Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Hello, I'm Chris Neidenberg. For 14 years, I covered your community while working for a "mainstream weekly newspaper." I'm now writing independently, and I am trying to tell you the truth about what's going on in the borough of Maywood.
Please E-Mail me with your thoughts or ideas at email@example.com
I'm back - and stronger than ever!
AN OPINION ...
NEW JERSEY'S TWO-FACED "TOXIC DEMS" ARE AT IT AGAIN!!!
Corzine mum on "sweetheart Dem deal" saving polluter millions?
By Chris Neidenberg
It's election time in New Jersey again, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine and his cronies are again trying to "brainwash" the public into thinking - falsely - that his party is a "paragon of integrity" when it comes to cracking down on "corporate polluters."
In fact, Mr. Corzine, and we're sure you already know this, MAYWOOD'S SORDID SUPERFUND SITUATION PROVES nothing could be further from the truth.
Just as they did in 2003, Corzine and his allies with the New Jersey State Democratic Committee are running broadcast attack ads against the Republicans on the environment. This time, the message is aimed at Corzine's GOP opponent, Doug Forrester, suggesting that Forrester alone opposes "making polluters pay" for their cleanups.
Yet, the fact remains, "the king of the sweetheart deals" insulating a polluter from poking up its full obligation for cleaning up an environmental mess is none other than Corzine's crony, one-time stalwart Democratic congressman and senator (and Stepan Chemical Company campaign cash benefactor), the disgraced Robert Torricelli.
Torricelli was the chief architect of Maywood's 22-year old "DOE-Stepan (Chemical Company) agreement." The deal played a role in delaying the release of any final record of decision resolving a big part of Maywood's cleanup for AT LEAST eight years.
And two of Torricelli's biggest local allies in immunizing Stepan from meeting its full responsibility, STALWART DEMOCRATS Mayor Thomas Richards and Borough Attorney William Rupp, are still in power.
Richards certainly counted the disgraced and corrupt Torricelli as one of his biggest political heroes/bosses, repeatedly fawning over "the big shot Torricelli" while Torricelli, in turn, repeatedly stroked Richards' ego - and raped Maywood in the process.
Richards and Rupp wield their clout at a critical time when (at least we believe) Stepan's portion of the final cleanup bill covering helping getting rid of BOTH the Maywood Superfund site's radiological and chemical contamination has not been assessed - by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Justice.
Or if Stepan's final share has been assessed, it certainly has not been publicized.
Any final deal, if in effect, has indeed not been widely publicized - particularly by Maywood's "alleged daily paper of Record."
This publication has consistently and inexplicably put out "disinformation" for years calling the local Superfund facility "the former Maywood Chemical Company Superfund Site."
Corzine gladly meets with polluter ally
In fact, about two or three years ago, Corzine's aides gladly met in Washington with the borough's staunchest "pro-polluter Democrat," then-Councilman Richards, allegedly to discuss the status of Maywood's situation.
Corzine and company glad-handed Richards despite the mayor's long and checkered past on the subject of Stepan and thorium.
This past included repeated and harsh verbal attacks against the former Concerned Citizens of Maywood committee, headed by the late Michael Nolan, which had "the goods on Stepan from the git go."
Corzine's pal, Torricelli, joined Richards in this "toxic" chorus of vitriol.
The all-powerful Torricelli falsely blamed the Concerned Citizens for generating bad publicity that helped delay cleaning up the disaster Torricelli himself helped create - by meddling on behalf of his campaign cash supplier - Stepan.
The company operated a "political action committee" that repeatedly steered money to him.
With no conscience whatsoever, the-then senator lobbied the U.S. Justice Department to end a "sweetheart deal" set up at a similar thorium dump site in Wayne - once occupied by WR Grace and Company - while doing nothing whatsoever to end his own "Maywood sweetheart deal" protecting his Stepan friends.
HOW the hell could this possibly be allowed?
Just as incredibly, Torricelli, still in favor with some in his party, suddenly turned up after leaving office in 2003 at the Honeywell chromium site in Jersey City.
There, as a private citizen, he has served as a U.S. District Court-appointed "special master" overseeing (and incredibly, networking with community environmental groups, similar to the Concerned Citizens, interested in) cleanup of this site.
This despite his own sordid role in helping create Maywood's thorium disaster - and the "dirty" lies he and Richards kept "spewing."
New Jersey Dems and "corporate polluters" - perfect together
You see, Mr. Corzine, Maywood's mess conclusively proves that the New Jersey Democrats "anti-corporate polluter" gospel stops once a polluter wields campaign greenbacks under your party's nose.
This flashing of greenbacks "intoxicates" your party into some sort of stupor - or amnesia - when it comes to indeed "making polluters pay" for cleanups.
Simply browse through Torricelli's Federal Election Commission records, sir, for undeniable proof.
Mr. Corzine, the antics of your friends, Torricelli and Richards, prove your party stalwarts will even try harassing and intimidating the legitimate critics/victims of a Superfund site - while your "corporate polluter pals" keep those campaign greenbacks flowing.
In fact, Richards, after much kicking and screaming we're sure, eventually accepted the Concerned Citizens' long-held position that all of Maywood's thorium-tainted soil be cleaned to "the unrestricted use, health-based standard" of five picocuries per gram.
It's the same standard the mayor backed while he endorsed prioritizing the cleanup of Lodi over his own community (while exploiting Maywood - in allowing use of the borough's own dump site - to accomplish this).
When the federal government kept trying to force soil washing down Maywood's throat during the mid-1990s, Richards stated publicly that he had no problem cleaning up most of Maywood's thorium to a far less-stringent standard - less than what he endorsed for Lodi.
His rationale - putting "commercial uses" at the location.
This, even though the EPA had already taken a far-more stringent position - that it executed at a similar site in West Chicago, Ill. - stating that cleaning up any part of Maywood to less than five picocuries would require years of monitoring and designate Maywood as "a permanent storage site."
By the way, a far-less stringent standard would likely save Richards' - and Torricelli's - Stepan Chemical allies even more money while further stretching Maywood's quagmire in the process.
It's not about endorsing Forrester, but ...
Anyone interpreting this piece as an endorsement of Forrester is making the wrong assumption.
I will not consider either of the major party candidates. But, in Forrester's defense, as a 2002 Republican senatorial challenger to Torricelli, he made a campaign stop in Maywood and brought much-needed publicity and attention to the borough's thorium catastrophe.
He emphatically stated that he wanted to see ALL of Maywood's contamination cleaned up, and rightfully labeled Maywood as Torricelli's disaster.
Curiously, about a month after Forrester's Maywood visit, and after a delay of some eight years, the arrogant U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a cleanup plan(covering only thorium) that seemed to embrace Forrester's objectives.
And what were Corzine and Torricelli doing?
They were nowhere to be found, at least at the Maywood Superfund site, following Forrester's trip three years ago.
Torricelli, apparently getting ready to withdraw from the race, and his senatorial ally, Corzine, made no effort to rebut Forrester's (accurate) allegations.
Debunking "the myth," Richards may perpetuate right up until his grave
We've countered the "Maywood Chemical myth" countless times in the past.
There are numerous posts on this site - that can be accessed by clicking the "Archives" section - which have dispelled this.
In a nutshell, Torricelli, with the help of one-time Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley - spearheaded legislation, U.S. Public Law 98-50, that classified Maywood as a "research and development facility in need of decommissioning."
This led to erroneously placing responsibility for handling all radioactive contamination at Maywood's Superfund site under the trusteeship of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The DOE then incorporated Maywood's thorium mess (based on an entirely false premise) into its Formerly Utilized Site's Remedial Action Program.
At the local level, Rupp and Richards (working in tandem with Torricelli) pushed turning ownership of a portion of Stepan's polluted property over to the federal government that set up the infamous "Maywood Interim Storage Site (MISS)" - using the same false "federal government responsibility" argument.
Torricelli's meddling came shortly after a Lawrence Diamond, then with EPA'S Superfund enforcement unit, designated Stepan as a "potentially responsible party" for the municipality's "radioactive contamination."
This ruling was based on Diamond's proper assertion that Stepan was rightfully liable for this contamination as a private culpable party (having nothing to do with being a federal government facility).
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Why is this "federal government caused the entire mess" premise false?
Because Stepan's own corporate records (used against it in prior litigation) show that it acquired Maywood Chemical through a 1960 stock transaction - and retained control of Maywood Chemical by making it "the Maywood Chemical Division of" Stepan.
Thus, Diamond was right.
All these maneuvers saved Stepan tens of millions of dollars in additional cleanup costs - and delayed final action for years.
In fact, Democratic Councilman Dr. Tim Eustace, a big Richards booster, has floated the idea of trying to force the Corps of Engineers (which ultimately replaced Richards' beloved DOE) into paying Maywood "host fees" for continuing housing this "bogus federal facility."
This, as Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), another Richards "lapdog," has discussed with the mayor backing legislation turning ownership of the MISS property - Stepan once owned - over to Maywood.
We assume (though who really knows), that would not happen until after a thorough cleanup.
We've never suggested that Stepan has never paid a penny.
Yes, Stepan has paid funds for investigating the chemical part of the problem, which really is commingled with the thorium mess. Democrats like Eustace, however, have tried categorizing the chemical mess as entirely separate from the thorium. Eustace has even asserted that Stepan's chemical mess is worse.
Again, the chemical/radioactive mess is mixed. Has the corps, or the EPA, ever released any separate chemical cleanup plan?
Corzine's "toxic" lies need to be "cleaned up"
So please, Mr. Corzine, stop "brainwashing the public" into thinking that your party "always cracks down on corporate polluters."
Maywood's tortuous thorium saga PROVES that this is an evil lie.
Stop "polluting" the airwaves with these falsehoods.
Your lies must be "cleaned up" so the truth ultimately prevails.
I was delighted to be able to cover the most recent meeting of your Planning/Zoning Board centering on the Vornado application, and,I hope, I haven't missed a beat.
Unfortunately "technical problems" with the web host delayed the story from appearing on this site for almost two weeks. I have - at least temporarily - redesigned the site in fixing this annoying snafu.
Concerning that story, Vornado's lawyer indicated that a decision to redesign the plan by merging two large and distinct retail buildings (spanning over 24,000 square feet) into one big "superstructure" was made at "the last minute?"
