Mayor Andre Sayegh is attempting – again — to undo the repeal of his botched sewer reforms that lead to massive increases in sewer fees for residents and businesses.
Sayegh wants the City Council to reconsider the repeal on Tuesday. Council members repealed his sewer reforms last month, citing his failure to rectify problems such as failure to bill big users like the school district and sending incorrect bills to residents. He had more than a year to address the problems, but has not, said council members. He later vetoed the council’s repeal. Council members overrode his veto two weeks ago.
“The mayor requested it given that the state is feeling firm about taking away some of the funding. He wanted the council to reconsider,” said council president Flavio Rivera. He allowed the reconsideration measure on the agenda late on Friday afternoon.
State officials have threatened to take away $2 million that the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) gave as an incentive to create the sewer utility. Sayegh administration officials also claimed the sewer repeal jeopardizes millions in aid Paterson receives every year from the state.
Sayegh has been trying to win over some council members to support the reconsideration measure. His key targets are councilwomen Lilisa Mimms, Maritza Davila, and councilman Luis Velez. Sources said Sayegh had state officials contact some council members to try to coax them into supporting the measure.
“Maybe they’re going to present something because they claim they have a working plan,” said Mimms. Asked if she will support the reconsideration, Mimms said, “I can’t answer that. I have to see what they’re going to do.”
Mimms said the mayor never approached her to support the reconsideration measure.
“I think he’s still in denial,” said Velez. He said the mayor has asked him to support the reconsideration measure. “Why don’t they put people to work on a new plan? If he did that a year and half ago, he would not be in this predicament.”
Indeed, the City Council gave the mayor plenty of time to address the numerous problems that emerged after the sewer reforms were badly implemented. Many council members grew frustrated as the Sayegh administration failed to address the problems forcing them to repeal the entire package of reforms.
“I don’t believe the mayor, or his staff has any idea what they’re doing,” said councilman Michael Jackson. “My belief is he wants to overturn it only to show that he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Jackson said Sayegh is trying to repair the “black eye” he has received as a result of the repeal. He said Sayegh hasn’t presented anything new and is trying to “overpower” the City Council. Sayegh and his allies on the council are disregarding the concerns of residents, said Jackson.
Rivera said he is not sure if the mayor has the votes to pass the reconsideration measure.
“There are council members that will continue to flip-flop and posture for political positioning and not do the best thing for the residents. I don’t know if it’s going to succeed. I hope it doesn’t, but it if it does, I won’t be surprised,” said Jackson.
Sayegh did not respond to a call for comments for this story.
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