Saturday, May 30, 2009

Christie gets hammered!

Click here and listen to 8.5 minutes of Chris Christie talk out of both sides of his mouth at the same time. Classic Republican hypocrisy! Update: Late yesterday, Inglesino removed himself from the state pension system.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

250 unique visitors in first week! achieved a milestone of 250 unique visitors within its first 7 days of existence.

Visit daily for the best political insights in Washington Township.

LiaBraaten owes Washington Township taxpayers $7,104.

Failed WMRHSD BOE candidate James LiaBraaten owes the taxpayers of Washington Township $7,104. This amount represents 44.4 hours of legal services performed by Russ Weiss, Esq. between May 21, 2008 and March 24, 2009 on behalf of the WMRHSD BOE in defense of former board member Peter (Jeff) Emery against a school ethics complaint filed by Mr. LiaBraaten in the wake of his failed attempt for a one year seat on the WMRHSD school board. The $7,104 figure was confirmed by the Custodian of Records for the WMRHSD in response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.

All Washington Township taxpayers should look to Mr. LiaBraaten to honor the standard he set by seconding and voting in favor of a WTBOE resolution (motioned by Bill Roehrich) asking Ms. Ruth McCurdy to repay legal expenses incurred by the WTBOE as a result of her 2006 complaint against former WTBOE member James Harmon.

Mr. LiaBraaten's check should be made out to the West Morris Regional High School District.

Tracy Tobin's wise decision.

It is a tradition of the Washington Township Committee that its newest member be assigned the role of Finance Liaison. I assumed this important position in 2006, as did James Harmon in 2009. However in 2007, then mayor Tracy Tobin broke tradition and bypassed Howard Popper for the Finance Liaison role during the Annual Reorganization Meeting. Based on the following comment by Mr. Popper, contained within an endorsement letter for Ken Short and Bill Roehrich in today's Observer Tribune, Mr. Tobin's wisdom is validated wholeheartedly.

"Fixed costs (salaries, health benefits, utilities, and pensions) all rise substantially each year."

To anyone who has taken an accounting course, it's no secret salaries and utilities are not "fixed costs". Nor are they categorized that way in the municipal budget. They are in fact variable costs. Had Howard Popper bothered to look at the "FIX, OE, SW" tab of the 2009 Municipal Budget spreadsheet, provided by the Township CFO after each budget meeting, he would see "fixed costs" defined as:


Beginning in 2006, the growth of these "fixed costs" has actually declined "substantially". It appears Howard's comment is not surprisingly, wrong.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Does Mayor Ken Short think he is above the law?

We expect elected officials to follow the law, even if they may not agree with it. With this in mind, what part of Article 159-42-G9(16) of the Township Code does Mayor Ken Short not understand?

"The provisions of this Code or any other ordinance of the Township of Washington notwithstanding, signs displaying noncommercial political or public interest messages shall be permitted in all zone districts of the Township. One such sign, not to exceed 32 square feet in area, shall be permitted per property. Each sign shall be affixed so that it does not readily become detached. Such signs shall not be displayed in such a manner as to obstruct or substantially interfere with ingress to or egress from any building or driveway, nor shall they be located in the public right-of-way or obstruct the view of motorists in any way. No sign may be affixed to a private fence or tree without the consent of the property owner or affixed to a utility pole. Signs which are to be erected on a temporary basis for a special event such as an election shall conform to the requirements of Subsection G(6) of this section."

Multiple signs on a single property are pretty obvious, but the public right-of-way can vary by street. A reliable indicator is the placement of township shade trees which fall with the public right-of-way, meaning a sign placed between a shade and the curb or next to utility assets is a violation of law. A law Mayor Ken Short obviously doesn't think is important, despite his oath upon taking office.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Much ado about nothing?

In a recent letter to the Observer Tribune, Dick Cheney "protege" Norm Alworth hits all the standard Republican patriotic themes while telling us how Ken Short and Bill Roehrich are such wonderful guys. Yet nowhere within Norm's 1785 character mancrush is there any mention of Ken's or Bill's specific accomplishments. Somehow, I doubt this is an oversight as record tax increases don't quite fit the "fiscal conservative" storyline.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What prize awaits the winners?

Given their significant decline in "Leaned Party Identification", it is fascinating to witness on all levels, the currrent struggle for the "heart and soul" of the GOP.
  • National (Powell vs. Cheney/Limbaugh/Steele)
  • State (Christie vs. Lonegan)
  • Local (Skurchak/DeFrance vs. Short/Roehrich)
With Obama and Democratic control in Washington, New Jersey a solidly blue state, and our township committee controlling less than 20% of our property tax dollars, is this a case of the local GOP fighting for the right to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic?

Memorial Day Ceremony

I had the pleasure of attending this afternoon's Memorial Day Celebration. Events like this tend to bring out the best in people and today's ceremony was no exception. U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas McBride was terrific as the keynote speaker. His courage and steadfastness serves as an inspiration for all.

While the number of veterans who attended seemed smaller than years past, those in attendance lived up to the proud traditions of their respective armed services.

Kudos to Gail Werner who served as Mistress of Ceremonies, Representative Frelinghuysen, Freeholder Director Margaret Nordstrom, Vice Mayor Walsh, and all who participated.

At the conclusion of the ceremony I had the honor of meeting Tom McBride. His cheerful disposition put everyone around him at ease. God bless Tom and his family.

