Mayor De Luca's priority: Protect the Unions.

Mayor De Luca is out to protect the Unions. Your tax dollars, not so much.


A few years back I decided to run for Maplewood Township Committee, running as a dark horse challenger during the Democratic Primary. I was defeated by Mayor Vic De Luca and his hand-picked running mate India Larrier. Since then, I’ve been asked why I chose to run.  I did so because I believe we have a misguided Mayor with agenda that works for some members of this community, but not all of us.

It’s why property taxes on the west side of town continue rising. It’s why homes that were once selling in the high $700,000 are now being sold closer to $500,000. Some might argue it’s the housing market but when you own a home with one shower, and your property taxes are $17,000 something is not right.

During my debate with the Mayor, he spoke openly about his desire to work with Trenton in order to finally get our community the property tax relief so desperately needed. Of course, like most politicians he was just talking because nothing became of that. Mr. De Luca has failed to deliver on his promise, instead authorizing a 2012 property tax assessment that once again has increased the tax burden for many struggling homeowners.

After all this, you could imagine the feeling I had when I read the Huffington Post and saw that Democratic NJ Mayors are working to find a suitable challenger to oppose the very formidable Chris Christie. What got me angry was Mayor De Luca again losing sight by stating that he will support a candidate who will "not play ball with the governor on a number of issues, including pension and benefits reform.

