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RED BANK: COUNCIL STEERS CLEAR OF GAZA RESO

Red Bank resident Georgina Shanley addresses the borough council. (Photo by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

By BRIAN DONOHUE

Should the governing body of a small New Jersey town take an official stance on the war between Israel and Hamas? 

Or is the issue so politically divisive – and so far from their purview – that’s it’s best to stay the heck out of it? 

That was the question put before the Red Bank Borough Council this week.

The answer from members of the governing body was clear: they’re staying out of it. 

The issue was brought to the fore by Harding Road Resident Georgina Shanley, who appeared before the council Thursday night presenting a resolution she had written calling for a cease fire in the war.

Shanley had also personally met with Mayor Billy Portman and several council members during office hours this week to ask them to pass the measure.

“This is a chance in history and it may not come again for you to cast a vote in favor of justice and humanity,” she said.  

Shanley, who identified herself as a 30-year head of Amnesty International’s South Jersey chapter, noted that while passing a resolution on an issue over which the council has no power may seem pointless, that hasn’t stopped it from passing resolutions on non-Red Bank matters in the past, including a recent strike by New Jersey nursing unions. 

“It’s an excuse to say you are only focused on Red Bank,’ said told the council.

The council praised Shanley for her heartfelt plea, but politely declined to take up her ordinance on an issue that has bitterly divided Americans across the political spectrum.

Portman cited the already politically divisive atmosphere, both in Red Bank and across the United States, as a reason to take a pass.

“We were making an effort to unify, which is one of the concerns I have with passing a resolution like this,” Portman said. “Invariably there will be angry people on both sides whichever way we act.”

“One of the reasons I chose to run [for mayor] was the world felt a bit overwhelming and I wanted to be able to have a direct impact on my community,” Portman said. 

“We’re working hard to come out of a dark period for Red Bank and unite this town and make some tangible progress here.”

Council member Councilwoman Nancy Facey-Blackwood noted that President Biden was already trying to implement many of the measures in Shanley’s proposed resolution by sending CIA director William J. Burns to the middle east to broker a ceasefire and the release of all hostages.

“Things are happening but not as quickly as we would like,’’ she said.

In other matters, the council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance issuing $4.9 million in bonds to cover the cost of replacing lead water lines. The current round of bonding brings the total to $8.8 million and should cover replacing all lines on the west side and digging test pits in other areas of the town to find  others that may need to be replaced.

“We found a lot more lead lines on the west side than we thought we would, ” Portman said.

The council also voted to allocate $965,000 for sidewalk upgrades on Monmouth Street. Roughly two thirds of that money comes in the form of existing state grant money that was sitting in unused and in danger of being forfeited, according to council members.

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