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Bloomingdale Council Meetings 'Lack Decorum,' Councilwoman Says

Linda Shortman said she will excuse herself from discussion on the AvalonBay PILOT program at future meetings.

Bloomingdale Councilwoman Linda Shortman said she walked out of Tuesday's borough council meeting during discussion on the proposed Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program for AvalonBay because she felt uncomfortable.

The councilwoman, who left the meeting along with other Republican council members Jo-Ann Pituch and Mark Conklin, said she felt "harrassed and bullied" by Democrat Councilman Ray Yazdi as he questioned her knowledge of the PILOT program she voted against last month. But Mayor Jonathan Dunleavy said Wednesday that answering questions, like those that were asked of Shortman, is the job of an elected official.

"It was an absolute disgrace that the majority chose to leave the room. They have been elected to govern the borough. If issues become difficult, they can't just pick up their toys and go home," the mayor said.

Yazdi questioned Shortman Tuesday night after once again presenting the PILOT program, which would allow AvalonBay, the developer of a luxury apartment complex on Union Avenue, to make payments to the borough in lieu of paying typical taxes for 30 years. Money from the payments, approximately $550,000 per year expected to increase by 2 percent per year, would mostly go to the borough, as opposed to the majority of money going to the school district under normal taxation. The borough would also gain the money that would typically go to Passaic County.

The Republican majority, with the exception of Councilman Glenn Schiffman who was recused from the issue, voted against enacting the PILOT though, with Shortman providing reasons why she did not agree with the plan. Among those reasons were concerns over the school district not receiving money typically brought in by taxation and uncertainty over the number of students that would move into the borough as a result of the rental units at AvalonBay.

Yazdi disputed those reasons, but Shortman said she would not change her mind on her vote.

"I think it's perfectly clear that nobody who voted 'no' wanted to revisit it," Shortman said Wednesday. 

Shortman said she felt that she was being bullied for about 20 minutes of the discussion before the council members decided to leave. She said this went on because the council meetings are not run properly, in her opinion. Council members Pituch and Conklin did not return calls for comment.

"I think that we need to do the business of the town and I think that the meetings have to get more under control. We're not getting things done at our meetings," she said. "There were important things on the agenda and I think it's a shame, but I'm not going to sit there for 15 or 20 minutes long to be harassed and bullied."

Shortman said the meetings get out of hand, often causing members to have to stay late.

"I think the problem in Bloomingdale is we have no decorum at the meetings," she said. "We don't control the meetings and we have meetings that will go until 1 a.m."

Dunleavy was also disappointed that borough business could not be done Tuesday because of the lack of a quorum after the council members left. Business that was not discussed Tuesday night included bills and contracts and the "Nightmare on Bailey Ave." event. As a result, the council had to schedule a special meeting for Monday (Oct. 15) at 7 p.m. so that action can be taken on the items.

Dunleavy and Yazdi promised Tuesday night to continue to bring up the issue of the PILOT program at every meeting until the end of the year, but out of "fear of them walking out" again, Dunleavy said he will recommend the PILOT discussion be held at the end of the meeting, after other borough business is taken care of. Shortman said she will leave again during discussion on the program.

"I am not going to change my mind and I don't think we're using our time during meetings wisely," Shortman said. "I will leave the meeting during the PILOT discussion and when that's over, I will return."

Dunleavy disagreed that Shortman was bullied and said a member of the public could have gotten up and asked the same questions Yazdi asked.

"What's abusive of asking an elected official to explain their vote?" he said.

