Monday, December 21, 2009

Dumont's Green Initiative: Force or Farce?

Since the announcement in October 2008 and the April 16, 2009 kickoff of the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Green Initiatives, let's look back on what was accomplished in 2009:

Alternative Fuels: Despite grants available from the State of NJ and its mention in the December 2008 council meeting, no grants have been applied. The borough recently approved acquisition of conventionally fueled vehicles for the police department. This determination was made by running of only one Ford Diesel pickup on Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) mixed with varying percentages with Diesel even though no problems were reported. Is it just me or does it seem ironic that the very links offered by the committee regarding biofuels specifically caution against using SVO due to significant long-term risks? So why was the purpose of the ill-conceived evaluation again and it influenced the decision not to consider electric vehicles how?

Compost Containers: The program is run by Bergen County and has been going on for some years. Dumont cannot take credit for that, sorry.

Green Bins: I understand Dumont has some earned revenue (I guess currency counts as green) from sale of these containers. Can this revenue offset losses in other areas? For some reason I do not think so.

Recycling: Unless that commodity is gold, the market for common household recyclables such as cardboard, glass, newsprint, paper and plastic have collapsed. Revenues from these operations have been diminished, and in some cases have become an expense item. Will we be able to afford this?

Refuse Containers: The receptacles can be seen around town in public areas. How many are there again? It appears that what used to be a quality of life issue is now a green issue. OK, I guess...

Wind Turbines: There has been much talk about wind energy, but so far it appears to be hot air. Ordinances enabling construction and operation appear nowhere to be found. Wayne gets the credit here as a trailblazer in this area; however, a recent article indicates that the fiercest opponents to the wind turbine operator seem to be from nearby residents. NIMBY, anyone?

I think it's time to drop the Green Initiatives. The more it is discussed, the more residents expect results. Unless I missed covering something here, or 2010 is a blockbuster year for significant achievements that don't break the budget, this might become an albatross.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back from Vacation

Videos of tonight's meeting will be ready for viewing by Wednesday morning. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dumont Residents Have Spoken...

The machine can be defeated. Congratulations Ken!

From Carmine DeMarco at Bergennow.com:

Republican challenger wins Dumont Council seat

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

EXCLUSIVE - Interview with Council Candidate Ken Freeman

Q1 - Please tell me a little about yourself.

A: Born and raised in Dumont, I have lived here my entire life, graduating as Valedictorian of Dumont High School. Continuing my education at Rutgers University as a Finance major with a minor in Philosophy, I graduated first in my class with a 4.0 GPA. After graduation, I worked on Wall Street in Investment Banking for Deutsche Bank. Since being recruited away from Deutsche Bank, I have been with an Asset Management firm in Hoboken.


Q2 - Why are you running for Dumont Council?

A: I am a Republican and I want to provide a fresh voice and an alternate viewpoint to the current all Democrat Mayor and council. My financial background enables me to give strong oversight to the town’s finances.


Q3 - What is your platform?

A: I want to bring two-party government back to Dumont, which is crucial to any town, be a point of checks & balances for all council activities, and offer some fresh ideas and alternatives.

We have seen explosive growth in taxes over the past several years and I want to dig down to not only find out why, but to see what isn’t working with the current all Democrat administration and implement the changes needed to bring back stability so that our seniors don’t “have to” sell their homes. We need to provide young families with the programs and services needed to keep them in our town.


Q4 - If elected, what are your goals for the first 100 days? The first year?

A: When elected, I will listen to the people that I will be representing. I will be visible and available throughout my term, not just during election time. In addition, I will go over past budgets with a fine-toothed comb, seeking to eliminate redundancies and increase efficiency, especially in advancing shared services with other towns.


Q5 - If elected, you will be outnumbered. How do you think it will impact your goals?

A: Clearly I will have to work to foster relations and build consensus, but, when necessary, I will be a strong voice of opposition.


Q6 - Your opponents may say that you have not participated in community activities, implying that it is somehow a prerequisite. Do you think the charge is relevant?

A: I am a lifelong resident and I understand the town and the people very well. I was a minor league baseball umpire in town, and played sports growing up and in high school. I have volunteered for the homeless in the area, participated in walks for Breast Cancer and those with disabilities and I have donated blood numerous times. I believe each candidate should be judged on what they bring to the table, their integrity and their ability to produce results.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is There Value Left in C3's Technology?

The value proposition of C3 has been that it utilizes patented technology to get us information that is local, relevant and timely to computers and cell phones. We are paying premium because it's worth it, we are told.

Yet in the April 22 Public Meeting at Borough Hall, Councilman McQuade asked why messages directed to his cell phone were not received in a timely manner. When the answers were unacceptable, the councilman pressed on. That persistence was met with the mayor's gavel.

In recent months C3 has added Twitter feeds to Dumont's website. We see how reliable that service is.

In recent months a new service has emerged that promises what C3 offers, at no cost to municipalities. Our neighbor in Oradell recently adopted it. This is what their Oradell's alert screen looks like. Now compare that with Dumont's alert screen. One would expect the free service to look cluttered and less polished, but that distinction appears to fall on C3's $1500 monthly service.