As to why I have been away so long, please see the post just below my Vornado story. I have been tied up with "work obligations." I do have to make a living, you know.
It had absolutely nothing to do with your mayor's bullying tactics, chronicled in a post you can see further down, partially titled, "Mayor Tom Richards Says He's Watching Us."
For the rest of my fellow "little people" tired of all the chicanery, don't feel too bad. The fact is "the system," or "the establishment" is weighted against all of us folks.
The only thing you can do is fight back as best you can and remain a thorn in their side, because, as they say, you never know.
Remember clearly, that the politicians - even at the lower end (people on a Borough Council, for example) - can get away with more because they are connected insiders who either control - or can exert pressure over - the two major institutions capable of cutting them down to size: law enforcement and the news media.
Also, local yokel politicians benefit because of their associations with the big bucks pols at the higher end of the scale, such as (which we've clearly seen in Maywood over the years) - U.S. senators and congressmen - awesomely power people capable of getting away with a lot.
You certainly do have politicians, such as your own mayor, who will indeed try intimidating any little gnat who stands in their way, and who seem to be able to do it all with a smirk on their face.
In Washington, President George W. Bush controls the FBI (and federal prosecutors). Could you imagine what might happen to one lone-wolf independent federal agent, who, based on probable cause, tried launching an inquiry into him?
Every once in a while, a politician, even at the higher end, be it a president (Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton), a U.S. senator (Robert Torricelli or Harrison Williams) or a congressman (Tom Delay, James Traficant) becomes the target of a criminal investigation for God knows why.
But, while we have a federal prosecutor here (a Mr. Christopher Christie) who claims that he is dedicated to getting rid of official corruption in New Jersey, one must wonder if people in those positions let dozens of more pols get away with murder because they indeed have "the right connections" or are inextricably linked to scandals so sweeping and far reaching - and which taint both political parties - that these great scandals "cannot be touched."
Remember, prosecutors, be they county, state or federal, are political appointees themselves.
If that is indeed true, I can only say that - deliberately overlooking criminal malfeasance strictly because of one's "political connections" or "clout" - is one of the worst forms of prosecutorial misconduct that I can think of.
I suspect that type of misconduct is ongoing.
If so, then we are not a "government of men," my fellow little people.
We are indeed a "government of criminals."
Read on Maywoodians and hang in there! My Vornado story is next.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Mall developer looking to amend its store building plan
By Chris Neidenberg
The Planning/Zoning Board has granted Vornado Realty Trust's request to indefinitely delay introducing before the public its big shopping center project - slated for Maywood's part of the Bergen Mall.
At a special meeting convened Oct. 4, planners voted 9-0 to let the Paramus-based company work on altering its "Maywood Town Center" proposal by merging two separate buildings into one structure.
This redesign will also entail adding a courtyard in trying to offer a more attractive atmosphere for shoppers and merchants. Voting members included Mayor Thomas Richards and Councilman Dr. Tim Eustace.
Also, the board plans on appointing its own traffic consultant to analyze this major proposal, and seems headed toward hiring the same company now reviewing Vornado's much larger plan to completely change the face of the Bergen Mall, most of which sits in neighboring Paramus.
The board's decision seemed to test the patience of some Maywood residents who would be impacted by any new retail project on the northern edge of the borough. It would be situated in the vicinity of Spring Valley and Maywood avenues, in the current Bergen Mall parking lot.
The Maywood project is only one part of a massive effort of Vornado's to re-develop the entire property. It is also proposing replacing the 903,000 square-foot mall complex and adding multi-family housing in an application now under review in Paramus. The housing element - if built - is certain to assure Vornado of a large pool of potential customers who will have convenient access to any re-developed mall, and any new shopping center next door in Maywood.
Since the Bergen Mall was established in 1957, Maywood's share has only consisted of a major portion of the southside rear parking lot, just off Spring Valley Avenue.
Antsy residents seeking to make their feelings known about the controversial application were prepared to speak out, but will now have to wait for an unspecified period.
Vornado's attorney, Thomas Wells, assured that the developer will "re-notice" residents living within a certain distance of the application, as state land use law requires.
Wells, however, gave no specific indication on when that will occur.
"We will be ready with this change in several weeks," he told planners, noting that the new application will offer renderings depicting one retail shopping building spanning over 24,000 square feet.
The prior application called for construction of two distinct buildings in the current commercial zone, each encompassing about 12,200 square feet. Under the original application, Vornado estimated that the square footage requires 1,056 parking spaces
"We felt the changes were so material, we did not want to come before the board this evening," the lawyer said, describing the alterations as "last minute."
Vornado, a major real estate conglomerate, formed upon launching the long-defunct Two Guys retail store chain throughout Northern New Jersey. It now operates major shopping malls in areas including the New York metropolitan region and Northern Virginia, as well as the national Toys 'R Us store chain.
In December 2003, it bought the Bergen Mall from the Simon Properties Group. According to its online financial statement, Vornado paid $145 million for the property with the aim of "expanding, re-developing and re-tenanting" the site. Vornado describes its objective as "repositioning this asset" through modernizing the location.
Vornado is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year, it took ownership of financially ailing Toys 'R Us and instituted dramatic changes at its Wayne corporate office, including major layoffs.
As for its Maywood plans, Wells explained that Vornado concluded combining the two buildings into one structure and further altering the site's design would ensure a better experience for shoppers. He maintained that the change would be more "fortuitous" for both customers and merchant tenants occupying any shopping complex.
"The master plan of this whole building has kind of evolved into a community center concept," he told planners. "We will be adding an open courtyard."
Since, Wells claimed, the alterations will not significantly alter vehicle circulation into and out of the proposed new mall, the lawyer said he did not anticipate making any changes to Vornado's existing traffic study.
Yet Wells encouraged the Maywood board to take advantage of the delay by recruiting the services of Vollmer Associates, the same traffic consultant advising Paramus officials on that municipality's part of the development. Vollmer, based in New York, operates a regional office on Passaic Street in Rochelle Park.
Board Attorney Gregg Padovano said he saw no conflict in retaining Paramus' expert and a board consulting engineer concurred. Padovano recommended that planners move on hiring some consultant. He later told residents that Vornado will be required to compensate Maywood for any costs.
Given that it is already studying the potential traffic impact around the bigger part of the residential/commercial development next door in Paramus, Padovano said Vollmer might be able to offer useful opinions on vehicle flow from "a Maywood point of view."
Resident Richard Duffy of Edel Avenue questioned Vornado's need for delaying the entire presentation.
Duffy suggested that it would be fairer to those patient residents, who have long awaited the start of the proceedings, if Vornado got moving on discussing elements unrelated to the structural revisions.
"In listening to the conversation," he said, "if they (Vornado) are going to make changes regarding the consolidation of the buildings, why shouldn't they hear our feelings in regards to certain elements of the plan that will not be changed?"
"We have to hear their presentation in its entirety first," responded Board Vice Chairwoman Charlotte Panny, presiding in Chairman George Brush's absence.
"And then we can hold a hearing and take comments on the plan they are presenting."
Padovano assured residents that "any revised plans and reports," including the borough's pending traffic study, will be placed on file for public inspection at least 10 days before the next advertised public hearing on the revised application. He noted that Vornado's own traffic report is already available.
The large Vornado proposal comes as Richards has made clear he is hungry for more commercial ratables to try and lower the overall tax burden on residents. Richards, who has met with Vornado representatives regarding the plan, previously wanted - along with Eustace and others on the Borough Council - to try limiting the height of a proposed Sears Great Indoors Store that company wanted to build on the easterly side of the same mall - but which would have entirely been in Paramus.
They had joined residents in the area of Cedar Avenue, just across the border, who wanted to impose height limitations given the proximity of their backyards to the proposal. Sears ultimately placed the project on hold - before the Paramus Planning Board could take a final vote.
One major difference indeed separates the Great Indoors project from the Vornado proposal. In the former's case, Maywood would not have received any property tax revenue.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
The truth is, I've been busy paying personal attention to my life and I'm looking to find the time to resume as this is a volunteer endeavor. Please feel free to E-mail me with any thoughts and ideas at the listed address.
I have NOT folded this site. Why do you think it's still here? The older posts here are as relative today as they were then.
Technical problems, presumably from the web host, have caused delays in my trying to update this site. For example, I've lost the familiar table of contents starting this site, which I must reconstruct, and some new posts, which I'll have to re-write.
I'm upset because I see that many duplicate posts have somehow shown up, after my first post way at the bottom, made in 2002. I have no idea why, or, short of folding this site, how to get rid of them.
In trying to update this site a few weeks back, I submitted one post and about 80 copies were published! i'm not too thrilled with Blogger folks. The site is becoming a chore to maintain. But I'm alive and well and doing my best with limited resources and time - something your politicians have plenty of.
If duplicates of this intro follow, it isn't my fault. I'll have to delete them.
NOTE ON THE ELECTION - I see the Democrats swept and that the GOP will have only one seat in January. As further possible evidence of the "Demopublican" revolving door which rules with an almost unchecked swagger in Maywood, a former 2002 Republican council candidate, Erich Fleischmann, changed sides and is now the new Democratic Councilman-elect. Hmmm.
Is this the first step toward Mayor Richards' "on again, off-again" plans to establish an alleged "non-partisan" form of government?
Monday, February 09, 2004
READERS OF MAYWOOD TRUTH, WE HAVE NEWS FOR YOU ...
MAYOR TOM RICHARDS SAYS HE'S "WATCHING" US
Mayor warns, "I'm watching every word of your web site"
By Chris Neidenberg
In his usual menacing style, Mayor Tom Richards issued this warning to MAYWOOD TRUTH HURTS:
"I am watching every word of your web site."
Mr. Richards issued his warning just before the start of the council's Jan. 13 work session - his first as borough chief executive.
While we welcome legitimate scrutiny, the mayor's nasty tone was quite strident and threatening. After adjourning a closed session, he even went looking for us out in the hallway.
Talk about 1984?
George Orwell, you certainly knew what you were talking about.
This type of effort to intimidate is nothing new for Mr. Richards.
Mr. Mayor, do you remember when you received the "Segreto letter?" Well, you certainly were put in your place then.
Our response is quite simple...
"Mr. Richards, we'll be monitoring every move of your administration."
