Ridgewood News

Happy New Year, and welcome to the January 2014 edition of the Mayor’s Corner – my monthly Ridgewood News column that aims to make village government more accessible, more transparent, more user-friendly.

Council agenda: The council will meet three times this month – Jan. 8, 15 and 29. On the agenda will be a school-related smoking ban, the municipal budget, the town garage, and a host of other important issues.

All of our meetings are open to the public, and residents are encouraged to attend and participate. Please visit our website, ridgewoodnj.net, for more information.

New Year’s agenda

If you think last year was busy, get ready for 2014. This council remains determined to tackle all issues, big and small, with energy, common sense and a profound sense of our responsibility to the people we serve.

Village Manager: We have begun interviewing candidates for the village manager position. Having received more than 50 applications, the council has already completed its first round of interviews and is set to begin the second round in early January. My hope/expectation is that we will have a new village manager named by the beginning of March.

Granted, we are not rushing this process. This is arguably the most important decision we will make as a council, and it is more important to get it right, than to get it fast. Fortunately, in the meantime, we have Acting Village Manager Heather Mailander at the helm, keeping our village on course and moving forward.

Village budget: Last year, the council adopted a budget that was actually smaller than the year before and included no municipal tax increase – the first time in almost 20 years that a council adopted a flat budget with no tax increase. This year, we are doing our best to replicate that achievement. Although expenses continue to rise, Village Chief Financial Officer Steve Sanzari is leading the effort toward another flat budget – one that strikes the balance between providing important village services and respecting the heavy tax burden already faced by our residents.

This year, we have the help of the newly created Financial Advisory Committee (FAC). Led by Nancy Johansen, the FAC is working with Heather and Steve to fix our budget process – making it more sensible, more transparent and more effective.

Parking: We are determined to build a parking deck. Although this issue has been discussed for well over 50 years, we are working hard to make this happen in the next year or two. We continue to look at different options, including a possible partnership with the Bergen County Improvement Authority, which could lead to the construction of one or more parking decks in the Central Business District. This would be good for commuters, shoppers and diners. This would be good for local businesses. This would be good for Ridgewood.

Planning Board issues: The Planning Board has been busy with two issues of its own – a proposal to expand Valley Hospital and proposals to permit high-end multi-family housing in the downtown area. Depending on the outcome of the Planning Board hearings, these issues may land on the council agenda this year.

Clearly, these are complex issues, and to their credit, Planning Board members have been carefully and thoughtfully analyzing the proposals. In fact, the current Valley Hospital proposal has been before the board for almost a year, and the multi-family housing proposals have been on the agenda and discussed for almost three years.

Going forward, I have two requests for all involved in these processes: Be clear on the facts, and be civil to one another. We need to stem the flow of misinformation that has already created distrust and confusion, and we need to treat each other with respect, courtesy and integrity. After all, we are all neighbors, and we are all in this together.

Other issues: Additionally, there will be a host of other important issues taken up by the council – a new town garage, smoking bans around the schools, shade tree policy, pedestrian safety, more senior programming, the Schedler property, etc.

Mark Your Calendars

Marrow Drive: Last month, we held a marrow drive for Ridgewood’s Anthony Daniels. More than 500 people were tested! Now, this Sunday, we will be holding another marrow drive for Ridgewood’s “Eco” Ed Schwartz at Temple Israel. Please join us for this very important opportunity. For more information, please contact the Temple at 201-444-9320.

Super Bowl: The Chamber of Commerce has been busy planning a week of “Pre-Game Celebration” activities leading up to the Super Bowl (February 2). The YMCA and Ridgewood Public Library will be hosting events. Various restaurants and retail stores will be running specials. There will be a special “Fire and Ice” activity at Graydon Park. And there will be other special celebrations in the Central Business District. Check out the Chamber’s website for more information – ridgewoodchamber.org.

Elections: There will be three important elections this year: the Village Council on May 13, and the Board of Education and general election both on Nov. 4. These are great opportunities for people who want to serve our community and for us voters to elect good, smart, well-meaning people.

Office Hours

I will be holding my monthly office hours tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon in the Village Hall Council Chamber (4th floor). All Ridgewood residents are welcome.

Please contact the Village Clerk’s office (201-670-5500, ext. 201) to make an appointment, or just take a chance and stop on by. If you’ve got an idea, question or concern, I want to know about it.

Mayor Paul Aronsohn can be reached via email (paronsohn@ridgewoodnj. net), through his Twitter account (@paularonsohn), orthrough the Village Clerk’s office