Former councilman Aslon Goow assailed incumbent Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman for voting on budgets over the past three years that included tax increases.
“For the last three years consistently you voted for the taxes to go up,” said Goow on Tuesday night from the city council podium. “You campaigned on lowering taxes, fighting crime, and everything.”
“You’re acting like a priest, Mr. Goow,” responded Akhtaruzzaman. “Let me tell you, when in 2007, the taxes increased 29-percent, you were the one who voted for it. I’m just reminding you.”
Akhtaruzzaman’s reminder though is untrue. The former councilman was one of two votes against the fiscal year 2007 budget, according to city budget records. The other vote against that year’s budget was Thomas Rooney.
The fiscal year 2007 budget included an eight-percent municipal levy increase from the prior year, according to city records.
The large spike the incumbent is referring to took place in the fiscal year 2011 budget when the municipal levy jumped $27 million – a 25.9-percent increase. Goow voted against that budget as well, according to city records.
“Shame on Akhtaruzzaman for his desperate attempt to lie to the public,” said Goow in a subsequent interview.
On the other hand Akhtaruzzaman voted in the affirmative in the fiscal year 2013 budget which came with a 3.9-percent municipal levy increase. He also voted in favor of the fiscal year 2014 and 2015 budgets both of which included tax increase, according to city records.
Akhtaruzzaman has come out against increasing taxes in the past six months. He has voted against temporary budgets and voted against mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ budget amendments that includes a 6.1-percent municipal levy increase under pressure from Garret Heights homeowners.
In one of the temporary budget votes, Akhtaruzzaman initially voted against, but later voted in favor of the November temporary budget.
Akhtaruzzaman also brought up $500,000 in legal expenses the city incurred in a lawsuit Goow brought against the city. The former councilman attempted to catch an alleged burglary suspect who was breaking into his neighbor’s car.
Goow chased the suspect in a car to the Garden State Parkway. Goow was later issued a speeding ticket based on a security camera footage. He was also subject of an internal affairs investigation by police.
Goow, who vehemently opposed the policies of the then Torres administration, said the ticket and the investigation were politically motivated. He sued alleging the city violated his civil rights.
“Why should taxpayers pay for his lawsuit?” said Akhtaruzzaman.
Goow said the 2nd Ward has been neglected for the past three years. He said the ward is unclean and lacks police visibility.
Akhtaruzzaman said there were 17 assaults in 2011 on Union Avenue. He said men leaving the Union Avenue mosque after prayer were targeted by assailants.
“I’m cleaning up 12 years of his recklessness,” said Akhtaruzzaman. He suggested Goow did not do enough to stop the assaults.
Goow said at the time there was a gang operating from the corner of Sheridan and Crosby Avenues that was targeting residents on Union Avenue. “There was a whole spree of crime,” he said.
The former councilman said he worked with the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office to dismantle the gang. He said those gang members are coming out of prison which has resulted in a spike in crime in the Totowa section.