Friday, January 4, 2008

The Re- Org That Wasn't

It is that time of year when local governments convene with the newly elected members and re-organize the council assignments. Likewise on January 3, Flemington Boro held its re-org in a manner of speaking.

Every council member very nicely summed up his or her last year, welcomed new members, thanked appropriate persons and talked of the high hopes for the upcoming year. Senior Democrat councilwoman, Sandy Borucki, and Democrat councilwoman, Brooke Liebowitz, were elected Boro council president and vice president, respectively.

Mayor Hauck then turned to that portion of the meeting that deals with the new round of council assignments. As best as I understood, the new Democrat majority had given a list of assignments to the mayor previously and advised they had discussed the assignments with him. The mayor indicated he did not think the list was up for discussion but more a matter of the Democrats informing him of the slate they would endorse by their votes. With four Democrats and two Republicans composing the council, the Democrats can automatically pass what they are inclined to pass, to put the mayor’s read of the situation in context.

Mayor Hauck also submitted his own list of assignments, citing NJ state code that asserts that the mayor appoints with the advice and consent of council. In other words, according to NJ state code, the mayor of a municipality introduces the appointments to council for its advice and consent as opposed to council members submitting a slate of appointments to the mayor, as was done by the Democrat council members. (See NJ State Code online---http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2004/Bills/A3500/3427_I1.PDF.
See section (e).)

When making assignments on Boro council, Mayor Hauck explained that the prior year he established committees composed of members of both political parties to tackle issues in Flemington. He thought this approach kept all council members better informed on all matters for Boro council consideration. Based on his experience of years as Boro clerk, councilman and now mayor, he expressed concern about concentrating the bulk of the workload in the hands of two council members. (Four of our six council members have only one year’s experience or less.) Hunterdon County clerk, Mary Melfi was appointed to head the OEM again. This was the only appointment made that was publicly discussed. Mayor Hauck justified appointing Ms. Melfi who had earlier resigned, citing the devastating Hunter Hills fire last week and the need for an experienced person to handle this type of Boro job. Other prospective appointments were tabled until there was further review of the statutes under question by Boro attorney, Barry Goodman.

Mayor Hauck indicated that in accordance with state code, he was offering his own slate for acceptance or rejection by the council for the record but he indicated he did not intend to force the issue. His intent was to make his position on assignments known for the record. Republican councilwoman, Erica Edwards, wanted to know more about how assignments were traditionally made. Democrat councilman, Mark Legato, indicated he felt this was partisanship but conforming to NJ state code strikes me as just abiding in the laws of NJ. With only one Republican council member at the meeting, the Democrats could have handily passed their slate, overriding the mayor. (Republican Councilman, John Gorman,was absent due to illness.) I did not understand Councilman Legato's comment. Councilwoman Brooke Liebowitz wanted to reconcile the differences, explaining that she wanted council members to be satisfied with their assignments. She suggested the council convene and revisit the assignments together. This plan was adopted. Meanwhile, Boro attorney, Barry Goodman, said he believed at this point in time the mayor’s interpretation was correct but he wanted more time to research state code on this issue and particularly on the issue regarding the appointments to planning board before offering a final opinion. Mayor Hauck had indicated that planning board appointments were made by the mayor and did not require Boro council approval. There were no votes along party lines.

Then they all adjourned to attend the re-org dinner in honor of the re-org that wasn’t.

Again I invite Mayor Hauck and all council members to feel free to contact me with any topics they wish to share with the community. I will do my best to accommodate all requests.

All the best to Boro council in 2008.

Stay tuned.

17 comments:

Betsy said...

I guess those podcasts of the council meetings aren't so evil after all, Mrs. Greiner? Look! see! You wrote a column after watching one! Wow.

Betsy said...
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Bob said...
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Bob said...

The childish practice of using the word "Democrat" as an adjective was started, I believe, by Lee Atwater, the fascist Republican dirty campaigner and rumor monger, who repented and apologized to his victims on his deathbead.

Atwater worked for Ronald Reagan and Papa Doc Bush and was the mentor of Karl Rove. He invented push-polling, was responsible for the Willie Horton ads, for spreading flag-burning rumors about Kitty Dukakis and for many attacks on American political freedom. It's now de rigoeur for dittoheads to use this linguistic twist.

