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A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains - Fanwood Thursday, April 22, 1999 Page 3

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Committee Against Hate Sets Community Forum

WESTFIELD — The Union County Committee Against Hate will present a community forum of anti-bias messages at a program on Wednesday, April 28, at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Westfield.

William “Hilly” Johnston, the nationally known expert on identifying and investigating hate crimes who was the opening speaker for President Clinton’s Commission on Race Relations, will give the keynote address at the program.

The forum, known as “Standing Together Against Hate V,” will include participation from business leaders, government professionals, law enforcement personnel and members of educational, religious, media, civic and community organizations.

“This program is one way by which we can examine our own sensitivities, strengthen our resolve and broaden our outreach to enlist community support to educate our youth,” said Terri L. Warmbrand, chairperson of the committee. “Incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti, racial epithets or swastikas painted on public buildings have no place in this county or anywhere.”

The Committee Against Hate, representing a wide array of diverse ethnic, racial, religious and professional backgrounds, has sponsored a countywide forum for the last five years and invited

every school superintendent, religious leader, police chief, elected official and area legislator to its program.

“I strongly believe in strict and swift and prosecution of every crime that is fueled by hatred, bias or intolerance,” said Union County Prosecutor Thomas V. Manahan, who said such acts degrade public safety and the quality of life for every resident in the county.

The forum will be dedicated to late Union County Prosecutor Andrew K. Ruotolo and his activist efforts against bias crimes in New Jersey.

Judge William Brennan Details Need For Westfield Night Court By DEBORAH MADISON

Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times

WESTFIELD First we had Judge Wapner. Then there was Judge Judy. Now, we bring to you, Judge William Brennan.

No, it’s not another court TV series. It’s live, from Westfield, New Jersey — night court at the Westfield Municipal Building, every other Tuesday, starting at 4:30 p.m., Judge William L. Brennan, presiding.

The idea for night court is not new. Most municipalities in New Jersey have night court at least one night a week. Many only operate at night.

Judge Brennan said he saw a need for the Town of Westfield to better serve the public, as many working individuals find it increasingly difficult to leave their jobs or children in the middle of the day.

“Equally important, many police officers only work nights, and it is difficult to coordinate cases with their schedules,” Judge Brennan stated. “Night court allows more accessibility and a better mobilization of our police force.”

The revised court schedule will continue to cover first appearance hearings on Thursdays during the day, although no trials will be held that night under the new policy. Trials will instead be held on Tuesdays. Guilty pleas will be heard first with trials to follow.

Furthermore, the court schedule for Tuesdays has been revised, with day and evening court sessions to be held on alternate weeks.

Judge Brennan’s office will continue to schedule all cases, honoring special requests for night court from those who find it difficult to make daytime court appearances.

“Our town has been discussing the idea of night court for a few years, but Judge Brennan was the major catalyst in implementing the program,” said Mayor Thomas C. Jardim.

He reported that the town has allocated $3,200 to cover the additional court staff hours.

“We will be periodically re-assessing the value of the program, but we presume it will be a success as most other municipalities have had night court for many years,” stated Mayor Jardim.

Judge Brennan explained that municipal courts are among the busiest because people are more likely to have cases that can be handled at that level. The types of cases vary, but most involve motor vehicle offenses such as speeding or driving while intoxicated. Other cases heard in municipal court are domestic violence, neighbor disputes, disorderly persons, shoplifting, certain types of drug offenses and some assault cases.

“Most people don’t realize that being a municipal court judge is a 24hour, seven-day a week job,” Judge Brennan stated.

He is called in on weekends or in the middle of the night to set bail and for other duties.

“It is demanding, but very rewarding,” Judge Brennan said. “I get great satisfaction out of settling disputes and resolving conflicts.”

“Through mediation, we try to bring people together to work things out, rather than perpetuating unnecessary legal battles,” he added.

Night court was a joint project. It is the team efforts of Mayor Jardim,

Police Chief Anthony J. Scutti, Deputy Police Chief John Wheatley, along with the support and cooperation of the Town Council, Town Prosecutor Rafael J. Betancourt and Town Public Defender Michael Diamond who all worked with Judge Brennan’s staff to set up evening court sessions.

