Hartmann’s Plan to Shift Assessor’s Office Hit by Mayor

Camden Courier-Post – October 29, 1935


Commissioner Accused Playing Politics on Eve of Election


Mayor Frederick von Nieda, in a statement issued yesterday afternoon, severely censured Commissioner Frank J. Hartmann, Jr., New Dealer, for his attempt to transfer the assessor’s office from the city revenue and finance department to Hartmann’s control.

In reply to Hartmann’s statement that the mayor and Commissioner Harold W. Bennett, Republican minority members of the Camden City Commission, are “cry babies.” Von Nieda charged Hartmann with “playing politics” on the eve of the general election here November 5.

Von Nieda declared Bennett’s business training as a lawyer qualified him far better to direct the operation of the assessor’s office in comparison to a “great merchant who has had several years business training in selling electric light bulbs.”

Question of Reductions

In answer to Hartmann’s charges that politically favored property owners received reduced assessments under the previous administration, von Nieda reminded the New Deal commissioner that such reductions were made by a Democratic controlled Camden County Board of Taxation.

Von Nieda further charged Hartmann with “having his eye on the $20,000 payroll in the assessor’s office.” The mayor also declared the New Dealer commissioners were prohibiting Republican workers in the municipal government from participating in politics but did not restrict the Democratic employees.

The latest attack of von Nieda on Hartmann further widens the breach between the two commissioners who once fought side by side for civic improvements and lower taxes. It was von Nieda and Hartmann who were largely instrumental in formation of the New Jersey Congress of Civic Associations. In fighting for civic betterment here, the two men on many occasions spoke from the same platform. The split came prior to the election of von Nieda to the City Commission.

The mayor’s statement follows:

“At every commission meeting, and in the public press, I am hearing Mr. Hartmann throwing so many bouquets at himself that I am beginning to think he is the only honest man in Camden and the greatest city commissioner any city ever had.

“I am sure that the taxpayers may expect next year the lowest tax rate in 20 years if we can believe all he says about the savings he has already effected, such as $50 on drinking cups, and so much money on electric juice at Delair. From this one item alone, Public Service stockholders may expect a big cut in their dividends next year.

“And the great reforms in Public Service he has accomplished, according to his own say so!

“Now he modestly proposes to transfer the tax assessment department from Mr. Bennett’s hands to his own — he can manage it so much better, you know.

“Why not? What does a lawyer of Mr. Bennett ‘s experience know about real estate values as compared to a great merchant who has had several years -business training in selling electric light bulbs?

“The voters or Camden at last Spring’s election were mistaken when they gave Mr. Bennett a larger vote of confidence than they did any other city commission candidate — even more than the wonderful Mr. Hartmann.

“But he is not playing politics — only he has his eye — so he says — on that $20,000 payroll in the assessor’s department and he will probably say he wants to take charge to reduce the payroll. Well, Democrats have become quite expert in reducing payrolls — even of worthy Democrats — but not of the payrolls of Democratic office holders. And the tax assessments must be changed by Nov. 1. Why did he not say before Nov. 5? Aye, there’s the magic date.

“His explanation that Nov. 1 is tax appeal date shows some little ignorance on his part. The city board does not handle appeals, and the county board began that job on Aug. 15. The city board on Oct. 1 fixes the assessment values for 1936. I am glad that Commissioner Hartmann corrected that statement later.

“Little errors like that do not bother such a great expert as Mr. Hartmann.

“He also said — as I recall it — that some of the big taxpayers had secured reductions—he could not mean this year because the county board has not yet reported its findings—so of course he meant last year’s reductions.

“But did hot Mr. Hartmann forget that last year the county tax appeal board was Democratic?

Not Finding Fault

“I am not finding fault with what the board then did — maybe they were right — but |Mr. Hartmann has seen fit to criticize their actions and yet politically he sleeps in the same bed now with them. Really, he should know also that the city board makes the original assessments, and appeals for reductions are appeals against the values fixed by them.

“Evidently, Mr. Hartmann proposes to make the city board a board of appeals over its own valuations.

“But to get back to the political aspect, because after all I am convinced that politics is the real motive for this gentleman’s peculiar anxiety at this critical time for changing the assessment department over to the department of ash collections and street cleaners.

“You see there is quite a similarity between real estate values and ashes and street dirt, which after all are real estate in the making.

“But there is no politics in it, says Commissioner Hartmann. But we will have to judge the gentleman not by what he says but rather by what he does. No politics either, I suppose, in that just before November 5, the new liquor excise board was-created.

“Mr. Hartmann, of course, did not have in mind the possibility of some one quietly slipping the word to all liquor license holders to be good on election day.

“Is it not strange also that only this past week more than a dozen Republican office holders were fired and similar number of New Dealer Democrats hired in their stead?

“No Politics?’

“And this just a. few days before election?

“Mr. Hartmann is fond of citing the alleged shortcomings of the former commissioners (of which I was not one), and yet he voted for Clay Reesman to be city clerk, who was a city commissioner for eight years from 1928 to 1935.

“So why does he prate so much about the mistakes of Mr. Reesman and his colleagues?

“No politics in Mr. Hartmann’s department! What a laugh?

“Only recently he sent out notices warning city employees not to engage in political activity. But that only applies to Republicans, because Mr. Hartmann has recently helped appoint several Democrats and New Deal Ward leaders to public office.

“Some of them have been politically active this past week and that not even outside the sacred precincts of the City Hall, and during office hours at that.

“Let any Republican officeholder be likewise guilty arid off will go his head.

“No, indeed, Republicans, even after office hours must not even attend political rallies.

“Who made him the Dictator over the party principles or party loyalty, even of office holders after office hours? Since when did he become bigger than the legislature itself?

“But Mr. Hartmann is going to have stool pigeons at the Republicans rally next Saturday, at least that threat has been whispered around the City Hall this past week.

City Hall on Nov. 5

“New Deal City Commissioners themselves can play politics right in the City Hall itself every day and their appointees can and do attend Democratic nightly gatherings and they can and do engage in all sorts of political activities.

“I wonder if Mr. Hartmann will have stool pigeons in the three downtown wards on election day to watch his New Deal Democrats recently appointed in order to see if they are then politically active. Will he see to it that these New Deal leaders remain on duty at the City Hall on election day?

“It will be Quite interesting for inquisitive voters to visit the City Hall on that day so that they may take note of the many Republican officeholders whose compelled presence there will be so necessary for the protection of the otherwise empty City Hall corridors. The sauce for the Democratic goose ought to be the same for the Republican gander.

“And this is supposed to be a non-partisan majority, now in control of the City Hall.

“I am wondering if Mr. Hartmann thinks the voters of Camden have forgotten the pre-election pledges of this same majority?

“And does he think the people of Camden are being fooled by his boastful cry of ‘No politics—no politics’?”

Hartmann Answers

Hartmann answered von Nieda’s attack last night with this statement:

“It was very kind of Mayor von Nieda to advertise my business. I will admit I have somewhat neglected my private business for some time in order to devote all of my time to city affairs.

“The only thing the mayor forgot to say was that I sell the lamp bulbs to which he referred, at Eighth and State streets.

“I hope he will remedy this oversight in his next public utterance concerning me.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.