Holmdel Charter Study Commission

Holmdel Charter Study Commission Vote "Yes" to the public question "Should Holmdel establish a Charter Study Commission?" in the November election.

Holmdel Charter Study Commission Recognizes the Will of the VotersWhile we believe that the recommendations we put forth...
07/28/2022

Holmdel Charter Study Commission Recognizes the Will of the Voters

While we believe that the recommendations we put forth as the Holmdel Charter Study Commission would have made Holmdel an even better town with more power to the voters, we recognize that our role was only to put forth a recommendation. The voters ultimately have the final decision, and, based on the unofficial results, they chose not to move forward.

We understood that there would be strong opposition driven by the Republican Party Boss and his Holmdel surrogates, and certainly, they pulled out all the stops, even soliciting the recent NJ governor candidate to advocate against our recommendations. Indeed, this supports one of the main reasons we put forth the recommendation for non-partisan elections. We need to have less influence by outside party bosses in our local governance. Unfortunately, machine politics prevailed here.

We believe it was also unfortunate that the opposition chose to campaign on many outright lies and inuendoes, such as that this would bring a king-like mayor with a $100,000 salary or somehow turn our town into a large/poor inner city-like municipality. Our voters deserve better than this.

It was great to see that a large portion of the town came out to vote. Concerns that there would be a dismal turnout were unfounded. We hope that this process has increased voters' understanding of the influence of the party line, which is driven by the county party boss, and that voters will make more open, informed decisions based on the merits of what candidates will do for Holmdel rather than just voting the party line.

We remain confident that Holmdel will continue to flourish as the beautiful town that it has always been.

Kin Gee
Chairman

Janet Berk
Commissioner

Gerald Buffalino
Commissioner

C. Zachary Gilstein
Commissioner

Star-Ledger Confirms Charter Study Commission Speaker CommentsJune 6, 2022 - The Star-Ledger Editorial Board published a...
06/06/2022

Star-Ledger Confirms Charter Study Commission Speaker Comments

June 6, 2022 - The Star-Ledger Editorial Board published an Opinion that echoed comments made at the Holmdel Charter Study Commission hearings. The findings of the Commission, the Star-Ledger’s Editorial Board Opinion, the federal lawsuit, along with an increasing body of evidence confirm that the Commission’s recommendation to go non-partisan election at the local level is the best option for Holmdel.

On July 26th, vote YES to the public question to give more power to Holmdel residents!

From the Star-Ledger Editorial Board Opinion:
“No other state tolerates such a corrupt configuration. Most states simply group the names of candidates under the office that they seek, and those names are randomized or alphabetized to ensure fairness, with no attempts at deception.

But in New Jersey, the party chairmen and county committees believe that voters should defer to their wisdom, because they know the best candidates for their turf, they raise the money, and they build the volunteer base -- all true -- and the clerks design the ballots accordingly. The system works very well for them, and candidates throw piles of money at the state and county committees to secure their space in Column 1. The higher the office, the higher the pile.

Remove the party line from the ballot, and that changes. Its elimination restores some sanity and fairness, for starters: Jesse Burns of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, which filed an amicus brief supporting the suit, does not exaggerate when she calls the line “a voter suppression tactic, used to pre-determine elections outcomes and diminish the voice of voters.”
We cannot expect all party bosses and elected officials to acknowledge the cracks in the existing system and embrace reform, however, because they would rather eat a raw wolverine.”

https://www.nj.com/opinion/2022/06/one-step-closer-to-ending-njs-rigged-primaries-editorial.html

Residents to Decide Holmdel Form of GovernmentIn a Special ElectionHolmdel Charter Study Commission met on May 12, 2022 ...
05/19/2022

Residents to Decide Holmdel Form of Government
In a Special Election

Holmdel Charter Study Commission met on May 12, 2022 and unanimously agreed to adopt the formal report with their recommendation to adopt a more modern form of local government called Council-Manager.

