Miss the last City Council Meeting? Here's a recap from 10/5

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The Clifton City Council meeting began at City Hall with five Council members present, Councilman Eagler attended remotely due to illness, Councilman Gibson was absent.

Action Items include the approval to waive the fee for flu vaccines for the public. Additionally, the following resolutions were approved:

  • Bonsal Preserve landscape restoration improvements, contract awarded to Clarke Moynihan Landscaping
  • 2021 Sanitary Sewer Root Treatment, awarded to Duke’s Root Control
  • Holster Park Resurfacing of Basketball Court, awarded to DiMilia Inc.
  • Purchase of Vehicle Radio Equipment from Motorola Solutions, Inc.
  • Purchase of Police Patrol Vehicle Lighting Equipment
  • Auctioning of Obsolete vehicles
  • Veteran’s Parade on Sunday, Nov. 7th
  • Small business Saturday, Nov. 27th
  • Congratulations on the 75th Anniversary of the Athenia Veteran’s Post

Discussion items:

Task Force created to evaluate infrastructure. The City Manager analyzed what areas of the city were damaged by Hurricane Ida. There are $15 million dollars of storm related projects as a result. The $30million grant is to be used for this, $10 million has already been spent. The City Manager will prepare a list of projects for Council to review.

Draft Mural Ordinance, which the Council tabled at the last meeting due to Pino’s absence at her request. Administration prepared a draft ordinance based on industry standard from other NJ cities, which requires an application be completed for a permit. A lengthy discussion follows. Pino asks if the $250 application fee is too high and will discourage residents. There is discussion if murals are done by individual residents, organizations or private companies and where they are done, on city property or private property?  The Mayor mentions these are usually done by volunteers with their own supplies. The City Attorney answers that the Council could consider waiving the fee for nonprofits, and explains the intention of the fee is to cover the application process costs, the hearing before Council, work for administration, etc. There is discussion about the purpose of the ordinance, should it be to detail a process to the public, or for internal instruction to the City Manager to create a process? The City attorney explains the City doesn’t need a permit to do a mural on its own property, so the ordinance would be for residents or organizations who want to apply to do murals.

A motion is made to write a resolution to dictate a process for putting murals on city property. The City Manager is to get City Council approval on pre-submitted drawings. Councilwoman Sadrakula asks to add language that states no political murals are allowed. The City Attorney asks how will political murals be defined? It is suggested that there can be no political ads or endorsements by groups. Councilwoman Sadrakula says no, not just a political ad or group, individuals should also not be allowed to put up a mural with a political statement.

Councilwoman Pino proposes lowering the fee to $50. Councilwoman Sadrakula says no to lowering the fee.

The City Manager asks for clarification on the resolution because private companies cannot currently paint murals on their buildings so why include it in the ordinance? He suggests simplifying the ordinance to just include city property. Councilwoman Sadrakula agrees only if the City requires all current buildings with murals to be removed. The resolution will be redrafted based on discussion.

Premium Pay with ARPA Funding. The City Manager reviews how this money has been spent. $30 million was received, $10 million has been spent to offset the pandemic revenue shortfall and $15 million is earmarked for infrastructure projects. There is $8 million left, there is anticipated shortfall next year because revenue is not up to pre-pandemic levels. The City Manager suggests slowing down because we have 2 years to go and only $8 million left. The Mayor asks for a monetary breakdown for the next meeting.

Telephone Calls During Live Meetings Councilwoman Sadrakula makes a motion to allow public call-ins during the meeting. The Mayor says most organizations closed during the pandemic, which is why the remote option existed, and are now reopening, residents have the opportunity to contact us by email and phone calls. The City Manager indicates they do not currently have the technology to put callers in a cue. There is no second to the motion. Councilman Grabowski suggests using a proxy to read comments for those who cannot attend meetings.

