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Opinion: Fact-Checking Mayor Shehady's September

Former Mayor takes issue with Shehady's September Mayor's message, particularly with regards to pension deferral payment.

MOSTLY FALSE

In keeping with his policy of making statements that place blame on others and place himself in a favorable light, Mr. Shehady has once again used his political acumen in writing his .

Anyone who reads the Star-Ledger knows they print a column regarding statements made by New Jersey politicians and rate it on their Truth-O-Meter.  By their definition, a mostly false statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

If there is something Mr. Shehady is good at, it is making this type of statement. In particular, after stating that the incumbent Republicans up for re-election (does anyone see a campaign plug here?) did a wonderful job in maintaining fiscal prudence, he explains that Springfield has an old pension obligation of $760,000, dating back to 2009, and specifically blaming the previous mayors;  Ken Faigenbaum, Hugh Keffer and me. 

The truthful portion of his statement is that there is $760,000 due for the pension deferral.  The information that he omitted, which makes his statement mostly false, is that when Springfield, as well as every other city/town/municipality in New Jersey was notified that money was needed to properly fund the government pension, we had the choice to pay it all in one lump sum ($760,000) or spread it out over the next 3 years (2009-2012). Any amount paid before the 2012 deadline would not incur a penalty or interest.  So, in essence, it was the state’s way of giving everyone an interest free loan for 3 years. 

If we would have paid the amount in full in 2009, it would have created a municipal tax increase in excess of 15 percent for our residents, on top of the increases both the county and school were requiring. The majority of the township committee voted to defer the payments (Mr. Shehady voted against deferral) and make partial payments over the next 3 years, mitigating the tax burden on our residents.

You may ask how this all came about, so a quick refresher is in order. From 1994-2001 New Jersey’s Republican Governor, Christine Whitman, advised everyone the state pension was overfunded due to the ever increasing stock market, and there was no need for further pension contributions. So, each city/town/municipality began using those funds that had previously been earmarked for pension contributions toward other things needed by their towns. If you remember, a number of years during that period, municipal taxes didn’t increase or increased slightly since money previously used to fund the pension was now being used for operating. 

Since professionally, I work with people planning for their future retirement, my question is, who in Governor Whitman’s cabinet was ridiculous enough to believe the markets would continue to go up without any downward correction?

My other question is why, in 2010, during Mr. Shehady’s first term as mayor, did he fail to make any payment toward the pension debt? He was very quick to take credit for reducing the towns’ health insurance costs when our municipal workers had to start paying for a portion of their health insurance.  But a further look at that situation reveals the change was not of his doing, he was just at the right place at the right time.  Each and every township committee, Republican and Democrat, for at least the past 12 years had tried to do the same thing.  It was not until the change was made in Trenton under Governor Chris Christie did things change. 

Specifically, whenever any previous mayor (mayor’s Katz, Marshall, Mullman, Harelik, Faigenbaum, Keffer, and me) attempted to have our municipal employees pay for health care, the unions took us to arbitration and each and every time the town lost.  It was not until Governor Christie appointed arbitrators who were in line with his thinking that a change occurred. 

So for Mr. Shehady to take credit for it is disingenuous at best.

My question, again, is why he didn’t make a payment toward the pension obligation when the town started saving money with employees having to pay part of their health care costs; he boasted about a savings of approximately $1 million.  In addition, in 2010 Springfield paid the township attorney, appointed by Mr. Shehady, in excess of $240,000 whereas the cost for the previous township attorney (2009) was $92,000.   Simple math tells us that the pension obligation could and should have been paid off by now, as we had planned.

So rather than blaming others for the large pension obligation due this year, maybe Mr. Shehady should have planned for our future instead of constantly campaigning for his political future.

One last point. If you have not noticed, whenever Mr. Shehady posts something on the Patch he does it without allowing the readers to respond.  This is done intentionally by him, in order to avoid opinions that differ from his.  I personally don’t think that’s fair, but besides the fairness of it, it doesn’t allow anyone with knowledge of the actual facts to dispute his claims.  But then again, for anyone who has attended a Township Committee meeting or viewed it online, they can see that Mr. Shehady does not like it when people disagree with him.  So much for "open government.

BART FRAENKEL September 24, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Repeating what you write points out what little or of no value it has. Making empty statements, half-truths and spinning everything in your favor, and pitting neighbor against neighbor is the Shehady way. I thought your words worked much better when it reflects a more accurrate description of Z (you?). Why haven't you or anyone else talked about the debacle that occurred at last weeks BOH meeting? One of the new members, appointed by the 3 Republicans as an alternate, wanted to ask a question and was told by Mr. Krauss that he couldn't. Open government at its finest! Control over every aspect of the local government is all this administration is about. They don't want anyone asking questions or offering differing opinions and that is why they the November election will see them lose. People know what's going on and are absolutely fed up and will use their vote to express that displeasure.
Jordan Odette September 24, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Gentlemen, before I say what I intend to say, let me start by assuring all of you that I am NOT Mayor Shehady, and this is in fact me speaking (a mid-twenty's Springfield resident). Whoever posted above that Mr. Fernandez Championed the downtown area in Springfield is a fool. Clearly that person does not drive down Morris Avenue much. I was just having this conversation with someone - that survey that was sent out about what we all would like to see in our downtown that we see similarly in neighboring towns - what happened to that exactly? There isn't a more disgusting place that I can think of in a 15 mile radius than our downtown area. The sad thing is that the area by 22 is getting more popular retail than anywhere else in town! I don't know anyone here on a personal level, but man I am completely embarassed for all of you. If this is what local / municipal politics is like, than I can't even imagine what it must be like to be a politician at a higher level; thank god I do private-sector work. This back and forth is disgusting. I suppose I'm adding to it right now, but I just had to respond to that ridiculous comment about the downtown area being "championed". Of all words, that one could not be farther away from reality. GET US A STARBUCKS! L'shanah Tovah.
Tony September 26, 2012 at 12:15 PM
http://springfield.patch.com/blog_posts/springfield-takes-another-step-towards-downtown-redevelopment
annoy nymous September 28, 2012 at 01:38 AM
I noticed this article was written by the mayor. Now that we have discovered all the Mayor's Patch identities (Freeman, Anthony D, Save Springfield), perhaps Tony should also be added to the list. Anyway, thanks for the attempt at explaining how Jerry Fernandez "championed" downtown redevelopment. It still makes me laugh. It was at least another nice photo op for the Mayor. I just left the township meeting that is now in executive session -so if by chance any of you (Anthony D, Freeman, Save Springfield, Tony) are not the Mayor and you are not busy right now (in executive session)- feel free to respond now.
Bart Simpson October 02, 2012 at 09:35 PM
I thought downtown Springfield was on Mountain avenue by Oakland....Bagel shop, Tom's Pizza, Ice Hut, Smoke shop, Bagel Chateu, Szechian restaurant, Dry Cleaner, Terry's Shell Station, St. James School and Church, Both Synagogues, Dance studio, SpeedyMart/Welsh Farms, 7 minute oil change, Fired Department, Police Department...and ...oh yeah, isn't that where they have those one sided "town hall" committee meetings?? Springfield Center is a small City center with No local or small town feeling. (just another Bus stop)

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