Speaking up Residents demanded answers
by : Christine Nardone Reporter staff writer
Sep 22, 2000 | 251 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By 7 p.m. Tuesday, Union City residents were already fighting for seats in City Hall for the Sept. 19 Board of Commissioners meeting. Curious as to what Mayor Rudy Garcia was going to say this week about the ever-increasing taxes and the imminent recall movement against him, the residents impatiently chanted, "Rudy must go!" and vigorously waved signs asking the mayor to resign.

Not even the overwhelming police presence could keep the crowd quiet when, after a brief closed session, Garcia walked out of the back room with a smile on his face, waving to his obvious dissenters. "I want to thank everyone for being here tonight," Garcia said, with a sarcastic tone. Garcia reminded the crowd that he wanted to run an orderly meeting.

"The mob rule may apply at your homes or in the streets," said Garcia after an outburst from the crowd. "But not here."

Unfortunately, since the meeting was held just one day after political leader Brian Stack filed the letter of intent that officially kicked off the recall movement against Garcia, the residents weren't interested in city business. They only wanted to talk about two things; their taxes and the recall.

"I am not supporting Brian Stack or Garcia," said resident John Romanik. "I just want the job done right."

However, both Garcia and Revenue and Finance Commissioner Ralph Fraguela agreed that the meeting was not the place to discuss the recall movement.

"I really don't want to go there," said Garcia when asked about the recall. "If you want to talk about the taxes, okay, that is city business."

"We are trying to work together to resolve our problems," added Fraguela, who was one of the three signers on the letter of intent to recall Garcia. "I do not want to entertain any political discussions."

Having their say

But despite these warnings, the many residents who did stay until the public hearing section of the meeting that finally occurred around 10 p.m. did have their say.

Many residents called Garcia a liar and attacked the mayor for the recent tax hike.

"In 1998, you said that you weren't going to raise taxes," said one resident. "You broke your promise." Garcia's rebuttal was that he did introduce a balanced budget for last year in November.

"The budget was introduced in November, not April, and it was balanced," said Garcia. "I did not break my promise." (That budget, however, included two controversial revenue items that ultimately were not approved in time to bring in the money expected for that year.)

City resident John Romanik asked Garcia about city employees who now receive more than one paycheck from the city, calling it double-dipping and saying that it has to stop.

Romanik also asked about 150 policemen and city employees who were hired last year. "Why don't we fire them?" said Romanik.

"Where have you been?" answered Garcia with a smirk. "I don't control this board anymore."

Garcia added, "You need three votes from this board to pass anything. The mayor only has one vote." "Why is only Garcia being recalled?" asked some residents, who said they felt that if the mayor should be recalled, then the entire board should also be recalled.

Taxing

However, many, like Emma Zantarski, a city resident who regularly attends the board's meetings, did ask about the tax rate.

"Everybody is suffering in Union City," Zantarski said. "We are paying for everything and in return we are getting nothing."

"I have no problem paying taxes, but I want service," said another concerned resident who added that he constantly sees people urinating in front of his property and has had property damaged by the city's sanitation workers.

Another resident cleverly tied both the taxes and the recall together.

"Why don't you save the taxpayers $95,000 and resign," the resident said, referring to the cost of a recall election.

In other news

However, the board was able to get some work done. An ordinance was passed to regulate the city's many parades and processions. The ordinance, which was passed with a 4-0 vote since Commissioner Ray Lopez was unable to attend the meeting, will make the organization asking for the parade take the financial burden off the tax payers.

"This ordinance makes sure that the parade holders have proper insurance and will pay for the additional manpower for police and DPW workers," said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Leggiero. Leggiero added, "This ordinance will promote more efficiency and more safety at these events." A proclamation was also given to Raul Fernandez in recognition of his retirement at this meeting. Fernandez has worked as an investigator in the Union City Welfare Office and then as a Spanish-English interpreter in the Municipal Court.

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