Strange that, as soon as you took your hand off the Bible, 'the redevelopment of Maywood" was somehow placed on the fast track. Is it moving too fast?
This is one area, among many, that will require the close scrutiny of your adminstration.
We can only surmise that Mayor Richards is mad at Maywood Truth because he knows he cannot exert any kind of pressure here affecting the coverage of his adminstration, and/or the borough, in a way which blatantly caters to his agenda - and currys favor with him.
We, more than likely, enrage the mayor because he realizes he can more easily try exerting pressure elsewhere in this land of the so-called "free and independent press."
Within that "mainstream" universe are the municipality's "politicized" daily paper of "record" based in Hackensack - and its three "politicized" weekly newspapers.
One weekly is even co-owned by a former two-time Democratic running mate of Richards - himself a former mayor - and his wife
So, if you're mad at us, Mr. Mayor, we can only say, "Look in the mirror."
And I believe we have been fair to you.
It's just that you simply can't stomach anyone who "has the gall" to print the truth about your past conduct and actions as a public official. That certainly matters now.
In conclusion, we must make two things very clear:
A. We will not cower, or blindly cater, to the whims of any elected Maywood governing body member, be it Mr. Richards or anyone else, simply because that official received more votes "than Candidate B."
B. We understand that certain "higher up" elected officials within Bergen County's Democratic political family - including its three state representatives, attended the Jan. 5 reorganization out of respect for their party colleague.
But we say again: For the New Jersey and county Democratic parties to endorse Mr. Richards and place him before the voters, and actually run him on an "anti-polluter, pro-environemntal" platform, has to be one of the county and state Democratic party's worst contradictions ever.
You see, we remember the state Democratic committee's 2003 daily radio ads, attacking "polluters," and vowing "to make polluters pay for causing environmental damage," very well.
When you examine Mr. Richards' past statements and actions defending Stepan Chemical Company, long one of Maywood's worst polluters, we simply fail to see how these two situations are consistent with each other.
Guess "party loyalty," particularly in this case, is quite blind.
IN CONCLUSION ...
TWO WEEKS INTO HIS TERM, MAYOR TOM RICHARDS WARNED MAYWOOD TRUTH THAT HE IS "WATCHING EVERY WORD OF" OUR WEB SITE.
HIS TONE WAS QUITE BELLIGERENT - AND NASTY.
IT ONLY REINFORCES WHAT WE HAVE REPEATEDLY SAID HERE:
ANY HONEST AND LEGITIMATE ATTEMPT TO CRITICIZE OR QUESTION THE ACTIONS OF THE MAYWOOD GOVERNING BODY, AND ITS OFFICIALS, IS COUNTERED WITH EFFORTS TO BADGER, HARASS AND INTIMIDATE THEIR CRITICS/WATCHDOGS.
THESE OFFICIALS GOVERN AMID A CLIMATE OF "FEAR AND INTIMIDATION" DIRECTED AT ANYONE WHO DARES TO "BLOW THE WHISTLE," AND RAISE VALID, TOUGH AND HARD-HITTING QUESTIONS.
THERE IS A DEFINITE AND CLEAR HISTORICAL PATTERN HERE.
TO QUOTE FROM A PRIOR STORY, "AN ADDENDUM - RICHARDS' POLITICAL WEATHER VANE SPINS AND SPINS," WE MUST REPEAT THIS PASSAGE AS IT RELATES TO MAYWOOD"S MAYOR:
"IF YOU ATTEMPT TO REPORT OR EXPOSE SUCH GLARING CONTRADICTIONS, (OF RICHARDS), OR ANY TRUTHS IN A WAY THAT HE PERCEIVES AS A THREAT TO HIS POLITICAL SURVIVAL, IN OUR SO+CALLED FREE SOCIETY, WATCH OUT!!"
AS WE ENTER 2004, I HOPE TO HAVE EVEN MORE NEW POSTS UPCOMING, AS I'VE BEEN SOMEWHAT BEHIND.
I'M PROUD OF THE FACT THAT, WITH MAYWOOD TRUTH, YOU"RE CLEARLY GETTING PERSPECTIVES THAT YOU ARE SIMPLY NOT SEEING ANYWHERE IN THE "MAINSTREAM" BERGEN COUNTY PRINT MEDIA, OF WHICH I WAS ONCE A PART OF.
THAT HAS BEEN BORNE OUT OVER TIME.
AS ONE WHO ONCE WORKED ON THE INSIDE OF "THE MAINSTREAM," I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT AT LEAST SOME OF YOUR MAYWOOD OFFICIALS - SOMEWHERE - EVENTUALLY DEVELOPED INSIDE CONNECTIONS THAT ACTUALLY BEGAN WORKING WITH THEM (YOUR OFFICIALS) TO START SQUELCHING COVERAGE CONSIDERED VERY DAMAGING TO THE BOROUGH"S ARROGANT AND ENTRENCHED POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT.
IT'S NOT GOING TO GET ANY EASIER WITH THE NEW ADMINISTRATION, BUT ALL VIGILANT MAYWOODIANS READING THIS SITE CAN REST ASSSURED KNOWING THAT- AT LEAST HERE - YOUR GOVERNMENT CANNOT "STAGE MANAGE" THE NEWS OR "FIX COVERAGE" - AS IT HAS BEEN ABLE TO DO ELSEWHERE.
SIMPLY PUT - MAYWOOD TRUTH WILL CONTINUE SPEAKING, "TRUTH TO POWER."
Saturday, January 10, 2004
RICHARDS SALIVATING OVER SEARS PROPERTY
But new mayor warned not to usurp Planning Board's role
By Chris Neidenberg
In 2004, new Mayor Thomas Richards has visions of almighty dollar signs - in the form of heightened tax revenues -- dancing in his head through possibly re-developing the currently polluted Sears Distribution Center property.
And big bucks, deep-pocketed developers, likely drooling with Richards over prospects for building spanking new real estate all over the mammoth tract, most assuredly are also seeing big dollar signs dancing all over the site.
Because whoever waiting in the wings wins this massive and lucrative prize stands to rake in mega millions with any new construction. That is, if the federal government allows any development there at all.
At least before Richards' ascendancy to the mayor's chair, the governing body desired to give the appointed Planning/Zoning Board a major role in the process of studying how Sears should be re-developed. The site is located between Maywood Avenue and Route 17 North.
These two former independent bodies were combined as one entity in 1996, ostensibly as a cost-cutting measure, at the behest of then-Democratic Mayor Thomas Murphy, The new mayor has since said this was a mistake, and previously floated the idea of re-establishing separate zoning and planning boards.
Last September, then-Councilman Richards sent clear signals that he wanted Maywood's elected politicians - and not the board - to exert its dominance in the matter.
Richards has already gone on record saying he wants an active and huge railroad station - replete with major new commercial developments - eventually put on the current Sears tract. The station would be part of a new light-rail transportation system the state once proposed for the area.
That is, unless Richards has since either been forced to abandon, or voluntarily cast aside, this vision.
Richards' demand last September that the governing body wave a tight fist prompted then-Borough Attorney Andrew Fede to remind him that the council (at least under prior Republican control) already agreed on deferring to the Planning/Zoning Board using a state-authorized statutory process.
Under this procedure, the council must adopt a resolution asserting that the Sears location is "in need of re-development," referring the matter to the board for a final ruling. The board would then hire a council-funded professional planner.
If the board agrees, a formal "re-development declaration" would let the municipality take advantage of state-approved incentives in trying to lure any developer(s) into the Sears reginn.
As an example, the governing body could provide financial incentives such as some kind of initial tax relief, and also decide how future taxes collected on a re-developed tract might be apportioned (to the borough, school district, county).
Four months before becoming mayor, Richards urged the council to firmly take control of all matters related to Sears' future development. In fact, Richards has long been preoccupied with the issue.
"I think we (elected governing body) should have more input, into what we want to develop over there (Sears), than the Planning Board," said Richards.
Now, as mayor, he will essentially decide who gets appointed to the board, as long as the new Democratic majority remains in tact.
Back in mid-September, Fede, the now-former Republican-appointed municipal attorney, who has since been retained as special counsel for handling all unresolved legal matters arising under his tenure, cautioned Richards that the council cannot get fully involved (at least under its original plan) until after the board studies the site and makes a final "re-development" recommendation.
"After a contract (to a planner) is awarded, and the Planning (and Zoning) Board determines the area is in need of re-development, you (governing body) can get more involved at that time," Fede pointed out..
Fede stressed that there was "nothing wrong" with Richards' desire to have the council immerse itself into the Sears question - in due time.
"There are definitive steps in this process," the lawyer pointed out. " But we (governing body) aren't there yet."
Did Richards already have a particular unseen developer - or development concept - in mind?
Depending on if a builder is picked to reap this final and rich reward, and what type of construction is approved (a process which could still be several years from completion), any ultimate development could profoundly effect Maywood - and its quality of life - for many years to come.
The Planning/Zoning Board may make recommendations. Still, any Interested developer(s), lurking in the background, will more than likely be forced to "play ball" with Richards if they want a "piece of the action."
Or, using layman's terms, if they want their particular plan considered
You can bet Richards, who formally took the mayoral reins following the borough's Jan. 5 reorganization, is well aware of this.
But anyone lurking around seeking to "play ball," particularly with a politician like Richards, could indeed be playing "a very dangerous game" with the people of Maywood.
That's because the Sears site, currently owned by Kin Properties of upstate New York, is polluuted with massive amounts of thorium and chemical contamination. It is slated for cleanup under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Phase II thorium remediation program. Mind you, we're not even talking about any separate plan to address chemicals on the same site.
The entire program, covering all of Maywood's remaining polluted properties (about 300,000 cubic yards ) is currently estimated to take about six years to complete - though the feds have been known to subtly change these timetables over the many years of its highly questionable involvement with politicians liike Richards.
Maywood's pols seem desperate for new tax ratables. Just how far will they go to try and snare them?
There is indeed pressure upon "ratable hungry" Maywood to develop these large polluted lands, that also encompass the Maywood Interim Storage Site, Stepan Chemical Company, DeSaussure Engineering and Federal Express properties.
Richards has also been recently quoted as desiring to develop the borough's parking lot portion of the huge Bergen Mall property, far away from the Superfund site, in the northern end of Maywood. According to published reports, the longtime mall (with stores just across the border in Paramus) was sold and could itself be re-developed.