I brought this to the governing body's attention and merely asked them to look into it. Though the mayor said they would, I doubt it. Why not? Others may start asking why we are paying for a product others are getting for free.

It seems distracting that this ugly cloud continues to hang over the web contractor and their client municipalities.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reduce Your Property Tax and Double Dip - ALL LEGAL!

Economy got you down?

Lost your property tax rebate this year?

Lucky to receive your property tax rebate and you want to reduce it even more?

Boy are you in luck this year!!!

A recent Sunday Times Article discusses this, the only way out for county and state government is for property values stabilize or increase.

Current homeowners who no longer qualify for property tax relief from the state of NJ will likely seek alternatives. Will the property tax assessments be in the crosshairs?

The kicker is that anyone can seek an appeal, regardless of their financial condition. While those with the means to conduct thorough research may have an edge, it takes nothing to get started.

Start here: Bergen County Resources

Pamphlet from the State of NJ

Appeals Form from the State of NJ

Can you still say I never tried saving you money on this blog?

You are welcome.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Too Rich to Seek Grants?

In fall of 2008 (and in the middle of the political campaign), the borough issued a press release launching their "Green Initiative" basically detailing all the wonderful things that the elected officials have been tirelessly working for, on our behalf.

I wrote an open letter to the officials involved. Receiving no response I wrote another letter. Councilman Manna responds with what seems to be a self-contradicting tirade. Perhaps being out of his element, I stepped into his (cue video to 39:53). As a result, it seemed to take the entire governing body, led by the borough administrator, to unilaterally dismiss my ideas seemingly without consideration.

Fast forward to June 2009. In Part 2 of the 6/15/2009 meeting, the borough administrator is heard in the first few minutes of the video reporting that the borough has resumed the pilot (of using a blend of filtered waste vegetable oil in diesel fuel), presumably to save money and appear environmentally conscious. It is apparent that, six months later, our elected officials have failed to do their homework, failed to set aside politics and failed to heed science, risking municipal funds to press on with this ill-fated experiment, probably achieving neither in the end. Even the Cedar Crest senior community seems to be on the right track... any active or retired chemical engineer willing to pitch in and volunteer to help the borough?

But it did not have to happen this way. The State of New Jersey offers grants to municipalities with no expertise required, yet our borough never appeared to apply for one. Why not? Dollar amount too small? Not worth the trouble? Terms too onerous?

It would appear that the borough's green initiative is starting to take a queasy tint...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where are the Videos?

Video recordings of borough hall can now be found on the A Better Dumont Channel on blip.tv

Recordings are of SD quality at minimum using the latest in video compression technology. In other words, the video quality is superior to what you have seen hosted on Blogger or Google.

Dating from the December 2008 M&C Public Meeting, videos can easily be found on this channel. See whether promises made were kept, who really said what (if at all) or just for the record.

If I was there to record it, videos are available for viewing on the channel generally within 48 hours of the event.

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

04/22/2009 Borough Hall Public Meeting

Dumont NJ Mayor & Council Meeting - April 22, 2009

Recent files are now available in full resolution and better picture: Click to go there. Maybe even see who's paying attention...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Proposed Ordinance #1383 - Justification?

At the April 7 Public Meeting around the 20'30" mark (feel free to take a look and listen below), the borough CFO steps to the microphone to provide expert testimony on the justification of raising the appropriations cap (ordinance #1383 starts on page 18). She indicates that the cap needs to be raised because the inflation rate last year exceeded 4%.

Sounds reasonable enough, except that the folks over at the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Consumer Price Index (CPI) for calendar year 2008 experienced a gain of 0.1%. Since the borough CFO explained that the appropriations included employee salaries, a look at the total compensation costs for calendar year 2008 experienced a gain of 2.4%.

At this point, readers are probably suspicious that this blog writer is using national data, which may not fully account for regional differences...

Fair enough.

Looking at the data published by the NY regional office, the CPI for NY-NNJ area in 2008 experienced a 1.6% gain. Total compensation costs for the NY Metro area increased 1.9% for 2008. The default appropriations cap of 2.5% (not requiring an ordinance) appears sufficiently adequate to cover these costs.

Consumable costs and staff compensation do not appear to justify raising the appropriations cap, leading to the question: Do our elected borough officials appear to be stimulating the economy (here and here) on the backs of borough taxpayers?

How about YES to banking any leftover appropriations and NO to raising the cap? If you feel perfectly comfortable with paying more taxes without apparent justification, DO NOT call your councilperson and DO NOT attend the borough hall meeting Wednesday evening. Your silence will ensure that this public-reviewed tax increase will be adopted.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Federal Mandate for Municipal Radio Services

The United States Federal Commissions Commission (FCC) is tasked with ensuring that communications needs of the nation are met. With regards to Public Safety Radio Systems, this means that communications down to local police, fire and public works services are met. Just as civilian radio services have grown from simple walkie-talkies to Cell Phones, Wi-Fi and GPS just to name a few, the needs of local public services have as well.

