By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent LYNDHURST – After what Lyndhurst Mayor Robert Giangeruso characterized as “33 years of starts and stops,” the township – with help from Bergen County – is finally beginning to see the start of improvements to the intersection at Kingsland and Riverside Aves. The changes […]
A Belleville man was among three defendants convicted earlier this month in federal court for their roles in a $15 million mortgage fraud scheme involving condominiums in New Jersey and Florida, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported. Last month, another Belleville resident pleaded guilty in the same scam. According to […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent KEARNY – The Walmart in Kearny is conveniently located on Harrison Ave., with easy access to Rt. 280, the N.J. Turnpike and feeder roads to Newark and Jersey City. This is a boon for shoppers. However, according to Kearny police, it is […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Four former Kearny workers, including a union chief, have lost the first round of a bid to reverse their New Year’s Eve dismissals nearly three years ago. In a 21-page ruling issued Sept. 3, the state Office of Administrative Law […]
Don your favorite pink attire and join St. Michael’s Medical Center for a Breast Cancer Awareness Month event — Breast Health & You — on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at SMMC’s Connie Dwyer Breast Center, 111 Central Ave., Newark. Dr. Nadine Pappas, director of […]
There are certain people you meet in life with whom you strike a chord almost immediately. It feels like you were destined to meet them. This happens mainly because they are like you on some levels and you see a part of yourself in their personality. Communication with them is effortless and time flies when you are with them. These relations may not necessarily involve emotions of love, but instead can also be of those that command respect, appreciation and true friendship. You would recognize these special bonds when you know you can communicate with that person without having to use a physical medium such as the phone or a computer. Your thoughts and your feelings are enough to telepathically connect with the person.
Telepathy is the communication of one mind with another using only the senses. It is the process of transferring thoughts using your energy. You may have experienced receiving a phone call at the very moment from someone you were just thinking about. Some may call it a coincidence but I believe that when you think about a person who you share such an intense rapport with, you are extending your energy in the universe to touch the person’s mind which enables them to think about you that very moment. The message you are sending across is comprised of your emotions, feelings, memories and opinions which convey the same to another mind ready to receive it. It does take practice to try and achieve success in communicating this way. But with a little effort you will know how exciting this can really be.
Animals use telepathy on a regular basis – so much so that we have programs where people are taught to communicate telepathically with animals and get them to behave in a desirable manner. Although primitive, it is interesting to know the possibilities of what this form of expression may do for all of us. The only requirement here is to surrender to the mystical ways of the universe. I ask you to keep an open mind, and flow with life believing in the beauty of nature that surrounds us. And if you received it well, I just sent out a message wishing you a great life ahead.
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By Randy Neumann
Defined benefit pension plans, those fully paid for by an employer, went out with “your father’s Oldsmobile.” Today’s defined contribution pension plans, mostly paid for by employees, are the new normal.
The Pension Protection Act (PPA) passed by Congress in 2006 enabled employers to automatically enroll employees into their 401(k) plans. To take it a step further, chances are good that you will be automatically enrolled in your company’s plan.
A 2010 study of 120 large U. S. companies performed by Aon Hewitt, a human resources firm, found that 60 percent of the companies surveyed automatically enrolled their employees in defined contribution retirement plans such as 401(k)’s. In Aon Hewitt’s 2006 survey, only 24 percent of the companies surveyed had bothered to do so. Auto enrollment is not the same as being sent to a Gulag—an employee has the choice of “opting out.” However, in most cases, opting out would not be a good idea.
Well, with company pension plans now a thing of the past, and Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in the headlines daily with funding problems, perhaps we should help to secure our own retirement. The following retirement plans are similar to one another and get their names from the Internal Revenue Code: 401(k)—private sector plans, 403(b)—not-for-profit plans, and 457—government plans. These plans provide the most efficient way to fund retirement savings.
On the front side, you get an income tax deduction for your contributions. Along the way, taxes are deferred; therefore, you do not pay income tax on gains within the plan. You only pay tax when you take withdrawals, and, generally, you will be in a lower tax bracket (retired) when you do. But what if you don’t want to pay taxes on withdrawals? Many companies are now offering Roth plans in addition to traditional plans. With a Roth, you don’t get a deduction for your contributions, but you get a deferral on the taxes, and you don’t pay taxes on withdrawals (nor do your heirs).
So, for retirement planning, “4” plans are the way to go.