paul bastante October 11, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Linda, you are not cut out for public office. There is NO good reason to leave a meeting, try as you might to justify it.
Krikor Etmekjian October 11, 2012 at 10:57 AM
It is understandable to vote against the PILOT program if one can articulate a reasonable explanation for the opposition and have an alternate plan. From all accounts the PILOT program as presented by Councilman Yazdi is a win for all the residents of Bloomingdale and our finances. The action of voting against the PILOT program and refusing to articulate the reason for the negative vote is not only disturbing but leads me to wonder what the rational for the vote is.
Gary October 11, 2012 at 12:06 PM
The reasons have been told. Ray and Jon do not like the answer so they badger, demean and harrass. That is inapporpriate behavior.
paul bastante October 11, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Gary = out of touch. Dont worry Gary, if you dont like, you can always take your ball and go home.
Ann October 11, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Shortman stated her objection at the last meeting, which was that she was concerned about the Board of Education. After she learned that the BOE was behind the project, she took a "my mind's made up, don't confuse me with facts" approach. Her questioners were polite despite being screamed at by a former Councilwoman who brings nothing but anger to the meetings. In that Shortman's reason for voting "no" was dissproven, the public had a right to ask for her to either reconsider or to explain her new reason. Her fellow Councilmen were being responsible in pressing for an answer, which they did politely. It can be seen on tape. Had they not done so, there were NUMEROUS members of the public there and prepared to do so. Shortman is not really up to the job of public servant, but more importantly, the immediate issue is to remove the people whom she followed out of the room. She can be next, if she hasn't retired before then. She clearly can't take the heat in the kitchen and the person above who said she is not "cut out for public office" hit the nail on the head.
Krikor Etmekjian October 11, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Maybe being implicit wasn’t the proper course of action in my post on the subject. I have read every morsel that is publicly available on the subject and have come up with not one logical reason for voting against it. The way I understand it there is no downside to the PILOT program for Bloomingdale and am posting in the hopes of having the majorities vote rationally justified. If I receive a sum in the way of a payment that is not only greater than the original tax I would have received but grows at %2 per annum why wouldn’t I be for it? Considering that the original tax would be less in gross and be shared with other entities and I have to supply services to Avalon Bay that would further erode the paltry sum I did receive. The objection to PILOT doesn’t make sense and am not confident that there is a rational explanation for the majority voting against it. If Ray and Jon want to keep the majorities feet to the fire by asking them (demean and harass by your accounts) publicly to support their position then I commend them for it and support them in their efforts.
Kristen October 11, 2012 at 02:23 PM
The school and the town will receive less using the pilot program than having regular taxes if the tax increase yearly is more than 2%, that is the problem. Do the calculation yourself, We will be losing yearly, and that is not a win for us. And for all of you who think it is ok to demean and harrass the council, I hope you do not teach your children that. It is not ok.
Carolyn October 11, 2012 at 02:25 PM
This kind of reminds me of when Congress was shut down! That party didn't fare too well at the time. The Majority is doing irreparable damage to their own party and, since they can't provide a logical reason for their vote, they make people ponder that it's something personal or that they don't understand the concepts or that someone else is telling them what to do and they don't understand enough to give reasons. It's very puzzling.
Krikor Etmekjian October 11, 2012 at 02:47 PM
The salient point to that argument is that the BOE is on board with the PILOT plan. If the BOE sees no objection to the PILOT plan, what does the council majority know that the BOE doesn’t? Just in the off chance that the BOE cannot bring it under the 2% cap they can ask the voters’ approval to exceed the cap at the ballot.
Krikor Etmekjian October 11, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Agreed they are not just shooting their foot but blowing the whole leg off over this.
Kristen October 11, 2012 at 03:03 PM
THE BOE is on board because they will raise your taxes yearly and you will not get any of that increase offset by the "tax" revenue from avalon bay. It will not affect them but it will affect you because you will have to cover all of the school taxes.....
Gary October 11, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Paul, I am not out of touch, obviously you do not know anything about the PILOT program. And it is also obvious that you like to attack. It would be refreshing if you could for just one week not write anything negative about anyone and just state a comment about the situation.
Krikor Etmekjian October 11, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Kristen the BOE can raise their portion by 2% every year under the cap plan and believe it will at every opportunity. If they need to they will ask for more on the ballot and we decide if we want to give them more. Let us not forget that the PILOT plan does have money built in for not only the county but the school system as well. I would much rather limit what we put into the BOE via the PILOT program and keep the majority of the funds to pay down debt. The conversation about education and the associative cost and delivery is a separate topic that can be discussed for days to no avail. Suffice it to say it is a significant portion of the property tax burden and will never go down till we move away from the schoolmarm method of teaching.
Sally Fane October 11, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Please correct my FACTS if I am wrong. The school is losing $321K in taxes which the the Council will put into the law that they will replace if it is needed. It was discussed that there are 87 kids graduating this year and only 57 kids entering the system and Avalon Bay is only projecting 12 new students and it may take 2-3 years before these students even move in so the school taxes really can remain the same except for the normal COL increases that we all expect. I don't think anyone can argue that this is bad for the school system, so we need to hear another argument or another solution and that's what is frustrating. You can't just keep saying "because I said so" or refuse to talk about it anymore. We need valid arguments
