Last night our administration got what they wanted. They got more money in the form of taxes from you. In a 4 to 3 vote, council voted to approve the budget after over 2 hours of arguments from residents. If you are surprised by it not being a 7-0 vote, don’t be, we will cover that later.
If you watched the meeting last night you may have been confused. The first resident to speak started reading quotes that may have only made sense to a few people in the room. His goal wasn’t to inform all of you that our township administrator Tom Cardis, our CFO Christie Ehret, our mayor and at least one other person have been manipulating numbers to improve the chance of approval. The goal was to let them know we know what they were up to and also to give our Council the ability to take this information and ask questions.
Although a bit rattled\upset, Council President Orlando Mercado brushed off the allegations by calling it hearsay. The gentleman who was reading off the quotes did not feel it was his place to reveal who overheard the meeting he was referring to. I knew about all of this weeks ago. It was because of this meeting back in April that some of us knew about an increase and the phony numbers being used before the budget was read. If for whatever reason I wanted to question the validity of what was heard in the meeting, hearing it myself and seeing the final numbers told me it was all true. From the looks on their faces and the repeated questioning about a recording should have told everyone else it was true as well.
In a bold move I didn’t expect
The person who overheard this meeting of deception revealed themselves. This wasn’t any covert mission or anything. This was just being at the right place, at the right time. Unfortunately for Mr. Cardis, his voice is distinct and it also carries well. The other folks in the room like Ms. Ehret were heard and mentioned by name. Our mayor was apparently on speaker phone from a different location.
The point of the call was to talk about the budget’s release and how they were going to field questions on the increase. Straight forward answers would normally be the right thing to do, but since there was actually no need to raise taxes this year they had to work together to get to done. As you may have heard from the quotes being read, the goal was to make sure no one actually understood how things were being manipulated. In fact they even mentioned someone who regularly attends meeting by name saying she may be the only one who gets it. (That person is familiar with government accounting) The mayor wasn’t there last night to comment, but both Ms. Ehret and Mr. Cardis denied trying to manipulate the budget to deceive tax payers and council. At the 2 hour and 13 minute mark tensions reach their peak and Council breaks for a recess. Some discussions break out as some members get up and walk away as if they were summoned. You have to wonder how concerned they are about a recording. It is not hard to break out your iPhone and just record in a public space. After the break, they came back and passed the budget regardless of everything that was discussed.
Why raise taxes though?
If this were 2021 or 2023 there would be no tax increase. You could take all the same debt and income from this year, change the date and magically we’d be at 0%. The difference is 2022 is not an election year. The money they are going to hold this year along with the money raised in tax revenue will be their safety blanket next year when they need your votes. Need proof?
What about this historic 4-3 vote?
Shocking wasn’t it? Not really. We’ve seen this kind of theater in the past. Stubbs, Mignone & Mercado were the NO votes. Coincidently those 3 are up for reelection next year. Trotto is also up for reelection, but I’m sure someone had to be the sacrificial lamb to make sure they hit that majority 4th vote. Maybe next meeting you can all show up and ask those folks why they voted no to see if they have any answers? You could also email them and see if they have a truthful answer.
Are we 84% better than we used to be?
Someone essentially asked last night if we’ve been getting our money’s worth. If municipal taxes have increased 84% in 12 years have we really gotten 84% better? Mr. Hutchison and Ms. Grace would tell you that our parks and playgrounds alone are worth the money. Ms. Grace credits nice playgrounds for keeping kids off drugs and Mr. Hutchison would tell you that GT’s hockey rinks are the envy of all of the surrounding townships. Did you know that hundreds of people from other towns come here to use our hockey rinks? I think having sports facilities for our children is great, but I’m not ok footing the bill for people outside of GT to use them. Why aren’t these things funded by sponsors and grants anyway? If they are, don’t list them as the “premium services” my tax dollars pay for.
Outside of parks, we are reminded constantly that we are safer because we pay more. Actually, public safety is always the thing Mr. Hutchison goes to when we talk about controlling spending. He also likes to remind us that the drop in crime is all because you pay more to live in GT. Statistically crime in NJ has decreased as a whole, but don’t let actual facts get in the way of his fear campaign. We’ve never actually mentioned anything about our police department’s spending, but they like to pretend we do. Fear is such a strong tool for them.
About it mattering…
40 of us showed up and argued for hours last night. Yes, 40 of the 50,000 voters in this town showed up. Spare me with the usual, “It doesn’t matter how many people show up” crap that I hear twice a month. If you fill that room every damn meeting it shows them you are paying attention. People are less likely to deceive you when you are paying close attention or you understand their game. It’s time to stop blaming the 9,641 people that voted for these people and start looking at everyone else. Have you been to a council meeting? Did you vote? Did you help a campaign? Did you do any thing at all other than complain online? Maybe if you’ve read this far you have. I’m sure the lazy ones stopped way up top when there weren’t enough funny pictures.
We have 527 days left
If we started campaigning today like all of us did last election, we’d have to talk to 94 people a day to let every voter know they have a better choice next year. Lets make Stubbs, Mignone, Trotto and especially Mercado go away. We aren’t going to go through the same debacle we did last year with two separate teams running in opposition so lets get it sorted now.
There are two ways to do this and we can do them both.
- Run a Democrat ticket in the primaries against them.
- Run a Republican ticket against them in General election.
You aren’t going to get much support from the Democrats in this town while trying to remove other Democrats. Their influence is strong so you’ll either need a lot of donors or a lot of your own money. If that’s the path you choose, we have a little experience may be able to guide you in the right direction.
For everyone else, go to GTrepublicans.com and express your interest in helping or running a campaign. Whether you like it or not a Republican ticket is the only way to beat them in November 2023.
The full meeting is here.