This recommendation will be in the form of a public question that Holmdel voters will decide at a special election on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

The Council-Manager form is very similar to the current Township Committee form with three improvements that will give more power to Holmdel residents.

Just like the current Township Committee form, the Council will consist of five members, including the Mayor, who are elected at large on a staggered basis. The three improvements that will strengthen the local government and make it more responsive and accountable to the people are as follows:

1. The Mayor will be elected directly by Holmdel voters. The Mayor is a member of the Council, presides over Council meetings, has one of the five equal votes, and has no more power than the other Council members.
2. Residents will have the power in a ballot petition process to propose a new law or to repeal a law that was enacted by the Council. This is known as Initiative and Referendum.
3. Elections will be held on a non-partisan basis, similar to elections for the Holmdel Board of Education. This eliminates the inappropriate influence of county political party bosses under current partisan elections and should increase the pool of good candidates to run.

The public question that Holmdel residents will vote on is as follows:

"Shall the COUNCIL-MANAGER PLAN of the Optional Municipal Charter Law, providing for FIVE (5) Council members to be ELECTED AT LARGE for STAGGERED terms at NON-PARTISAN elections held in NOVEMBER, with the MAYOR ELECTED DIRECTLY BY THE VOTERS, be adopted by the Township of Holmdel?"

See also the two articles by the Asbury Park Press and the Independent/centraljersey.com:

https://www.app.com/story/news/local/red-bank-middletown-area/holmdel/2022/05/16/holmdel-nj-special-july-election-change-local-elections-government/9661267002/

https://centraljersey.com/2022/05/13/holmdel-residents-appear-to-have-approved-proposal-to-create-charter-study-commission-2/

HOLMDEL – The five members of a charter study commission who have been examining Holmdel’s current form of government have unanimously recommended that several changes be made to the township’s current form of municipal government. The decision to accept or to reject the charter study commissi...

May 11, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, May 12, 2022, at 7 PM, Town Hal...
05/11/2022

May 11, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, May 12, 2022, at 7 PM, Town Hall, 4 Crawfords Corner Rd, Holmdel.

The Charter Study Commission is expected to discuss the referendum for its recommendations and then adopt the formal report that will be filed.

You can watch prior meetings at the link below.

https://www.holmdelchartercomm.org/videos

The Thursday, April 28th meeting is canceled.
04/26/2022

The Thursday, April 28th meeting is canceled.

Charter Study Commission to Recommend Improvements to Local Government to Give More Power to ResidentsApril 14, 2022 - A...
04/16/2022

Charter Study Commission to Recommend Improvements to Local Government to Give More Power to Residents

April 14, 2022 - As part of Phase III of the 3-phase plan, the Commissioners discussed, and reached a consensus on recommendations for a form of government very similar to the current Holmdel form of government but with modern reforms that give more power to Holmdel residents.

Recommendations

1. Adopt the Council-Manager form of government
2. Five Council members (including the Mayor) will be elected at large and not by wards – similar to the current Township Committee
3. The Mayor will preside over Council meetings, votes with other Council members – again similar to the current Township Committee - but will be directly elected by voters
4. Council members including the Mayor will be elected to serve a 4-year term on a staggered basis every two years
5. A professional Manager will be appointed by the Council that will run the day-to-day administration of the town in accordance with the will and intent of the Council – very similar to the Township Administrator. The Manager can be removed by a simple majority (3 votes) of the Council – unlike the current 2/3 requirement or 4 votes.
6. Elections will be held on a nonpartisan basis, similar to current elections for members of the Holmdel Board of Education. If they wish, candidates can campaign and make known their party affiliation.
7. Residents will have the opportunity to introduce a local ordinance or to reject an ordinance passed by the Council through a petition process known as Initiative and Referendum

The next step will be to draft a written report that will be approved and signed by all five Commissioners and formally filed with the Township Clerk. Holmdel residents will then vote to approve or disapprove the Commission’s recommendations in a referendum.