Here's proof that our Mayor has hoodwinked us. Property tax relief is not and has never been his priority. Instead, it’s all about protecting the unions. As Mayor of Maplewood, Mr. De Luca has chosen the wrong line of work. If he wants to be a union activist do so, but please not at Maplewood’s expense.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ian Grodman January 18, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Hi Lee. While I disagree with you on this, I respect your views and your right to post them. HOWEVER, the Maplewood Democratic Committee chose India Larrier to be the Mayor's running mate, not Vic himself. As you know, four individuals were considered by the Committee that year, and India was the overwhelming choice of the Committee. The Committee works hard to give those who are interested in serving an opportunity to be considered, and, yes, we often encourage those in town who are engaged, hard working, and committed, to consider running for Township Committee. Thanks, Ian
Lee Navlen January 18, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Thanks for the feedback Ian. However, I still believe s I did then that Mr. De Luca needed to recuse himself from that debate since his opinion most certainly carried the most weight. I have no doubt that his support of India and his vote gave her the endorsement. That said, India is a good person and I am happy that she is on our TC.
Second Comes After First and before Third January 18, 2013 at 05:18 PM
I think payment of property taxes demonstrates enough knowledge. Do you honestly think that anyone on the TC has any type of specialized knowledge that we don't have? What, do they have a frontal lobe attachment we weren't born with? Give me a break.
STEPHANIE VOLIN January 18, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Fascinating, SCAFBT... you think that simply by virtue of being a property holder that you need no further education on the subject of taxes, budgets and revals? Is that like me being an aviation expert because I frequently travel by airplane? Okey dokey! Mr. Navlen is just mad because apparently for many years he was UNDERpaying on his property taxes and some other poor sap in town was footing his portion of the bill. Instead of feeling good about his fortune for all that time he'd rather direct his rage somewhere... and that's unfortunate and misguided. I shudder to think of this uninformed blogger controlling one dime of the taxes I pay. Thankfully I don't have to worry about that!
Lee Navlen January 18, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Stephanie writes: "Mr. Navlen is just mad because apparently for many years he was UNDERpaying on his property taxes and some other poor sap in town was footing his portion of the bill. Instead of feeling good about his fortune for all that time he'd rather direct his rage somewhere... and that's unfortunate and misguided." Perhaps tonight when I'm speaking with neighbors that have been paying at least $15,000-$20,000 in taxes since 2002, I will show them your statement. Once they calm down, I'll let them know that it's not a statement from the Mayor, just one of his misguided supporters. I find your opinions very troubling.
STEPHANIE VOLIN January 18, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Mr. Navlen, take a basic economics course and then you can have at least an informed opinion of what I'm saying; which, by the way, is NOT an opinion. And please tell me that your neighbors aren't relying on you for any guidance or factual information regarding property values and assessments. You're the guy who thinks that his property taxes were "raised" because they used to be $6600 and now they're $17000. And to make matters worse, you think that one man is to blame! Simply incredible!! And in case you're still confused, I'll say it again: property taxes are too damn high here in Maplewood, Essex County, New Jersey.
Lee Navlen January 19, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Stephanie, As I said, I find your attitude alarming. You're out of touch and yes, last night when I discussed your opinions with others, I was met with rolling eyes. I really don't think you have brought substance to the conversation but I do appreciate your candor.
sarah macyshyn January 19, 2013 at 06:59 PM
It's a shame that the guidelines for blogging do not include a requirement for a basic understanding of the subject, or even a filter to prevent gross misrepresentation. It's a shame that Mr Navlin is unable to back up his accusations with facts (or in some cases with anything at all.) Blaming the drop in housing values in Maplewood on local taxes when it coincided with the biggest financial crisis of our lifetimes and with the bursting of a national housing bubble is ludicrous. Even though taxes continue to rise, values in Maplewood bottomed in the fall of 2011 and have been going up ever since. Furthermore, Mr Navlin's blaming Mr Deluca for his new assessment and for the resulting increase in his property taxes is simply misinformed. The assessed value of one's property does not automatically increase taxes. An increase in budget which results in an increase in the TAX RATE is what causes taxes to go up. An assessment is the tax assessors opinion of the fair market value of a home and determines what portion of the tax liability of a municipality will be apportioned to a particular property. If Mr Navlin's taxes increased as a result of his new assessment that is because the value of his property increased more than that of other properties in town. The Mayor had nothing to do with that. If Mr Navlin disagrees with his assessment, he should stop blaming the mayor and file an appeal.
Lee Navlen January 19, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Ms. Macyshyn, As a local real estate broker, I can assume it's important to you that your potential home buyers believe your story. However, I would also suggest that you think twice before telling patch readers that the assessment had nothing to do with the Mayor. That is not accurate. Not in the least. You are misinformed. Also, It's Navlen, not Navlin. Have the decency to at least check the correct spelling of my last name. Thank You, Lee Navlen