Does automatic enrollment lead to plan participation? It seems to greatly encourage it. The Aon Hewitt study found that 85.3 percent of auto-enrolled workers were participating in the retirement plans, bringing overall defined contribution retirement plan participation to 75.8 percent of the workforce.
Further, auto-enrollment seems to encourage “growth” investing. When you auto-enroll in a 401(k), you are often presented with a suggested asset allocation including target-date funds (a hybrid that automatically resets assets—stocks, bonds and cash—according to a hypothetical investor’s needs).
Younger plan participants seem to be embracing this choice and ramping up their ownership of equities. A new Vanguard study shows that equity allocations for the typical 20-year-old plan participant went from 40.7 percent to 84.7 percent between 2003 and 2010, and there was also a notable increase in equity ownership for plan participants aged 20-30 in that period. Last year, 61 percent of Vanguard plans offered workers default investment choices—89 percent of these plan sponsors picked target-date funds as the default choice.
Well, if a teaspoon of medicine is good, wouldn’t a gallon be better?
In 2010, President Obama proposed requiring any employer in business for more than two years with 10 or more employees to sponsor direct-deposit Roth IRAs, with 3 percent of their employees’ salaries going into the accounts. The National Small Business Association (NSBA) called the idea “unfair” to small businesses and “very problematic.” No momentum seems to be building for its revival.
Given the job situation, would this promote or inhibit job creation?
So, is automatic enrollment “the answer?” Since workers need to save more for retirement, auto-enroll 401(k) plans at least force them to be acquainted with the awesome potential of these retirement savings vehicles. The Aon Hewitt study seems to show a path from enrollment to interest to investment.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for the individual. Randy Neumann CFP (R) is a registered representative with securities and insurance offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. He can be reached at 600 East Crescent Ave., Upper Saddle River, 201-291-9000.
Mary (Banach) France
Mary (Banach) France, 68, died on Monday, Jan. 30 at her home in Harrison.
Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral service was held in the funeral home, followed by private cremation. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.thiele-reid.com
Mary was born in Newark and lived in Kearny before moving to Harrison in 1986.
She worked in the medical records department in West Hudson Hospital, Kearny for 15 years, retiring 12 years ago.
Mrs. France is survived by her daughter Dawn Tully (P.J.); son Robert France, Jr.; brothers John and Paul Banach and her two granddaughters Kelsey and Morgan Tully.
Martha Suscavage, of North Arlington, died on Feb. 1. She was 92. Arrangements were by Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. Burial was in Holy Cross Cemetery.
She is survived by her children Christine and Michael Suscavage, Elizabeth Stanek, Katherine Killeen and Marian Paznek; sister of Gertrude Wood and Val Hnatiuk; also surviving are eight grandchildren.
By Anthony J. Machcinski
Lyndhurst High School teacher Scott Rubinetti, a Nutley resident, was arrested on Jan. 25 and charged with sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and witness tampering charges.
Rubinetti, who also functions as the high school’s head football coach, was arrested as a result of an investigation conducted by members of the Bergen County Prosecutors Office Special Victims Unit.
According to a press release issued jointly by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and the Lyndhurst Police Department, Rubinetti was arrested after it was learned that he engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a former Lyndhurst High School student. The alleged victim told authorities that inappropriate sexual conduct had occurred between 2009 and 2010 when she was a senior at Lyndhurst High School.
The incident was first reported by a teacher to Lyndhurst School Superintendent Tracey Marinelli.
Bail for Rubinetti was set at $150,000 with no 10% option and no contact with the victim or the victim’s family.
Rubinetti was hired by Lyndhurst High School in 2009 and teaches physical education, fitness for life, and health classes.
Under Rubinetti’s tutelage, the Golden Bears reached the NJSIAA playoffs for he fi rst time since 2004, scoring a victory over Rutherford in the first round.
“At the moment, (Rubinetti) is suspended with pay,” said Superintendent Marinelli.
“The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” added Prosecutor John Molinelli.
Rubinetti’s arraignment is scheduled for January 31.
By Ron Leir
Back on May 12, 2005, westbound commuters were briefly stranded when an electrical fire struck Amtrak’s Portal Bridge, which carries train tracks over the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus.
New York Fire Dept. fire boats were dispatched to help combat the blaze but Kearny could do nothing to help since its fire department had no vessel with firefighting capability.
Enroute to the scene, New York’s Bravest discovered a pier fire in South Kearny, recalled Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl.