As I understand it, the reason for this silliness is that the last syllable of the word is "rat". The idea is to make a subliminal association of rats with Democrats and the party. As Democrats now control both houses of Congress and have won the last 4 presidential elections, this tactic's effectiveness seems questionable. Some Democrats return the favor by referring to the GOP as Repugs or Repukes, but I try not to stoop to that level.

Mark Legato said...

Joan

Once again,your slant on this issue is one sided. Here are the facts which, had you cared to ask,would have been explained to you. Council assignments were discussed with the mayor following the election. We met with him several times. The assignments were reviewed, modified with input and agreed to by everyone. In fact,the mayor had asked that council assignments be given out to all council members. In other words, the appointments were by the mayor with the advice and consent of all members of council. The surprise to everyone that night was that Mayor Hauck changed his mind and did not tell anyone. He changed all of the assignments and no one had an opportunity to review or discuss them prior to the meeting. Council is no place for games. Unfortunately this is a view not shared by the Mayor.

With respect to the planning board, Mary Melfi had resigned in writing as OEM coordinator and was not eligible to be appointed to the Planning Board. Not that party affiliation matters, but a Republican had been slated to fill her seat. That person was at the meeting fully anticipating to be appointed. Again, the Mayor and all council had known and agreed and again, the Mayor surprise everyone with his last second surprise.

Joan, I will say it again. Partisanship like this has no place in local governance. We are there as public servants to our town. I urge you to use this forum for the community purposes for which it was meant and not a political bully pulpit. If you insist on making it a political forum, I urge you to investigate, ask questions,and get your facts before you choose to publish. Be fair, be balanced.

Courier News Flemington blog said...

Bob,

There is no intended hidden meaning to my using the word "Democrat" as opposed to "Democratic". But certainly I can see how that is some sort of egregious transgression worthy of being beaten up over.


Betsy,

You are one of the most unevenhanded posters I have seen in years of blogging. Most repeat posters don't just bash and condescend but try to see what the author is saying and offer intelligent counterpoints intending to be constructive, even if they do not agree.


Mark,

I do not know how you are reading this piece. I was at the meeting and this piece was expository. I did not weigh in on either side. I never discussed appointments with anyone and just wrote what I observed at the meeting. I have no first hand idea how the appointment process went with either party the last few weeks. I am puzzled by your chastening me about not inquiring with you about these issues. I once did ask about the general issue of keeping promises, no names necessary. Neither you nor Linda were cooperative. I requested that names be given to me after the appropriate courtesies were observed. To my knowledge you never acknowledged the request.

As I said before,I am open to all council members providing me with input.

Regarding partisanship, in my opinion I felt you made some partisan remarks regarding zero based budgeting and overcrowding as Democratic coups. I agree with you and hope whole heartedly that this council will not suffer from it.

From where I sat, the mayor's point was more along the lines of a point of order...who submits the slate to whom and who appoints to planning board. Our Boro attorney was asked to check state code and make a determination with respect to these questions. I cannot see how this is partisan. It is fact finding to me.

Betsy said...

Joan,

You'll get over it.

Betsy

Linda in NJ said...

Zero based budgeting was a Democratic plank for 2006. Joey Novick had tried all the years he was in the minority on Council to get them to use zero based budgeting, but the Republic majority never voted for it. When Brooke and Mark won their seats, they, along with Sandy, were able to convince the others. It is something the R's took credit for, but it wasn't their idea in 2006.

And Mark was the one who crafted the anti-crowding legislation, amending it as warranted. No one else worked on it. He deserves the credit.

(I decided that I would use my own word for the Republic(an) party, since proper names don't matter.)

MediumPetey said...

I have been reading the blog posts posted here by Mrs. Greiner, as well the posts from other community blogs. There is not one community blog writer that uses the blog to vent politically, slanted toward one political party. They, instead, appear to celebrate what is happening in their town, focusing on the positive. Mrs. Greiner has instead decided to take a different path.

Oh, at times she waxes on and on about the bucolic environment she observes in Flemington---extolling the virtues of a 'personal', small, friendly town. It all sounds rather nice, as if out of "Main Street" by Sinclair Lewis.

But, after she does this, she mostly uses that assertion to bash someone from the Democratic Party with whom she does not agree---seemingly to make the point that the aforementioned Democratic Council member or Council members' actions somehow don't 'fit' her version of her bucolic little town. Well, Mrs. Greiner: Gotcha. You can't get away with that.

