RED BANK: LAUNCH OF GOVERNMENT REVIEW

Members of the commission were sworn in by Mayor Pasquale Menna, right, left to right: Nancy Facey-Blackwood, Kate Okeson, Mark Taylor, Mike DuPont and Ben Forest. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topicA study that could lead to a historic overhaul of the governance of the Red Bank and jeopardize three decades of Democratic Party domination, began Tuesday evening.

On the agenda of the newly formed Red Bank Charter Review Commission were key issues: asking for a budget, finding a lawyer, and setting a meeting schedule.

On the unofficial program: learning to use the microphones.

Kate Okeson speaking to resident Stephen Hecht, above. Below, Mike DuPont speaks, flanked by Borough Attorney Greg Cannon, left, and Ben Forest. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Member Nancy Facey-Blackwood called the commission a “unique opportunity to study our current government” and “find the best solution to help Red Bank move forward.”

The nine-month study of the city’s 1908 “charter” – not the Red Bank Charter School, as some commentators have speculated on social media – could lead to a referendum on replacing the form of government of the city district by one of the multiple options.

It could also open the door to non-partisan elections, in which candidates who avoid party machinery have a better chance of getting on a ballot.

With around 20 family members and borough residents watching, Mayor Pasquale Menna swore in the commission members: Blackwood, Mike DuPont, Ben Forest, Kate Okeson and Mark Taylor.

They won their seats in the November 2 election, when voters approved a referendum calling for study and chose the commission members from among 11 candidates.

“We’re in a happy medium,” Okeson said. “We are not politicians. We are at the service of our residents.

In its first series of actions, the commission:

• Chose Blackwood as president and Taylor as vice-president. Blackwood also chairs the Environment Committee; Taylor is a former board member.

• Agreed to request a budget of $ 50,000 from the Borough Council, four-fifths of this amount to be used for legal fees.

• Agreed to solicit proposals for legal work, at a target rate of $ 150 per hour, for a lawyer to attend meetings, provide advice and write a final report.

Together Proposed a bi-monthly meeting schedule: the second Thursday and the fourth Monday (or fourth Tuesday), at 6.30 p.m. These days were chosen based on the availability of the boardroom. CORRECTION: Meeting dates were incorrectly reported in the original version of this post.

Several members of the commission expressed the hope that in addition to face-to-face sessions, the borough would offer a virtual option.

Blackwood said the study would consist of three phases: a review of the current form of government; a look at other forms; and “hit the road” with a series of hearings to seek public input.

As is the norm in boardroom meetings, handling the microphones was an issue. This time, however, the tables were reversed, as Menna, sitting in the audience rather than on the platform, shouted “we can’t hear” as the members spoke without turning on their microphones.

This prompted Forest to remind his coworkers to turn their mics on when they spoke: his was off when he said that.

The next session was scheduled for December 22, at 6.30 a.m., with the approval of the resolutions formalizing the above-expected actions.

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