But the department’s status is expected to change soon, now that the town’s governing body voted Jan. 24 to authorize advertising for bids for a fire boat.
No date was set for receiving the bids since specifi cations for the craft must first be drafted but Dyl is content that at least the mayor and Town Council have started the process to acquire the vessel.
Dyl said that no local tax dollars will be spent; instead, he said, the town will use a $344,000 fiscal 2010 grant the Fire Department secured from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Of that total, $192,225 will go toward purchase of the boat and trailer; $134,078 will go for equipment; and $18,350 for training, according to FEMA.
Kearny qualified for funding as a first responder agency and Area Maritime Security Committee member that provides maritime security services within the Port of New York and New Jersey, a “Group 1” port, FEMA said.
The boat, which will be about 25.5 feet long, will be outfitted with a fire pump designed to shoot up to 750 gallons of water per minute and will also have the capacity to apply foam to contain burning petroleum spills and tank fires.
The vessel will also be stocked with chlorine and radiation detection devices and water rescue paraphernalia such as throw ropes, life preservers, life rings and dry suits for three crew members.
“We’ll have firefighting capabilities to respond to anything on the waterfront, whether it’s boats, piers or bridges,” Dyl said.
“As the river continues to get cleaned up,” Dyl said, “everybody’s encouraging activity on the water so we’ll be there if something should go wrong.”
Which is all the more important, he said, since fire vessels from Jersey City, Bayonne, Hoboken and North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue “are all based on the Hudson River, but nothing on this side (of the meadows).”
Another significant advantage for Kearny is that the boat will be designed for low clearance under the Portal Bridge at high tide, Dyl said.
Dyl said the fire boat could be launched from any of four points, depending on the location of the fire. Those are the Vincent Marina, the Passaic Ave. yacht club, Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus or North Arlington.
The Kearny Police Department has two boats for water rescues and it most recently put them to use during Hurricane Irene to bail out motorists trapped by flood waters.
In other developments at the Jan. 24 meeting, the governing body voted to award a contract for $686,114 to Montana Construction, of Lodi, for the North Hackensack Ave. storm water drainage project, together with the Kearny Municipal Utilities Authority, funded by the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund.
Another contractor had underbid Montana, with a bid of $658,789, but Township Attorney Greg Castano said that bid was disqualified because of “defective consent of surety.” A total of 11 vendors submitted bids ranging up to $1 million for the project, according to the town’s consulting engineer Kevin O’Sullivan.
Water main repairs continue on Bergen Ave. and on Radley St. where, according to Santos, a worker was hurt last Wednesday when during excavation of the street, there was a soil collapse that caused a section of metal plate to “squeeze” the worker. He was taken to an area hospital for treatment of a non-life threatening injury, the mayor said.
Addressing residents’ complaints about potholes and trenching along Devon St., between the Belleville Turnpike and Stuyvesant Ave., O’Sullivan said the town could try and “make it passable” for the winter season but would have to wait until March to effect permanent repairs when asphalt plans reopen. Until then, he said, “we can’t come up with anything else to stabilize the road.”
Unfortunately, noted Councilwoman Barbara McCurrie, “it’s only going to get worse in the meantime.”
Santos said the town had hoped “to be done (with paving) by last summer” but a legal entanglement involving a contractor’s complaint prevented that from happening.
The governing body agreed to defer to its next meeting a request by King St. residents to install a speed hump on the block to get motorists to slow down.
Police Chief John Dowie said the department did a traffic survey of the street in August 2010 and found that most cars were following the 25 mph limit and that the accidents that occurred were “not speed-related.”
But Santos pointed out that the town had put in speed humps on Devon, between Quincy and Liberty; and on Webster where, in his judgment, traffic conditions were “not as bad as on Devon.”
The mayor and council also agreed to delay adoption of an ordinance revising towing regulations and fees after receiving written comments filed by attorney Fred Gillespie on behalf of Moran Towing and after hearing from John Duray of Afton Auto Body.
In a phone interview, Santos said the existing towing ordinance hasn’t been revised since 1998 and “there have been complaints by drivers and by towers that we need to clarify some of the regulations and revise the fees out of fairness to both the towers and the public and to create transparency.”
So the amended ordinance attempts to clearly identify fees for specific services and to break them down by weight of the vehicle, Santos said.
Santos said the revised fees were based on fees charged by other communities in the area.
“This was not a straightforward exercise,” the mayor said. “It took our ordinance committee many months to research.”
