Four P’s at Morristown council meeting: Privatize, panhandle, pothole, pool

The most controversial item at Tuesday’s Morristown council meeting wasn’t the new panhandling ordinance, or proliferating potholes, or rising pool fees.

In fact, it didn’t specifically involve the town at all.

Mayor Tim Dougherty submitted a resolution opposing the privatization of toll collection services on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

“This resolution is a very symbolic gesture,” the Mayor said of the document, which claims privatization will drive up unemployment while driving down wages to poverty levels for remaining workers.

The Jersey Turnpike is miles from Morristown, but that didn't stop the town council from weighing in on it. Photo: Wikipedia.org

The Jersey Turnpike is miles from Morristown, but that didn’t stop the town council from weighing in on it. Photo: Wikipedia.org

It also contends privatization will reduce government oversight, because private contractors are not subject to the Open Public Records Act. A situation like Bridgegate would be much harder to investigate if the George Washington Bridge was in private hands, say critics of privatization.

“Privatization is not always the answer, especially when hard-working people lose jobs,” said the Mayor, who is a Democrat, like the elected officials in Essex and Hudson counties who have asked the Turnpike Authority not to pursue privatization.  Union leaders also are opposed.

The Turnpike Authority solicited proposals from private operators last year; responses are due in March.

All five council Democrats supported the resolution. But Republican Councilwoman Alison Deeb and Council President Rebecca Feldman, an Independent, abstained.

“Why is Morristown doing this?” Alison asked. “I can’t even get a resolution in my ward to control traffic.”

Rebecca said progress is being made to enlist Morris County’s support for traffic improvements to James Street, a county road in Alison’s Fourth Ward.  The council president cited a different reason for her abstention.

“When we [the Mayor and council] privatized trash pickups, it would not have been appropriate for the Turnpike Authority to take a position on that,” Rebecca said. “If Morris Township were to issue a resolution on Morristown policy, that could be viewed as interference.”

IN OTHER BUSINESS…

The council unanimously adopted an ordinance banning  aggressive panhandling  within 10 feet of banks, check cashing businesses, ATM machines, schools and daycare centers. The penalty is a $200 fine, according to town Attorney Vij Pawar.

And fees at the Burnham Park municipal pool are going up, for the first time since 2010, thanks to a 7-0 council vote.

But ’tis the season for potholes, not pools. With extreme weather wreaking havoc on local roads, the Mayor urged residents to report potholes to 973-292-6670.  The town will continue pressing the state and county to repair their roadways in Morristown, and will pitch in to perform the work if the situation is hazardous, the Mayor said.

 

 

 



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