You can watch the video recording of the meeting in the “Video” tab of the website. https://www.holmdelchartercomm.org/videos

Our meetings are public.  You can watch the video recordings of our meetings on this page or on Holmdel's YouTube channel page.

April 12, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, April 14, 2022, at 7 PM, Town...
04/12/2022

April 12, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, April 14, 2022, at 7 PM, Town Hall, 4 Crawfords Corner Rd, Holmdel.

The Charter Study Commission has now completed Phase I (study of the current form of local government) and II (explore alternate forms of governments). It will begin Phase III to deliberate and discuss what the Commission heard in the previous two phases and what recommendations it may want to consider.

You can watch prior meetings at the link below.

https://www.holmdelchartercomm.org/videos

SECOND PUBLIC HEARINGOur second public hearing is set for April 7, 2022, 7 PM, Town Hall, 4 Crawfords Corner Rd, Holmdel...
04/03/2022

SECOND PUBLIC HEARING

Our second public hearing is set for April 7, 2022, 7 PM, Town Hall, 4 Crawfords Corner Rd, Holmdel.

In our current form of government: 1. the Mayor is not directly elected by voters, 2. elections are held every year, 3. there is no option for nonpartisan elections, 4. Initiative and Referendum are not allowed, and 5. the Township Committee is limited to 3 or 5 members only.

In Phase II of our work, we heard from experts on the alternate forms of government that can be considered. Two of the most popular forms of government that the Charter Study Commission can consider are (1) Mayor-Council and (2) Council-Manager.

Common options of these two major forms are:
1. the Mayor can be elected directly by voters
2. elections can be held every 2 years (or every 4 years if on a concurrent basis)
3. elections can be on a partisan or nonpartisan basis
4. Initiative and Referendum are allowed
5. Council members can be elected at-large or by wards
6. the Council can have 5, 7, or 9 members, and
7. both require a Municipal Manager or Administrator

The differences between these two forms are:

Mayor-Council
1. Mayor is not on the Council
2. Mayor has no legislative duties
3. Mayor is Chief Executive and is responsible for day-to-day operations
4. Mayor, with the consent of Council, appoints Business Administrator to assist and runs administration – serves a 4-year term concurrent with the Mayor
5. Business Administrator can be removed by 2/3 votes of the Council

Council-Manager

1. Mayor is part of the Council & presides over Council meetings
2. Mayor has legislative responsibilities along with other Council members
3. Council appoints nonpartisan professional Business Manager, who acts as Chief Executive and runs day-to-day operations
4. Business Manager serves at the pleasure of the Council and can be removed with a simple majority vote


Please attend the next Commission meeting to provide your input and opinion on alternate forms of government including possible options that the Commission may want to consider.
For example:
1. Should the Mayor be directly elected by voters?
2. Should the Mayor (even if directly elected by voters) be part of the Council with legislative responsibilities like in the current Township Committee form of government?
3. Should residents have more power and say in public questions and/or ordinances (Initiative and Referendum)?
4. Should local elections be held every other year or every four years rather than yearly?
5. Should elections be held on a nonpartisan basis?
6. Should we elect Council members on an at-large basis or by wards?
7. Should we have fewer or more elected officials on the governing body?

The meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 31, 2022, is canceled.
03/29/2022

The meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 31, 2022, is canceled.

Mar 22, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 7 PM on a vir...
03/22/2022

Mar 22, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 7 PM on a virtual basis via Zoom. You can join by clicking on the link below:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89122891778?pwd=ZkxYRUlrUjdXQW1qdjhocHdJclBqUT09
Passcode: Charter

Special Guests

1. Fred Tagliarini, Mayor of Aberdeen

Aberdeen Township is governed within the Faulkner Act under the Council-Manager form of government. This form of local government was implemented in 1990 based on voting on a direct petition by Aberdeen’s citizens to change from the traditional Township Committee form of government which had been in force since 1857. The mayor, who is part of the Council, is elected directly by voters along with the other Council members on a staggered basis in partisan elections.