Anthony J. Machcinski
Kearny resident, 23-year-old Nelson Coelho, was struck and killed while attempting to cross the Staten Island Expressway.
Police said the accident happened on Jan. 25 at 5:45 p.m. when Coelho tried to get get from the north side to the south side of the Expressway. As he made his way into westbound traffic, he was struck by a 2005 Toyota Camry driving in the left lane.
Officers who responded to the scene saw Coelho unconscious and unresponsive on the roadway. He was immediately transported to Richmond University Hospital on Staten Island where he was pronounced dead.
The New York Police Department is currently holding an investigation into the accident but believe there is no criminality behind the accident that involved a 31-ear old white male who was driving the Camry.
Earlier that day, Coelho was involved in an accident, but, according to the NYPD, “the two incidents are separate and we have not determined why he was walking on the Expressway.”
Coelho was a 2006 graduate of Kearny High School and had been enrolled at West Virginia University, working on a degree in psychology.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia, Coelho was arrested March 29 on drug charges and on September 15, pled guilty to distribution of oxycodone within 1,000 feet of West Virginia University. He was scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 3.
The Jersey Journal had initially reported that Coelho was initially involved in a separate collision on a local road and may have been trying to walk home, but those reports had not been confirmed by The Observer at press time.
Viewing for Coelho as scheduled for Jan. 30 with a funeral mass scheduled on Jan. 31 at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny.
By Anthony Machcinski
With all the negative events that occur every day, every hour, and every minute that the world exists, something as simple as one boy can inspire all the hope needed.
Bruno Testa, a forward on the Kearny Optimist soccer team in the Kearny recreation program walked with his teammates to receive the trophy for winning the Division 4 championship. It’s not the fact that the Kearny Optimist team won, because a team wins every year, but it’s the fact that Bruno is walking.
He was born with hemimelia, which is an absence or shortening of the fibula bone.
Bruno’s condition was realized when Bruno’s mother Andrea was seven months pregnant.
“It was told that the best thing would be if she would abort,” said dad Jose Testa. “(Doctors) told us that it would be much worse than what he turned out to be. They were unsure if he had internal organs.”
Believing in the gift of life, the parents decided against abortion, saying, “Whatever God gives us, be happy with.”
Otherwise a healthy boy, Bruno was fitted with prosthetic legs as a young child and learned to get around with the devices.
“He was always very active and it became very natural to him,” Jose said. “He was always like that. He always loved sports.”
A natural athlete, Bruno started playing soccer in the Kearny Recreation system. Eventually, he crossed paths with his Kearny Optomist coach Jack DiLima.
DiLima, a member of the Kearny Scots athletic club, became the coach of the Optimists team after Kearny Recreation members attended a Scots club practice asking for volunteers.
When DiLima volunteered, he never thought he’d have this kind of experience.
“Volunteering is the most rewarding thing; I think I even waited too long,” says DiLima.
“It was actually my first year coaching and I didn’t know what to expect.”
Originally expecting a challenge, DiLima was met with surprise when he realized that Bruno was actually really good.
“He dribbled the ball better than half the kids on that team. That’s what put me at ease,” DiLima explained. “That’s when I said to myself, I’m not going to treat him any different.”
One of the blessings DiLima experienced was the respect other players had for Bruno.
“The boys grew up with him. They don’t treat him any different,” DiLima said. DiLima then gave an example, recounting one of his recent experiences with the team.
“During practice sessions, I would conduct scrimmages and pick two captains and let them pick teams. The remarkable thing was that he was never picked last. He was always third, fourth, or fi fth in the order. He was wanted to play with.”
DiLima’s experiences with the young boy have brought a different meaning to his life.
“It makes me cherish the things I have and go as far as I can with any ability,” DiLima said. “He is a remarkable experience for anyone. I hope this inspires others to volunteer to the Youth Soccer Program. The program can’t function without volunteers.”
Despite his son playing with the obstacles he has, Jose was not worried about his son.
“We were worried about other children, to be honest,” said Jose, noting that he tells his son that he has to be careful with his prosthetics.
Bruno’s life is made even more remarkable when his father lists the things his son does and is able to do.
“He played basketball in school, a season of football, went swimming, ice skating, snowboarding. He just loves it, it’s his life,” explained Jose, even remarking that his son, who also has an impairment in his right hand, is able to play the violin and has performed in several concerts.