The borough, in prior years, has lost large amounts of tax revenues due to the current conditions around Sears. Kin has, in the past, appealed the municipality's prior tax appraisals of this same seriously polluted Superfund site property - and prevailed in litigation.
Kin's victories have required prior borough councils to refund large sums of revenue it previously collected under old assessments. Maywood's other taxpayers, mainly its many homeowners, had to make up this lost revenue.
The successful Sears/Kin tax appeals have happened while these same Maywood taxpayers - and others throughout the country - have also subsidized handling a huge portion of Stepan Chemical Company's original responsibility in the Superfund site
That is, the study and cleanup of massive volumes of buried radiological contamination, the final outcome of which could have a profound effect on any future development at Sears and surrounding properties.. .
This huge and highly questionable subsidy (certainly, in the tens of millions of dollars) resulted under a political agreement negotiated (with the active support of Richards and old/new Borough Attorney William Rupp) by Stepan's one-time campaign cash recipient - now former Senator Robert Torricelli. He acted while still a local congressman.-
A 1995 updated Master Plan, from the Maywood Planning and Zoning Board, declared the issue of resolving the Superfund thorium/chemical cleanup, a "special problem."
The updated plan further stated: "The board is concerned with the thorium issue as it impacts on the early return of those contaminated lands to the tax rolls, and planning for the viable usage of these lands."
That was nine years ago.
Over the many years, Maywood's politicians have sent contradictory messages as to how they have wanted to see Sears and the other polluted properties cleaned up.
Just as bad, federal authorities have essentially colluded with them in delaying any final action leading to a resolution benefitting the community.
Around 2001, ithe governing body commissioned the Bergen County Department of Planning and Economic Development to commence a "brownfields" study of the Sears location. This, as discusion heated up over whether the state would pick the area surrounding Sears to serve as a stop along the route of this proposed light-rail system Richards has favored.
This study was approved locally in conjunction with the county department's separate, ongoing study analyzing the feasibility of the specific light rail proposal. Very preliminary plans had called for running the system on a route from Paterson to Edgewater.
The idea was to provide easier rail access for residents along the route seeking to commute into New York The now-deceased Michael Nolan, then-environmental chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Maywood, which lobbied long and hard for a complete chemical/thorium cleanup of the Superfund sites, complained then that designating the area a "brownfields" location could leave massive amounts of thoriun contamination on the site. Any such designation could qualify Maywood for receiving federal funds dedicated to the future use of such sites.
The question then was, given this desire to fully clean up Maywood, would it be the right thing to do?
Democratic Congressmen Steve Rothman (D-9) and William Pascrell (D-8) promised in 2000 to use the full weight of their offices in securing funding for the Paterson/Maywood light-rai initiative, and then-Borough Administrator John Perkins initiated clandestine discussions with potential developers for the site.
Eventually, the light-rail idea was placed on the back burner in 2002 by the administration of Democratic Gov. James McGreevey for some reason.
Perhaps, quite possibly, it will resurface?
But in Aug. of 2002, then-Councilman Richards told federal authorities that the council planned on acting in a manner that would, at least appear to, contradict its earlier "brownfields" intentions. This idea would even please Nolan (Richards' perpetual adversary and critic).
At the time, Richards and Republican Councilman Thomas Gaffney, advised federal authorities that the council planned to zone at least some of the area near Sears for a recreational use. They vowed this would be done, in part, to try and force a complete excavation of thorium-tainted soil from the area.
That has historically been defined as mandating a cleanup of radioactive waste to a level of five picociroes per gram at all soil depths (allowing for the unrestricted use of Sears and other polluted locations, and permanently ridding the area of of any perceived low-level radioactive waste health threat. That is, at least any threat now emanating from the soils.
In the federal government's final - though partial - radiological record of decision for soils and buildings released in late September of 2003 (which avoided discussing any plans for groundwater), the feds have, in fact, apparently promised to fully excavate all soils regardless of future land use.
Problem is, various federal authorities and agencies have previously flat-out lied to Maywood residents. They have acted in collusion,with most of Maywood's current governing body, regarding past goings on throughout the Superfund site.
These officials have included Richards, Gaffney and Democats: Council President Dr. Tim Eustace and Councilwoman Lorraine LaPietra.
Richards on Sears in the past
New Mayor Richards has apparently been tapped by the borough's and county's Democratic political establishment, which nominated him, to essentially serve as Maywood's "white knight" - in trying to solve the community's ratable dilemma.
Much of resolving that dilemma hinges upon how successful Maywood will be in cleaning up the remaining Superfund properties, where vital health and safety issues also must be considered..
Problem is, Richards has previously been commissioned to "captain the ship" in this area in other capacities, as councilman or prior Environmental Legislative Action Committee (ELAC) chairman. He has rather shakily navigated it based on past conduct.
For while Richards has been tasked in 2004 with "carrying the ball" on the Sears issue, his critics could certainly argue that they are armed with a mountain of evidence suggesting he has, in fact, "dropped the ball" in handling the matter many other times.
For example, around the time the Planning/Zoning Board issued its updated Master Plan Report, nine years ago, Richards was appointed to head the second incarnation of the shady and shaky ELAC.
This committee, universally composed of Richards loyalists, made no progress in trying to help resolve Maywood's thorium quagmire over many months - when honest and open leadership might have resolved important issues (such as Sears) years earlier..
Additionally, ELAC never met its charge via ordinance of working with residents in identifying environmental concerns. For instance, Richards, during the (second ELAC) board's earliest meetings in 1995, blocked Nolan from addressing it.
And while on the ELAC, Richards also concurrently served for a time (starting in 1995) on a "national stakeholder group" under the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Environmental Management Advisory Board.
This represented a conflict of sorts - at least in terms of furthering Maywood's interests - because Riichards fully knew then that the DOE had been hiding a final cleanup plan from his fellow residents since at least sometime in 1994 .
The DOE and the corps continued hiding this plan from the community (an absolute and documented fact) for at least more than eight years, maybe even longer.
Despite Nolan's repeated pleas, virtually begging the council to help Maywood via forcing federal authorities to finally release the (thorium cleanup) plan they had long hidden, Richards (whether on the council or ELAC) steadfastly ignored him
In fact, Democratic and Republican council members all during this time - rather chillingly - ignored Nolan's pleas.
Richards and Sears - present and future
The new mayor's clearly checkered past on the contamination issue certainly raises the possibility that he will indeed have "a checkered future" as the whole mess enters a critical stage.
That is, unless he has somehow seen the light - and starts conducting himself "on the straight and narrow.".
For one thing, Richards desire for luring development to the Sears site comes at a time when the cleanup of the tract has not even commenced. Unless he knows something we don't know (always a possibility with Richards), a final Sears site cleanup is still a while away from completion.
One could make the case that no "re-development study or declaration" should even be considered until after the EPA certifies that this massive site is satisfactorily cleaned up of thorium and chemicals (will the final thorium plan indeed be "up and out?")
In an ideal world, the EPA should not even allow pursuing any potential development path until after the site is completely cleaned up. Yet.the impotent EPA has caved in to political pressure too many times.
Richards' "political weather vane" continues spinning furiously and in all directions on this matter, as we've shown: working with the county to perform a "brownfields" study at the location one moment, then vowing to force the complete excavation and disposal of all throium contamination, via re-zoning the same area for recreational use, at another.
Then there is the whole "Stepan wild card."
This could come into play if the corps (barring further political interference or the surprise unveling of some strange new - maybe even "doctored? " - evidence saving Stepan) decides on aggressively pursuing the polluter to try having it shoulder much more of the thorium freight. Presumably, the goal here would be to accelerate Maywood's final radiological (separate from chemical) cleanup.
For we have shown that Richards, and his fellow "pro-Stepan obstructionist" Rupp, have long desired to save the chemical plant as much money as possible in any final Maywood thorium cleanup. And Stepan must still unveil its own long-delayed plan for chemicals.
Twenty years after the two began working together in initially helping get Stepan off the hook for thorium, Rupp again stands by Richards' side.
Possibilities that could come into play in the final thorium drama, affecting sites such as Sears
1. Richards pulls some "mea culpa." That is, he actually demands that Stepan contribute far more for cleaning up the thorium (in addition to chemicals) - so he can carry out his "up and out" pledge. Rothman joins him in this call. The feds commence enforcement action, and Stepan submits without a fight. Will Richards ever admit his earlier assessment was wrong? Highly doubtful.
2. State and/or Bergen County Democratic political bosses - someone like Rothman - simply tell Richards to "shut up," if he tries continuing to kick and scream in Stepan's defense as enforcement is carried out. Thus, Richards - and Rupp for that matter - are finally muted even if it is against their will. Perhaps Richards has already been told to shut up?
3. The feds somehow miraculously come up with a huge boatload of taxpayer money enabling it to finance the estimated $253 million thorium initative on its own (keeping Stepan off the hook, as Torricelli originally intended}. The feds' action allows it to entirely skirt the Stepan liability issue. This would indeed please Richards.
4. Or perhaps the corps provides full federal funding after coming up with some conveniently new, or even false, evidence suggesting that Stepan was never liable for paying to clean up thorium. This, despite the EPA's earlier claims and the overwhelmingly clear evidence. This scenario would indeed also cause the new mayor - and Rupp - to gloat..
5. Worst case scenarios: A.) Rothman and the feds (the EPA, corps), working in concert with Maywood officials, including Richards, simply pull off another "big lie" by either brazenly or clandestinely cleaning up thorium to far less than "up and out." This, as they continue relying on annual Congressional appropriations. B.) Richards, Rupp and Rothman, acting nefariously out of some kind of blind political loyalty to Stepan and in an unchecked political environment, try finding new ways to block further thorium enforcement efforts against the plant - even if the corps objects. C.) Stepan taps into its bottomless legal pockets and tries prolonging the issue of its thorium liability with a lengthy lawsuit so it can buy time. D.) Finally, the "industry-friendly" Republican administration of President George W. Bush steps in at the last minute to block a massive Stepan-funded thorium cleanup, perhaps fearing national ramifications, and despite strong community objections.
Given this Maywood Superfund site's clearly sordid and nefarious history, can anything really be ruled out?