Ann October 11, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Sally- They have their fingers in their ears- LA-LA-LA-LA so it's pretty useless to talk to the Majority members and their 2 supporters. However....for the VOTERS out there you might ask why the Republicans ran on cutting costs, have had control for the last two years and have not cut any costs. In fact, they have spent MORE--particularly with all the professionals whom they dismissed and replaced--professionals who were doing a good job. Another $$150,000 for a lawyer. Another $10,000 for an Auditor....and to boot not even following their advice! PILOT is the only option left to the town. Our back is against the wall. Contrary to what they say, PILOT will eliminate our debt and eventually help stabilize our taxes. Walking out on a discussion is indicative of their having no alternative information to offer. It's like slamming a telephone down on someone who says something you don't like. I think when people view the YouTube video they will see for themselves how polite and patient Yadzi and Dunleavy were and how Huntley and the woman next to her were angry and yelling. To Shortman's credit, she remained polite, and it's possible she felt pressured to leave when the others left. She would have scored big points by staying. Thank goodness we have video (which the Majority fought against). It's a great way to check what they're saying against the reality.
Karen October 11, 2012 at 06:39 PM
If you excuse yourself from these future discussions, then maybe you should excuse yourself from public office. You may feel more comfortable if you were well informed and prepared!
paul bastante October 11, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Same with you Gary. And yes, I know EVERYTHING about the PILOT. That is why I am such a strong supporter of it. These knuckleheads on the council deserve everything they get. All we would like to know is why a neg vote, is that too much to ask for Gary?
Jo October 11, 2012 at 06:52 PM
What is the youtube URL?
paul bastante October 11, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Right on Ann. Voice of reason. You walk out on a meeting, you become un electable. Its really as simple as that. Its almost as if they know they are gone and trying to do as much damage as possible before they hit the bricks.
Rich Dellaripa October 11, 2012 at 06:55 PM
The videos of the Bloomingdale Borough Council meetings can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/BloomingdaleBorough
Kristen October 11, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Krikor, the problem is that the calcuation to determine the pilot money to be received compared it with taxes increasing at a 2% level. If the taxes go above that level then the town loses, and loses a lot....
Rich Dellaripa October 11, 2012 at 08:44 PM
The 2% growth is on the minimum PILOT amount. Once the the percentage of gross revenue exceeds the $550,000+2%/year, it's going up by how much Avalon Bay raises their rent, fees, etc. And those are not subject to the 2% cap.
Gary October 11, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Rich, according to the financial agreement that is only for the first 15 years then there is a cap, 4.3.2 Stage Two (years 16-21): The Annual Service Charge shall be the amount set forth above in Section 4.3.1, or 20% of the amount of taxes otherwise due for all applicable taxes on the value of the Land and Improvements, whichever is greater; 4.3.3 Stage Three (years 22-27): The Annual Service Charge shall be the amount set forth above in Section 4.3.1, or 40% of the amount of taxes otherwise due for all applicable taxes on the value of the Land and Improvements, whichever is greater; 4.3.4 Stage Four (years 28-29): The Annual Service Charge shall be the amount set forth above in Section 4.3.1, or 60% of the amount of taxes otherwise due for all applicable taxes on the value of the Land and Improvements, whichever is greater; 4.3.5 Stage Five (year 30): The Annual Service Charge shall be the amount set forth above in Section 4.3.1, or 80% of the amount of taxes otherwise due for all applicable taxes on the value of the Land and Improvements, whichever is greater. 4.3.6 Minimum Annual Service Charge Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, the Annual Service Charge in any year shall not be less than $550,000 (“Minimum ASC”), which Minimum ASC shall increase by 2% (compounded) effective as of each anniversary of the Commencement Date. So do not count on it going must above that 550,000 plus the 2%
Ann October 11, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Maybe the council members that left left for a good reason, to come up with an alternative solution. I would like to see their proposal & not hear that they don't "believe" the figures. I'm sick & tired of paying more & more rent because my landlords taxes keep going up & up. If this is the way to STABILIZE the current taxes with minimal increase in the future & not cut back on any of the services that the boro provide, then what's so wrong with that. I guess the council members that walked out on the public know all the answers & don't mind their taxes being increased. The next time that my rent is increased I would like to bill them for said increase.
Karen Timpanaro October 12, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Jo, If you are on Facebook, you can also find the videos at Borough of Bloomingdale New Jersey Government under the videos link -- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Borough-of-Bloomingdale-New-Jersey-Government/198565506838603?sk=videos.
Rich Dellaripa October 13, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Karen, they're not being uploaded directly to Facebook anymore, as the videos had to be broken up into 15 minute chunks and uploaded, and the uploading/processing had a tendency to fail, winding up with segments of the videos out of order. The intent is that eventually all the old videos will be on YouTube as well.
NJ Steel October 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Ray Yazdi is a clown.
Krikor Etmekjian October 13, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Steel: What purpose does that server? It is uncalled for, lacks civility, is a meaningless comment to make in context and speaks to your inability to articulate anything substantive. If you have something specific to back that statement up in relation to the article I would like to hear it. The elections are around the corner and as it stands I am going to do what I do not like doing by voting a party line in politics. I wish to be moved with a plan by the majority to convince me that they are not out to resign by making them unelectable. Please articulate to me something substantive from the majority to benefit the Bloomingdale taxpayer as the PILOT plan does. If you cannot I would suggest you delete your comment and think twice about being insulting in the future.
Carolyn October 13, 2012 at 07:29 PM
We have now descended to name-calling?? I can see why NJ Steel has remained anonymous after just throwing a bomb and running. Thank you Krikorr. You made the exact response I would have liked to make. Voters need substantive explanations on either side. The whole source of this controversy began with voters (via their elected officials) seeking to know reasons why people voted as they did. We are still awaiting being told the reasons. I thought Mr. Yazdi demonstrated a lot of patience.
Krikor Etmekjian October 14, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Thank you for the support Carolyn. It is nice to have a sanity check confirm it on occasion.

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