I urge all on board here to call the editor of the Courier News and let them know the false product they are putting out here. Perhaps they will have second thoughts about giving Mrs. Greiner this type of forum, that purports to be one thing, but is clearly another.

Mrs. Greiner is certainly entitled to her own personal griping. That she can do --and has--in letters to the Editor. Or she can editorialize politically to her heart's content, in a political blog. That would be OK, too.

However what she does here, is not for a 'community' blog.

Either way, the Courier News should label the blogs appropriately. Political, in one place. Community blogs in another.

And personal attacks and personal venting in a third.

Courier News Flemington blog said...

Linda,

The process for zero- based budgeting was set in motion in January 2007 when the mayor convened Saturday morning meetings. I do not argue that it was not a part of the Democratic Party platform. To my recollection, it was. My position is that this approach was unanimously supported by both parties and came to be as a result of mutual cooperation. It was not achieved as a result of Democratic prodding alone, overcoming any kind of Republican resistance. It is not solely an achievement of the Democrats, as one may conclude upon hearing the remarks made at the re-org meeting. Credit should be given where credit is due. Likewise with the stacking ordinance. Yes, Mark put the ordinance together but some Republicans also had input and were involved. To my recollection both parties had the overcrowding issue in their campaign platforms. Again credit should be given where credit is due. These were not just feathers solely in the Democratic cap as the remarks insinuated. Both issues were concerns of both parties and the accomplishments were supported by both teams, working to meet the needs of the Boro.


Mediumpetey,

I have two brief comments. First, it is very clear on this blog that no one in Flemington can ever question what a Democrat does without there being hell to pay. Now, according to you, such people should be censored by the press, the First Amendment, notwithstanding. You are free to make your points. I am not censoring you.
Second, the Democrats are in control and by that very fact they will be scrutinized because they pretty much are running things. Public figures ought to be evaluated, Sir. We call that transparency and accountability.

In general some posters read things into my comments I am not saying. I find some interpretations way off the mark.

ImprovforLawyers said...

Joan,

Joey Novick here. I have read the blogs throughout the weeks, and since my name has come up, I thought I would take this moment to set the record straight.

I learned of true zero-based budgeting about ten years ago, when I attended a National League of Cities conference in 1998 or 1999. Each department head was brought in, and required to justify their budget requests from dollar zero. It seemed like a much better approach than the budget system Flemington incorporated, which was too quick, and not deliberative enough. Each year I brought this to the attention of the then-Republican majority, it was shot down as taking too long and completely unnecessary. This was the approach of then-Council President Mary Melfi, who controlled the budget process. True zero based was never used at all while I was on Council, in spite of my insistance that it would result in more decentralization of budget decisions, more involvement by the entire Council, and less autocratic budget oversight. A better budget over all.

So, upon running for Mayor, I decided it was a good plank for a platform. It was my idea before it was in the Flemington First plan, and it was brought to Council by Mark Legato and Brooke Liebowitz before it was embraced by Mayor Hauck and the rest of Council. Prior to that time, the Republican members of Council followed the lead of Mary Melfi, and disdained that approach.

So, please give credit where credit is due. True Zero based budgeting did not 'begin' in January 2007. It was advocated for many years and rejected whole-hearted by the Republicans when they had the majority. While I give credit to the Republicans on Council Bob,Erica, Phil and John for finally embracing this more wholistic and inclusively organic approach, the credit for it's initial proposal and years of its advocacy belong to others. Kudos to Brooke, Mark and Sandy for bringing it to the table.

As far as MediumPetey goes, I do not think he is advocating censoring your comments. He is merely saying that your blog is listed in the community blog section, and seems much more filled with political content, than community events. The other community blogs don't seem to reflect the same politics as yours. I think maybe the blog should be in the politics section, not the community section, but certainly never censored.

Your blig has certainly livened things up in the blogoshere, though. And what is your favorite Sean Connery film? I did not know you were a fan until I read your profile. Mine is The Untouchables. And, of course, anything Bond.

lit n up said...

Not to change the subject, but, will there be tables and chairs at music on main?

MediumPetey said...

With the way Hauck runs the meetings, there may not be chairs at Council meetings, either.

Courier News Flemington blog said...

