Interesting Land Use Decision in Englewood

In 431 E Palisade Avenue Real Estate, LLC, et al. v. City of Englewood, a Federal Judge just ruled that the city of Englewood is not permitted to enforce its zoning rules, because plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits at trial of showing that the City’s Zoning Ordinances violate the Fair Housing act, thereby rendering them unconstitutional.  The current zoning rules  do not permit assisted living and memory-care facilities in the regular residential zones (R-AAA), which plaintiffs claim is discriminatory. Continue reading “Interesting Land Use Decision in Englewood”

[Video] 2019 Voters’ Guide: Teaneck Board of Education Election Questionnaire from the League of Women Voters of Teaneck

Thank you to the League of Women Voters of Teaneck for taking this on and providing this information to the voters.

You can see the document online here

Video of the forum has been posted courtesy of the League of Women Voters of Teaneck


League of Women Voters of Teaneck
Voters’ Guide
Board of Education 2019

Our voters’ guide questionnaire and letter of invitation to the Candidates’ Night, sponsored by LWV Teaneck, was mailed to each of the candidates for Teaneck Board of Education at the end of August. In addition to asking them about their Teaneck residency, occupation, education, family & community involvement, we asked each candidate to answer the following questions and to limit answers to a total of 500 words or less:

  1. How can the district enhance academic rigor? (List specific recommendations)
  2. What do you see as benefits and/ or challenges of offering Pre-K?
  3. What impact do you anticipate the influx of new apartment development will have on the Teaneck public schools and how should the district plan for this?
  4. Given the budgetary constraints under which the district operates, what areas would you focus on to achieve cost savings without adversely impacting instructional goals.
    The candidates’ responses follow unedited, and are in the order received:
LWV_Voters_Guid_BOE-fall-2019

 


This Voters Guide has been prepared by the League of Women Voters of Teaneck, a nonpartisan group of local residents assuring that all eligible voters have he opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote. Our organization provides opportunities for voter registration each year, works to improve our government; studies local, state and national issues, and strives to engage all citizens in the civic decisions that could impact their lives.

A request for help and an issue of alarm

One question that comes up often, is about the difference between a resolution and an ordinance.  The State statute spells out a technical difference (click here for NJSA 40:49-1), but one simple distinction is that ordinances are forever, while resolutions expire with the council that passes it.

The “forever” aspect of ordinances has some interesting effects when the future is very different than the era in which it was passed.

If you’ve been following these posts, you’ve already seen us send ordinances forbidding residents from wearing the dress of the opposite sex off our books.  Same for ordinances requiring visual access from the street for businesses (to prevent speakeasies during prohibition), banning pinball (to protect the children) and dozens more that were so far past their expiration that it was clear someone should finally remove them from the official code-book.

But we are far from done.

There are rules and regulations that we are subject to now that have no relationship to their original purpose.  And I’d like your help identifying them.

While I’m taking suggestions — I’m by no means offering promises.

I pledge to tackle the most far reaching and burdensome suggestions first.  I will look into the original reasons for the rule and discuss the issues with current department heads.  After I get input from the departments, the manager and my colleagues on council, I’ll put forward an ordinance to tweak or repeal the old rules, if it’s deemed appropriate.


Alarm Systems

As an example, let’s take a Teaneck Code 3A-3 Registration of Alarm Systems

According to Census data, the largest population numbers appear in the 1970’s, which had several thousand more at the peak, than we have today.

Along with the rise in population, came the advent of the residential alarm system.  Unfortunately, the systems were not very reliable.  As per sources at the time, it didn’t take much to set these alarms off.

The Record (3/23/78):

“They can set these alarms off by looking at them funny,” one officer said. “The wind sets them off.”

“There were 2,336 false burglar alarms in Teaneck in 1977, and 18 over the past weekend alone. Police say there is an average of eight false alarms – each of which requires a patrolman to rush to the scene – a day in Teaneck”

Police were being dispatched immediately, and resources were being stretched thin.  Upwards of 6 to 8 false alarms were coming in every day.

In a memorandum from Police Chief Fitzpatrick to the Township manager later that year, they described the problems alarms were posing in the township.

“Through August 31st, 1977, there were a total of 1,546 accidental / false alarms, an average of 6.36 per day”

Adding to the problem, residents were even reported to be testing police response times by intentionally setting off false alarms.

To solve the issue of false alarms, an ordinance was requested, which would create a fine for false alarms (Council decided to impose this fine only after the third false alarm).

Another issue, compounding the police resource problem was the advent of automated call systems.  When an alarm would go off, some systems would “call-in” to the police department.  As per The Sunday Record on April 2, 1978:

Some remote systems have an automatic dialer which, in the event of an alarm, sends a prerecorded message over telephone lines to anyone you choose. (Do not direct the message to police without prior approval.)

Care to guess what happened next?

So, in an effort to find out who to contact, when a machine declared in robotic cadence that they must be dispatched to a particular residence, a registration requirement, indicating a telephone number where the owner and authorized contact could be found, was also included in the ordinance.

False alarms and Registration needs in 2019

Today, both requirements are still in force, as well as a subsequent requirement that all alarms stop sounding after 20 minutes.

The need to reduce false alarms is still valid and the fine (after three false alarms) is serving its purpose of deterrence.  The 20 minute deadline to shut off the alarm is more than sufficient in an era of police response times of fewer than 5 minutes.

But, do we need a registration requirement for every alarm in town?

That’s the question I sought to answer.

