The Record Editorial Calls Passaic’s Elected Officials “self-dealing,” “wasteful” and “ignorant!”

9 08 2007

Thursday, August 9, 2007

EDITORIAL

MOST MODERN governments, including New Jersey’s, are coming to grips with their inability to pay for generous health and retirement benefits for their employees.

Slowly, painfully, they are introducing the copays and 401(k)s that private-sector workers got used to long ago. Enter the unfrozen caveman of the public sector, the city of Passaic.

Mayor Samuel Rivera and the City Council have gone boldly against the prevailing tides of frugality and responsibility by expanding the city’s retirement benefits — though, in a show of restraint, only with respect to themselves. Earlier this year, the council unanimously agreed to a measure proposed by the administration that promises free retirement health care to elected officials who reach age 62 and have at least 15 years of service. The rest of the city’s employees must have 25 years.

As Rivera has since all but admitted to the Herald News, the measure is tailored for his benefit. Rivera is 60 years old and has 18 years of service as a mayor and councilman. His second term ends in two years.

Some senior council members could stand to benefit, too, which may help explain what happened this week. After the Herald News reported on the measure, City Council President Gary Schaer apologized for the “egregious mistake” and offered up a repeal at Tuesday’s council meeting. But the council could not muster the votes to pass it, deadlocking 3-3 with one member abstaining.

Even in the context of Passaic City Hall’s historic imperviousness to reform, this was a remarkable turn of events. The elected officials of Passaic had endorsed expanded perks for themselves not once, but twice.

Perhaps the amount of money involved here is small compared to the city’s budget of more than $70 million. But we doubt it looks that way to the city’s property taxpayers, whose levy rose about 9 percent this year. Or to the state, which contributed $1.5 million in distressed-cities aid to Passaic last year and is now facing entreaties to come up with more. It should not provide any if this measure remains in place.

Most important, this measure is emblematic of what’s wrong with the government in Passaic. It’s self-dealing, wasteful and ruled by men much more than by laws. Rivera is under the mistaken impression that the city treasury is his, not the people’s. The rest of the city’s elected officials either share his ignorance or are all too willing to go along with it.

See original article here.

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2 responses

9 08 2007
Fedupinpassaic

Wow, why is it that an editor that doesn’t live in Passaic knows a crook when he sees one, but Passaic Taxpayers are blind yukels. Maybe we deserve it for just shutting up and letting them run roughshod over us.

10 08 2007
Disenchanted

I never lived in a town where the corruption is so in your face as it is in Passaic, this is sickening, undemocratic and makes me want to leave the town. Mind you I lived in Passaic for only 6 months, but had previously lived in places like Newark and Williamsburg, NY, both not your bucolic run-of-the-mill type of places.

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