As for Bruno, his love for soccer can be described by one broad sentence. When asked what his favorite part about soccer, he said, “No (there isn’t one particular thing), I like all of it.”
By Ron Leir
Anthony De Oliveira had just driven home from a shopping trip. With his arms encumbered with purchases, he forgot to lock his car doors as he went inside. The following morning, the Harrison resident found his car door ajar and realized an intruder had been inside. Luckily, De Oliveira had left no valuables in the car. Then he had a thought: Maybe the two small surveillance cameras he’d posted outside the front entrance of his home had caught the would-be burglar on tape.
And, in fact, as he discovered while rewinding the tape, they had.
A review of the tape with local police showed a man entering the vehicle and, soon after, as he was exiting, hurriedly closing the door by pushing the door window, thereby leaving a clear set of fingerprints. Unfortunately, no arrest record turned up when cops fed the prints into a computerized criminal record base. And they only had the man’s side image.
Still, police had come close to solving a crime with the aid of a resident’s technology.
Taking its cue from De Oliveira, the Harrison Police Department wants to enlist the help of other local property owners willing to offer an extra set of electronic “eyes” to help protect the community.
Police Chief Derek Kearns calls the campaign “Neighborhood E-Watch,” a new application of the old idea of neighbors watching out for each other and reporting suspicious activities to police.
Kearns said the e-watch is an extension of Det. Sgt. Ed Markowski’s efforts in setting up, with Pinnacle Systems, the department’s wireless CCTV system three years ago that saw 24 security cameras posted at various street intersections, the Public Library and Red Bull Arena, which have aided in criminal investigations and have led to several arrests.
“Now,” Markowski said, “we’re asking residents to take a greater role in helping us protect their neighborhoods. Their many private cameras could overwhelmingly contribute to our existing (electronic surveillance) throughout the town.”
So that it can get an inventory of the volume and location of home-based cameras, the Police Department is inviting Harrison residents with such cameras to call the Detective Bureau at 973-483-4100 or visit and give their name, address and phone number, the number of cameras they have, where they’re focused, if they’re recorded and for how long the recordings are saved.
If a crime has been committed in an area where police know cameras are located, and recordings are available, detectives can contact a cameraequipped resident to find out if their equipment was operable at the time of the crime and then arrange to burn a CD or DVD of the recording so that police can use it as an investigative tool, according to Kearns and Markowski.
Having access to such evidence will save detectives time they’d otherwise have to spend canvassing a crime area to find clues and, thereby speed the process of finding a suspect, Markowski said.
A camera registry becomes all the more valuable at a time when municipal police forces are shrinking, Kearns said.
“The days of a cop walking the beat is rapidly becoming a thing of the past,” Kearns said. “When I came on the force in 1989 we had 67 cops; now I’m down to 37. Budgets can’t support larger police departments so we need to utilize technology more and more to supplement our existing personnel.”
Kearns and Markowski said the Police Department cameras have aided in last year’s arrests of a suspect in the robbery of a jewelry store at Cleveland Ave. and Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. and a man who allegedly committed a robbery at Harrison and Davis Aves. In another case, police determined an out-of-town cabbie lied about being robbed after checking the tape from a camera.
In East Orange, Kearns noted, the Police Department is preparing to install a “lightbased intervention system” by which the department’s cameras will be electronically linked to high-powered lights programmed to track suspects trying to flee a crime scene that the cameras are focused on.
Once the homeowner registry is set up and rolling, Kearns said the next step will be developing a comparable registry for local business owners with surveillance cameras and the owners of commercial parking lots that have been victimized by break-ins and thefts.
Since late December, for example, six late-model Honda Civics have been stolen from several lots in the south end of town. All but one were later recovered, intact, parked and abandoned in Newark, Markowski said. Police remain hopeful of cracking this case, he said.
Meanwhile, the department is relying on the public to help make the town safer through technology.
“I’m fully behind the project,” said De Oliveira, a former Harrison school custodian. “All homeowners should invest in this. The equipment is very affordable and easy to install. I realize that police officers can’t sit in front of your house and wait for something to happen but citizens can help them out. I’ve encouraged my neighbors to do it. People have to get more involved. Our police force has shrunk so we have to do our part to help.”
By Jeff Bahr
Kim S. Morris, 42, of Belleville, a part-time court clerk at the Essex County Courthouse, was sentenced to 33 months in prison on Jan. 23 for her participation in a mortgage scheme that defrauded Wells Fargo bank, and for structuring money orders to evade transaction reporting and identification requirements.