STEPHANIE VOLIN January 19, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Again I implore of the Patch, in the most general terms possible: why give inanity and attention-whoriness a platform? It's not cute or interesting or funny. It's ugly and embarrassing and boring.
CJV January 20, 2013 at 12:15 PM
Sarah, are you claiming our uniquely high property taxes have not depressed our property values? If you are, then you are either ignorant, lying or both.
Alberto Fernandez January 20, 2013 at 04:26 PM
We live in a town where the best we can attract is a new 7 Eleven. The taxes in this town will always be a difficult issue... Perhaps we can become part of Irvington and pay at their tax rates.
sarah macyshyn January 21, 2013 at 01:36 AM
CJV, no I am not claiming that. The author asserts that homes that sold for $700K are now selling for $500K because property taxes keep rising. That has no basis in fact. While property taxes are one of many factors affecting local values, they most certainly are not the cause of the decline in Maplewood between 2005 and 2011. That was a nationwide drop caused by the housing bubble and the economic crisis. You claim values in Maplewood are depressed. Have you seen the real estate market lately? Although taxes continue to rise, values in Maplewood were up almost 5% in 2012. Recent activity points to a VERY strong 2013. Yes, values are still lower than they were in 2005, but so are values in the rest of the country. I have been very critical of Mr De Luca in the past, particularly over the reval of 12 years ago. I believe that the most recent reval and reassessment were done as fairly as possible. Information was readily available for to all to see. Since the outcry of 12 years ago, I believe the TC has made a genuine effort to get it right. As I said before, If ones taxes increase as a result of a reassessment, that is due to an increase in the market value of his property relative to the other properties in the municipality. Blaming the mayor for that is just wrong. Finally, I am not a real estate agent, not a broker.
sarah macyshyn January 21, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Excuse the typo - I am a real estate agent, NOT a real estate broker.
Home Owner January 21, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Sarah- Appreciated. I understand precisely how the ultimate tax bill is calculated and I'm not saying Lee is communicating clearly his objections here. I believe we must understand that the impairment in our home values arising in our extremely high de facto ad valorem rates in excess of 3% of our homes' market values is putting an extreme stress on our community. Our despair at the loss of so much of our personal net worth is bringing to the surface some festering tensions. I think Vic has tried to appear to respect this. To each his or her own in terms of the ultimate verdicts at the polls.
Lee Navlen January 21, 2013 at 09:19 PM
I think my the general theme was more about the Mayor's out loud endorsement of any candidate willing to take on Christie and his battle with the unions. This was not and most likely will not be the last time the Maplewood Mayor has slipped up revealing perhaps his true intentions. I have never believed that property taxes on the western side of Maplewood has been a concern for this Mayor. In short..... "Unions yes, property taxes on the west side of Maplewood, screw em, they're rich."
GFYL January 21, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Lee bought his house in 1998, when Ryan was Mayor and DeLuca was a Committeeman, for $265K. For 2013, his assessment is $489.6K, What's Lee's beef? For 2012, his assessment was $493.1K. Wait, his assessment went down $3,500 this year. That will probably mean a wash or a negligible difference in his tax bill. Again, what is Lee's beef? Here are some facts for those who want some truth out of this article: 1) Property taxes in NJ are exhorbitant, everywhere in NJ, not just on Lee's street. 2) You can be sure they're going to go up each year from now on, everywhere, not just on the western part of Maplewood, NJ. 3) The Mayor is not working out ways to screw Lee Navlen on his property tax bill. I wish he would. 4) The Mayor being quoted as supporting a Democratic challenger to Lee's beloved Chris Christie is not in any way connected to Lee's ridiculous and woefully worded assertion that all DeLuca cares about is unions and screw the rich on the west side of Maplewood. I suppose if Navlen keeps referring to himself as "rich", he'll start to believe it. But then if he were "rich" why would he complain about a marginal increase in his tax bill? Perhaps, Mr. Navlen is frustrated because he cannot sustain the gradual increase in his taxes. Hey, that I can understand. It may be time for the like of him and Mr. Fernandez to start shopping in Irvington, if they want their tax bill. Maybe Sarah can show you a couple listings? 5)
GFYL January 22, 2013 at 01:33 AM
Is this more performance comedy by Navlen? His general theme, out of necessity explained in the comments, is that the Mayor is focused on screwing half the town, and raising taxes on certain areas of town, because "they're rich." Oh and something about unions. So poorly written, it's hard to determine what the point is. Navlen is accusing the Mayor of deliberately screwing the rich Maplewoodians, while openly supporting the idea of a Democratic challenger to Lee's beloved Christie. In other words: screw the labor unions- lower my taxes because I'm rich. WTF? Ya know, Lee, if you keep telling everyone you're "rich", you may start to believe it. If you are rich, then pay your taxes, which didn't go up by much, because your real property assessment was lowered by $3,500 this year. If you're not rich, and cannot afford to pay the taxes on your property, then that sucks, but, I guess you have to find a more affordable place. You and Mr. Fernandez may indeed need to pay Irvington taxes - in Irvington. Perhaps Sarah can show you some affordable listings. Your strange assertion that the Mayor of Maplewood is deliberately screwing you because you're rich, and whose true intention is to endorse an as-of-yet named Democrat to run against Christie so the Democrat can grant unions a sweetheart deal is beyond crazy. And you ran for office? (oh that's right. you lost by the single highest margin EVER in a primary. I remember) Let the grown ups run the town.
