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Perth Amboy Reorganization Meeting

Lisa Nanton is sworn in as Council President by City Clerk Elaine Jasko. Joel Pabon whom Nanton succeeded as President holds the Bible while City Attorney Mark Blunda holds the mic. *Photo by Paul W. Wang

Lisa Nanton is sworn in as Council President by City Clerk Elaine Jasko. Joel Pabon whom Nanton succeeded as President holds the Bible while City Attorney Mark Blunda holds the mic.
*Photo by Paul W. Wang

PERTH AMBOY – Nominations were made at the onset of the City Council Reorganization Meeting. Present Council President Joel Pabon nominated Councilwoman Lisa Nanton and it was seconded by William Petrick. There were no other nominations. City Clerk Elaine Jasko took a roll call and all the Council Members voted unanimously to make Nanton the next Council President.

When the meeting was open to the public, Resident Stanley Sierakowski had a question about Resolution R-4-1/15 Authorizing transfer of CY 2014 Budget appropriation reserves in the amount of $750,000.

He asked if it was for the 2014 or 2015 Budget and if it is dedicated to any particular expenditure.

CFO Jill Goldy answered, “A transfer can be made from one fund to another account. When this item first came up, we were short one vote. This is a reserve for the 2014 Budget Insurance Accounts. We overestimated an amount in one account and underestimated another account.”

Perth Amboy Democratic Party Chair Leslie Dominguez-Rodriguez again reiterated having the elections move to partisanship. She addressed Council President Nanton. “I hope that now as Council President, you will change your mind and see that it’s best for us move to partisanship. We have not saved any money by having all three elections held in November.”

She also piggybacked off of Councilman Fernando Gonzalez about the voter suppression and harassment of people after the 11/4/14 election.

Resident David Caba congratulated all three Councilmen who were sworn in. “We all have to work together to move forward. Critics are good and we all have our ups and downs, but we will make it better.”

Turning to Councilman Joel Pabon, he complimented him on doing a great job as President. Caba was puzzled as to what made Pabon decide not to go for Council President again. “You (Pabon) ran a professional meeting.”

Pabon said, “I will answer that question in due time.”

Former Councilman and the Council President before Joel Pabon, Ken Balut was upset that the recent police promotions were not mentioned in the paper and that they were deserving. He complained, “The outside politicians are still running the town. We pay too much money to the MCIA (Middlesex County Improvement Authority). How much money since 2000 did we give to the new County Park? I got duped into giving money to a developer when he was in negotiations about this land.”

Fayette Street Resident Iris Rodriguez still was not happy about the parking or lack of it for the residents on her street. “There are three bars on the street where I live and I received a $60 parking ticket at 4 a.m. There was a Police Car used for private duty at one of the bars. When I called the Police dispatcher to make complaints they were very rude. I will complain until the parking problem is addressed. Let the bars pay for valet parking if they can afford security officers.”

Resident and former Councilman Robert Sottilaro received a chuckle from those in attendance when he told the Council to relax, “I’m not here to criticize you.” He commended former Business Administrator Greg Fehrenbach and CFO Jill Goldy for, “A heck of a job you did to improve our bond ratings.” He had a piece of sound advice for the Council. He told them, “To vote with your conscience – not for your convenience. When you deliberate, vote by principals and not by politics.”

Business Owner Virginia Lugo said, “Our ratings are higher, but we got there with foreclosures going up because people cannot afford to pay their taxes. What about jobs for the residents? We have a high unemployment rate and a huge homeless issue.”

Lugo said, “I’m assisting a client with a home that is assessed at $150,000 and the taxes are $10,000 a year for that property.”

After Lugo made that statement, Tax Assessor JoAnn Jimenez said, “That is misinformation. The average assessment is approximately $273,000 for residential properties and average taxes are $7,400.

Resident Alan Silber also drew a chuckle from the crowd. He too, was curious about Pabon not being reappointed as Council President. Addressing Pabon, “I appreciated the way you ran the meetings, and you were even keeled. The last Council President before you was the President for 20 years.”

It was then pointed out to Silber that the last Council President before Pabon was Kenneth Balut who was practically sitting in front of him in the audience. It was at that point that Silber realized it was former Council President Peter Jimenez that was President for 20 years.

