Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is under criticism for spending $12,460 on flyers and postage stamps for his series of town hall meetings.
Council president William McKoy described the expenditure as “excessive.” He said the mayor should have utilized free media like the city’s public access television station to promote his meetings that were hosted in all six wards last month.
“That sounds a little excessive. Old fashion mail system is very costly. I’m not too sure that was a great return on investment,” said McKoy. He said promoting it on public access, city council meetings, and social media would have probably resulted in the same turn out.
The city printed 49,000 mailers for the town hall meetings for $4,700 through Paterson-based J.C. Printing. 43,841 of the flyers were mailed out to residents for $7,760 in postage expense. Printing and postage combined, a flyer cost came out to 28-cents, according to a memorandum the mayor provided in response to a request for costs associated with his meetings.
Twenty-eight cents was used for printing and mailing each flyer to reach over 43,000 households and close to 149,000 residents, said Torres. ”An amount I do not find excessive,” he said. The town halls informed residents about available homeownership opportunities, public safety, economic development, and public works initiatives. Attendees were also able to get municipal IDs on the spot and take home fire alarms, he said.
Each of the mayor’s town hall meetings attracted under 50 people.
“Look at the turn out for these meetings. To spend that kind of money on it is absolutely shameful,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, said the return was minuscule compared to funds spent based on attendance.
“We better have summer camps and pools open this year. Because if we don’t, then that money used to promote the town hall meetings, should have been earmarked for recreation,” said Sayegh.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, chairman of the finance committee, struck a different note from his colleagues. “It is part of constituent services,” he said. Town hall meetings provide constituents with valuable information as to whether their mayor is steering the city in the right direction, he said.
“As long as it’s not spent on campaigning, but on constituent services it’s an allowable expense,” said Morris. Many of the mayor’s opponent viewed the town hall meetings as a way for the mayor to gauge community sentiment for his re-election run next year.
Torres is finishing up his third nonconsecutive term in office. He was indicted earlier in the year on corruption charges for allegedly using city employees to handle renovation work at a warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew.
The mayor faces a large field of candidates seeking to take his job. Jackson, Sayegh, and McKoy are considering running for mayor next year. There’s also others like school board member Manny Martinez and ex-public safety director Glenn Brown exploring possible mayoral runs.
Ex-school board member Chauncey Brown, councilman Alex Mendez, and former school board member Pedro Rodriguez are the three declared candidates for next year’s election. Others have yet to publicly announce their run.
Torres announced his re-election bid in July 2016.
“I don’t think he needed to do all these flyers,” added Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman. He said in some cases 5th Ward residents received flyers that were intended for 4th Ward residents.