2. Amy Quinn, Deputy Mayor of Asbury Park

Asbury Park is governed within the Faulkner Act under the Council-Manager form of government. Asbury Park chose this form of government based on the final report by their Charter Study Commission in 2013 since it retained a desired aspect of their local government for nonpartisan elections while allowing for the mayor to be elected directly and granting voters the right for initiative and referendum. The mayor, who is part of the Council, is elected directly by voters along with the other Council members on a staggered basis in nonpartisan elections.

You can watch prior meetings at the link below.

https://www.holmdelchartercomm.org/videos

Mar 14, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at 7 PM on a vi...
03/14/2022

Mar 14, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at 7 PM on a virtual basis via Zoom. You can join by clicking on the link below:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89122891778?pwd=ZkxYRUlrUjdXQW1qdjhocHdJclBqUT09
Passcode: Charter

1. There will also be a presentation on New Jersey Ballot Design and the “Line”

Dr. Julia Sass Rubin
Associate Professor
Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Policy
Rutgers University

2. Invited Guest: Jonathan Hornik, Marlboro Mayor

Marlboro Township is governed within the Faulkner Act under the Mayor-Council form of government. The mayor is the chief executive officer of the Township and is directly elected by voters to a four-year term. The five Council members are elected at-large for staggered 4-year terms in partisan elections.

You can watch prior meetings at the link below.

https://www.holmdelchartercomm.org/videos

[This is an abridged version of the summary read at the March 3, 2022 meeting.  To hear the full version, please watch t...
03/08/2022

[This is an abridged version of the summary read at the March 3, 2022 meeting. To hear the full version, please watch the video recording of the meeting on our website https://www.holmdelchartercomm.org/videos ]

Summary of Phase I

Since the beginning of our process, we indicated that our charge is a simple one – to study our current form of local government and to consider improvements in the present charter or, possibly, a new charter. We also indicated that it is possible to believe the current government is working well but there may be improvements to make it even better.

Our plan is divided into three phases. The first phase is the study of our current form of local government. The second phase is to explore alternative forms of local government. The third and final phase is to deliberate and make decisions for any recommendations.

We spent most of our time in January and February gathering input as part of the phase to study the current form of government and we are near the end of Phase I. Thus far, the Commission has interviewed seven elected officials that have served, on a collective basis, for more than 60 years on a Township Committee, including more than 20 years as mayor.

They include current Holmdel Mayor Greg Buontempo, former Holmdel Mayor Eric Hinds and Larry Fink, former Holmdel Deputy Mayor Mike Nikolis, former Colts Neck Mayor Rose Ann Scotti, former Millstone Mayor Nancy Grbelja, and former Hazlet Committeeman Scott Broschart. Six of those elected officials are Republicans and one is Democrat.

We also spoke with former Holmdel Township Administrator Cherron Rountree. In addition, we invited the respective Chairperson of the Holmdel Republican County Committee and Holmdel Democrat County Committee. Only Barbara Singer, the Chairperson of the Holmdel Democrat County committee, accepted our invitation and we spoke with her as well.

Those discussions were guided by a series of detailed and comprehensive questions that cover various characteristics of the Township Committee form of government. In addition, the Commission held a public hearing on Feb. 3, 2022 to receive comments from the public.

As we transition to our second phase, it is worthwhile to summarize what we have heard from those discussions with elected officials and comments received at the public hearing.

It should be made clear that this is a summary of what we heard in Phase I of our work. It is not the Commission’s recommendations, which we will deliberate and decide later on in Phase III.

There was consensus on some of the characteristics of our current form of government. Where appropriate, we have included a few specific comments or quotes from guest speakers. The comments are not intended to be comprehensive but just to give some color to the subject.

Election of Mayor

Under our current form of government, the five members of the Township Committee choose the mayor at the reorganization meeting in January of each year. The mayor then serves a one-year term and the process is repeated in the following year.