Some other articles deal with development issues facing Maywood. The Planning/Zoning Board was originally tasked with studying Sears in 2002, as part of a planned Master Plan re-examination. Please see, "PB to study toxic Sears tract." For more on Richards' idea to restore separate planning and zoning boards, read, "PB fills posts, one vacancy remains." On the council's facing apparent redevelopment pressures in the Superfund region, check, "Councilman: 'Charge feds fees for hosting thorium site.]"
Monday, January 05, 2004
Move gives Richards chance to name his successor
Patrick Reynolds has officially "wrapped" up his tenure as police chief following an almost seven-year run in the capacity, and nearly 30 years with the department.
Reynolds announced his intentions during a Dec. 3 work session. The decision, which took effect New Year's Day, means incoming Mayor Tom Richards will appoint an immediate (acting) and then permanent, successor. Both will almost assuredly be ratfieid by the new Democratic council majority.
During his final appearance before the governing body as chief, Reynolds asked it to appoint two new police officers in replacing two retirements (including his).. Reynolds is reportedly leaving to pursue a career teaching law enforcement at the college level..
Reynolds joined the force in 1974, and, after a long tenure in the patrol and detective divisions, was named chief in 1997 by then-Democratic Mayor Thomas Murphy. He was serving in the detective bureau at the time, and replaced Andrew Costa.
Though the course of his run, he tried promoting neighborhood crime prevention programs, having patrol officers serve the needs of residents in roles beyond those of traditional law enforcement (under the concept of community policing), and developed a Citizens Police Academy.
During the early part of his tenure, Reynolds' department was involved in one of Bergen County's higher-profile criminal investigations in recent years: the catastrophic 1997 fire at National Wholesale Liquidators in Lodi.
That's because two juveniles suspected of taking part at the time lived in Maywood. The investigation was somewhat controversial because at least some of the convictions were originally thrown out on appeal, and the Bergen County Prosecutor Office came under fire for its handling of the matter.
Perhaps coincidentally, Reynolds' exit also comes following a mayoral election where his position (though not himself) became a lightning rod.
It started Sept. 17 when Republican candidate, Councilman Tom Gaffney, proposed abolishing the chief's position and replacing it with a civilian police director as a cost-cutting move (see story and analysis following this article).
"Thirty years have come and gone, and I'm winding up my career at the end of the month," simply explained Reynolds, a borough resident.
He added that coming up with two new officers, who, pending successful training at the Bergen County Police and Fire Acadeny, would not join the force until June, will bring the department back to the strength it enjoyed before the retirements of Reynolds and now-former Capt. Thomas Carius. He left with Reynolds.
"If, in fact, there are two new officers, and taking into account my retirement and Carius' retirement, we'll be down to 22 sworn officers," Reynolds explained. "With two rookies, there would be a savings."
Reynolds was referring to the fact that the junior officers coming in would, of course, start earning much less than himself and Carius.
He deemed the proposed new hires "the right thing to do to meet the effectiveness of the agency."
Yet Democratic Councilman Dr. Tim Eustace. alluding to budgetary concerns, was cautiously non-committal.
"The discussion tonight is just on the retirements," said Eustace, who has since informally launched his second consecutive term (and tird overall). "This council will be encumbered (burdened) with the decision next year."
Richards, previewing one of his first major executive acts, promised to keep the chain of command flowing uninterrupted..
"I intend to appoint an acting chief and an acting captain on the first of the year," promised the current mayor, still speaking only as a councilman on Dec. 3.
The appointments of "acting" officials will give the incoming Democratic governing body majority time to review options, before designating any of the interim assignments "permanent."
Reynolds received warm kudos from both sides of the aisle, including Gaffney, as he obviously tried conveying the feeling that his push to abolish the chief's slot was not meant as a personal slight.
"For the many years I've lived in town, you were very kind to me, always helped me and I thank you very much," Gaffney said.
"I want to thank you for 30 years of service, Eustace.told the retired chief.
"Congratulations on your retirement. Enjoy yourself. It's been a pleasure," said then-Mayor Wayne Kuss, the Republican who himself retired - after declining to seek re-election - on Dec. 31.
NOTE: In fairness to former Police Chief Patrick Reynolds, in running this separate item under his retirement story, we are not trying to suggest that the two situations are definitely linked.
Perhaps he made up his mind beforehand.
At the very least, we can say it (retirement) was "an interesting coincidence."
AN ADDENDUM - ANALYZING THE STRANGE CIVILIAN DIRECTOR DEBATE
By Chris Neidenberg
It added some spice to a mayoral campaign supposedly staged by two good friends on opposite sides of the aisle, who, only a year earlier, agreed that there were "no Democratic or Republican issues, only Maywood issues."
Call it Maywood's, "Political theater of the absurd?"
Seemingly out of the blue, on Sept. 17, "a Demcratic v Republican issue" suddenly developed.
And it led to a "partisan polarization" that galvanized both men until the end of the election.
To honestly gauge roughly how many votes the fuss might have affected, one would need to take a scientific opinion poll. Yet it certainly mobilized a group of disgruntled police officers into "partisan" action on behalf of one candidate, even as they pleaded during their action, "Keep politics out of the police department." .
On Sept. 17 (with only six weeks left in the mayor's contest), losing Republican candidate, Councilman Tom Gaffney, proposed abolishing the chief's position and replacing it with a civilian police director. He cited the proposal as a cost-cutting move
Gaffney said he wanted Borough Administrator Jack Terhune to take on the task. Terhune is no law enforcement novice. He is former Bergen County sheriff, (elected as a Republican), former state corrections commissioner and a one-time Teaneck police officer and detective.
The proposed move triggered a wave of protest in the department, as the Maywood Police Officers Association ripped the idea. In doing so, the group silemtly aligned itself with incoming Democratic Mayor Tom Richards, who lambasted the proposal - and possibly - benefitted from the chaos.
Richards argued in September that not giving anyone among the rank-and-file a chance to move up the ladder, and into the top job, would decrease morale and lower incentive.
Gaffney, of course, was aiming his "partisan" message to the taxpayers.
Gaffney maintained his logic was simple: abolish one body (Reynolds, who was earning in the low six figures at the time of his departure) and grant police administrative duties to Terhune. He would head the department, according to a state statute allowing the alternative arrangement.
Geffney's plan would have added the director's job to Terhune's current duties, just as his predecessor, John Perkins, did in taking on both the jobs of borough
administrator and director of public works - before leaving in 2001..
A civilian police director has a somewhat different level of responsibility than a uniformed chief, even though both are chief administrators within a department.
For instance, directors cannot carry handguns, while chiefs can. Bringing in a civilian police director can stir trouble among the rank-and-file (as has happened in other towns), since the director is usually hired from the outside. In contrast, a chief may very well have moved up the ladder among the rank and file. In neighboring Lodi, for example, a civilian director was once brought in after that department was the target of a number of high-profile criminal investigations that led to the arrest of a high-ranking official and some other officers.
"We have a borough administrator capable of being the director," Gaffney insisted at the time. "If we can add another $40,000 to his salary, we're saving money."
Assuming Reynolds had no intention of retiring, the council would have had to negotiate some kind of retirement or buyout package with him - assuming it had taken the director route.
But for a fleeting moment, Gaffney's proposal caused two supposedly good friends to become bitter political rivals.
And it turned Richards into a focal point for support among those officers who would not be happy with Gaffney's idea, turning Richards - in fact - into some sort of folk hero.
Hey guys, what happened to your pledge of "non partisanship?"
:"I will have absolutely nothing to do with it," vowed Richards. "I am absolutely opposed to not having a police chief in the community."
He called Gaffney's pitch "a political ploy." Richards further maintained that efforts to run departments with directors have "fallen apart" in other towns where it was tried.
"Every time I open my mouth, it's a political ploy," said a disgusted Gaffney, who basically professed his love and admiration for Richards only one year earlier.
"This is a savings to the taxpayers of the people of this town," Gaffney said.
ANALYZING THE WHOLE POLICE DIRECTOR SQUABBLE
^ Why didn't Gaffney and Richards, who professed their love and mutual admiration for each other only one year earlier, use 2003 to build on the "non-partisan" theme during their council campaign of 2002?
Why did they, instead, seemingly and suddenly agree to conduct a "partisan" mayoral campaign where they started attacking each other?
* Why did Gaffney wait until Sept. 17, 2003, with six weeks left in his "partisan" mayoral campaign, to raise this issue on the council floor?
Terhune joined the council in the spring of 2002. Couldn't Gaffney have broached his colleagues on the council - and politely informed Reynolds - about this possibility during the borough's search for a new administrator?
* Did not Gaffney realize his "civilian director" pitch might make Terhune feel somewhat awkward - that is, assuming he did not inform Terhune in advance?
Did Gaffney indeed alert Terhune, who must work neutrally with council members from both parties, of his intentions to make this proposal?
< A cynic, taking into account all of these facts, might certainly conclude the whole director episode was, indeed, willingly "staged" by Gaffney - with the collusion and approval of Maywood's shadowy "Republicrat" leadership (maybe to help Richards?).
Of course, we have no evidence to conclusively prove this.
* The whole episode, including the subsequent action of the Maywood Police Officers Association, exposes the frightening level of control politicians can wield over supposedly neutral and objective law enforcement officers. Clearly, the association mobilized on behalf of Richards' election, even as they were trying to plead with the community, "Keep politics out of law enforcement."
Was not their act, in lobbying on behalf of Richards, indeed "political?"
For more on the constant "partisan v non-partisan" contradictions plaguing Maywood's dysfunctional "Republicrat" political family, please read, "Dem, GOP hopefuls admit, 'Parties not different,'" "An addendum - Do the pols really want 'non-partisan' government?" "An opinion - In the end, does it really matter?" and, "The 'two faces of 'partisan' Mayor-elect Tom Richards."
(A LARGE AMOUNT OF BLANK SPACE FOLLOWS. JUST KEEP SCROLLING DOWN.)
Thursday, December 25, 2003
We understand that there is a “new guard” on the council which has, on occasion, positively addressed concerns important to residents (such as the state of the municipality’s finances) and has not been around for all of the seedy goings on which preceded it.
Let’s just say that the bulk of our concerns deal with current governing body members elected - or who previously served - before November 2001.
Still, we find it hard to believe that even the “new guard” knows absolutely nothing about some of the goings on which preceded it. After all, these officials are still products of the same “Republicrat” bosses who are well aware of some of the concerns we will be raising.
