RED BANK – On Nov. 8, Red Bank voters will decide if the borough will change to a new form of municipal government.
A public question on the general election ballot will ask voters if Red Bank should adopt the council-manager plan as its form of government. Residents will have the option to vote “yes” or “no.” A simple majority will decide the outcome of the referendum.
Under the council-manager form of municipal government, six council members and a directly elected mayor will be elected at large for staggered terms during a nonpartisan election that would be held in May. If a sufficient number of candidates fail to attain a majority of votes, a run-off election would be held in June.
According to the public question, if the change in government is approved by voters on Nov. 8, the first municipal election under the new form of government would be held on May 9 and Red Bank’s new mayor and council members would be installed on July 1.
After the new governing body has been installed, the elected officials may choose to move subsequent nonpartisan elections to the November general election, according to the public question. If a nonpartisan election is held in November, a run-off election, if needed, would be held in December.
Red Bank currently operates under a partisan form of government known as the borough form. The municipal government 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.
In the proposed nonpartisan council-manager form of government, six council members would serve staggered four-year terms. The directly elected mayor would serve a four-year term and would vote alongside the council members on action items. The mayor and council members are responsible for all legislative powers and for setting municipal policy, according to the ballot question.
The mayor and council in the proposed form of government would appoint a municipal manager who would exercise all executive and administrative powers. The manager serves the mayor and council and would be subject to removal from that position by a simple majority vote of the elected officials.
In order to initiate the new staggered council terms if the ballot question is approved, four council members who are elected under the new form of government would serve for two years, to be determined upon the initial organization of the new government. The remaining two council members and the mayor would serve four-year terms. A municipal election would be held every two years, according to the public question.
The ballot question proposing the change in government has been offered to the public by the five members of a charter study commission who spent several months examining the types of government that are available to Red Bank under New Jersey law.
The charter study commission was established this year after being approved by Red Bank voters in the 2021 general election.
The members of the commission who were elected by residents were Nancy Facey-Blackwood (chair), Mark Taylor (vice chair), Michael DuPont, Ben Forest and Kathryn Okeson.
The commission members reviewed the charter responsible for establishing Red Bank’s form of government and eventually recommended the council-manager form as being more appropriate for the borough.
A charter study commission and a direct petition are the two methods of changing a municipal government in New Jersey, according to borough officials.
A final report issuing the commission’s recommendation was published on July 19.
According to the report, the commission members determined the borough form of government is not meeting the needs of Red Bank.
Commission members found that the borough form lacks sufficient delineations of authority for office holders, which has led to council members overstepping their roles, and that partisan elections have created a divisive environment that undermined the local government from properly functioning.
The commission members believe the council-manager form will directly address and rectify micromanagement issues, according to the report.
The commission members also believe nonpartisan elections will improve Red Bank’s electoral process by counteracting the influence of political party endorsements and favorable ballot position.