Joey,

I certainly do not dispute your history or prior struggles on zero- based budgeting. And I certainly do not dispute that it was in your mayoral campaign platform. And it was a very good idea. But to pick up in January 2007, it is my understanding that Mayor Hauck, upon taking office, immediately scheduled Saturday morning meetings with department heads. Mayor Hauck also appointed my husband, Phil Greiner, a proponent of this budget process to Boro council to fill the seat vacated by Mary Melfi. I recall that you attended these Saturday morning meetings and were rather pleased with their outcome.

You fought a good battle and I think the Boro is better for it. But under Mayor Hauck other soldiers from the Republican camp joined the effort quite voluntarily. They worked on doing this budgeting project for several Saturday mornings too. There was no Democratic struggle to incorporate zero- based budgeting under the current Hauck administration. I would like to see the Republican soldiers get their commendations too.

The comments I heard at re-org give the impression that zero- based budgeting process and the stacking ordinance were solely Democratic accomplishments. An audience, now potentially Boro wide, not in the inner circle of Boro council, could very reasonably conclude that the Republicans resisted, did not assist or support these endeavors and the Democrats overcame. That is misleading. Were the shoe on the other foot, I have no doubt Democrats involved in these projects would feel misrepresented to the Boro and rightly so. This pie is large enough for everyone to have a slice to enjoy.


Personally I do not see very much difference in the intentions of either political party. I sense that both parties want what is good for Flemington. I think we are turning a corner here on Boro council with many new types of council members from a new age so to speak. That’s OK. Change is the nature of the universe and Flemington should not resist exploring new directions while trying to maintain its wonderful uniqueness.

Senior council members know the Boro like the back of their hands and have worked for its betterment for years, perhaps decades. They are invaluable in guiding Boro council to avoid mistakes they have seen made before. If partisan slips and comments occur here and there, I worry that we instead of progressing will be reduced to the level of the “The Butter Battle People” made famous by the endearing Dr. Seuss.

People do not want to work and be slighted of the credit they deserve. Also, as you like the transparency with the zero- based budgeting process, I too like transparency with respect to as much Boro business possible. It protects us all.

Regarding Mediumpetey, he seems pretty clear to me. Censorship is utterly unacceptable. And there is a local newspaper probably read by almost everyone in Flemington, “The Hunterdon County Democrat. It is aptly named. Some responses on this blog are twisted, almost vicious. It is just a handful of folks in the Boro though. I am amazed by the intolerance mediumpetey and a few others have expressed and I fear people who think that way.

People are welcome in a cogent way to argue their viewpoints. I have done this for awhile on some pretty interesting sights. I have met other interesting interlocutors in cyberspace and they have kept me on my toes.

In my field, philosophy, no one really agrees with anyone. But I taught my students that out of the some 47 definitions of philosophy, it is best described as the art of gentlemanly disputation. (The feminists did not like the term “gentlemanly” but it seemed to capture the appropriate context a discussion should have). If all someone can do is bash and slam and tell people to shut up when they disagree, I told my students they probably had nothing else to offer, but of course they do, if they would get past their anger or prejudices.

Re: Bond...no doubt I see the "Sean " through different eyes than a man would but...favorite movies..."The Rock" ,"Entrapment" I watch that around New Year's. RE: the Bond stuff, "Goldfinger", "Diamonds are Forever"...I am giving away my age here.


All the best.

Courier News Flemington blog said...

Hello lit n up,

That's kind of a cool handle, no pun intended.

Planning ahead?

There usually are tables and chairs at Music on Main Street and I hope there will be this year...

Stay tuned and find out.

Courier News Flemington blog said...

Joey,

How could I forget..."Hunt for Red October" but "The Untouchables" is a fine piece but don't'like that Connery got killed off. Too sad.

lit n up said...

Council Meeting Just around the corner


Since the council meeting is just around the corner, I hope that the council has their act together. I hope that the bickering witnessed last time is over and that the council that worked so well together last year reemerges next week. I hope egos and attitudes can be set aside and that our elected officials will be grown up enough to do what is in the best interest of the borough residents, business and employees. I hope that personal preference is set aside and assignments are based on experience and merit. Just because we voted for you once, doesn’t mean we will vote for you again.

Joan, maybe you could do us all a favor, and give us a venue to share some our comments to council before Monday night.