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Washington Twp. Council Passes 'Unenforceable' Public TV Ordinance

The law sets guidelines for WCTV, which is an independent nonprofit, according to its volunteers.

The Washington Township Municipal Building. File photo.
The Washington Township Municipal Building. File photo.
The Washington Township Council approved an ordinance Monday which sets guidelines for broadcasts of meetings and other programming on local public channel WCTV, but the law may be impossible to enforce, according to township attorney Ken Poller.

The ordinance, passed by a 3-0 vote, requires neutrality in programs covering political or other controversial issues. It also requires a digital camera and recording system to be installed in the council chambers by February 1 — no year specified — and for WCTV to broadcast every council, planning board and zoning board meeting at least four times.

The problem is that WCTV isn't really a part of the town government, according to Poller.

"They're volunteers," he said. "They're not here to listen to dictations."

WCTV is an independent nonprofit organization, according to volunteers. They were founded in 1982 and are funded through a small portion of the cable franchise fees paid by Cablevision to the town, not with tax dollars.

The ordinance, which was mostly copied from a Jersey City law, will need revision before it's enforceable, according to Poller. Discussions with WCTV volunteers made it seem that the requirements set in the ordinance may not be possible without hiring an employee, he said.

Councilmen Joe D'Urso, Fred Goetz and Council President Steve Cascio, who voted to approve the ordinance, have said they wanted to make town meetings available to a larger number of residents who can't or don't want to attend them in person.

