Mayor DeSimone has prepared the following document as a synopsis of the Town Hall Meeting held on May 9, 2012:
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
I was so pleased with the great attendance at our Wednesday Night, May 9th Meeting. More than that, I was very glad so many of you spoke out and voiced your concerns and suggestions.
I also want to thank our Council members, Police Commissioner Gil Hawkins, and Council President Peter Knott for co-chairing the meeting to respond to resident’s and business’ owners comments. Also appreciate the presence and support of Council members I.S. Pak and Darryl Whitter.
Almost 150 of you came to speak and listen. It seemed that almost that many of you had things to say. That’s exactly what the meeting was for.
This is what we heard.
Now that we have joined the County’s Central Police Dispatch System, many of you expressed concern about response time to incidents.We are concerned as well. This is a new system. There are bugs and glitches to work out. We are working with the county to improve response time.
Many of you expressed concern regarding the recent flurry of home and business break-ins. We are concerned. We are exploring the installation of surveillance cameras at Leonia’s main entrance and exit points.
It is important for residents to note that all the homes invaded were dark with no interior or exterior lighting and none of the stores had alarm systems operating. Excellent suggestions were made including: safety seminars for residents to reinforce such ideas as keeping lights on; not leaving newspapers on lawns or empty bins on curb; not keeping valuables in obvious places such as master bedroom; reinstating neighborhood watch.
The subject of reinvigorating our downtown business district also received major attention. This is a complex and challenging. Leonia is not alone in facing this issue. While there are some hopeful signs with small shops reopening, the issue of large unused properties such as the former TV Clinic and the florist remains troubling.
I have reconstituted the Economic Development Committee with the mandate to proactively attract businesses. Improve Leonia’s image as a ‘business friendly’ town by streamlining and fast tracking our Planning Board and Board of Adjustment processes. Explore and develop innovative measures to substantially increase ratables in order to stabilize our tax rates. Build on our reputation as a Art and Cultural Center to attract business and foot traffic to our Borough and follow-up on grants that may be available for cultural initiatives.
Many of you voiced concern about various elements of the Borough’s infrastructure. Families are eager to see a modern recreation facility that can host a variety of sports and interests. We recognize the general need for upgraded facilities for most of the Borough owned buildings. These are indeed critical issues which unfortunately need to be balanced by what the Borough can afford at present and consideration of the impact of such upgrades to our residents.
Other concerns focused on traffic congestion and safety issues. We announced that we are considering hiring an additional ‘police special’. We will seek Police Academy interns to issue tickets for traffic and parking violations. Residents also raised issues related to town pride: derelict automobiles, inadequate trash baskets and litter.
I assure you, I not only listened and heard you, but together with the Council and our committees, we will do our best to work in positive ways to make Leonia as good as it can be.
For me, the most rewarding aspect of the meeting was the positive tone and the general constructive spirit.
Again my thanks, and my hope to see all of you soon again.
John DeSimone, Mayor