Sources Matter: Demand Evidence and Question Everything

In his post on Planning Board Application 2021-19, Bill Orr says that “the proposal was to build one residence on the left and another on the right of the historic home”.

Is that true?

I say it is not.

Orr claims to be “reporting local news” and information for residents.  He goes as far as to say I am “rarely a reliable source of information“.

So what is a member of the public supposed to do when we claim diametrically opposite views on a situation?

Ask for evidence and review it critically.


Case in point: The Brinckerhoff-Demarest House*

Continue reading “Sources Matter: Demand Evidence and Question Everything”

Breaking: Victoria Fisher’s Running Mate Officially Out Of BOE Race

As previously reported, Mr. Shamiq Syed who submitted petitions with Teaneck Board of Education Trustee Victoria Fisher and Jonathan Rodriguez, was preliminarily removed from the BOE race when it was determined he may not have met the one-year residency requirement.

Since that time, Mr. Syed provided various documents to support his claim / establish proof of residency.

Among the items received by the county were:

  • “Notice to Vacate” his prior residence (in Weehawken)
  • A bill of lading for the shipping of a motor vehicle (Porsche 911) from Vancouver to Teaneck in September 2020
  • 2 Paychex reports mailed to Teaneck
  • Information relating to purchase of a property in Teaneck by Mr. Syed’s father (including various financial documents associated with the sale)
  • Certifications from Mr. Syed and his family members

Continue reading “Breaking: Victoria Fisher’s Running Mate Officially Out Of BOE Race”

CCA: Visualization

The State of NJ has a process called the “Initiative”.  Residents have the capability to form a group, obtaining consent from the public via petition — and placing the ordinance for a vote in the next election.  It’s not an easy lift to proceed via initiative.  This is by design.

Normally, the people are represented by the leaders elected in free and fair elections.  In Teaneck, that legislative body is the Township Council.

The Council is tasked with the creation of ordinances and the ordinances may be amended or rescinded by the Council only upon Public Notice and a Public Hearing at which the community may comment.

An important facet here is that no one should ever wish to make it too easy to go around the will of the people expressed via those the voters chose in an election.  Put another way: Anything you can do via initiative, those with opposing ideological viewpoints can undo and even do the opposite, via initiative.

NJSA 40:69A-184

“The voters of any municipality may propose any ordinance and may adopt or reject the same at the polls, such power being known as the initiative.”

Clearly lawmakers wanted the people to be able to create laws.  But the same lawmakers didn’t want everything set via popular referendum.  They understood that laws made via the whim of the people could be dangerous.

“Any initiated ordinance may be submitted to the municipal council by a petition signed by a number of the legal voters of the municipality equal in number to at least 15% of the total votes cast in the municipality at the last election at which members of the General Assembly were elected.  An initiated ordinance may be submitted to the municipal council by a number of the legal voters of the municipality equal in number to at least 10% but less than 15% of the total votes cast in the municipality at the last election at which members of the General Assembly were elected, subject to the restrictions set forth in section 17-43 ( C. 40:69A-192 ) of this act.”

The bar was set at 10% or 15%* (the choice of which number depends on several factors outside the scope of this post).

  • In 2016 some 20,152 Teaneck voters walked into the voting booth
  • In 2018, some 17,450 Teaneck voters walked into the voting booth
  • In 2020, some 23,526 Teaneck voters sent in mail-in ballots

But none of that matters for the initiative bar here, because “at the last election at which members of the General Assembly were elected“, means we look to 2019.

In the 2019 election, there was no race President, no Governor to be chosen, no major contests to draw crowds.  There was a contested BOE race, but even there 27.6% of eligible votes weren’t cast.

  • In 2019, some 7,908 Teaneck voters walked into the voting booth

Therefore, the lowest threshold for a valid petition today would be 10% of 7,908, or 791 signatures.

CCA Petition Signatures

The chart below represents all registered voters of Teaneck and the signatures for the Community Choice Aggregation Petition appear as indicated:

  • Valid signatures supporting the initiative: Green boxes (187)
  • Hand-Written Signatures with deficiencies: Red Boxes (76)
  • Electronic Signatures**: Orange Boxes (562)
  • Electronic Signatures with Deficiencies**: Yellow Boxes (52)
  • Number of valid signatures required: 791*
  • Registered Voters not submitting a signature: White boxes (28,758**)
  • Total boxes: 29,635*** Registered Voters

* The clerk’s response states: “There exists a legitimate question of what the statute means by the “total number of votes cast” but giving the statute the most liberal reading possible, the best reading for the Committee would be based on the total number of voters who voted at the last election at which members of the General Assembly were elected in Teaneck, which figure was 7908. Thus, the total number of signatures required to submit an initiated ordinance pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:69A-184 is 10% of 7908 or 791 signatures.”
** Electronic signatures were authorized for submission until June 4th.  The date was extended for 30 days, but all electronic signatures here were submitted after the 30 day deadline authorizing the clerk to accept them.
*** The voter list I’m using was last obtained during the 2020 General Election.  It has certainly changed somewhat, but I think the point is made.