Semper Paratus

Send in the clowns.

In the most recent edition of the Observer Tribune, Theodore Baldwin of Fairview Road claims I (KN) "very publicly supported and endorsed a $25 fee (for middle school sports/activities) in 2006." In another letter, Wayne Garrett of Middle Valley Road claims I (KN) "thought sports fees were a wonderful idea".

Lord knows who actually wrote these letters, but their premise is totally off base. In 2006, I drafted a recommendation and voted in favor of a $305K reduction in the 2006-2007 school tax levy. The reduction included funds targeted for middle school athletics/activities. The resolution passed by a 4-1 vote with only Committeeman Ken Short voting no. Ken stated his objection centered on the elimination of middle school sports programs that could possibly lead to the imposition of fees.

Contrary to Mr. Baldwin's claim, I made no public plea for the BOE to institute any fees. If he has any evidence of me doing so, by all means please step out of the shadows and present it. Quite frankly, I would have preferred the BOE simply eliminate the programs as they were not part of a "core" public education, which taxpayers have a responsibility to fund. That being said, the decision to keep the programs and impose the $25 fee was by unanimous vote of the BOE.

In the future, I suggest these clowns try reading what someone sticks in front of their face before signing it.

Chickenhawk Alert!

In an effort to "fire up the base" former local GOP Committee Chairman Anthony F. Lavista refers to me as a "lifelong liberal Democrat" in a recent OT letter. I would like to point out to him that on March 27, 1978 (my 18th birthday) this "lifelong liberal Democrat" raised his right hand and enlisted in our armed forces. Six years later I received a commission as an officer after graduating from a service academy and went on to serve 15 years of active/reserve duty.

As a "lifelong conservative Republican", what did Anthony F. Lavista do on his 18th birthday and what has he done to protect our country?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jim LiaBraaten's blatant hypocrisy.

Last month, the School Ethics Commission dismissed an ethics complaint filed by former WT BOE member and unsuccessful WMRHSD BOE candidate Jim LiaBraaten against former WMRHSD BOE member Jeff Emery. While the outcome of the case was predictable, so to is the silence from the hard right on a question they have used as a standard political "talking point" for more than 3 years, e.g., who should pay for BOE legal costs incurred in the defense of a dismissed complaint?

To answer this question we need not look an further than Mr. LiaBraaten's own actions when as a member of the BOE, he seconded and voted for a resolution requiring the BOE to send a letter to Ruth McCurdy requesting reimbursement for legal expenses incurred in defense of her ethics complaint against James Harmon, which was subsequently dismissed.

My point is not to rehash the arguments for or against these complaints, but to shine a bright light on the obvious double standard and clear hypocrisy of those who vigorously opposed Ms. McCurdy's action, yet now are silent in the wake of Mr. LiaBraaten's similar path.

Fiscal Conservatives?

In the May 21, 2009 edition of the Observer Tribune, Jim Harmon pens a well written, elegant letter in which he claims Mayor Ken Short and BOE member Bill Roehrich have a "commitment to fiscal conservatism". In a separate letter, Anthony F. Lavista notes Short and Roehrich have a "proven record of conservative values".

While I understand this is typical GOP party language bestowed on Republican candidates, however, it seems odd given these two gentlemen both imposed record tax increases:

  • Ken Short served as Mayor in 2005 when the committee passed a municipal budget with a record $1 million tax increase.
  • Bill Roehrich served as BOE President in 2004 when the BOE presented a budget containing a record $2.2 million increase in the school tax levy.

Isn't it time our local public officials (regardless of party) be judged by their performance as opposed to clearly unjustified platitudes fellow supporters make about them?

The 2009 Municipal Budget Fails the Smell Test

On May 18, 2009, the Washington Township Committee finally introduced its 2009 Municipal Budget. Unlike last year, no special hearing has been scheduled to address any public questions or concerns. Here are a few (township CFO confirmed) highlights from this year's budget:

  • Municipal spending will increase 1.7% or $273K to a total of $16.57M
  • Local tax levy increase of $486K – the Open space tax levy will increase by $7K
  • Combined local tax rate growth of 3.84%, 67% more than 2008
  • Non local tax revenue will decline by $213K or 2.3%
  • A projected $520K decline in the Township surplus
  • A reduction the annual Debt Service payment of $83K
  • Capital spending is pegged at $740K
In addition, as you see from the chart below, this budget reverses the three year downward trend of municipal tax growth after the 2005 "all GOP" 11% municipal tax debacle.

At a time when many township families are struggling in a recession, this budget delivers a punishing one-two punch of increased spending and higher taxes. In addition, it includes a new kid's sports "fee" designed as a cowardly circumvention of the 4% state imposed tax levy cap.

To say this budget is a failure understates the profound fiscal incompetence of the committeemen who developed it. Sorry but you don't get points just for working hard. You get them for delivering tangible results.

Last fall, James Harmon promised to "manage spending and resulting taxation diligently and professionally". Well spending and taxes both went up. Is "diligently and professionally" the new code words for increased spending and higher taxes?

For several years Howard Popper ran on a prolonged platform of "lowering, not just containing taxes." Well for the first time in 4 years the rate of tax growth increased as opposed to decreases we had in the prior three years.

How would you rate Jim's and Howard's performance against what they said they would do when they campaigned for office?