In December 2004 the FCC has mandated that Land Mobile Radio (LMR), which includes Public Service Radio service move to narrowband voice chanels in order to provide more room for more traffic and expanded radio communication services. What this means is that:

- Existing radio equipment, including base stations, in-vehicle radios and handheld units must be upgraded;
- Licenses for voice services must be either modified or added to operate the radios under narrowband voice channels.

The challenges are tremendous. The cost of upgrading the equipment is not trivial as a nearby town has budgeted $500,000 to upgrade the equipment. Even without the economic pressure municipalities are currently under, it is a sizeable budget item. Unfortunately, buying equipment is the easy part. Radio frequencies are obtained through authorized frequency coordinators; there is no guarantee that existing services can be maintained, let alone expanded, if the request is placed at the last minute.

References:

Pamphlet - "When They can't talk, lives are lost"
Narrowbanding Brochure
APCO Article: The VHF/UHF Narrowband Mandate
Department of Justice Document
APCO Primer

Thursday, February 19, 2009

02/17/2009 Borough Hall Public Meeting

This is part 1 - Awards Ceremony



This is part 2 - Borough Business



Please answer the new poll question on the bottom of the page before you leave. Feel free to look at previous poll results as well. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Credential Verification for Tree Workers

Credential Verification for certified tree workers can be found:

NJ Board of Tree Experts - Committee for the Advancement of Arboriculture
International Society of Arboriculture - Verify a Certification

Sources for credentialing can be found in these flyers:

Better Business Bureau - How to Choose a Tree Care Company
New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services

Please let me know if there are any industry certifying bodies I have overlooked.

Agree? Disagree? Discuss online or write a letter.

02/03/2009 Mayor & Council Executive Session



A short recording this evening. Combination of my arriving late to borough hall and a very brief public session.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

01/20/2009 Borough Council Meeting



Councilman McQuade is planning for the upcoming budget. How about sharing the current and proposed numbers with the taxpayers? Better still, how about having an information meeting to explaining the figures with us, consistent with the Mayor's mission of transparency and open government?

Don't forget to answer our anonymous and unscientific poll at the bottom of this page if you have not answered already.

Like what you see? Discuss online or write a letter. If you can, show up to demand financial disclosure: Next meeting is Tuesday, February 3 at 7PM.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Wish...


... is for Dumont Borough Hall to be this transparent when it comes to its budget. On top of that, they even explain it to residents at a special workshop! It's a good thing I'm sitting down while writing this.
Here are the specifics:
Agree? Disagree? Discuss online or write a letter.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

01/06/2009 Reorganization Meeting

Here is Part 1 (technical difficulties encountered)



Here is Part 2 (speeches found here and where the Mayor declares the State of the Borough as "Very Good".)



Don't forget to answer our anonymous and unscientific poll at the bottom of this page.

Like what you see? Discuss online or write a letter.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Last Word in 2008

The fourth edition of the Biodiesel Handling and Use Guide, published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is now available. Page 6 of this updated edition summarizes the process that chemically transforms edible fat into biodiesel and reiterates: "Raw or refined plant oil, or recycled greases that have not been processed into biodiesel, are not biodiesel and should be avoided."

Folks wonder why I seem so concerned, why not just let the borough try it out. If it doesn't work, move on and try something else. After all, what's the big deal?

I wonder how much it is going to cost to overhaul diesel truck engines, not to mention the downtime that the trucks are in the shop because of this "pilot program". Does it make sense to save a few dollars in order to risk a few thousand in replacement parts and labor? How will this downtime reduce the borough's effectiveness in responding to the next storm or similar incident? How many dollars is that worth saving? Why are taxpayers like me on the hook for financial risks that are completely avoidable? Perhaps the staff at DPW who take orders from the administration and have to live with this already knows...

Here is the current statewide biodiesel Request for Proposal (RFP). Look at section 3.2 on page 11 and supporting specification summary on page 13. Why would the state be so insistent on its biodiesel meeting ASTM International Specification D6751 - Standard Specification for Biodiesel Fuel? Perhaps Dumont officials should question the purchasing officials in Trenton why they are calling out this seemingly politically suspect technical specification.

Why does the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the independent body that certifies professionals in the automotive industry, say the same thing when it comes to biodiesel?

Let's be clear about this: I am for exploring alternative energy sources. I am for our borough taking a proactive stance against foreign energy dependence. I am for doing things the right way.

On the last day of the year, the last word on biodiesel does not come from me. Rather, I think the last word comes from the National Biodiesel Board, an industry group cited by Councilman Manna himself:

Biodiesel Basics Page

In Summary:
  • Raw vegetable oil cannot meet biodiesel fuel specifications per ASTM D6751;
  • Raw vegetable oil is not registered with the EPA;
  • Raw vegetable oil is not a legal motor fuel;
  • Raw vegetable oil cannot be called biodiesel;
  • Dumont cannot claim they are "making biodiesel".
Makes you wonder what "stuff" Dumont is collecting, filtering and pouring into municipal vehicle fuel tanks. If it is anything like this video, well let's just say I will leave that up to those qualified to speculate on the legality of this practice.

Agree? Disagree? Discuss online or write a letter.