Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Other than the lights, are there no other pressing issues in the village?"

Funny thing happened last night at Village Hall. I went to a Village Council Candidates Night, and a Board of Ed debate broke out. (That's supposed to sound like the old joke about going to a fight and a hockey game broke out...sound familiar? Anybody?)

Well, not really a BOE debate, more like a repetitive airing of grievances and misinformation.

I thought it was odd how so much of the conversation focused on the new lights at RHS Stadium and Stevens fields, as well as the Council's handling of the defeated school budget last spring. And by "conversation," I obviously mean mis-statements and vague promises.

Contrary to one of the candidates' statements, at no time did the school district approach the Village for funding of the lights, and the current funding arrangement was not developed following any "heated discussions" of any kind.

It was odd to hear such criticism of the users of the lighted fields, consistently referred to as "them," as those "others" who are somehow benefitting. Hello? They are the thousands of children of our town, children of our taxpayers. They are us, and we are all going to benefit from better, more efficient use of our limited field space.

To those candidates who lamented the short timeframe the Council had in which to cut (or not cut) the school budget (with the implication being, if they only had more time, they could have cut the budget more): Board of Ed members and Dr. Fishbein were all over town prior to the budget vote, offering to review the budget in detail and answer any questions. Long before the vote, the Board invited the Councilmembers to a meeting to review the budget and answer any questions -- in as much detail as desired. And as for the "new" idea that a Village councilperson could serve as a liaison to the BOE -- there has been one for a long time. Anne Zusy was the liaison to the BOE...prior to that Jacques Harlow was the liaison. My point is, there are many opportunities for communication and (no pun intended) education between the BOE and the Council. I don't believe communication or lack of time is what determined the Council's decision on the budget. As I've said before, the leading factor was undoubtedly the fact that we had already cut $6.9 million from the budget. There really was not room to cut more without damaging the district.

Anyway, back to the Candidates' Night: it was surprising to me how few questions there were from the audience. Not sure what that means...more voter apathy, I suppose.

I heard the Stop Valley people will be naming "their" candidate soon (possibly tonight). It should be an interesting couple of weeks till the election.


Oliver Train said...

Hi All,

I am the candidate who was lamenting to Laurie about the Council and the short time they said they had to go over the BOE budget. I agree, the questioning was strange. 80% Valley, 10% Lights, the rest Garbage - literally. Only one question directly about property taxes.

In no way was I asserting that the BOE was not reaching out to the public and the Council. In fact I personally attended a coffee with Dr. Fishbein and other board members prior to the budget vote. So I know that was not the case. If the Council chose not to get involved, that's their (and ultimately the Residents') problem.

My point was, and is, that even though the two budgets are separate, they are both paid for by the same tax money. That makes them very much interrelated. I believe that there must be synergies within the two budgets that can be identified to save in clever, safe ways. The more details each budget crew knows about the other the better.

The next budget cycle will probably be the one where major changes to the employee costs must begin. More participation from the Municipal side of the fence may be beneficial and help the BOE avoid making cuts that are truly damaging and demoralizing.

Oliver Train

Laurie said...

Hey, Oliver. Thanks for posting. I will welcome any input and ideas -- whether from the council or "regular" citizens -- as we work through the budget in the spring. And you are correct that the next budget cycle will coincide with negotiations on a new contract with our teachers and secretaries -- whose contract ends on June 30.

Thanks for getting involved and good luck.

Anonymous said...

On this I have to disagree with both of you...if the questions were 80% Valley, 10% Lights, and the rest about garbage collection -it is not strange. This is a reflection of what peoples concerns are - in relation to what they think might really be accomplished by the Village Conucil. People don't really believe that the Village Council will be able to do much about property taxes.
Regarding you ideas to work at property taxes, continue to expound them, but expect people to be surprised that there are such real ideas.

Anonymous said...

A very easy solution to all this would be if the BOE would have open forums for discussion and not that 4 minute comment with no real
conversation and debate. Why not be a leader and push for a monthly say meeting on topical issues that
we can actually go back and forth and talk. I think you would be surprised how nice and intelligent most of us are. We just need the proper forum. C'mon Laurie be a Leader! You can even take credit for such a blasphemous idea of real
democracy, openness and transparency. If you don't publish
this and respond I guess we'll know
your stripes. Trust me, plain and
simple communication like you said about the Village Council is the answer. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

despite the fact that you wrote
"If you don't publish this and respond I guess we'll know
your stripes." Laurie published it. Just as she has posted comments I have made that disagreed with her. I think you were out of line.
I also think you put the lie to your own statement "I think you would be surprised how nice and intelligent most of us are."

Laurie said...

Thanks for posting.

@11:42, I like the open forum idea. It is an idea I have suggested at various times. In January 09, we held an open forum on communications and asked anyone and everyone to come tell us show they feel about the way the school district communicates. Not many people showed up (maybe 10-12?) The Board recently discussed holding an open forum to discuss the budget...more discussion to come.

I share your frustration with the limits of the 4-minutes-at-the-microphone process. It's definitely not what anyone would call a dialogue. Since our meetings are exactly that -- meetings where we have a lot of work to get done -- a separate open forum/town hall event might make more sense.

Oliver Train said...

@10:35 - Give me a chance - You never know what can be done given the proper motivation.

I'm a big beliver in Coffee's. True they take a lot of time, but its really the best way to gather opinions. People aren't intimidated by the microphone, and there the number of participants is limited so everyone gets a chance to talk. Dr. Fishbein took the time last year to reach out, and I thought that was great.

Excuse the obvious granstanding - but I do need to get elected... I have open nights next week and I want to fill them - please go to my website www.olivertrain.com and sign up for a coffee. I'd love to meet you or your group.

Oliver Train

Anonymous said...

Laurie, a little over a week ago on a different post, I told you that I was unable to view the BOE meetings on line. You asked a couple of questions as though you were going to help me and I responded. I have not heard from you since. I have asked others if they can view the meeting and they are having the same trouble as me on various operating systems with various internet providers. Can you look into this and tell me how I can view the meetings? After all, what's the point in posting them if people can't see them?

Laurie said...

I am so so sorry! I did follow up with our IT department. And I have done my own "unscientific" research, where I have asked various friends and acquaintances to tell me if they are able to view the meetings. What's puzzling is the very different experiences we seem to be having. Of the five people I asked -- both Mac and Windows and both Verizon and Optonline -- all of them are able to watch the meetings online. That is obviously a very different story than what you have been finding and presents a bit of a mystery.

The person I spoke to at the Ed Center stated that perhaps an older computer or operating system, or limitations of RAM, could be to blame? Is your computer on the older side? Are you able to stream video from other websites?

Anybody else reading this...what is your experience with the BOE webcasts?

Since I am a bit of a "techie," it's in my nature to want to try and help solve this, but it's normally beyond a Board member's responsibilities to provide tech support! That being said, I want everyone to have access so I am still looking into this issue. Perhaps you would like to email me directly to pursue this further? If so, please email me at lauriegood@mac.com There are probably some other questions I could ask or resources I could point you to...

I apologize for not posting more quickly.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem.
5 year old computer

Laurie said...

Hello. I have learned that a deal to get Village Council and BOE meetings broadcast on Verizon FIOS in addition to Cablevision is being wrapped up, and this WILL be happening. I didn't get any kind of an ETA, but I'll check into it after a month or two.

This will give another alternative to the webcasts for BOE meetings, which are problematic for a few people. (And of course the Village Council doesn't webcast, so adding FIOS will be a great improvement in public access.)