By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna proposed a workaround Wednesday to a year-old protocol covering comments and questions at council meetings: he says he’ll show up an hour early to field them.
At the borough government’s annual New Year’s Day reorganization meeting, attendees also heard Menna heap thanks on Governor Phil Murphy, whose wife, Tammy Murphy, attended the ceremonial session.
From left above, deputy fire chiefs Bobby Holiday and Nick Ferarro with Chief Scott Calabrese prior to their swearing-ins. Below, Councilwoman Kathy Horgan, center, recited an oath to begin her fifth term. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
• Addressing complaints about the public comments protocol, Menna said, “We’re going to do things differently this year.”
Once a month, he’ll hold an “open session” for an hour prior to the 6:30 p.m. start of a council session, Menna told the gathering.
The informal sessions will allow for back-and-forth dialogue that’s prohibited under the year-old policy, which requires commenters to limit their remarks to five minutes and ask all their questions, addressed to the chair, without an opportunity for follow-up questions.
The strictures, which Business Administrator Ziad Shehady said last year ago were meant to cut down on “grandstanding,” have repeatedly come under fire from residents who claim they stifle dialogue and information-gathering.
Menna, who pledged to review the policy in November, said the new pre-session sit-downs would “get a lot of stuff off people’s chests.”
The schedule for the sessions was not immediately available. The council is slated to hold a workshop session January 8 and a regular session January 22.
• Menna also said he’ll “resume” informal Saturday coffee sessions in different neighborhoods.
A review of minutes from past reorganization meetings shows that Menna made the same pledge in 2013 and 2017, though no announcements of the Saturday meetings could immediately be found.
• Menna said that Red Bank was awarded more than $1 million in state grants to be applied to its aging infrastructure in 2019.
“We have never seen that number before,” he said.
He credited borough residents in general for serving as “ambassadors” for the town, but added, “frankly, it helps to have a governor in Trenton who knows where Red Bank is.”
The Murphys reside in Middletown, their home overlooking Red Bank from the north side of the Navesink River. And they’re frequent visitors, Tammy Murphy told the audience.
• Councilwoman Kathleen Horgan swore an oath of office to begin her fifth three-year term. Councilman Erik Yngstrom began his second term. Like the mayor and the other four members of the council, Horgan and Yngstrom are Democrats.
• Councilman Michael Ballard was chosen by his colleagues as council president, succeeding Yngstrom. The president leads council meetings when the mayor is absent.
• Scott Calabrese of the West Side Hose company formally began his one-year term as chief of the all-volunteer fire department, succeeding Wayne Hartman.
Sworn in as his backups were first deputy chief Bobby Holiday, who has previously served as chief, and second deputy Nick Ferraro.