Regan Development, the owners of several properties in the City including Senior Horizon housing, have submitted a letter to the Council.  Councilwoman Sadrakula wants this discussion moved to closed session to discuss the city’s legal obligations. The City Attorney suggests having a general discussion in public first for transparency, and then moving to closed session for additional questions. Councilwoman Sadrakula says no, she has complicated legal questions she needs answered first and cannot ask in public. It is moved to closed session.

Council mail

Councilwoman Sadrakula’s Facebook Post regarding the Clifton Adult Opportunity Center. Councilwoman Murphy asks the Mayor for clarification. The City Attorney explains that the CAOC was on the agenda to extend a lease as an open session item. Their attorney prepared a memo for closed session with legal issues in regards to their request that was labeled confidential for closed session. He explains it is very similar to what just happened in Councilwoman Sadrakula’s request for Regan Development who made a request for funding which is an appropriate open discussion item that Councilwoman Sadrakula asked be moved to closed session. We will need to understand what the questions are to understand if they are appropriate for closed session under the Open Public Meetings Act.

The City Attorney continued it was brought to their attention that Councilwoman Sadrakula posted publicly on Facebook that what city did was improper and not transparent, when it was the opposite. Part of the issue was in open discussion and the confidential letter was in closed session. Councilwoman Sadrakula interrupts to say that was incorrect. The City Manager explains the item had to be discussed in closed session before the meeting so Council knew the correct terms of the lease that could be negotiated before they discussed it.

The Mayor explains this is a good example of what he’s been saying about Council people using Facebook. He explains he does not mean the city residents shouldn’t use Facebook, but that Council people need to asks questions in meetings to be in compliance with the Sunshine Law. Councilwoman Murphy thanks the City Attorney for the explanation.

Public Comments

Chris D’amato introduced himself and said he wanted to respond to another residents comment on the formation of a cannabis committee on the Council. He explained the discussion on cannabis is not with the intent to force the idea down anyone’s throat as had been indicated. He believes it is important during times of division to remain respectful and not force our way of life on others. He believes a cannabis business in Clifton won’t change people’s lives, similar to how beer and liquor stores exist and are not being shoved down anyone’s throats. The Council’s responsibility is to mitigate risk to the public. He encourages finding the spirit of civic compromise similar to that after prohibition ended for alcohol and find a compromise on the issue.

Lilly Goodman D’amato introduces herself and explains residents have offered feedback on the obvious holes with communication within the City Council. The Mayor has explained why some Council people don’t speak to Councilwoman Sadrakula, but some constituents don’t care why you don’t speak to each other. Personal vendettas are irrelevant, it is your job to run the city and figure out how to do it together. I mean no disrespect. The grudges you hold are negatively affecting your productivity, constituents livelihood, and Clifton’s reputation. Councilwoman Sadrakula was publicly centured, if there is no other official action that needs to be taken the issue should be dropped. Let’s be professional. There are a lot of issues to be dealt with and city residents shouldn’t have to hear about Council’s personal problems at council meetings.

Elisa Washington introduces herself and indicated the street she lives on, Marconi Street, had a drunk driver recently crash into parked cars. Residents are concerned and want it dealt with safely. There are issues on the street with parking, speeding and people being drunk. She asks the Council to consider doing something because it has been going on for years.

Raymond Robertello introduces himself and explains he is there as a citizen and taxpayer to follow up on the Civil Rights Commission he suggested creating at a prior meeting, has any progress been made? Also, regarding the new building for the CAOC, he spoke about the significance of the historical nature of the city hall property in 2018. He feels if managed correctly, it could be a jewel of the city. He asks for clarification on the decision, is it a P3 program, a public-private partnership? He doesn’t see the common good in this project, but for other barn uses he can. The Arts Center, Senior Center and Recycling center are common good. Why was there no dialogue on how to use public land?

Ann Schnackenberg introduces herself and states that public input is important. She appreciates the motion to include phone calls in meetings but feels there are other ways. Residents with health issues or schedule conflicts need a way to participate in meetings. Instead of the residents needing to find their own proxy to read comments, she suggest the city have a volunteer to read submitted comments for disabled or other residents who cannot attend meetings.

