A look at issues facing the City of Englewood. Michael W. Curley, Jr./NorthJersey.com
(Photo: Courtesy of Michael Wildes)
ENGLEWOOD ─ The city is in crisis and only strong leadership and collaborative government will fix it, mayoral candidate Michael Wildes proclaimed in a new campaign video.
Wildes, a former Englewood mayor, said he is making a return to politics after watching the city struggle with a dwindling surplus, lack of new tax ratables and other financial problems. He hopes to cinch the Democratic nomination on June 5 over Philip Meisner, an ally of outgoing mayor Frank Huttle III.
“I owe too much to this community to sit back and watch longtime residents be pushed out of their homes by rising property taxes,” Wildes said. “Together, we can make our city the progressive leader of Bergen County once again.”
Council: Englewood forms group to tackle struggling finances
During his time in office from 2004 to 2010, Englewood enjoyed a period of unmatched progress and prosperity, Wildes said. The city had stable property taxes, safer streets and a vibrant downtown business district.
Philip Meisner (Photo: Courtesy of Philip Meisner)
Political bickering and mismanagement has undone much of that, Wildes said.
“Our government is broken,” he said.
The city formed a Financial Advisory Committee last month to develop plans to improve the city’s credit rating, review short-term and long-term financial goals, evaluate the city’s budget, analyze the impact of collective bargaining and offer recommendations to the council on outstanding debt and other financial issues.
A March report by former members of the mayor’s finance commission excoriated the city for regularly drawing on city reserves, accumulating debt, selling off city property to plug budget holes, delaying reporting of prior year expenditures and engaging in other harmful fiscal practices.
The tax levy is expected to increase by 5.95 percent this year, according the city’s introduced budget.
Meisner said Monday that Wildes’ rosy assessment of his time in office was inaccurate. He noted that the city’s taxes increased 38 percent, with an average annual increase of 6.3 percent, between 2005 and 2010 and spending increased more than 30 percent from 2005 to 2011.
Dierdre Paul in 2013. (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)
“While these are facts, we have to look to the future and not the past,” Meisner said. “I have an entirely different vision for the city, not one of crisis but one of opportunity.”
Wildes expressed confidence in defeating Meisner in the Democratic primary in the video, despite Meisner’s support from the city’s Democratic committee as well as endorsements from Councilwoman Katharine Glynn, former Councilwoman Lynne Algrant and former Councilman Marc Forman.
“The political establishment has already rallied against my candidacy,” Wildes said. “But we’ve defeated them in the past and we will do so again this year.”
The winner of the primary will face off against sole Republican candidate Dierdre Paul, a professor at Montclair State University, in the general election in November.
Paul said she agreed with many of the points Wildes made about the city’s financial troubles and blamed Mayor Huttle for advocating for flat taxes as the city struggled with declining revenue and increased spending. She said the mayor single-handedly nurtured a culture of fear and reprisal.
“Anyone who wants to take on Frank Huttle or his emissary Phil Meisner, I’m all for that,” she said.