We just hope that these newer elected representatives aren’t intimidated into showing even more independence against Maywood’s “political elites.”
If they have been, then we say, “Time to blow the whistle.”
EXAMINING MAYWOOD’S INCOMING MAJORITY
Will this group comprise “Toxic Wing” of NJ Dem party?
By Chris Neidenberg
PART I The Prelude - a rather arrogant group of people.
It’s armed (seemingly with an inordinate amount of political power) - and dangerous.
Its members benefit from the fact that they are local agents and functionaries of a seriously-flawed, amoral state and federal political system – one which seems to let them operate under a different set of rules and values than the average and non-politically connected citizen.
In other words, you and me.
Ideally, just being a member of it does not give one the right to abuse – or misuse – power and authority.
Its worst elements operate with a frighteningly arrogant swagger.
And they operate in an environment where bad behavior is apparently rewarded with political advancement.
This environment seems devoid of any internal traffic cop (checks and balances, if you will) capable of “stopping the madness.”
As we clearly saw with Maywood’s thorium quagmire (is it really over?), any vigilant citizen possessing credible information, who seeks to blow the whistle himself or herself from the outside – anyone who is perceived as a real threat to their abusive power – is ostracized, verbally badgered, harassed, ignored and intimidated.
Its worst elements have little sense of morality, decency, integrity – or any sense of fair play.
Its members lead double lives - perhaps unbeknownst to many of their neighbors.
By day, you may meet them smiling as they participate in the local church choir, assist in the running of a borough civic organization or youth activities and groups.
But by night, they could very well be engaged in secretive and clandestine political activities -.including those that weaken their own community’s interests, and those of their neighbors, perhaps for selfish political motivations?
It frighteningly controls local law enforcement, whose employees rely on it for their salaries, raises and promotions.
At the sadly politicized state, county and federal levels of law enforcement, one can only wonder if at least some of its elected members are emboldened by the fact that they are allied with higher-powered "untouchable" law enforcement, agency and elected officials (members of Congress or the state legislature, for example).
Could it be that these higher ups – for whatever reason - have some self-interest in perpetuating Maywood’s continued apparent chicanery?
Worse yet, it seems to currently have Bergen County’s “establishment, mainstream print media” in its hip pocket.
This media includes politically sympathetic employees and executives, eager to help it “cover up,” rather than “cover,” the truth.
The most important player here is a family that has a virtual monopoly on the allegedly serious daily and weekly print press in Bergen County.
Perhaps because of some self-interest or personal relationship, this family seems to have some kind of pathological and historic aversion – at least within Maywood – to shedding any real light on the municipality’s continuously shady dealings
“It” is Maywood’s elected government.
And in January, it will be led by a new chief executive who has used this dysfunctional system to full advantage - an individual who clawed his way to the top, despite having heavy baggage, displaying serious ethical lapses and conflicts of interest.
Part II – A look at the new mayor, his skeletons, demons - and some of what he faces
I. Tom Richards – a man who contradicts himself time and time again.
Mayor-elect Tom Richards moves to the mayor’s chair at a critical juncture in the borough’s history.
In the coming weeks and months ahead, Richards and his bi-partisan group of governing partners hope gobs of money will flow into the municipality to pursue a massive redevelopment initiative, tied, in part, to a final resolution of the community’s thorium cleanup.
Given Richards’ highly-checkered past on all matters thorium, and the borough’s longstanding dishonest and abusive partnership with the federal government - that has led to a historic misrepresentation of Maywood’s interests in this area, the fact that Richards will carry any clout in the matter at all is cause for great concern.
As the old saying goes, and in Maywood particularly this year under Richards, “Just follow the money.”
Richards will start year one governing with a 4-3 “nominal” Democratic majority. though expect him, as he always has, to try currying favor with the Republican minority in attempting to implement his self-labeled “agenda.”
After all, this is an individual who, only last year, advocated changing Maywood to a “non-partisan” form of government. He further insisted that there are no serious differences between the municipality’s “Democrats” and “Republicans.”
Now, he will start his “partisan Democratic” administration trying to implement a “party agenda” for Maywood, called, “Direction 2004.”
Yet will Richards soon start abandoning this “partisan” message by shifting back into a “non-partisan” mode?
More than likely, Richards will do whatever it takes to keep as many of his own (as well as the borough’s) “skeletons” in the closet as possible.
II. Will New Jersey Democrats use Richards to perpetuate yet another contradiction? That is, will Maywood’s four Democratic elected officials comprise the party’s “toxic, pro-polluter” wing? Will the state party strive to continue making Maywood a safe haven and tiny enclave for “polluters”- who curry favors with the party – despite the “anti-polluter” message it sent voters elsewhere in 2003?
In a stunning contradiction, Richards and his two running mates were actually elected on an “anti-polluter” platform – a platform that has gone against Richards’ grain for the past 21 years.
That’s because, almost every day in the final weeks of the campaign, New Jersey’s State Democratic Committee blitzed the radio airwaves with ads attacking state Republicans for their environmental record, and promising to make “polluters pay for causing environmental damage.”
Using the hot-button environmental issue to get votes via radio ads was a tack similarly taken by Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Fererrio and County Executive Dennis McNerney in 2002 against McNerney’s opponent, Republican State Senator Henry McNamara (R-40)..
For McNerney and Democratic Governor Jim McGreevey to embrace and fawn all over Richards – who most likely will be saluted by his smiling county and state party allies during the coming reorganization - has to be one of the state and county Democratic Party’s worst contradictions ever.
That is, if their “anti-polluter” message is to be believed.
Richards’ overt and longstanding support for Stepan Chenical Company, long one of Maywood’s worst polluters, certainly places him in the same stratosphere as McNamara or any other “pro-polluter” New Jersey Republican McNerney and McGreevey have attacked.
Neither McNerney nor McGreevey were likely around during the times Richards repeatedly and verbally bashed and harassed members of the Concerned Citizens of Maywood, the former environmental watchdog group, led by the late Michael Nolan.
They incurred Richards’ wrath because they essentially asked the borough to push for aggressively enforcing federal environmental laws against Stepan in paying for the best possible cleanup.
Thus, the Concerned Citizens back then essentially argued the same position (which Richards always attacked) that the state Democratic committee made to voters throughout New Jersey earlier this year, as part of the very platform Richards ran on (in accepting his party’s nomination).
Richards’ fervent “pro-Stepan” stance is predicated on his belief that the company is not historically liable for addressing the thorium part of the problem. This, even though the federal government has asserted (in past documents and letters) that Stepan meets the criteria (as a “polluter” of thorium) under the Superfund law and should have inherited and addressed the responsibility.
In fact, Stepan inherited the financial assets of the former Maywood Chemical Works in a 1960 stock transaction and incorporated the former company as “a division” of Stepan. EPA has stated that this fact makes Stepan liable under the law.
We also know that Richards is smitten with Stepan over the fact that it has given the borough’s’volunteers an annual awards dinner (the mayor-elect is a longtime member of the volunteer ambulance squad)
Could that be the only major reason Richards obsesses himself with shielding Stepan?
Is it (paying for a nice banquet) really why Richards has been Stepan's "prime fromt man" in town for so long? even as Stepan has suffered a spate of serious accidents (small fires, chemical spills and explosions) that have hurt its employees, other people working near the plant, and defiled the surrounding environment?
Stepan, in fact, also sued some of the plant’s environmental critics, including Nolan and his CCM colleague, longtime anti-Richards Democrat Louise Torell, as the two joined in a suit against Stepan (a move you can be certain Richards gloated over).
This tactic is known in legal circles as SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Stepan took action after Nolan and Torell joined a suit against the company, which alleged that the plant caused sickness and death to area residents. The action led to a multi-million dollar out-of-court settlement in 1999. Stepan subsidizes the periodic health monitoring of the plaintiffs - and paid each a cash settlement.
For their activism in this area, Torell and Nolan were branded “environmental terrorists” by Richards’ ally, then-Democratic Mayor Thomas Murphy.
What would McNerney and McGreevey think about that?
McNerney and McGreevey may also be pitted against Richards’ newfound ally, Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9).
Rothman, apparently oblivious to Richards’ many misdeeds iand peccadillos in the whole Stepan/thorium affair, has essentially replaced Richards’ one-time mentor, former Congressman and Sen. Robert Torricelli (a major benefactor of Stepan campaign cash) as his new partner. This, as the ongoing thorium saga hits a highly critical stage.
This web site, in various stories, has firmly documented Richards' and Torricelli's past efforts to try insulating Stepan from paying as much money as possible to thoroughly clean up chemical and thorium contamination - which it and Maywood Chemical dumped and buried throughout the site.
On behalf of his campaign donor, Torricelli in 1983 overrode an original enforcement initiative - undertaken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - to make Stepan financially liable for both thorium and chemicals. His efforts, supported locally by Richards, led to bringing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) into Maywood, which took over Stepan’s original obligations in this area.
His deal has, ever since, protected Stepan from paying any more in cleaning up all remaining thorium (beyond the small contribution it made 20 years ago, through Torricelli’s deal).
Richards has historically gone ballistic over any thought that Stepan might have to adhere to the original EPA directive Torricelli overrode, after the agency tried making Stepan fully accountable for the thorium (Stepan has never been taken off the hook for chemicals).
As talk of trying to recover more cleanup monies from PRPs at the Maywood moves to the fore, there ironically has been little focus on how the chemicals will be addressed (even though Stepan is under EPA orders to provide a separate chemical cleanup plan).
Virtually all the publicity has been devoted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan for cleaning up thorium beneath commercial buildings and the surrounding properties in Maywood. It’s the one portion of the cleanup Stenan has, thus far, been largely exempted from having to take care of – due to Torricelli’s earlier political action.
True, Rothman and Richards maintain that they want to see the borough’s remaining thorium-contaminated soil, all of it (roughly 300,000 cubic yards), moved “up and out” of the municipality – long the position of the Concerned Citizens
The question is who exactly will pay for it?
Thus far, Rothman, without explaining why, has joined in lockstep with Richards in backing having taxpayers continue subsidizing the cleanup of Stepan’s original thorium problem.
