Borough Hall: Up in Smoke

Well it took the strength of two council members in Highlands, KL Martin and Linda Mazzola, but borough residents were finally heard at a council meeting and the proposed $10 million borough hall bonding was shot down by the votes against it by these two council members last night. Can’t give all the intimate details about the discussions and public hearing that preceded the vote, but kudos to Mr. Martin and Ms Mazzola who both said they were listening to the people. A bonding issue requires four votes, not simply a majority, so Mr. Martin not voting with the crowd was the deciding factor. Ms Mazzola had said in the past that unless she had a warranty in writing from FEMA they were indeed going to finance part of it, she did not want to burden the taxpayers. And Mr. Martin said the same thing, adding he didn’t get elected for himself, but rather to represent the people. And he feels from everything he’s heard, the overwhelming majority of them didn’t like the $10 million proposal and accompanying tax rate if FEMA didn’t come through. It is a shame, however, that government officials can’t trust government officials, but it’s true. Why does anyone think FEMA would hand over 5 million dollars now when they haven’t done it in the ten years or so since Sandy? Is it because borough officials never asked for it before? Is it because they didn’t want to fund it before? Is it for some other reason? Who knows, cause this Mayor nor the last has never said. Certainly happy though that Mr. Martin and Ms. Mazzola were against a 5 million dollar gamble. Can’t give the intimate details on the vote simply because I couldn’t get to the meeting, what with there being no official announcement that all of a sudden virtual meetings are gone. In spite of not one, but two requests, I got no response from borough hall on what ADA accommodations they would make for my handicap, one that affects the vast majority of senior citizens. (yes, I’m definitely one of those!!!) It would seem that now that everyone has gotten used to virtual meetings, it should now be possible to offer meetings both virtually and in person. Only private citizen Kim Skorka cared enough to be sure people who couldn’t make the meeting could still get an idea of what was going on. She simply had the meeting live on Facebook, and while imperfect, it gave those at home, and those who want to see it again or for the first time, the opportunity to go on the Highlands Facebook page and see the action live. Like her or not, listen to her opinions because they’re all based on thoughtfulness, research, thinking out of the box, and a genuine concern for the future of Highlands. The same goes true for former Councilwoman Claudette D’Arrigo who also gave some very moving and deeply felt remembrances tonight of the late Carol Bucco. Claudette almost made you feel Carol’s presence in the room and it was heartfelt and true. There’s something else I’ve been wondering about and haven’t figured out on my own yet. Lots of things happen at council meetings….say, the introduction of seven ordinances at a meeting that also had public hearings on two other ordinances, practically all of which will have long lasting impacts on Highlands residents for generations. When do you think council members come up with all these things? Surely they don’t do it together, do they? Of course not, because there haven’t been any notices of executive meetings. So do the elected officials even get to read these ordinances, none of which is cheap to introduce, you know, before putting them on the agenda? Does each one decide he or she will come up with an ordinance and drop it in the laps of the others at the meeting? Somebody must know about them, since they’re on the agenda. But executive sessions must also be advertised.

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