Ballot question will focus on possible Red Bank government study

RED BANK – Members of the Red Bank Borough Council have approved the placement of a public question on the Nov. 2 Election Day ballot.

Residents who go to the polls will be asked if they want to empanel a charter study commission that would review the charter that is responsible for establishing Red Bank’s form of government.

If the creation of a charter study commission is approved by voters, the panel will have five members.

The commission’s members will hold hearings and public forums, collect evidence and make recommendations in keeping with their charge to determine if the borough’s current form of government is the most appropriate for Red Bank.

Voters will elect the members of the charter study commission if they approve the creation of the panel, according to information provided by municipal officials.

Several forms of government are available for New Jersey municipalities.

Red Bank currently has a partisan form of government that consists of six Borough Council members who serve staggered three-year terms and a directly elected mayor who serves a four-year term.

The council members vote on action items (i.e., resolutions and ordinances). The mayor only votes if there is a tie on a specific item. Democrats currently hold all six council seats and the mayor’s office.

A May 3 memorandum prepared by Borough Attorney Greg Cannon states that a charter study commission and a direct petition are the two methods of changing a municipal government in New Jersey.

Council President Hazim Yassin, Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, Councilman Erik Yngstrom and Councilwoman Kathy Horgan voted “yes” on a motion to authorize the Nov. 2 ballot question.

Councilman Edward Zipprich and Councilman Michael Ballard were absent from the meeting during which the issue was before the governing body for final consideration.

The placement of the public question on the Election Day ballot received support from resident Scott Broschart, who is a proponent of a nonpartisan form of government in Red Bank.

Broschart said he considers the public question to be an important step toward moving away from Red Bank’s partisan form of government. He has criticized the partisan government because Democrats have run unopposed in past elections and because of what he described as party infighting.

“This is something I have been championing for over a year, aggressively advocating for nonpartisan government,” Broschart said. “The vote on this (issue) is to give every voter a choice in the future of our town.”

Also speaking in favor of a nonpartisan government in Red Bank was resident Ben Forest, who said, “I think it is an historic day for Red Bank. I think this will improve the tone of our deliberations, focus on what’s really best for the town and its residents, and move us in the direction away from party rancor.”

Resident Stephen Hecht noted that the establishment of a charter study commission would not guarantee the establishment of a nonpartisan form of government in Red Bank.

“There are 12 different forms of government” in New Jersey, he said. “Several of those (forms of government) allow for nonpartisan elections and some do not. Whether a new government is partisan or nonpartisan comes second to a choice in a form of government.

“I hope everybody who is interested will start informing themselves about the various forms of government so that if the charter study commission is formed, everybody can study together and everybody will have input,” Hecht said.