The corps, which replaced the DOE as the lead thorium agency at the site in 1997, has left the door open to aggressively pursuing Stepan in getting it to cough up much more money for cleaning up Maywood’s remaining radiological waste. Doing so would essentially terminate Torricelli’s original agreement - and could make Richards quite nervous.
As 2004 moves closer, will Rothman and the new mayor (as Torricelli did previously) try interfering with any further enforcement actions against Stepan, concerning thorium?
Or will this Richards-Rothman duo join the New Jersey’s State Democratic Committee’s (and, by extension, McGreevey’s) call in the past 2003 campaign to make “polluters pay for causing environmental damage.” .
Also, when will Stepan, and the EPA, publicly unveil Stepan’s separate proposed plan for attacking chemicals?
“Up and out” seems to be the new mantra for resolving Maywood’s thorium debacle. But the details on how this will be accomplished need to be carefully examined.
While the EPA has promised Maywood that “up and out” will be carried out, remember, this same federal agency flat-out lied to the community (with the council's complete ascent) in the early 1990s.
During that period, the EPA once made – and then abandoned – a pledge not to pursue any cleanup requiring use of the Maywood interim site (including trucking soil in from Lodi) until after a record of decision was issued. This switch hurt Maywood, but certainly satisfied Richards (a private citizen when the decision was made).
More than likely, Richards’ ascendancy to the mayoral chair will lead to the designation of longtime confidante William Rupp as borough attorney – barring some new development. Rupp worked with the mayor-elect and Torricelli at the local level while town attorney 20 years ago to help thwart the EPA’s earlier thorium enforcement efforts against Stepan.
He did this via negotiating a “memorandum of understanding” that led to creation of the Maywood Interim Storage Site (MISS). Both men actively supported Stepan’s transferring ownership of some of its property to create the site – made possible when Torricelli negotiated the original deal relieving Stepan of a good part of its original financial liability.
Once Richards and Rupp accomplished this, and joined Torricelli in largely taking Stepan off the hook for thorium, they then repeatedly asserted that the mayor and council was powerless in trying to take on the federal government (the DOE).
They did so even though they themselves directly played a hand in weakening their municipality’s power against Stepan. Rupp subsequently referred to this principle as “the power of federal pre-emption.”
If Rupp’s appointment becomes reality in 2004, given his own checkered past on the whole thorium mess, his activities here must be closely monitored.
II. Two big initiatives on Richards’ plate: getting the federal government to transfer ownership of Stepan’s former and polluted property – the MISS – to the borough, and possibly developing the polluted Sears Distribution Center property. The latter site has been eyed as a potential location for part of a light rail transportation hub the state has studied.
A. On the possible MISS transfer – Richards and Rothman are working to pass federal legislation transferring ownership of the MISS – still held by the DOE - to the municipality. The DOE retained ownership even after thorium cleanup responsibility for Maywood’s area sites was reassigned - six years ago - to the corps.
Stepan originally owned this tract, which extends on to a small portion of neighboring Rochelle Park. The plant deeded it to the DOE through Torricelli’s dealings about 20 years ago. It has been used ever since as a base for taking and storing thorium. Waste has been taken there from the Phase I residential (mostly Lodi and a tiny smattering of Maywood) and Ballod commercial (Rochelle Park) properties prior to transportation via rail into a permanent storage facility (Envirocare of Utah). It has long been cited as a major eyesore and source of controversy.
Richards has said the borough should get the property so it can determine a future use (and potential ratable) for it. Yet, given his longstanding support for Stepan, his activities must be closely watched here.
For example, might Stepan argue that ownership should revert back to it, or might Richards’ friendly administration somehow try turning the site over to Stepan – after taxpayers subsidized a major part of the plant’s cleanup?
B. The future of Sears – Richards has talked about the need to eventually develop this large site into a major new ratable. But to what, and when?
Richards has favored using a large portion of the site to accommodate a light rail transportation system that would run from Paterson to Edgewater, in helping better get commuters from whatever route might be built into New York.
The Sears location has been the subject of clandestine discussions involving the borough and potential developers for at least the last four years, dating back to the days of then-Borough Administrator John Perkins.
Perkins once raised the possibility of building on this site three large commercial buildings under any light rail use. If any such plan were to be implemented, it would require a massive amount of outside financial assistance. Yet consideration of the light rail option has gotten bogged down under the McGreevey administration, so who knows what will happen?
Richards has made much about his friendship with McGreevey’s number two man, Chief of Staff Jamie Fox. The light rail proposal could be an item Richards might want to pitch to someone like Fox, former right-hand man to Torricelli, during some of the controversial years Torricelli dealt with the borough’s thorium mess.
About two years ago, the governing body, which now supposedly wants to get rid of all of the Superfund thorium contamination, entered into a study with the Bergen County Department of Planning and Economic Development to see if the location should be designated a “brownfields” site.
Such a designation might qualify the borough for some federal funding, though, Nolan complained at the time, could result in leaving large amounts of thorium and chemical pollution on the site.
At the corps' Aug. 28 2002 hearing on its proposed thorium cleanup plan for soils and buildings, Richards claimed that the council wanted to eventually develop part of the current Sears site for a recreational use, in part, to force a tougher cleanup in the area.
Richards certainly seems preoccupied with the Sears issue. Don’t be surprised if he announces there is a developer he knows who wants to come forward. But keep in mind, Richards has also desired to save Stepan as much money as possible in paying to help resolve the whole thorium debacle. While he says he wants “up and out” there now, he has proven he can change his spots pretty quickly – and the politically impotent EPA has always catered to the interests of Maywood’s conscience-challenged politicians.
While Richards and his colleagues will likely see sites like the MISS and Sears developed ASAP, by law, nothing can be done until the EPA (barring further political interference) is satisfied that any ROD spelling out a cleanup is met.
As they say, who knows?
IV. Straightening out the borough’s financial house, and resolving the issue of cost overruns to pay for the new “John A. Steuert Municipal Building” fiasco.
A. Financial problems – Borough Auditor Chuck Cuccia has admitted that department heads have routinely overexpended monies in their budgets, that is, spending more money from line items than the council has authorized. He has promised to work with Borough Administrator Jack Terhune on implementing a better accounting system here. If the new mayor wants to restore credibility in this area, he will need to keep close "tabs" on the borough’s performance here.
B The ”new Steuert building mess” continues – Rupp, as a special counsel, has been tasked with evaluating the issue of how much the borough may have spent unnecessarily on the beleaguered initiative – completed last March (2003)
Simply put, the borough - to try and help bring the matter to resolve – needs to prepare a report quantifying what should have been spent to finish the job under ideal conditions and how much might have been wasted due to factors such as alleged shoddy workmanship and alleged lax supervision.
Earlier this year, the council resolved some payment issues in an agreement reached with the site’s second contractor, GRE Construction of Parlin, though some litigation over the project apparently still looms.
During his 2002 council re-election campaign, Richards’ handlers tried painting the candidate as a heroic figure here, citing his push to appoint a clerk of the works (Raimondo Construction) to monitor progress at the site. The fact is, Richards joined everyone else on the council, during a 2000 meeting, in supporting Republican Mayor Wayne Kuss’ sudden and grand expansion plan.
That plan took the project from its original objective of renovating the volunteer ambulance headquarters and Protection Hook and Ladder firehouse to building an entire new borough hall at 15 Park Ave. However, Richards has since insisted he was misled - as to the scope and objectives of the revised project - by Building Inspector Joseph Mellone.
V. Making sure the borough gets its fair share from the state for ceding ratables obliterated by an ongoing Route 17 highway expansio/renovation
Using its considerable muscle, the state Department of Tramsportation has forcibly acquired some private commercial property off Route 17 South to initiate a project linked to providing better access between the highway and Route 80. Richards' running mate, Dr. Tim Eustace, has branded the state's proposed terms for providing payment in lieu of taxes a giveaway that will profoundly impact borough taxpayers for years to come. The state has essentially taken away the borough's ability to collect taxes annually from these previously-assessed properties (requiring the council to find ways for replacing the revenue).
Richards reported earlier this year that he held some private discussions with his friend Fox, who he likely expects will quickly return his phone calls for the rest of the new mayor's tenure. Yet, as we have seen with the borough's thorium debacle, borough officials have a troubling record when it comes to trying to assert the community's rights against powerful state and federal agencies who use politically-weak Maywood in pursuing their own agendas.
VI. Finally, will ballfield lights be installed in Memorial Park?
Richards. in another one of his contradictions, called for holding a non-binding referendum on this hot potato last August, after earlier rejecting some residents' pleas to support the move when the lights were first proposed in late 2002. At the time, the council adopted a roughly $300,000 bond ordinance to finance the undertaking - provided the borough could be significantly reimbursed via government grants and/or private donations.
Richards "switch" on the lights came without even acknowledging his prior opposition to a referendum.
This stand awkwardly put him at odds with Eustace, who supported the lights but opposed a referendum (with a council majority).
Note, Richards did not say he opposed installing the lights. His mayoral opponent, Republican Councilman Tom Gaffney, pulled his own "switch" when his ticket announced it would oppose the lights.
Asked where he thought things were heading, as of late September, Rich Hennion, a leader in the fight to permanently "kill" the lights, said the matter appeared dead - at least as of then.
"The sense I got in talking with the Democrats was that it (lights) was a dead issue because grant monies (to reimburse the borough's costs) could not be found," Hennion told TRUTH HURTS.
As they say, stay tuned.
AN ADDENDUM - RICHARDS' POLITICAL WEATHER VANE SPINS AND SPINS
By Chris Neidenberg
He comes to the mayoral chair likely with the local "mainstream" print media at his beckon call.
He also comes with a party majority that - by the very nature of politics - will likely show hardly any independence against him if needed, and a borough minority party that has even colluded with him at times.
But then again, he sometimes speaks of promoting "non-partisanship."
In fact, his "political weather vane" spins as furiously as a windmill on the windiest day of the year in Holland.
He always appears calculating, taking whatever position seems to best suit his needs at the moment (as you'll see later).
But if you attempt to report or expose such glaring contradictions, or any truths in a way that he perceives as a threat to his political survival, in our so-called free society, watch out!!
He definitely has exhibited behavior in the past that shows he is "a control freak"
The preponderance of evidence shows, at least in his public life, that he operates with "a low moral compass."
More than likely, state and federal agencies, the local EPA site manager, future developers, et al, seeking to do business with the borough, will need to "grovel at his feet.'
