By JOHN T. WARD
While Red Bank’s 114-year run under a “borough” form of government is widely thought to be nearing an end, that’s still a matter for voters to decide in the November 8 election.
And even though no widespread opposition to the ballot referendum on the change has materialized, there has been some pushback. In addition, voters continue to seek clarity about the stakes, said Charter Study Commission Chairwoman Nancy Facey-Blackwood.
Charter Study commissioners Kate Okeson, Ben Forest and Mike DuPont at a barbecue in support of the referendum in September. Below, a mailer from ‘FOMB’ opposing the measure. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
In July, the five-member commission, created with overwhelming voter support a year ago, issued a report recommending the town switch to a “council-manager” form of government, from the borough form in place since 1908.
If the referendum triggered by that recommendation is approved in the current election, it would mean the sunset for the borough form, effective July 1. In the interim, a nonpartisan May, 2023 election for mayor and six council members would be held to form a new governing body.
That meaning of those terms – forms of government, nonpartisan elections – is exhaustively detailed in the commission’s report: Red Bank Charter Study Commission Final Report 071922.
Here’s the wording of the referendum:
Shall the COUNCIL-MANAGER PLAN of the Optional Municipal Charter Law, providing for SEVEN (7) council members to be ELECTED AT LARGE for STAGGERED terms at NON-PARTISAN elections to be held in MAY, with the MAYOR ELECTED DIRECTLY BY THE VOTERS, with run-off elections to be held thereafter if a sufficient number of candidates fail to attain a majority of votes, be adopted by the Borough of Red Bank?
• Still, misconceptions and questions surround the topic, according to Facey-Blackwood.
“Quite quite a few questions have been coming up” as commission members have gone door-to-door to press for a ‘yes’ vote, she told redbankgreen Thursday.
“Are we still called the Borough of Red Bank?” the FAQ asks. “Yes! We are still called the Borough of Red Bank. We do not have to change street signs, logos, stationary, websites, building codes, etc. Local examples include the Borough of Tinton Falls, Ocean Township, Borough of Bradley Beach, Marlboro Township, and Asbury Park.”
Here’s the full document: Red Bank Referendum 2022 FAQ
• The ballot question appears to have sparked no organized opposition, though many borough voters have received at least one mailer urging them to reject it.
“The Charter Commission wants Red Bank to move from New Jersey’s most popular form of government to one of the least popular forms,” the flyer claims. “The form of government doesn’t fix anything. The people you elect to govern do.”
The mailer also quotes four Democrats raising doubts about nonpartisan elections in 2018: Mayor Pasquale Menna, Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, Councilwoman Kathy Horgan and former councilman Erik Yngstrom.
The return address on the mailer says it was “paid for by FOMB,” with a return address of P.O. Box 8254 in Red Bank.
Who is FOMB? A search for filings under that name in the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission online database turned up no records. But Councilman Michael Ballard, who lost to Billy Portman in the Democratic primary for mayor in June, has received funding from a group called Friends of Michael Ballard, filings show.
Ballard confirmed to redbankgreen that he was behind the mailing, but did not answer questions about why his name is not on it.
• Where do the candidates for mayor and council this year stand on the referendum?
The four council candidates for two council seats were asked that at the October 22 League of Women Voters of Monmouth County online forum.
(Portman, the lone candidate to succeed Pasquale Menna as mayor, supports the measure. Because he is unopposed, he was not invited to the LWV event.)
Democrat John Jackson: “I’m in favor of nonpartisan elections; however, there has to be a component of fair campaign practice. Without that, I don’t believe they’re truly nonpartisan.”
Republican Mark Taylor, who served as vice chairman on the commission: “My mission in running this year is to make the referendum a reality.”
Republican Jonathan Maciel Penney: “Obviously, yes, I am 100-percent for the ballot question.”
Democrat Angela Mirandi: “I’ll neither publicly support or oppose the referendum. I’m going to let the voters decide.”
The candidates also addressed the question in redbankgreen Q&As. Click their name links above to see what they had to say.)
***** ELECTION GUIDE *****
• Find the Red Bank ballot here.
• Votes may be cast three difference ways: by mail; in-person during an early voting period described below; or in-person on election day at the polling station in the district in which the voter is registered.
• To vote by mail, see the Monmouth County Clerk’s webpage on how to apply for and submit a mail-in ballot. Voters using vote-by-mail have the option of dropping their ballots off at any designated dropbox in Monmouth County. Red Bank has a box outside the main entrance to borough hall, at 90 Monmouth Street.
The county’s ballot-tracking system allows voters to keep tabs on the status of their mail-in ballots.
• Early, in-person voting, now underway, allows registered voters to cast their ballots, on machines, for a nine-day period leading up to the election. Voters may do so at any of 10 designated polling places in Monmouth County, regardless of the municipality they call home.
The polling place nearest to Red Bank is at the Women’s Club of Little Silver, 111 Church Street. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This week, the New Jersey Secretary of State issued an alert warning the public about misleading text messages, “which appear to have been sent by an organization called Voting Futures,” that provide inaccurate voter registration information and direct the recipients to incorrect polling locations.
Don’t trust them. Your polling place is on the front of the sample ballot sent to your home. Voters can also check their voter registration, find their polling location and more at vote.nj.gov.
• In-person, election day voting will take place at the Red Bank polling stations shown below. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
• Finally, here’s a video on using Monmouth County’s digital voting machines, which employ touchscreen technology familiar to users of smartphones and tablets:
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