his life partner Marc Peterson.

Want to tell a recovering American Soldier how you appreciate his dedication to our country? You can by sending him/her a Christmas card to cheer them up while they are recovering in the hospital. Send your cards to A Recovering American Soldier, c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20307-5001
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