Judge Brennan also thanked his staff, Court Administrator Linda Chieffo, and all of the Violations

Local Democratic Club Elects New Officers

SCOTCH PLAINS — The Scotch Plains Democratic Club has elected officers for the current year. They are as follow:

David B. Littman, President; Theresa Leone, Daniel Regan and Harold Burwell, Vice Presidents; Joyce Festa, Secretary; Peggy Hoff, Assistant Secretary; Eugene Leporiere, Treasurer; Dr. Walter Chinoy, Sergeant-at Arms, and Philip Weiner, Kenneth Lipstein, and Louis Beckerman as Trustees.

Anyone interested in joining the club may contact any of the officers. Annual dues are $5 per year.

Mountainside Council Maintains Flat Tax Rate With New Budget By KIMBERLY A. BROADWELL

Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times

In a unanimous vote of approval, the Mountainside council adopted its 1999 budget of $7.3 million, keeping the tax rate flat at $3.33 per $100 of assessed value for borough residents.

The 1999 spending plan represents a $170,000 increase over last year’s $7.2-million budget. There is $3,606,608 within the borough’s current revenues, leaving $3,775,181 to be raised through taxes.

According to Mayor Robert F. Viglianti, the municipal portion of the tax bill remains at .81, the school portion is left unchanged at $1.64 and the county portion (although not yet officially announced) is expected to stay at a rate of .88.

Mayor Viglianti told audience members that he was very proud of the budget, stating “there has been no tax increase in the borough’s budget rate within the past four or five years.”

He stressed that although the tax rate has remained flat, programs and services to borough residents has increased.

The Mayor noted the increase in recreation programs for all borough residents, as well as road improvements and more financial support for emergency services. He also reported that renovations have been done at the library and at the fire department.

The Mayor also stressed that the governing body of the borough has been hard at work to find alternative funding for budget items instead of looking at tax increases.

Mayor Viglianti noted the most recent project of a $190,000 permit parking lot located on the corner of New Providence Road and Route 22, adjacent to the library and the Hetfield house, will be paid in large part by a state grant of $185,000 leaving only $5,000 to be paid by the borough. He also cited other grants that paid for road repair.

The Mayor also stated that funds were being saved through shared services programs with other neighboring municipalities. He noted that there were tax revenues coming to the borough from such newer facilities as Brighten Gardens as well as the Sony Theater.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to rescind an ordinance passed in February that changed the previous practice of giving council members an unvouchered expense

account of $1,200 per year for Councilmen and $2,000 per year for the Mayor to salaries of $1,500 for council members and $3,000 for the Mayor.

Almost 400 residents recently signed a petition against the ordinance giving the council and the Mayor a salary be put on the November election ballot.

In his address to the audience, Mayor Viglianti stated: “I am satisfied that the salary ordinance is not a partisan political issue to be debated during a political campaign and then resolved in a general election.”

He added that “rather than waiting till November I would like to appoint a bipartisan committee of Borough residents, drawn from all segments of the community, to address the question.”

He stated that he will ask the committee to hold public hearings and then make a report to the Mayor and council as to “which approach best serves the interest of our community.”

In other business, Mayor Viglianti announced that as of Thursday, April 15, the Borough was voted in as an official member of the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority (RVSA). Also, it was announced that Bart A. Barre would serve as the appointed commissioner to the authority on Mountainside’s behalf.

Mr. Barre is longtime resident of the borough and is a former Mountainside councilman. He is an attorney with his own practice in the borough and was the recipient of the 1998 Mabel Young Good Neighbor Award.

Mr. Barre has also served on Mountainside’s Planning Board and Board of Adjustment and has held previous positions on the Board of Education, such as Finance Chair and Vice-President.

Finally, Mayor Viglianti announced that Police Chief Debbie

would serve as Acting Borough Administrator for a period of six months. Current Administrator, Gregory Bonin will be leaving the Borough at the end of the month. He has served the borough since May of last year. He has accepted another position. Bureau employees who were instru

mental in making the new court times work.

Most of the cases involving minor traffic violations do not require trials, and although many people file pro se, without a lawyer, Judge Brennan advised that everyone consults an attorney before defending themselves. Trials, when scheduled, will be heard after cases involving guilty pleas, on Tuesday nights. Assemblyman Bagger

Plans Office Opening For Interested Citizens

WESTFIELD — The legislative office of Assemblyman Richard H. Bagger at 203 Elm Street will be open to residents of the 22nd Legislative District from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 24.

In addition to regular business hours on weekdays and one Saturday per month, Assemblyman Bagger’s office is open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

For more information, please call Assemblyman Bagger’s legislative office at (908) 232-3673.

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Copyright 1999 - The Westfield Leader and The Times of Scotch Plains-Fanwood