CCA Update: Petition Deficient [Clerk’s Response attached]

Community Choice Aggregation

As previously covered, some members of the community have been working on a program call Community Choice Aggregation (“CCA”).  The program uses credits from renewable energy providers elsewhere to “transfer” that energy (via credits) to our area.

The net result is that energy is purchased at lower rates (through aggregating demand).  The program has positives and negatives (which I’ve covered in the post linked here.

On July 15, 2021 the petitioners submitted their petitions (with an enclosed ordinance to be proposed for the ballot).

The clerk issued a response, which can be found here:

Unlike the One Town, One Vote petition, the CCA petitioners do both

  1. enclose the required ordinance and
  2. cite the correct Statute for initiating a petition (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-184 ).

Why was the petition rejected?

Among the reasons for rejection:

  • The petition did not contain the requisite number of signatures.

There’s little the clerk can do if you don’t supply the signatures required.

  • The petition contained electronic signatures which were not authorized to be accepted.

Due to the pandemic, Governor Murphy issued a series of Executive Orders.  Among them was EO 132 which allowed petitions such as an initiative or referendum to be accepted by a municipal clerk in electronic form.  EO 132 was further modified by EO 216 which extended the rule through the end of the Public Health Emergency.

On June 4th, Governor Murphy announced EO 244, which ended the public health emergency.  Had nothing else happened, the authorization that permitted a municipal clerk to accept an electronic petition would have ended that moment.  However, the Legislature enacted P.L. 2021, CHAPTER 103, (approved June 4, 2021) which extended the EO 216’s operation for 30 days.

Petitioners were noticed and should have been aware that the authorization for acceptance of electronic signatures ended on June 4th.  They also should have been aware the extension for such authorization was extended 30 days past June 4th.  That would enable the clerk to be authorized to accept electronic petitions (assuming they were in the proper form) only until Sunday, July 4th. Being generous and giving them an extra day until Monday, July 5th, they missed the deadline by 10 days, having only submitted the petition on July 15th.  Without express authorization by Statute or Executive Order, the clerk is not authorized by statute to accept the petitions.

The Cure Period

As indicated in the clerk’s notice, “[p]ursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:69A-188, the Committee may amend the Petition at any time within ten days from this Notice of Insufficiency.”

How many more signatures are required?

The following signatures were submitted

  • Electronic: 614 total (52 contained deficiencies as listed below):
    • 1 was deficient for not being fully completed (e.g. missing printed name, address, signature)
    • 8 were deficient for providing information not corresponding with voter registration information (e.g. name, address)
    • 32 were deficient for not being registered voters or not being registered voters in Teaneck
    • 11 were deficient for being duplicates
  • Hard copy: 263 (76 contained deficiencies as listed below):
    • 2 were deficient for not being fully completed (e.g. missing printed name, address, signature);
    • 50 were deficient for providing information not corresponding with voter registration information (e.g. name, address
    • 17 were deficient for not being registered voters or not being registered voters in Teaneck
    • 3 were deficient for being duplicates;
    • 4 were deficient for being illegible

As electronic petitions are not permitted, the balance of valid handwritten signatures stands at: 187

How many signatures are required to have an ordinance placed on the ballot?

As indicated in the clerk’s response:

“There exists a legitimate question of what the statute means by the “total number of votes cast” but giving the statute the most liberal reading possible, the best reading for the Committee would be based on the total number of voters who voted at the last election at which members of the General Assembly were elected in Teaneck, which figure was 7908. Thus, the total number of signatures required to submit an initiated ordinance pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:69A-184 is 10% of 7908 or 791 signatures.”

As 187 is below the threshold level of 791, the petition was found deficient.  Petitioners may amend and cure deficiencies within 10 days of being notified.

Community Choice Energy Aggregation: Coming soon?

A statement by Paula Rogovin, one of the Petitioners appears below:


Further explanation regarding electronic signatures for petitions

What does the Executive Order authorize?

EO 216 says in relevant part:

1. “The… municipal clerks… shall allow for any… initiative, referendum, or other petition required to be filed prior to an election to be submitted by hand delivery and
electronically.”

2. The… municipal clerks…  shall accept petitions with hand-written signatures and signatures collected via an online form created by the Secretary of State.

4. The requirements of N.J.S.A. 19:23-7, N.J.S.A. 19:23-15, and N.J.S.A. 19:13-8 that a candidate provide a notarized oath of allegiance shall be in effect regardless of whether a petition is submitted by hand delivery or electronically.

9. This order shall take effect immediately and shall apply to any petition that is due or may be submitted during the Public Health Emergency, first declared in Executive Order No. 103 (2020).

Clerk’s may only do what they are authorized to do by Statute.  Here, the EO (132, supplemented by 216) authorized the clerk to allow for any initiative to be submitted (paragraph #1) on a form created by the Sec. of State (paragraph #2) with the necessary oaths (paragraph #4) and applied to any petition that was due or submitted during the Public Health Emergency (which ended via EO 244 on June 4, 2021).

