Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hackensack SOAR club attends youth leadership conference

Members of the Hackensack SOAR (Steering out Alcohol Responsibly) Club attended a two day leadership conference at Felician College on August 19th and 20th.

Approximately 25 students participated in workshops, team building activities, and ice breakers specifically geared towards effectively creating positive change among their peers in their schools and communities. The program was designed to help students work toward raising awareness about underage drinking and drug abuse, as well as creating a network of peer leaders with the ability to educate their groups, schools and communities. Students that participated were members of Hackensack SOAR (Steering Out Alcohol Responsibly), Garfield EPIC (Empower Peers and Inspire Change) and the Bergen County Prevention Coalition Youth Task Force. The students also had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Michael Fowlin, a noted psychologist and presenter on issues of race, discrimination, and violence prevention. He left the students feeling motivated and determined to make a difference in their communities.

"The Youth Leadership Conference was a collaboration between Felician College and The Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources of Bergen County as a way of exposing the students to teamwork, emotional development, leadership skills, and personal growth,” said Ben Silverman, Counselor and AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) Education Coordinator at Felician College.  “We are very happy with the success of the conference, as the students were able to learn from each other as well as experience life on a college campus, and look forward to renewing the partnership in the future.”                       

“… I truly loved my experience and I wish I can repeat it again. I met some new incredible people because of this event. We need to do more small events like these because these are the ones that get kids involved and opened up. Thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime that I hope I will be able to experience again. When I first left the campus, I felt sort of upset that my experience was over. However, after awhile of thinking about it, my experience is not over. This was just the introduction to a new beginning. I feel like I have gained leadership skills and learned many things about appreciating the life I have now. I did not have a favorite part of my two days there because everything was so great.” Said Alex Barrios, 18 of Hackensack, who is a member of the Steering Out Alcohol Responsibly Program.  “One of the starts of me opening up started during the speaker when I had the time to talk to him personally after his speech and got to know how humble he is even after all of the troubles he has gone through. Also, the activity when we had to ‘cross the line,’ I feel opened up people’s hearts when everyone realized how equal we are and how much support we really have. I feel like we have all realized how easy people judge others without even getting to know who they are. Thank you for this opportunity and experience that I will never forget. This has made me stronger and shaped me as a better person. This has been the highlight of my summer.”

The Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources provides community and school-based education programs about alcohol and drug abuse and advocates for responsive prevention and treatment services. The Center's offices are located in Hackensack and its services are available throughout Bergen County.  Children’s Aid and Family Services is one of the leading nonprofit human services organizations serving northern New Jersey. The agency is fully accredited and has served the community for more than 110 years. Its mission is to preserve, protect and, when needed, provide families. Motivated by compassion for vulnerable children, young adults, frail elderly and their families, it provides high-quality and innovative services that meet their social, educational and emotional needs. For more information, call 201.261.2800 or visit

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Out with the patronage, or is it?

I don't think that anyone would attempt to refute that the Zisa-Hurwitz political machine ruled, or rules, Hackensack with an iron fist.  After all, with a $97 million school budget and a $92 million municipal budget, there are plenty of ways to make friends.  What is that old golden rule?  Not that kindness thing, that one that he with the gold is the one who makes the rules.

I think that we have all resigned to the fact that the Coalition for Open Government was backed by the Zisa/Hurwitz Political machine.  We as residents and tax payers watched for years as Zisa/Hurwitz supporters, and their families, received municipal and school jobs, and were awarded lucrative contracts.  Without getting into the jobs handed out at the Municipal and County level (THAT IS THE TOPIC OF A WHOLE NEW ARTICLE, STAY TUNED) here is just a recap of a few of the most notable:
  • Richard Salkin- Zisa/Hurwitz operative--how many hundreds of thousands has he collected in legal fees from the City and Board of Education?  A regular $1,000 donor to Zisa/Hurwitz controlled PAC's.
  • Donald Lenner- The City tax attorney collecting handsome fees for his "handling" of tax appeals.  He regularly donates to and serves as the treasurer for Zisa/Hurwitz controlled campaigns and PAC's.  
  • Jack Zisa-  The former Mayor and Hackensack PAC donor who had lucrative insurance contracts with the City. 
  • Richard Malagiere- The former Zoning Board attorney and special counsel to the City who served also as the personal attorney to disgraced former Police Chief Ken Zisa.  Malagiere was a frequent, generous, supporter of the Zisa/Hurwitz machine who left his post as City Counsel under a cloud of questions regarding conflicts of interest in his representation of the City interests pertaining to his legal representation of Ken Zisa and his partnership in a number of local properties.
  • Joe Zisa- A Zisa/Hurwitz donor and ally served eight years as the City Attorney.  Personally, I would say that for the fees he collected, he could have been a little more generous, but he was a donor all the same.

Most recently, in what appears to be one last (at least for four years), snub to the taxpayer, a Zisa/Hurwitz controlled council granted an eleventh hour contract renewal to a Zisa/Hurwitz candidate supporter.  On June 18, 2013, less than two weeks before reorganization, Mayor Michael Melfi executed a contract for the leasing of copy machines.  The sales representative for the contract from Atlantic Tomorrows Office, Linda Sylvestri, had made a $1,000 campaign donation to the Zisa/Hurwitz controlled Coalition for Open Government slate only a few months before.

Sylvestri noted as Sales Representative on contract

Sylvestri donated $1,000 to the Zisa/Hurwitz backed candidates of the Coalition for Open Government

On a side note: my apologies on the delay of sharing this.  An OPRA request for this contract took 22 business days to fulfill, that is 15 longer than the 7 business day statutory requirement for the City to produce the requested document.  I hope that the City understands the Citizen's for Change campaign promise that "Requests for public records will be honored promptly..."

On May 14, 2013 the voters of Hackensack spoke, they overwhelmingly requested change.  Change, we hope is coming, though slowly.  There are a number of requests for qualifications currently being advertised by the City, we hope to see an open and transparent process for selecting professionals as the Citizens for Change slate promised an end to a "government that rewards insiders."  We will keep you informed of developments.

Thus far there have been a few notable appointments. Richard Takvorian (a $1,300 donor campaign donor whose family in total donated $3,600) as the Assistant Municipal Judge.  Citizens for Change insider and campaign manager Thom Ammirato has been appointed the City's Public Relations Manager.  A position, the Director of Economic Development, has been made and the council has indicated they plan to appoint Citizens for Change insider Anthony Rottino (chairman of their transition team) to.  The duties, hours, and compensation for these posts are yet to be outlined in contracts.

The Scoop will be watching as appointments and contracts are awarded and will keep you informed!

*author does not allege any illegal activity by any parties identified in the above posting

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

HPD holding charity raffle

The Hackensack PBA Civic Association is hosting a raffle for a 2013 Harley Davidson!  Only 3,000 tickets will be sold, at $20 each, for a chance to win a brand new motorcycle.  The drawing will be held on December 15, 2013, and the winner need not be present to claim their prize.  All funds raised will benefit local recreation programs, college scholarships, and the PBA widows and orphans fund.  For more information, or to obtain tickets, call: 201-707-5707, 201-618-6322, or 201-741-6817.