The comments we received indicated strong support for the mayor to be elected directly by Holmdel residents, rather than by the members of the Township Committee. As an example, Mayor Greg Buontempo said “our current system has led to chaos and confusion in Holmdel. Especially when an individual gets re-elected to the Township Committee, but then is not re-elected as Mayor. That exact controversy happened during my first selection as Mayor in 2017.” He went on to say that “the TC system also means that the mayor is picked in a closed process. When the Township Committee is all one political party, the mayor is often picked at a political caucus, where the political party makes the decision – not the people. I don’t see how this is good for democracy.”

Former Deputy Mayor Michael Nikolis said that “we should let the people vote on who the mayor is, who the figurehead is. It shouldn't be done behind closed doors. I think that really is disenfranchising the entire town of Holmdel. The residents should say who's in charge. It shouldn't be done in some political caucus or meeting.”

Annual Local Elections

Under the current form of government, elections are held every year, with a primary in the spring and a general election in November. Elections are on a staggered basis with no more than two Committeeperson running each year.

On the frequency of election cycles, most of the comments we received were in support of not more frequently than every two years and on a staggered basis to keep the local governing body “fresh” and to have more public engagement.

Number of Committee Members

Under the current form of government, the number of Committee members is fixed at 5. On the subject of the number of members on the governing body, there was no strong consensus, but most thought that 5 or 7 appears to be the right number.

Partisan Elections

Under the current form of government, elections are held on a partisan basis, meaning candidates run under party affiliations. The Commission heard many comments in support of nonpartisan elections similar to Board of Ed elections.

Current Holmdel Mayor Greg Buontempo said that he is a long-time Republican but that there are no issues that are made at the local level that has anything to do with the federal level. Locally, residents are concerned about the quality of life in Holmdel. Therefore, local elections should be about who is getting things done for the town and not about party affiliations.

Former Holmdel Deputy Mayor Michael Nikolis said that “all politics are local, but the divisiveness and partisanship in this town have been out of control.” He doesn’t believe that at the local level tying oneself to national politics helps the town in any way and that a nonpartisan election is about the people of Holmdel dictating their own destiny and their own future.”

Former Millstone Mayor Nancy Grbelja said that too often, voters rely on the “line” and that allows party bosses from outside the local town to favor their candidate rather than candidates that might be supported by the local committee and that is hurting a lot of our communities in Monmouth County.

Former Colts Neck Mayor Rose Ann Scotti said that “the county chair has a lot of power to do what they want with those ballot positions” and that she thinks “it was unconscionable that the county chair didn’t take the candidate that the municipal committee endorsed.”

Minority opinion - Former Holmdel Mayor Eric Hinds thinks it’s comforting for a lot of voters to know that they could count on the party to elect a candidate in line with their line of thinking and he would not be in favor of nonpartisan elections.

Elections: At-Large vs. Wards

Under the current form of government, Committee members are voted on an at-large basis. On the subject of at-large elections versus elections by wards, most comments were in support of at-large elections and not by wards.

Initiative and Referendum By petition

Under the current form of government, initiative and referendum by petition generally are not allowed. On this subject, most of those interviewed thought that initiative and referendum by petition would be valuable.

Former Holmdel Deputy Mayor Michael Nikolis said that “the more the voters and residents have a say in issues, the better. I think that the people are ultimately the elected officials’ bosses and the more power and the more say that they have in any initiative, in any issue in town, the better.”

Feb. 3rd Public Hearing

Almost all of the comments received at the public hearing on Feb. 3, 2022 echoed the above sentiment.

Our meetings are public.  You can watch the video recordings of our meetings on this page or on Holmdel's YouTube channel page.

Mar 2, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, March 3rd, 2022 at 7 PM on a vir...
03/02/2022

Mar 2, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, March 3rd, 2022 at 7 PM on a virtual basis via Zoom. You can join by clicking on the link below:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89122891778?pwd=ZkxYRUlrUjdXQW1qdjhocHdJclBqUT09
Passcode: Charter

1. There will also be a special presentation on Forms of Local Government

Alan Zalkind, Director
Center for Government Services
Rutgers University
Division of Continuing Studies

2. Tracy Buckley, Council President of Tinton Falls, will be joining us after the presentation by Alan Zalkind.

The Borough of Tinton Falls operates under the Faulkner Act, Mayor-Council form of government. The mayor is the chief executive officer of the Borough and is directly elected by voters to a four-year term. The five Council members are elected at-large for staggered 4-year terms in nonpartisan elections.