The Council responds to public comments. The Mayor asks the City Manager about Marconi St. The City Manager indicated he had send the issue to the Police Chief and will have the traffic division investigate, permit parking could be a solution.

The Civil Rights Commission is put on the agenda for discussion at the next meeting.

The City Manager indicates they are moving forward with plans to renovate additional barns and buildings on city hall, but has to find funders first. The are moving forward with the bidding process.

The Cannabis Committee is continuing to meet. Councilwoman Sadrakula asks why she wasn’t invited? The Mayor states it was just he and Councilwoman Pino on the committee, but he doesn't do the invitations. There are no other comments.

The Mayor asks for follow-up on improvement of Communications. The City Manager said he recommends bringing in a consulting company to review and advise them. Councilwoman Sadrakula asks if residents who volunteered to help can participate? The City Manager said they cannot use volunteers to do official communications. He said he believes the public wants to know how the Council will better communicate to each other over the next year before the election?

The Mayor adds that residents can always email the Council questions or concerns which is put on the agenda under Council mail.

Council Comments

Councilman Eagler reminds the public that there will be public hearings for the CAOC when it goes to the Board of Adjustment and when it comes before the Council to extend the lease. He reminds everyone that if they plan to Vote by Mail the ballot has to be mailed or brought to the drop box, not to a polling location. He asks how the booster vaccination is going? The City Manager responds slow, about 5 per week. He asks to put on the agenda a discussion on the property to replace a Fire House.

Councilman Grabowski said in last week’s discussion he didn’t get to finish but meant to include an option for the public to email in comments to participate in meetings. He also suggests the Council can take turns reading comments submitted by email. He reminds the public that the Kearny post office hub was destroyed in the storm and may be why residents are missing mail.

Councilwoman Murphy gives a report on the Recreation Committee, announces Pickleball and that courts will be in place by 2022. He said they are researching options for the sprinkler park. She reads the proclamation declaring National Hispanic Heritage Month. She also agrees that the city hall complex is a jewel, but it is because of the services that it offers to citizens, including the CAOC.

Councilwoman Pino thanks the council for tabling items in her absence and recommends other council members email her with any issues or questions for the Cannabis committee. She gives congratulations to the Theater League of Clifton on their production of “My Big Gay  Italian Wedding.”

Councilwoman Sadrakula asks who develops questions for the Ballot Box, the City Manager answers that is the station manager Lisa. She asks when the Council will get a copy of the census data? The City Manager said its been send out in reports. She responds to Raymond Robertello to say that the CAOC is not a P3 project and she agrees it does not benefit the public good. She asks how glass recycling is now handled. The City Manager said the DPW picks it ups and it is crushed to reduce volume. It is collected by a waste management company with 0 value because glass is not currently valuable. She asks how much the City has spent on water distribution, the City Manager said they will get those numbers. She recommends the public look up the definition of “obsession.”

Mayor Anzaldi explains the CAOC does important work helping developmentally disabled adults with no where else to go, what higher service for the public can the city provide? They have maintained their buildings very well and have been on city hall campus since the 1980’s. They are also a very highly rated charity. The historic nature of the property will be protected and that Board will have to review the CAOC plans. He encourages people to come together on the great work that the CAOC is doing. He responds to the public comment about Council members communicating and says he has explained his position because he likes to tell the truth. There is a reason there is only one Council colleague he hasn’t been able to work with, the censure is ongoing and they are still getting information from the judge. Two years of this behavior by the Council person is disrespectful, but the censure by 6 council people was necessary after an employee brought a Hostile Work Environment charge for the first time in 100 years. He says he continues to serve residents and allows all Council members to fully participate in their role. He doesn’t appreciate the derogatory Facebook posts against the Council and staff. He said he knows residents understand and see with their own eyes, but the dynamic won’t change if the harassment and bullying continue.

To watch the entire 2+ hour meeting, click here.

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