Toffler wins seat on Teaneck council
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
BY JOSEPH AX, Staff Writer
TEANECK — Challenger Barbara Toffler surged to victory in Tuesday’s bitterly contested council election, finishing first in a field of eight, while Councilwoman Monica Honis and newcomer Mohammed Hameeduddin also captured four-year terms.
“We’re going to be okay,” Toffler said from home, where supporters gathered to celebrate. “I’m thrilled. I am delighted that truth won. Believe me, I will do everything to serve Teaneck, the town that I love and the town that I grew up in.”
The results were a split verdict, with the two major slates of three candidates each falling short of a sweep.
Toffler had run informally alongside Honis and Audra Jackson, who finished sixth. Hameeduddin was part of the “Team Teaneck” slate of candidates that included Councilman Elnatan Rudolph, who failed in his bid for a full term after two years on the council, and Robert Robinson.
Independent candidates Ned Goldman and Howard Rose – both Planning Board members – ended the night behind the two slates, which accused each other of dirty tactics and divisive campaigning.
Toffler received 3,356 votes, while Honis received 2,981 and Hameeduddin 2,890. Rudolph finished only 48 votes back at 2,852, with Robinson following closely behind with 2,841.
Jackson notched 2,572 ballots. Goldman received 2,129 votes and Rose – the only candidate to eschew significant fund-raising as a matter of principle – finished with 1,313. The results are unofficial until provisional ballots are counted and the county certifies the totals.
Toffler and Honis won most of the remaining 17 districts, which include the southern end of town and the Northeast. Their slate was endorsed by the Northeast Teaneck Block Presidents Association and the citizens group Teaneck United. The Team Teaneck slate polled extremely well in the four West Englewood Avenue districts.
Rose and Goldman emphasized their independence as the campaign drew to a close, mindful of the animosity that existed between supporters of the two slates.
Mayor Elie Katz stumped for Team Teaneck, drawing criticism from opponents who claimed he was overstepping his bounds. And complaints of political intimidation, negative advertising and identity politics plagued the race in its final weeks, convincing some onlookers in the culturally diverse town that serious damage was being done to inter-group relations.
But in a handful of conversations during the day, voters from various sectors of Teaneck said it was the typical list of concerns for suburban residents that had drawn them to the polls – high taxes, future development, the school system and, in one case, a months-long delay for a permit to construct a new porch.
“That’s part of elections,” said William Batten of the clashes between candidates, as he exited a polling place in the Northeast. “I don’t pay much attention to it.”
Toffler, an organizational psychologist and research professor who is a former Planning Board member, and Honis, who won her second term, had vowed to maintain Teaneck’s suburban way of life and use the Master Plan to guide future development.
Hameeduddin, a first-time candidate and an alternate Planning Board member, had promised to pursue development that complements the character of the town. He is the owner of a residential title agency.
Rudolph works for the Bergen County Improvement Authority, and Robinson is a deacon at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack.
Jackson, an assistant school principal, has been active in community issues in the town, while Goldman, a commercial real estate broker, has also held positions on the Redevelopment Agency, the Environmental Commission and the school board. Rose, the owner of Briar Rose Books on Cedar Lane, is also the vice chairman of the Financial Advisory Board and a former chairman of the Cedar Lane Special Improvement District.
Team Teaneck, backed by Mayor Katz, suffered a defeat in yesterday's election. Orthodox Jews are still unable to wield much political influence beyond their 4 home districts out of the 21 township districts.