Silber said, “We should do away with the Democrat and Republican Parties.” He brought up the fact that Councilman Petrick thanked many people that didn’t even live in town (e.g. State Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assemblyman from the 20th District Joseph Cryan) but contributed money to their campaign. “There’s got to be more oversight. Parks are being mentioned, yet they haven’t been completed.”

Resident Stanley Sierakowski spoke about Police Chief Benjamin Ruiz being suspended by the Mayor after the Prosecutor’s Office charged Ruiz with theft of services. Sierakowski also talked about certain sections of the town who received tax deductions and the poorer home owners received none.

Resident Linda Ferreira wanted to thank the person who took care of the street sign on her street. “I like to see elected officials coming here, but I don’t like it when they pick sides. I see a lot of pictures of photo ops, but there’s a lot of talk and no action.”

Rabbi Ari Saks said, “This is the first time that I have spoken at a Council Meeting. The police promotions did take place.” He had a question to ask the Council, “How do you define unity and diversity?”

The Council said, “That can be discussed at another meeting.”

Pastor Bernadette Falcon Lopez addressed the homeless situation stating that, “There are several soup kitchens and organizations who feed the hungry everyday – not just around the holidays.”

Fellow Pastor Gregory Pabon said, “Everyone has the right to come and speak their mind.” He asked that the Council make sure they weigh the pro’s and con’s of every speaker. “Don’t base what you will say on what you think will come out in the newspapers. Don’t be intimidated.”

Resident Wilfredo Soto came up to speak and told the Council that he will keep them in his prayers. “We should thank the Mayor for the action that she took (suspending Ruiz without pay). Years ago a cop shot two Mexicans and he was suspended with pay.”

Soto challenged some of the statements made about the high number of foreclosures. “A lot of these foreclosures were because the homeowners refinanced two and three times from the banks. Some of these banks were charged with fraud. Banks also sent original mortgages to other banks. I know that the City will move forward.”

Mayor Diaz congratulated Lisa Nanton  on becoming the new Council President and thanked Joel Pabon for the fine job that he did. In reference to tax reduction, “Every residential property was adjusted.” She thanked Pastor Bernie for letting the public know how the homeless are fed throughout the year. Addressing remarks about outside politicians, “We have to get advice from the outsiders and have to work with all elected officials, especially when it comes to funding.”

“I have always conferred with the Council on decisions  made about our community. I have to work with every department head. We did have a Police Ceremony with their family members present.”

Addressing Petrick and Pabon she said, “Don’t apologize for people who supported your campaign. In the long run, you are doing what’s right for the people of Perth Amboy. To Lisa, you have done a lot of volunteer work in the community and I am very proud of you.”

Council Comments were made after the public portion.  Joel Pabon said, “One of the speakers had questioned my integrity when it came to taxes. I don’t have control over that. My sons do work, but none of them have City jobs. I enjoyed my time as Council President but my time was up. I’m still here and I’ll be sitting right next to Lisa. I like her professionalism and she’s a good choice.” Addressing Linda Ferreira, “You are right. I told the Mayor we should put out more information about how projects are progressing. While campaigning, I did go around to places where volunteers are feeding the homeless. A lot of those volunteers are kids who couldn’t even vote.”

Fernando Gonzalez said, “The new fencing on the Victory Bridge is not adequate. A friend of mine had a family member who lost their life on that bridge.”

Nanton agreed with Fernando about the bridge situation.

Bill Petrick said, “We are all here for the community. That is something we all share. Pabon and Balut did an excellent job, and we all have something to give.”

Fernando Irizarry said, “I wish everyone a happy, prosperous and healthy new year.”

New Council President Lisa Nanton thanked her fellow Councilmen for voting for her as President. Addressing Rabbi Saks, “I look at Perth Amboy as 50,000 souls in one beautiful gift wrap. We (the Council) decided to rotate the Council Presidency.” She then thanked Pabon for the job he did. “I’m glad you’re sitting next to me in case I need your advice.” She mentioned the existing corporations in town and upcoming cultural projects that will bring in job opportunities. “The city is situated in a position where we are at the crossroads of major transportation.”

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Perth Amboy Calendar

MON. Jan 22
• City Council, Caucus,
4:30 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

WED. Jan 24
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

THURS. Jan 25
• Historic Preservation Commission
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

MON. Jan 29
• Special Public Meeting, RE: Discussion of Rezoning Ordinance
6 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

 

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!

South Amboy Calendar

WED. Jan. 31
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

WED. Feb. 7
• City Council, Business,
6 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!