Once EO 216 ended, paragraph #9 meant that the public health emergency no longer allowed clerks to accept submitted electronic petitions.  But, they got a 30 day extension, via legislation.  That extension was on notice to the public (including petitioners).

Therefore, after the 30 days extension elapsed (on July 5th, 2021), the authorization to accept the petitions ceased and the clerk was precluded from doing so.

To be clear: the clerk was not authorized, absent express authorization to accept electronic signatures.  It did not exist on July 15th.

 

Mosquito Spraying: Where and why?

Resident Glenn Williams Jr submitted the following query to the group:

So…I took a snippet overlaying where Bergen County has sprayed for Mosquitos the last 4 times (2018-2021). And I mean…this is almost hilarious to see. I’m genuinely interested in hearing a reasonable explanation as to how this is even possible. Do the mosquitos stop in the middle of Votee park to play basketball? Do they only cross Route 4 in one area? I mean COME ON. lol. I mean I’m willing to listen, but this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me at all. 4 years?
At first glance, it certainly seems odd.
So I did two things.
  1. I called the county to get information (they have yet to call me back)
  2. I looked up the Environmental Resource Inventory (available here)

Bergen County Mosquito Control

Continue reading “Mosquito Spraying: Where and why?”

2021 Mosquito Spraying

Tomorrow, August 2, the County will be spraying for Mosquitos throughout Teaneck.

The map of areas set for spraying can be found below.

In compliance with N.J.A.C. Title 7, Chapter 30, the Bergen County Mosquito Control Division BCMCD will be applying insecticides for the control of adult mosquito populations on an area-wide basis, in Teaneck, on Monday, August 2, 2021 between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM. Continue reading “2021 Mosquito Spraying”

Petitioners and EiC Hillary Zaer-Goldberg: Apologize For Disparaging Town Employee

“Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”
– Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan after acquittal


Speaking freely on topics of concern is important.  Having smart people discussing issues on both sides of an issue and opposite ends of a spectrum informs the electorate about various issues.

But when petitioners choose to smear an employee merely for doing his job and an “editor-in-chief” decides to allow their publication to smear an employee to a larger audience, it does nothing to foster debate, argue issues, or help the community.

As you may have seen, the Township clerk replied to a petition submitted to his office.  The reply is posted here and you can read the entire thing for yourselves.

Petitions chose to issue a statement, in which they imply that the Township Clerk acted inappropriately.

Ms Goldberg then chose to describe the issue thusly:

Teaneck Clerk Tries to Thwart popular Grassroots Initiative” and has sent out the following to her mailing list:

In the email, Goldberg includes the petitioners’ press release, without the letter from the clerk stating the statutory deficiencies of the petition effort, which says in part:

“It is no surprise that the One Town One Vote petition is being challenged by the Township Clerk, who is appointed by the Teaneck Township council. The council majority has been fiercely opposed to the proposed change to the status quo.”

The clerk did not “thwart” anything.  He did his job.  If there’s a disagreement over how he did so, there’s an appeal process.

To make such a claim, absent evidence is bad enough.  To disseminate that statement, without corroborating it, compounds the injury.

One reader of Teaneck Today wrote me to say:

“I don’t know the town clerk, I don’t care what his politics are. He had a right to do his job free from abuse or being used as some kind of a tool, and he in turn has an obligation to carry out his duties in accordance with the law and free from bias. I have never heard otherwise. This nonsense all started with Ron Schwartz forcing him to pose for photos as if he was receiving the civil rights act.”

Petitioners, Ms. Goldberg, and any others that shared this should immediately apologize to the Clerk.  He did his job.  He should not be scorned for doing so.

UPDATE: Meet the 2021 BOE Candidates

Subject to certification by the County Clerk, the preliminary list of BOE candidates for the 2021 November election appears below:

If you’re a candidate and would like to participate in a “virtual” Meet & Greet to introduce yourself to Teaneck Today membership, please let me know. A formal invitation to all candidates will be going out as well.

  • DENNIS KLEIN [BRIDGING GAPS]
  • DARRYL F. GREENE
  • ROMAINE L. HASSANAH
  • RACHEL SECEMSKI
  • YASSINE ELKARYANI
  • LAURA E. FEIN [KIDS COME FIRST]
  • VICTORIA FISHER* [TRUST EQUITY ACCESS]
  • JONATHAN RODRIGUEZ [TRUST EQUITY ACCESS]
  • SHAMIQ SYED [TRUST EQUITY ACCESS]

* Indicates Incumbent

(three positions are open and brackets listed were chosen by the candidates)

UPDATE:

Please note that while Mr. Sahmiq Syed submitted an adequate number of petitions, he has been disqualified for not meeting the minimum residency requirement of living in Teaneck (1 year).

Board of Ed incumbent Victoria Fisher acknowledged in a social media post yesterday that the “campaign won’t be easy”.
Apparently, this is the first setback for the “Trust Equity Access” team.