The Jersey InsiderOpen for BusinessFebruary 27, 2009
Vol. X, Issue 1. Friday, January 1, 2014
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Open for Business


February 27, 2009


Nicholas J. Veliky

And they’re off! . . . The field of candidates for the Clifton Board of Education Election is starting to look more like a race with a number of residents coming forward to take their place on the ballot for a coveted position on Clifton’s Board of Education. Board President Mike Urciuoli and Commissioner Liz Gagnon had announced their intention to run for re-election at a recent Board of Education meeting, as did challenger Dr. Jack Huston, a Dean at Fordham University. There was much speculation as to whether Commissioner Michael Paitchell would be running for re-election. Paitchell’s first term had been wrought with opposition from his board colleagues as he has lead, what has been for the most part, a one man crusade, questioning Board actions and activities as well as those of former Clifton School Superintendent Mike Rice and his plans for the school district. Paitchell has also been attempting to bring more transparency and accountability to the school governing body. Well, the long awaited answer came this past week as Michael Paitchell announced that he would in fact be running to retain his seat on the board. Also expected to file petitions for a spot on the ballot are outspoken critic of the Board of Education Jim Daley. Daley is probably most well known for his in-depth research into the Board of Education actions surrounding the 290 Brighton Road project. Local activist Joe Yamens is also expected to file. . . Word around town has it that Paitchell, Daley, and Yamens will be running as a ticket. Tickets aren’t always popular among voters, just keep in mind all the candidates are running for the same reason; they want to make an impact on the educational process in the City of Clifton. Regardless of how they’re presented the voter always has the upper hand as he or she goes in private to cast their ballot.

One of the “rewards” for his efforts and actions as a Board of Education Commissioner, Michael Paitchell had Ethics charges filed against him by former Board of Education Commissioner Marie Hakim (who has since passed away). The charges have lead to legal fees on both sides that are costing the Clifton Tax Payer well into the six figure range. While these charges seem to be more of a vendetta for Paitchell’s outspoken nature, (word on the street is these charges could have disappeared if Paitchell agreed not to run for reelection) the charges could have come to an end upon Hakim’s death, since the person pressing the charges must be alive. It has been learned that the charges have been re-filed by none other than Board of Education Commissioner Norman Tahan, who recently reimbursed the Clifton Board of Education $50 for storing his boat on Board of Education property. So it goes. . . the ethics charges will continue to linger and the legal bills will continue to mount . . . when will this madness come to an end?

A frequently heard comment in coffee shops, social gathers and just about anywhere two or more Clifton residents can gather and speak, the question is asked how can the municipal government in Clifton be planning layoffs and fighting for their economic life, while at the Board of Education raises and spending go on as usual? The answer is a simple one, there are two autonomous budgets. One controlled by the Clifton City Council the other controlled by the Clifton Board of Education. Since the Clifton Board of Education is an elected body they have the right and responsibility to create their own budget and present it to the taxpayers for approval in the voting process. The voters have the option of either accepting or rejecting the budget. The most important aspect of this concept is getting out and voting, if you like the budget, vote yes, and if you don’t like the budget, simply vote no. With the election just weeks away, we should all be anxiously awaiting the release of the proposed Board of Education budget.

There are two copies of the State of New Jersey Department of Education Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance Investigations Unit Report of Examination, more specifically OFAC case number 1418 – Clifton School District Construction and Other Irregularities, making the rounds. One is a draft dated January 2009, the fax cover sheet is dated more specifically January 9, 2009, and the other is the February 2009 report that was submitted as final. To anyone who has seen and examined the documents there were substantive changes made to the report without evidence of any change in the facts presented. I guess the Department of Education has the right to change their minds when they are investigating themselves.

Notices from the State are out, many city employees are preparing for the worst. At the close of business on March 6th for many city employees, the current recession will become a depression. The effects of the Clifton Economic Disaster have just begun to be felt. While negotiations are still ongoing, they still hold hope that these layoffs may be avoided. Clifton is a resilient community, and in the end we will survive and hopefully learn from the experience.

The move on the part of the Passaic County Freeholders to close the Passaic County Youth Reception and Rehabilitation Center in Haledon is meeting with opposition from the parents of the “children” held at the center and corrections officers. To listen to the pleas one would think they were closing a daycare center for innocent infants and children. Many of the Juveniles held at this facility are hardened criminals charged with aggravated assault and even murder. The claim that this step would save the county taxpayers $128 million dollars over the 10 years of the agreement has some holes in it, since additional costs for transporting the youths to court in Passaic County need to be added to the tab. As for concerns that the ‘kids” would be exposed to a criminal element and being held in Newark may put them in a dangerous situation, well they should have thought of that before they got into trouble. In any case a detention center is a detention center and there are standards set by the state and the courts which must be followed regardless of where the fledgling criminals are to be housed.

The Famous Mid-Town Grill known for the best Texas Wieners in town is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Co-owners, Jimmy and Jerry have been there cooking up local favorites and adding some Greek specialties since they purchased the eatery from brothers Tom and John Foukas, who opened the local landmark in the 1959. While much has changed along Main Avenue some things remain the same, like the friendly service, good food and good conversation that can always be found at the Mid-Town Grill.

The Hamilton House Museum located at 971 Valley Road is scheduled to reopen on Sunday March 1 for the 2009 season. The Museum, a restored Dutch Farm House, is one of the city of Clifton’s real treasures the house originally sat on what is now the site of the Hamilton Crest Townhouses on Valley Road and was moved in the 1960’s to its current location. The house, which has been restored into three different time periods, Victorian, Federal and Early American, will show visitors a little about Clifton's history. This "living museum" is opened on Sundays from 2:45 PM and by appointment at other times from March to December, except for Holiday weekends. For more information call the Museum' at 973-744-5707. Suggested donation for a visit is $3.00 per person and well worth every penny.
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