He'll like that.
Still, he's expert at working the town's "rubber chicken circuit," and he's been doing it for at least 30 years: MADCAP, Bergen County ARC, The Rotary, the volunteer ambulance squad, Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, et al, where many people only see one side of him.
And indeed, we don't doubt that he has done good community work in these areas.
He's no doubt, well-connected in Bergen County Democratic power structure, and in politics, it's always "who you know" that counts most - often at the expense of all morals and logic
He'll have plenty of political pals blind to his worst excesses.
He has cultivated a legion of local political associates through the years, who, for their own political and personal agendas and needs, don't want to see, know (or even care about) his other side.
The local political environment he will be operating in (a virtual vacuum) certainly creates the potential for executive abuse.
And there's no way anyone can argue that - just because he got more votes than his political opponent - he can do whatever he wants (or done some of the strange things he's done in the past).
Still,Tom Richardswill be mayor come January. He says he wants to take the borough in a new "direction," and we hope he does so in a way that pursues Maywood's best interests first and foremost - and in a completely open and honest environment..
Yet we've seen it all before: the phantom environmental advisory boards, the clandestine meetings he has held, particularly with federal environmental officials, who have long known that they can always count on any Maywood politician to "roll over" in getting what they want to do done.
Then there is Richards' repeated contradictions on policy issues throughout his public life.
In many instances, you never hear him acknowledge his changing a position, thus, many people who don't hear the original position might think the opinion is original.
As the saying goes, "The typical politician always counts on short memories."
Some classic examples:
A. Thorium - In 1994, outside a federal government meeting showcasing a contamination treatment program known as soil washing, opposed by the then-mayor and council Richards (who was not on the council at the time) stated that, because the bulk of the borough's site lied in an area zoned commercial, he did not believe the most thorough cleanup of contamination was essential . The goal has historically been defined as reaching five picocuries per gram.
He did say, even though there was no official report from the feds to prove it, that he was confidant the process would "suck out all of the thorium anyway."
During a public hearing held Aug. 28, 2002 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Maywood's proposed plan to clean up thorium-tainted soils from buildings and under ground, Richards (running for council) boldly declared a radically different policy.
He said that the council would work to force the feds into cleaning up these same commercial properties to five picocuries all the way (the cited "residential, unrestricted use" standard), drawing loud applause. Yet only in 2000, he was still pitching treatment as a very viable option.
He did so in attempting to promote soil separation, a different technology from washing, during a clandestine, non-public meeting involving the corps and state and federal elected officials. The session included Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9).
B Thorium again - In 1985, Richards, on the council back then, played a key role in getting his colleagues (a Democratic majority) to support trucking into the borough's then-new interim storage site large volumes of toxic dirt from a vacant and polluted commercially-zoned property in Rochelle Park, the first portion of the site needing action.
The action eventually helped a group of prominent Bergen County Republicans, who later sold the tract so it could be developed into the Bristol Manor Nursing Home.
This batch consisted of about 90 percent of the first wave of soil sent to the site, during a time when both major local parties (before their ultimate collusion on thorium) heatedly debated whether any outside contamination should be brought in at all (with Democrats arguing for the policy). This dirt stayed in town for about 10 years.
The remaining 10 percent of soil at that time came from homes (mostly in Lodi, a few in Maywood). The feds cleaned up the vacant commercial piece of land (Ballod) before acting on many, many other occupied, contaminated homes.
This historical action is very significant because, in the ensuing years, Richards has tried to claim (including during cleanup efforts ateempted in 1989, 1991 and more recently) that the first priority - out of neighborly benevolence - should be to address contamination ihreatening people living in homes - even if Maywood's interests had to be put on the back burner.
Then why did Richards earlier aggressively push the borough to accept dirt from the vacant Ballod commercial piece, while remaining silent about the fact that the feds were leaving behind large volumes of residential-based contamination under many other occupied homes?
C. Partisan v non-partisan government - One of his more recent flips (please read, "The 'two faces' of 'partisan' Mayor-elect Tom Richards").
On Oct. 28, 2002, during a candidates forum, Richards said there are essentially no major differences between Maywood "Republicans" and "Democrats." He further called for changing the municipal charter to turn Maywood into a "non-partisan" form of government with elections once every four years.
Five months later, rather than reaching out to the Republicans in promoting the cause, he runs a "partisan" mayor's race against the GOP, which he wins, and now wants to implement a "Democratic" agenda for the town.
Time will tell if Richards, who has grabbed the mayoral reins using the current 'partisan" system, will again change.
D. Allowing overnight tenant parking at the south-end apartments - Richards can always count on recruiting a band of tenant loyalists from the Essex Street area to generate "partisan" buzz on the tenant parking issue - when it suits his ends.
In fact, he claimed during a meeting last March (2003) that his party (and not the Republicans) has always been willing to help tenants in that area get overnight parking relief.
Ultimately, an agreement was reached with National Wholesale Liquidators for use of a private parking lot across the street (with majority Republican support).
Problem is, Richards' party, when it earlier had a majority, never implemented any kind of relief program for tenants in the general area.
This despite pleas from then-Democratic Councilman Frank Beatrice (with him on the council at the time were Democrats Mayor Thomas Murphy, Councilman Dr. Tim Eustace, Councilwoman Lorraine LaPietra and Councilwoman Joan Winnie)..
Where was Richards then - with his tenant loyalists - to lobby his party colleagues?
E. New Borough Hall debacle - Richards and two other council Democrats in 2000 supported this grand expansion plan, though Richards now says he received bad information in doing so from Building Inspector Joe Mellone (who helped oversee the work).
During a candidates' debate on Oct. 28, 2002, Richards, suggesting that the borough wasted a good deal of money on the effort, revealed he approached the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office on opening a criminal investigation into the matter, but was rebuffed.
That night, he called for the borough to initiate its own investigation over the matter instead.
Yet, during the council's first work session in the new building last March, after Republican Councilman Jim Petrie raised concerns as to the long-term effect the mess might have on the municipality's finances, Richards said that - since the building would serve the borough's needs over the next 50 years - this alone would justify any final price tag.
Thus. talk of pursuing any investigation at all, from Richards, soon faded after his 2002 re-election.
If we are to believe Richards now, the building is fine and all expenses were justified.
F. Referendum on ballfield lights in Memorial Park - Quite simply, Richards last August said he wanted residents to have a voice on the matter. Yet when residents upset with the original proposal pitched this same idea during a a council meeting late in 2002, he said nothing.
Politicians do reserve the right to occasionally evolve in their thinking on an issue.
Yet you seldom - if ever - hear any explanation from Richards over his many policy shifts and contradictions.
Let's simplify the points raised here.
A. THORIUM - In the mid-1980s. Richards plays an influential role in persuading the council to support the interim storage within Maywood of a massive amount of contamination from a then-vacant commercially-zoned piece of property, the Ballod site in Rochelle Park.
It made up about 90 percent of the original interim site pile - clearly visible from backyards on West Central Avenue.
He pushed this while letting the feds leave contamination under many homes in Lodi.
Yet, to hear Richards today, he makes people think he always prioritized taking care of houses - the vast majority which were in Lodi - because his prime concern was to help residents living in the homes.
A glaring contradiction.
B. THORIUM AGAIN - Richards spent years, on the council and as Environmental Legislative Action Committee chairman, trying to help the feds impose what, they eventually conceded, was an unworkable soil treatment plan upon his borough.
To do this, he even knowingly tolerated allowing the feds to delay finally releasing any kimd of thorium cleamup plan to his Maywood neighbors for over eight years.
Yet, during a public hearing convened by the feds on Aug. 28, 2002, Richards - playing to a receptive audience - suddenly declared he supported mandating the full excavation of all of Maywood's remaining waste - a view he seemed to spend years fighting.
A glaring contradiction.
C. ESTABLISHING A NON-PARTISAN FORM OF GVERNMENT - On Oct. 28, 2002, Richards declares that there are no real differences between Maywood's "Democrats" and "Republicans.
He calls for changing the municipal charter to a non-partisan form of government. He is joined by his GOP council opponent, Councilman Tom Gaffney.
Instead of pursuing this goal, six months later, he accepts the Democratic Party nomination for mayor and engages in a "partisan" mayoral campaign against his pal, Gaffney, which he wins.
He then announces he will govern pushing a Democratic-backed "agenda," called, "Direction 2004"
A glaring contradiction.
D. HELPING TENANTS IN THE SOUTH-END APARTMENTS GET OVERNIGHT PARKING - In March 2003, Richards - back in :partisan" drive - infers that Maywood Democrats always favored helping tenants secure overnight parking compared to the borough's Republicans.
Yet, during some prior years when his party had control (but while he was off the council), nothing was done to help the tenants.
This despite pleas from then-Democratic Councilman Frank Beatrice.
Richards. a major force in the borough's Democratic Party whether he's been on or off the council, is nowhere to be found in lobbying for the tenants.
A glaring contradiction.
E. LAUNCHING AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE BOROUGH HALL CONSTRUCTION MESS - On Oct. 28, 2002, he announces that he earlier petitioned the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office to launch a criminal investigation into the saga.
He suggests that a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars was wasted due to the borough's questionable handling of the project.
Yet, in early March of this year (2003) Richards suddenly declares everything is fine.
Given the new building will meet the borough's needs for another 50 years. he said, the expenses put into it were justified.
A glaring contradiction.
F. HOLDING A REFERENDUM ON MEMORIAL PARK LIGHTS - Richards' ignores residents' pleas to approve holding a non-binding referendum on the project around the time it is first unveiled during the fall-winter of 2002.
Then, in August of 2003, he declares he wants to give residents some kind of voice on the issue - without explaining his prior lack of support.
A glaring contradiction
For much more on the mindset of new Mayor Tom Richards, please read numerous articles throughout this site.
They include, "The 'two faces' of 'partisan' Democratic Mayor-elect Tom Richards," "Richards 'switches on' Memorial lights issue," "Bergen County Dems nominate 'pro-polluter' ticket?" and its follow-up, "An addendum - Do the pols really want 'non-partisan' government?" Also see, "Richards still cozy with town's worst polluter - Parts I and II," "Dem, GOP hopefuls admit, 'Parties not different,'" and "Candidates urge probe of building mess."