You can watch prior meetings at the link below.

https://www.holmdelchartercomm.org/videos

Compensation for Commissioners?Under New Jersey state law, the members that serve on the Charter Study Commission receiv...
02/23/2022

Compensation for Commissioners?

Under New Jersey state law, the members that serve on the Charter Study Commission receive no compensation.

Just like other statutory bodies, the Commission has hired legal counsel to provide legal advice to the Commission and a secretary (as an independent contractor) for purposes of preparing minutes to the public meetings. The Commission currently does not expect to award any other contract to accomplish its statutory mandate. We believe that the total expense incurred will be under $15,000, a relatively nominal amount to carry out the important work that Holmdel voters authorized the Commission to do.

By comparison, Holmdel Township paid $93,250 in expense to T&M for an engineer report in 2016 for a turf field for which the bond ordinance was later rescinded. In 2017, Holmdel Township paid more than $50,00 for a recreation survey that “went nowhere”.

Feb. 15, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022 at 7 PM on a vir...
02/15/2022

Feb. 15, 2022 – The next meeting for the Holmdel Charter Study Commission is on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022 at 7 PM on a virtual basis via Zoom. You can join by clicking on the link below:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89122891778?pwd=ZkxYRUlrUjdXQW1qdjhocHdJclBqUT09
Passcode: Charter

1. Holmdel Mayor Greg Buontempo is scheduled to be at the Thursday meeting.

2. There will also be a special presentation on optional forms of local government under the Faulkner Act by Edward Sasdelli, State Monitor and Municipal Technical Advisor from the Division of Local Government Services of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

3. Ocean Township Mayor Christopher Siciliano will also be joining us as a special guest after the presentation by Ed Sasdelli. Ocean Township operates under one of the optional forms of government under the Faulkner Act, Council-Manager. Their Council members are elected to concurrent 4-year terms in nonpartisan elections. The mayor is selected by Council members at the annual reorganization meeting.

This looks to be a very informative meeting.

You can watch prior meetings including the first Public Hearing at the link below.

https://www.holmdelchartercomm.org/videos

MC Sheriff Shaun Golden Congratulates Holmdel Charter Study CommissionersFeb. 14, 2022 - All five Commissioners received...
02/14/2022

MC Sheriff Shaun Golden Congratulates Holmdel Charter Study Commissioners

Feb. 14, 2022 - All five Commissioners received a letter today from Shaun Golden, Monmouth County Sheriff, congratulating our election to the Holmdel Charter Study Commission.

In the letter, he said that it is a tremendous honor for us to be elected to serve the residents of our community and that the responsibility is great but as leaders we will have an opportunity to address challenges we may see locally.

Some of you may know that Sheriff Golden is also the Chairman of the Monmouth County Republican Party.

Thank you Sheriff Golden for your support of the Holmdel Charter Study Commission!

This article appeared in the February 10 – 16, 2022 print edition of The Two River Times. Holmdel Residents Ask Commissi...
02/12/2022

This article appeared in the February 10 – 16, 2022 print edition of The Two River Times.

Holmdel Residents Ask Commission For Nonpartisan Government

February 11, 2022

By Allison Perrine

HOLMDEL – After the first public input session of the Holmdel Township Charter Study Commission, one thing is clear – residents are looking for a change.

During the virtual Feb. 3 meeting, over a dozen community members advocated for nonpartisan government, mayoral elections and expanded representation, which contradicts the existing five-member partisan committee-style government the township operates under which includes mayors being appointed by others on the dais.

Some went as far as to say that because of the partisan style Holmdel utilizes, local leaders aren’t really in charge of what happens in township elections – “county bosses” are, former committee candidate Ron Emma, a Republican, alleged that night.