Lee Navlen January 22, 2013 at 05:36 AM
"Your strange assertion that the Mayor of Maplewood is deliberately screwing you because you're rich, and whose true intention is to endorse an as-of-yet named Democrat to run against Christie so the Democrat can grant unions a sweetheart deal is beyond crazy." "The mayors who spoke with HuffPost, however, centered their speculation on a likely Buono vs. Codey primary race. Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca, who said he is likely to back Codey, stressed that both state senators make strong "contrasts" to Christie and noted their records of "not playing ball" with the governor on a number of issues, including pension and benefits reform. " Sorry pal, the Mayor said it. His concern is not property tax relief, it's pension and benefit reform. Mr. De Luca's true intentions are clear as day.
John Harvey January 23, 2013 at 02:10 AM
Stephanie, I am always interested in understanding the why to make sure my opinion is grounded. Why does Lee's sentence demonstrate that he has no clue? Thanks - John
Lee Navlen January 23, 2013 at 01:41 PM
John Harvey, I think it's important to understand that Stephanie has more of an issue with the author (me) personally, more so than with the message. There is a background that dates back to the juvenile MOL site. I believe animosity from that troubled site sadly spilled over onto the respected Patch site.
CJV January 23, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Lee, you took a circle route here, that ended up drawing a lot of external baggage into the thread. Your quote from Vic *IS* quite consistent with your title for this thread, and I wish we could have started with this and gone forward. Instead, all of the churn leaves (at least) me less willing to engage. The Governor is right about the need to scale back defined benefit pensions, and Vic is wrong if he disagrees.
Lee Navlen January 23, 2013 at 07:38 PM
I said it once and I will say it again.. "As Mayor of Maplewood, Mr. De Luca has chosen the wrong line of work. If he wants to be a union activist do so, but please not at Maplewood’s expense."
sarah macyshyn January 23, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Homeowner, I share your concern about the heavy burden our high real estate taxes place on this community. Some perspective may be helpful. in 1984, when I purchased my first home in Maplewood for $105,000 my real estate taxes were $ 3600. With the reassessment of 12 years ago , the taxes on a home I had purchased for $165,000 the previous year, went up to over $8,000. So, your example of an annual tax burden of 3% of the value of your home is no more than it has been for the past 40 years.
CJV January 24, 2013 at 09:52 AM
Lee, Vic has the right to both be the Mayor and to align himself with those receiving government-sponsored pensions. I appreciate your bringing the quote to my attention, as the inherent insolvency of these promises threatens to bankrupt the state and destroy the quality of life for those of us who live without taxpayer handouts. The Dems have a big problem in the Governor's race and they are desperate to keep the "Reagan Democrats," among whom are police and fire, etc. So, they will scare on pensions. It's all part of the game, and, yes, Vic can be called out on it. But few people are going to wade thru the top half of this thread to get to the salient points. This is my aside comment to you.
STEPHANIE VOLIN January 25, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Mr. Harvey, property tax assessments are designed (and carried out) to ensure that home values haven't shifted dramatically in one region or another and that homeowners are paying their share of taxes based on the actual CURRENT value of their home/land, and not some outdated value. So when someone, like Mr. Navlen, suggests that a new assessment has RAISED his taxes instead of simply making him pay his share [which previously had been shouldered by some other poor homeowner!], it displays his utter misunderstanding and ignorance of the topic. It makes it very clear that he should NOT be penning any further opinion pieces or blahgs about it. Sorry that is hard to fathom or stomach, but it is true.
STEPHANIE VOLIN January 25, 2013 at 01:12 AM
This is so very interesting to read! I didn't realize that there was any animosity from a site on which I haven't posted in over a year. Thank you for elucidating my motives as they were unclear to even moiself. Regardless, unlike some people, I can separate my feelings towards an idiot vs my feelings about their idiotic opinions. And no, I'm not talking about any idiot in particular. No, I am not.
Lee Navlen January 25, 2013 at 01:45 AM
Ms. Volin, I believe my readers are now fully aware of your Robin Hood mentality when it comes to the tax burden among Maplewood property owners. It sounds very much like the current De Luca administration. Again, as I said previously, I applaud your candor but I scoff at your conclusions. Thank you once again for participating on Maplewood Patch.
Alberto Fernandez January 25, 2013 at 01:55 AM
GYFL fails to recognize he / she (hide behind GYFL) is in fact living in Irvingwood, or Mapleburn depending on where his / her house resides.
Lee Navlen January 26, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Alberto, There is indeed a line that separates 2 distinct Maplewoods. Sadly, as you go up the hill, homes there are depreciating in value for a variety of reasons but it's doubtful many will ever see a meaningful bounce back because of the ridiculous tax burden. There are homes that are directly across the street from Millburn homes. They look alike, same size, same property size, etc. but the Maplewood homes see taxes that are in some cases 7-10k more per year, if not more. Will their plight ever be a concern of Mayor De Luca's Hilton Association Gang? Doubt it..


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