"I don't think this is rocket science," D'Urso previously said. Other towns are doing it."
Steve Kohlreiter December 11, 2013 at 06:50 AM
So here we go again. They are looking for every excuse NOT to televise the meetings. WCTV can't find volunteers to help run this? HAVE THEY TRIED? If they want to get these meetings on they can. They look for reasons not to do things around here instead of a can do attitude.
mlcintineo December 11, 2013 at 08:18 AM
I was there when WCTV started and was a member for a short period of time. Everyone worked hard back then and had a great set of ethics and followed standards on which it was founded upon. Being a former resident, it makes me sick to my stomach that the town doesn't want to stand by WCTV so they can air important meetings for residents who can't be there. What it comes down to is funding, not volunteers.
Barry Black December 11, 2013 at 09:25 AM
Strange that other towns can do it seamlessly!
Grace Hogan December 11, 2013 at 10:02 AM
Cablevision funds WCTV with profits from Township residents who are cable subscribers. WCTV uses space (heat, A/C, electricity) in Town Hall paid for by tax payers. Taking a position that WCTV exists in a vacum with no obligation to Township residents is disingenuous. How is WCTV serving "the public interest" under the federal Communications Act when recreation is its primary feature? Bring Cablevision into the loop and pick the brains of its legal dept.
Noah Fukinwai December 11, 2013 at 10:34 AM
You have to think that those opposed to this have something to hide. It is simply another episode of an incompetent leader with no leadership skills at all. The real shame is that we could not vote for a talented, experienced and competent candidate to run the town.
Concerned December 11, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Leave it to the fantastic three to pass an ordinance that is unenforceable. Is Grace Hogan saying that the "volunteers" must now toe the D'Urso, Goetz, Cascio party line? The meetings should be televised. Maybe D'Urso should hire a rocket scientist to figure out how.
Steve Kohlreiter December 11, 2013 at 03:17 PM
So anything, even if it's a good idea, coming from either D'Urso,Goetz, or Cascio is no good because it's coming from them? Nothing for the good of the people, only if you thwart your political opposition, that's all that counts. That's what I'm getting from Concerned.
Concerned December 11, 2013 at 05:15 PM
No, it is just unenforceable. Their history, unfortunately, happens to be one of half baked badly researched proposals. The IDEA of filming is a good one. Their proposed execution appears to be a problem. I have no "political" agenda.
Grace Hogan December 11, 2013 at 09:11 PM
We're all adults, so let's be frank. Regarding the issue of televising municipal public meetings, there is a lack of political will amongst the power elite, the unelected minority who pull the strings behind the scene, for transparency in government. This ordinance is an attempt to pacify all concerned. The governing body is a puppet government. Poller as Township Attorney has more sway than any one member of the governing body. This ordinance may be "unenforceable", then again, that attitude towards the law in general seems characteristic since Willful Blindness is pervasive. When then Councilman Pollio and Mayor Wenzel no longer resided in the Township and should have resigned, those in the know kept mute instead of making a difference. If we are to believe the testimony given by James Kourgelis at a Zoning Board meeting, we have then Councilman Bob Schroeder, Administrator Agnes Smith and Mayor Wenzel to thank for the genesis of the proposed commercial development of Washington Township. Think of the Township as something like Wonderland. Perhaps then, the concept of passing an unenforceable ordinance will make sense. Nothing is real in Wonderland (except for property taxes).
Concerned December 12, 2013 at 08:47 AM
Amen!
Steve Kohlreiter December 12, 2013 at 08:49 AM
Yes- AMEN! to that.
Peter m December 15, 2013 at 02:16 PM
As I said once before, let the Mayor do her job and thank god she has a smart attorney leading the way. Who will really waste their time watching WCTV when they broadcast a council meeting
Steve Kohlreiter December 15, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Ah once again Peter(lake)M appears to be more comfortable living in North Korea where nobody questions authority. The one thing (Lake) said right was the attorney is leading the way. That is the understatement of the century and boy does he milk the taxpayers for that.
Scott s December 15, 2013 at 02:54 PM
I would watch, why is it unenforceable just tape it and let it play. Maybe the government leaders or that attorney is trying to hide things makes sense, that concerned person must be one of the people involved in running the town. I say film it and play it. I like watching the games on the channel why not the meetings
Concerned December 15, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Scott s ???
Scott s December 15, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Reading your comment concerned just seems like you are involved with the goverment and don't like the 3 people on there I do not know much about local goverment but whats so wrong if people involved want taxpayers to see what's going on. Why did you bash the three goverment people in your comment seems like they are trying to accomplish a good thing look at this state and country you get to watch what's going on. I pay taxes I don't have time to go sit a a meeting but would like to see whats going on.. Goverment should be transparent so film it no harm
Concerned December 15, 2013 at 05:02 PM
Hi Scott. I did say the IDEA of televising the meetings is a good one. I do go to the meetings and D'Urso, Goetz, and Cascio tend to be very rude and accomplish very little. Cascio spent months investigating combining dispatching with Westwood and the result was such a poorly conceived plan and saved so little money versus keeping our own dispatchers that the plan was, I believe, correctly turned down. There are numerous other examples I could give you but the worst is that the disharmony and discord perpetrated by these three has made WT a laughing stock in Bergen County. Televising the meetings would be a big help to those who, for whatever reason, cannot attend meetings. It should be done correctly and legally.
Scott s December 15, 2013 at 05:50 PM
Thanks for the quick response concerned I still think your someone involved with running town you really seem to have good knowledge of this town. But you really should not talk trash about people who give their time to the town. You bring up disharmony, I can tell you I did not vote for the Mayor but if you need to bash someone bash her. My family and friends have had run in's with her over the years and she really has a hard time telling the truth. I remember former mayor Wenzel sent us a letter when she was running she did not seem to have his support. We voted for Devine whatever happened to him since you seem to know so much about this town and what has the Mayor accomplished so far.
Grace Hogan December 15, 2013 at 06:47 PM
In fairness to the Three Mouseketeers, the governing body as a whole has accomplished nothing but divisiveness. While there are new players and a change in the political line up, the Sobkowicz administration is a carryover from the Wenzel administration. Peter M complimented Poller as a "smart attorney"; with all due respect, what's the evidence exemplifying Poller's legal smarts? Depending on which side of the coin we toss, he could be a trusted consigliere or not. How was public good served by Poller when the Township made its move to declare eminent domain on the VFW Hall. This came after the deal to sell the VFW Hall to a Korean church was torpedoed by the Zoning Board and the 2009 mayoral victory for the administration. The support of the VFW was instrumental to the success of the Sobkowicz campaign. Instead of targeting the VFW, public good could have been better served by declaring eminent domain of the infamous white house, built in 1896 on the lot at Pascack and Washington, owned by James Kourgelis of Seasons. Meanwhile, over $400K of tax dollars was paid for the VFW Hall, allegedly for the development of affordable housing. 3 years have gone by without nary a plan in sight. Residents concerned about the lack of transparency in local government and want public meetings televised should consider contacting Cablevision directly instead of taking the word of Poller and WCTV.
Scott s December 16, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Funny you bring up the VFW I remember now that the town lost a lawsuit or something. Big money right? Didn't the zoning attorney or someone on the board make a stupid comment about Koreans. Was that this Poller guy.
Peter m December 16, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Steve why do you keep saying lake. You are very negative, that's the problem in this town to many negative nelly's. Be positive like our wonderful mayor, this town is on the right path. Positive Pete to negative Steve grow up and get a life or move out of our town
Steve Kohlreiter December 16, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Peter(Lake)M, nope not moving. I've dedicated myself to make sure you don't get your way and have the town pick all our pockets for whatever problems you and your private lake association have. Also dedicated in having a more open government and less back room deals. No lake, sorry to say but I'm here to stay
Grace Hogan December 16, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Peter M's response to Mr. Kohlreiter and those he perceives as "negative nellies" is atypical of a clique mentality. It is offensive in general, but most egregious when directed to a gentleman who has served our country and fought for the universal right to democracy. The mayor may be a wonderful person in her own right, but as an elected official, she is subject to accountability. Seeing the Township through rose colored glasses as Peter does is one way to cope with reality, however, such a perception is the kind of thinking that left many ill prepared when the real estate bubble busted in 2008. Denial is a coping mechanism, but it doesn't deter financial ruin. Only cogent critical analysis and planning could stave the impact. Negative nellies who saw the handwriting on the wall fared better than those in positive bubbles. Tax payers are akin to shareholders of businesses; as such, we are entitled to transparency.
mlcintineo January 10, 2014 at 07:13 AM
I have to say that I disagree with Grace on her previous comments. Once again, I was there from the very beginning with WCTV and it still serves an important role in Washington Township. It is NOT some fly by night Mickey Mouse organization cable tv channel. Those who cannot get to town meetings such as the elderly rely on their services so they can watch it from the comfort of their own homes. As a journalist, I will continue to support their cause.
Steve Kohlreiter January 10, 2014 at 07:27 AM
micintineo-- not sure what ur disagreement with Grace is, she is also supporting the televising of the meetings. I don't see where she called WCTV a fly by night Mickey Mouse organization. She is asking for openess. It appears to me the three of us are on the same page. The meetings need to be televised so all have access to our government. That's all we are asking for. WCTV does a real fine job with what they do.
Grace Hogan January 10, 2014 at 12:03 PM
Currently, I don't see the journalistic value of WCTV in the primary focus on local sports events. Could WCTV be an in invaluable journalistic asset in televising public meetings? Undoubtedly. However, it will take political will to bring that into fruition. Ordinances are meaningless unless acted upon.

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