Today’s Herald News Editorial Says Passaic City Council Members Act Like “Children on the Playground,” & says they were “Not Thinking of Interests of the Taxpayers”

16 08 2007

Herald News Editorial

Today the Passaic City Council gets a second chance to reverse a May resolution that granted the members city-paid health benefits after 15 years of service, a decade before hundreds of city employees would become eligible for similar benefits. You’d have to be 62 years old or more to get the health benefits.

The measure, which would benefit Mayor Samuel Rivera, who is 60 and has 18 years of service, must be viewed against the backdrop of the state providing the city $1.5 million in distressed cities funds in 2006. It must also be viewed against the council’s January approval of a $72.8 million budget, which includes a 9 percent property tax increase. Clearly, now is not the time for Passaic and its taxpayers to take on additional financial burdens.

Nevertheless, in May, council members approved a resolution that potentially helps themselves at the expense of the taxpayers.

Earlier this month, after the May resolution came to light, Passaic residents howled in protest. Council President Gary S. Schaer, who had supported what he now calls an “egregious mistake.” He promised the resolution would be rescinded during the Aug. 7 meeting. It wasn’t.

Instead, the 3-3 tie vote with one abstention let the measure stand. Schaer and Councilmen Chaim Munk and Daniel Schwartz voted to rescind the resolution. Voting to keep it in place were Councilmen Gerardo Fernandez, Jose Garcia and Marcellus Jackson. Jackson has said he has voted to sustain the measure because he hopes the benefit would be extended to all city workers. That means he supports keeping in place a benefit the city can’t afford in the hope of extending it to still more people. That’s hardly a compelling argument. Maritza Colon Montanez abstained since she was not a member of the council when the measure was enacted.

On Aug. 9, Schaer called a special meeting for this morning in a second attempt to rescind the health-coverage resolution. His request comes on the heels of an outpouring of outrage from city taxpayers and biting attacks from the Democratic assemblyman’s (36th District) political foes.

Still, even if the council reverses its spring course of action today, which it should, Passaic residents should not forget: the council members, who serve part-time, were not thinking of interests of the taxpayers when they voted themselves retirement health benefits after only 15 years of service.

Further, like the aborted effort by the city’s library board to sell the Reid Memorial Library, the public and the press had to force the council to reconsider an egregious mistake wiser heads never would have made.

The “do-over” can be a useful way to resolve conflict among children on the playground. But in adult civic affairs, the council’s second and much needed “do-over” today casts doubts on its judgment, motives and competence.



2 responses

16 08 2007

“children on the Playground!” I love it!

16 08 2007

So what happened? Did the “children” rescind the benefits or not?

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