I asked about the number of alarms we have registered1 (it’s just 987) and the amount of money we spend processing the requests (in terms of salaried employees dealing with pen and paper renewal forms, checks for payment, etc…).  As per the police department, we don’t track individual internal costs,

But most importantly, are there any automated calls coming in, for which we need the requirement to begin with?

As it turns out, alarm companies are now calling in alarms with live operators, while simultaneously raising owners on the second line.  Further, the requirement, to the extent a handful of people abide by it, could be prohibiting people from installation of systems, which would themselves, cause a deterrence effect in terms of break-ins and thefts.

Therefore, I’m introducing this ordinance to remove the residential registration requirement.  It may have made some sense in the era of automated calls in the pre-mobile phone days, but it seems to have outlived its usefulness.

If anything, a need to have an point of contact for every homeowner may be more worthwhile.  But I’ll let someone articulate that need before I think of creating any regulations that may seem like overkill when my kids are old enough to remove unnecessary rules made today.

The cycle continues.

Let me know where I should look next.


 

  1. I requested information from the Police Chief last year when I started looking into this.  Here are some of the stats he provided as of August, 2018:
  • Number of alarms registered in town: 987
  • Administrative Cost: Unknown
  • Employees involved: The clerks in the TPD Records Bureau process the applications/violation notices and handle payments
  • Number of violations: 30 ($1050.00 collected and $750.00 billed)

 

 

On advice of counsel….

Well, that didn’t take long.

We hadn’t even had the second reading on our flag ordinance policy1 yet (that took place at our September 10th meeting this evening), and we already got the first threat of a lawsuit — from an individual demanding we also raise a pro-life flag.


For those that haven’t been flowing the issue closely: Continue reading “On advice of counsel….”

Superintendent’s Letter on Preschool & District Office Plans

The following letter (link here) was received via email today from the Superintendent of Teaneck Schools, Dr. Irving:

Dear Teaneck Community,

On Wednesday, August 21, our Board of Education approved two resolutions that are essential to moving this district forward for our children and this community.

The first resolution solidifies our commitment to the expansion of preschool education Continue reading “Superintendent’s Letter on Preschool & District Office Plans”

Teaneck BOE by the numbers

A post on the Teaneck Today Facebook group (join here), references the recent record article on how much school districts in NJ spend per student.

The Record article quotes the amounts listed in the State’s Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending 2019.  According to that report, we spend $27,670 per pupil.

But this is only part of the story.

Our expenses don’t go up or down based on the number of individual students, but they do flow with aggregates.  Lose a few students one year and there’s likely very little change in expenses.  Same with gaining a few.  That’s why the independent report from the Board of Ed on the impacts of development don’t show more than a nominal increase based on new residents.  They simply don’t increase any particular class size beyond the point where a new teacher would be necessary.  Costs may be phrased in the “per pupil” equation, but they need to be contextualized to be properly understood.

Some of those commenting, have pointed out that not all students have the same “per pupil cost” and that there’s a mismatch in the number of kids attending public vs. private schools.  This is accurate, but without more information, it’s not very helpful.

So let’s find a place to start….

Here are our numbers:

Documentation:
Teaneck BOE Comprehensive Annual Financial Report “CAFR” (2018)
Teaneck Special Education Study (2018)

How many students do we have?

To determine the number of students, we need only look at page 2 of the CAFR:

We have 3,953  students enrolled across our district for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

I used 2016-17 as opposed to the 2017-18 CAFT number of 3,971 so this can be compared to the special education report that covers the same time period.  This number includes charter school students that reside in town, but excludes enrollments for in-district preschool and non-public school students.

How many students are in general vs special education instruction?

This number can be found in the Special Education report on page 26 (Table 4):

We have 3,611 students in the district, of which 1.035 are classified as having a disability.

How much do we spend on general and special education instruction?

For this info, we need to look at page 22 of the CAFR:

What is the per pupil cost for instruction?

If we take the cost for Regular Instruction ($49,686,728) and divide by the total enrollment, less those classified as special education (2,576), we get a spend per pupil of $19,288.33

If we take the cost for Special Education Instruction ($25,491,773) and divide by the total classified as special education, we get a spend per pupil of $24,629.73

While this still doesn’t tell the entire story, it says a bit more than the records simple use of $27,670.

Other costs

Clearly, this only deals with the costs of instruction, which, while a large share of the total budget, is not the complete picture.  There are capital and fixed costs for everything from repairs, to heat, to…. you name it.  The BOE covers a lot of spending.  But instruction is a good place to start a discussion on comparative spending.

How do other towns compare?

That’s a post for another day.  If you have the ability and want to show your work, I’d be happy to post your information.

 

Teaneck Pride

What happened?

When I started to put some words down in order the create Teaneck’s first proclamation naming June as Pride month, I knew that I wouldn’t win everyone over.  Truth be told, I wasn’t sure I could get it on the agenda.

Little did I know that what we tried to do as an act of inclusivity, caring and respect – would be portrayed in social media posts and beyond as “disheartening“, “shameful” and evidence that Teaneck is “no longer inclusive“.

These views weren’t from those against the proclamation — but the people that waited, some for decades, for those words to finally be uttered in our Town.

So, let’s talk a bit about what happened and what we want to accomplishtogether. Continue reading “Teaneck Pride”

Regional Symposium on Deer Management

Earlier this month, elected officials and mayors from the region met to discuss deer management at a regional symposium featuring wildlife biologists from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Coverage of the event can be found here:
Deer Dilemma Forum: Lethal vs. Non-Lethal Options Discussed
Additional coverage: Pascack Press.

Here is a video of the presentation from last December and the slides from the 6/5/19 presentation can be found below. Continue reading “Regional Symposium on Deer Management”