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* MLK Day Town Meeting


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On Monday, January 18, 2010, Mayor Raymond McDonough and the Town Council will hold a Special Council meeting at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers in the Town Hall. There will be no Caucus. The only item on the Agenda is the Salary Ordinance for Civil Service Workers and other Department Heads. Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday and an official federal, state and town holiday.

In the face of a loss of $5 million in state aid and an economic crisis, Mayor McDonough had previously tabled the Salary Ordinances providing for retroactive pay increases for the Police, Fire, and Civil Service workers. The Police and Fire ordinances however were added to the Town's Reorganization meeting held on New Year's Day, January 1, 2010 and were passed. The Civil Service ordinance however was not on the New Year's Meeting Agenda.

On Tuesday January 19, 2010, Governor-elect Chris Christie will be sworn in as New Jersey's 55th Governor. Christie will start his inauguration day by attending a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark and he will end the day with a subdued inaugural ball at the Prudential Center Arena in Newark. Both of these locations are within a mile of Harrison. Christie announced this week that he does not plan on giving out any additional distressed city aid to cities including the Town of Harrison. Over 5 million dollars has been withheld from Harrison by Governor Jon Corzine and there is no expectation that Governor-elect Chris Christie will bless Harrison with the funds anytime soon. In fact distressed city funding may decrease even more under the Christie administration.

So why give town workers salary increases in the face of a loss of 5 million dollars in state aid? You will get the opportunity to ask that question if you attend the Special Martin Luther King, Jr. Meeting on Monday.

Because of the Town's Budget deficit, there will undoubtedly be a need to lay off town workers. Passing a salary increase will put an additional burden on Harrison's property tax payers who are already overwhelmed. Mayor McDonough cannot be insensitive to the plight of Harrison's taxpayers. He however is torn between facing the reality of present Harrison and following through with his promise to his base, town workers. Tough times however call for strong leadership. Mayor McDonough must lobby the councilmembers and vote down the salary ordinance.

Some Town workers will be upset with me for suggesting that retroactive salary increases be denied. The reality is that if salary increases are passed there will be no possibility that Governor-elect Chris Christie will restore any of the 5 million dollar aid to Harrison. Nor will the town be looked upon with any credibility in years to come which will effect future aid to Harrison.

The other byproduct of salary increases is the need for laying off town workers. Town workers with less seniority and lower salaries will be lost entirely. Wouldn't it make more sense to forgo salary increases in exchange for job security for all. Town workers must face the reality that town residents have been facing for over two years-- job loss, salary decreases, job insecurity, and ever increasing property taxes. The choice for town workers is save fellow town workers jobs or get a short lived pay increase?

What would Martin Luther King Jr. think of the Town of Harrison holding a special town meeting on his official birthday? He would probably tell everyone that the best present you could give him would be to make sure you went out to the meeting and expressed your thoughts. Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership in the face of incredible odds pales in contrast to what it takes to voice your opinion at a council meeting. What he accomplished is extraordinary. I urge everyone to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennesee. The Museum is located at the site of Martin Luther King's assassination, the Lorraine Motel. I was extremely moved when I realized in the course of an audio tour that I was standing a couple feet away from where Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down. The Civil Rights struggle was not just Martin Luther Kings, there were other individuals who gave their lives to pave the way, but how devastating was it to lose such a person as Martin Luther King Jr. I will be reflecting on his courage when I attend the Special Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Meeting of the Harrison Mayor & Council.

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