According to court documents, Morris confessed to applying for a mortgage loan at Wells Fargo bank in January 2008 when she completed a fraudulent Uniform Residential Loan Application to procure $624,000 for a home loan. The application contained a number of material misrepresentations including the inflation of Morris’ personal income and falsifying the name of her employer. Operating directly off of this faulty information, Wells Fargo extended a home loan to Morris.
Morris came clean about her role in the illegal structuring of money orders. She admitted that, during a period stretching from March 2008 through June of 2009, she structured approximately 110 money orders totaling $84,855.55 specifically to evade reporting and identification requirements.
In addition to her jail sentence, Morris received three years of supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $708,855. It’s unclear if Morris has retained any or all of the proceeds from the crimes, but in the event that she isn’t able to square the debt, authorities will seize other assets or work out a long-term payment plan, according to Office of Public Affairs spokesperson Rebekah Carmichael.
U.S. attorney Paul Fishman credited U.S. Postal inspectors, under the director of Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett of the Newark Division; special agents with the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell in Newark; and special agents with IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge JoAnn S. Zuniga in Newark, for the investigation leading to the sentence.
By Ron Leir
Party politics – it’s the dominant part of the electoral process in many communities around the country – from the Presidential right down to the local level. As part of that process, a candidate is linked to a political party, for good or ill.
But in Bloomfield, one elected official wants to change that way of doing business.
Councilman-at-large Bernard Hamilton wants to shed the mantle of partisan elections when it comes to Bloomfield voters having to declare themselves Democrats or Republicans to vote the party line for mayor and Township Council.
“I want to have a more inclusive electoral process,” Hamilton said. “The majority of voters here are non-registered independents. People tend to flip back and forth (between the major parties) just so they can vote in primary elections.”
Then there’s the practical matter of dollars.
This year, township residents are being asked to vote in three elections: the Board of Education election/budget in April, the June primary for state offices and the November Presidential and general election – the cost of which is passed on the taxpayers, he said.
That expense can be reduced, in part, by aligning the school election with the November election so they can be on the same November ballot, Hamilton suggested.
Now that the State Legislature has cleared the way for such a shift and the governor has signed off on it, Hamilton said the change can be implemented on the local level by a resolution of the mayor and Township Council, by a public referendum or by Board of Education action.
“It’s important to be more inclusive and get more participation from the public,” he said. “Typically for our Board of Education elections, we barely get 2,000 people to come out. That’s 2.5% of our 48,000 population.”
And, Hamilton said, for municipal elections, with a turnout that averages between 8,000 and 9,000, “all you need is 600 to 700 votes to win a ward seat (on the Township Council).”
“There’s too much pressure to support candidates by joining a political party,” Hamilton said.
Currently, the local political roster on the Bloomfield governing body is exclusively Democratic, including Hamilton, and the Dems hold a 500- vote plurality over the GOP on the township party registration rolls, according to Hamilton.
“I’m a registered Democrat but I’m not backed by a machine but rather by substance,” he said.
It would be a much better system, he said, if candidates ran in non-partisan elections where they aren’t tied to a political party and they can stand on their own and articulate their positions. And, at the same time, all those independent voters can come out in one fell swoop, thereby opening up the electoral process.
“This is an issue that affects every single person in Bloomfield,” Hamilton says.
At a recent Township Council conference session, Hamilton brought up for discussion the notion of jettisoning partisan municipal elections in favor of non-partisan contests but when it came to a vote to bring the issue to the table, the matter deadlocked 3-3, with one council member absent.
Joining Hamilton in the vote were Mayor Raymond McCarthy and Second Ward Councilman Nicholas Joanow. Opposed were First Ward Councilman Eric Chalet, Third Ward Councilman Carlos Bernard and Councilman-at-large Michael Venezia.
Councilwoman-at-large Peggy O’Boyle Dunigan, recovering from knee surgery, couldn’t attend.
But Hamilton isn’t about to let the matter die.
“I’m going to bring it up again,” he says.
However, instead of forming a PAC (Political Action Committee) to push it, Hamilton’s present strategy is to “let some groundswell build. I feel Bloomfield residents are smart enough to vet this out as being in the best interests of the township.”
In the meantime, he’s asked the township attorney to research the issue.
Since the next municipal election won’t happen until 2013 – when the mayoralty and three at-large council seats are up for grabs – Hamilton has got time to make his case.