Ridgewood News

By Paul Aronsohn


Welcome to the October 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 two more times this month – October 9 and October 23.  On the agenda will be the town garage … shade tree policy … emergency preparedness … and a host of other important issues.


All of our meetings are open to the public, and residents are encouraged to attend and participate.


Village Manager’s Office


Since former Village Manager (VM) Ken Gabbert’s departure on August 31, residents have approached me with questions, most notably … why did he get a severance package, and what are we looking for in his successor.


With respect to the severance package, the Council gave him the bare minimum:  3 months’ salary and 51 days of vacation time.  The salary requirement is state law; the vacation payout was part of his original agreement with the Village.  Granted, a much larger severance package was discussed, but in the end, the Council majority thought it best to stick with the bare minimum.


With respect to his successor, each Council member is approaching the interview process with her/his own set of ideas and priorities.  For me, there are at least 4 things guiding my approach to this candidate review process:


Management Skills – Clearly, our next VM must be a strong, effective leader – one who can manage a large, complex organization with energy and vision and one who has the ability to make tough, smart decisions in a way that is respectful to the residents and to the professional staff.


The “New Normal” – Our next VM must recognize the economic “new normal” and the need for a fresh, forward-looking approach to municipal government.  No more automatic spending increases.  No more automatic fee and tax increases.  With many residents/taxpayers earning less than they did 5 years ago, the conventional way of doing government is no longer sustainable.


Government Operations – Our next VM must undertake a comprehensive review of Village operations with an eye towards rooting out bad practices.  We need better financial management controls.  We need a more user-friendly permitting process.  We need to take a good, hard look at Village operations and then … as needed … fix them.


Sense of Community — Our next VM must fully appreciate that Ridgewood is a community in the truest sense of the word.  In this town, we volunteer.  We work together on projects and events.  We join committees and attend non-profit fundraisers.  And in this town, we stand together – in good times and bad.   Our next VM must be ready, willing and able to embrace and add to this profound sense of community.


In essence, the Village Manager is the CEO of our municipal government, playing a central role in the day-to-day management of Ridgewood.  It is therefore critical that we get it right.


Disability Awareness


October is “National Disability Awareness” month, and of course, we have a lot going on here in Ridgewood.


Identification Cards – Alongside the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, we will be hosting a program to provide official identification cards to Ridgewood seniors and young people with special needs.  The “Gold Star” identification cards, which can provide first responders with vital medical information in emergency situations, will be free and made available in the Village Hall Community Center on Thursday, October 10 from 1pm to 5pm.  For more information, contact us at access@ridgewoodnj.net.


Access Ridgewood – Our 5th annual disability awareness program will include something for everyone – students, seniors, young adults, families, performers, models, soccer players and those who enjoy a good interfaith service.   The program will run from Friday, October 18 thru Sunday, October 20.  For more information, please contact us at access@ridgewoodnj.net .


Salute to Champions – The Bergen County “Salute to Champions” awards program will be recognizing one of our own.  Pastor Judy Broeker (First Reformed Church in Ridgewood) will receive an award, which honors people who “demonstrate a commitment to inclusion and changing attitudes.”  The event will be at the Bergen Community College on Friday, October 25 at 10am.  It’s free and open to everyone.


Ridgewood Journey


The Ridgewood Historical Society will be opening a compelling new exhibit on Sunday, October 13 at the Schoolhouse Museum.  Called “A Community’s Journey,” the exhibit takes an important look at Ridgewood’s evolution as seen through the prisms of diversity, innovation and liberty.


It’s a must see.


Office Hours


I will be holding my monthly office hours tomorrow — Saturday, October 5 from 9am to 12pm 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 ) … or through the Village Clerk’s office.