“Make no mistake. Someone from outside of Holmdel is deciding who gets the most favorable position on the ballot,” Emma said. “I ran and I didn’t even get a sniff, a call, an interview, a peek into what I was all about from the local Holmdel Republican Committee. The party bosses made their decision and I ultimately ended up in one election on line seven which is, in other words, political Siberia.”

He, like others before him that night, added that nonpartisan elections in Holmdel are “long overdue.”

Before the public spoke that night, charter commission chair Kin Gee outlined the goal of the group – to study the existing form of local government and consider new charter styles and/or improvements to the existing charter.

“In broad terms, our plan is divided into three phases,” Gee explained. The first phase is to study the current form of local government, the second phase is to explore alternative forms of government and the third and final phase is to deliberate and make decisions for any recommendations to the township committee. Currently, the commission is in the first phase but approaching the second when it will bring in professionals to explain the different paths the township could take moving forward.

Since its work began in December, the commission has interviewed six former elected officials – five Republicans and one Democrat – with township committee experience in the existing form of government. Collectively, they served over 50 years on the township committee, 22 of which were spent as mayors. Commissioners asked the former politicians a series of questions about the characteristics that define Holmdel’s government. The discussion that followed provided “valuable insight and information,” Gee said.

The meeting then opened for public discussion. The first resident to speak was Betty Rauscher who said as a registered Republican, she would like to see nonpartisan elections in Holmdel as well as mayoral appointments by residents.

“I feel that today, local votes often simply follow along the party lines. That’s not healthy for Holmdel,” she said. “I wish that the first two ballot columns did not so much influence the results for local candidates. Nonpartisan elections in Holmdel would encourage votes to be based on a local candidate’s own merits,” and could “attract a wider range of qualified local candidates.”

Similarly, resident Sheila Gilstein – who is married to charter commission member Zachary Gilstein – agreed that mayoral elections by residents and nonpartisan politics are “the way to go” in Holmdel.

“It’s time to have fair, equal elections. We need to bring back home rule for Holmdel,” Gilstein said, suggesting that a lottery system should be instated to determine what order candidates appear in on ballots. She also suggested that the township increase its number of elected officials from five to seven for “more representation.”

Resident Lee Meyer suggested that having residents directly elect a mayor – instead of appointments by committee members – would make the mayor “directly accountable to the people of Holmdel.” It might even be useful to make the position a salaried office, he said.

“If it’s possible, the person could be a full-time administrator who again would be free to perform the duties of mayor and serve the community,” Meyer said. “I think that Holmdel has become somewhat overrun by divisive partisan politics and I think it is not serving the community.”

Meyer also suggested that consideration be taken into allowing citizens of Holmdel the right to petition for an initiative or referendum should residents garner enough signatures to do so.

“We have different issues in different sides of the town and a lot of times, various constituents get up (in town meetings), they complain and everyone goes ‘Thank you for your comments.’ I mean, that has frustrated people all around this town. People should be able to petition,” resident James Yanello added to Meyer’s comments.

And Yanello, too, agreed that nonpartisan elections are most appropriate for Holmdel.

“One would think a devout Republican in pretty Republican Holmdel would be all for the current form of government, which is substantially run by regional Republicans. I’m not,” he said. “I’ve seen some of the candidates they’ve put up and stuck behind with wicked conflicts of interest and wicked troubles. I’ve seen where independents, including some of my friends, have been put on the ballot and time and time again – row four, row five – are you kidding me? You think we’re all idiots?” he said. “We are not debating immigration in Holmdel; we’re not debating abortion; we’re not debating Second Amendment. We want what’s best for this town.

“It’s time for Holmdel to run Holmdel,” Yanello added. “It’s time for Holmdel to take over Holmdel from regional partisan politics.”

https://tworivertimes.com/holmdel-residents-ask-commission-for-nonpartisan-government/

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Holmdel, NJ
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