Seen Around Town

Readers have sent us a number of flyers distributed around Jackson.

Readers have sent us a number of flyers distributed around Jackson. First, one from the election this past week:

flyer1

Congrats to Tara and Sharon on their win, we share the same concerns as the creator of this flyer about keeping Jackson’s public schools in top shape as well as their pride in dual marching band state champions Jackson Liberty Lion Band and Jackson Jaguar Band. An educated populace is necessary for a functioning democracy and good public schools provide a benefit to the entire town, even those residents that don’t use them, in terms of improving property values, local economies, crime rates, and sense of community in general.

However, we hope you have a more “equitable” plan than stripping the only benefits that private school parents get from their property taxes to the bone. It’s also funny that in the same paragraph Mrs. Dey is derided as being both “incompetent and behind the times” and simultaneously admonished as being the “only Board candidate in recent memory to run a negative campaign”.

Next up, another flyer which bears a strange resemblance to the first:

flyer2

This flyer is much more concerning, shaming a neighbor for listing their home for sale. The idea that only un-“strong” people sell their house is silly: families move all the time for a variety of reasons. Will humiliating them really make people want to stay? Maybe you should paint a big red B on their lawn too while you are at it. It seems like the one actually peddling panic and fear is the creator of the above flyer.

Seen any other flyers? Send us a picture at tips@jacksonleaks.com. And remember, it’s a federal crime to put anything in a mailbox without proper postage.

Jet Bus!

Board of Ed candidates pushing the edges of busing technology.

An audio clip from a public Jackson Board of Education Meet and Greet sent to us by a reader details one prospective school board member’s plan for private school busing: consolidating students headed to 56 different schools on to a single bus!

Listen here:

Question: One of the most important problems you are going to face is busing to private schools. As you know, every year the number of students has increased. How will you handle that since it comes off the top of the school budget?

Elenor Hannum: Alright, so currently we have 84 out-of-district Gen. Ed. schools that Jackson students are attending. 56 are in one town and 28 are spread throughout. We do bus to four schools that are out-of-district schools. I believe that we could probably consolidate two of the schools for busing to make that most cost-effective.

As far as the 56 schools in one town, where students are attending, it’s 56 separate schools. I believe we would have to look at what’s most cost-effective. We’re looking at, I didn’t do the actual numbers, but I know that there’s 484 that are not being bussed and the last count was 367 students are receiving a transportation in-lieu-of, the transportation reimbursement.

I believe that whatever is most cost-effective, down the road we have to look at that, look at those numbers. They would all have to be put on one bus going, basically it’s going to one town, so there would not be separate buses for separate schools. So that’s, you know, we’d have to look at what’s most cost-effective.

We’d hate to be the one planning the route for this bus. How will this single bus pick up every student headed to that one unnameable town (hint: its name starts with L and rhymes with Cakewood) and make 56 distinct stops to deliver them all to school on time?

Thankfully, scientists have been planning for this scenario for a while now. May we present: jet-powered busing! This baby can go almost 400 MPH, easily making up for the time spent loading and unloading students at dozens of stops.

jetbus
Hearing protection not included.

However, the exorbitant cost of jet fuel might just tip the scale in favor of traditional buses, in which case maybe at least a few more bus routes will be needed.

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Someone sent us the following image, originally attached to a social media post.

socialmedia

A few notes here: The First Amendment prohibits governments from stifling the free speech of individuals. It says nothing about what private citizens can and cannot say to or about one another. By contrast, the actions of the Jackson municipal government are restricted by the First Amendment, which is forbidden from adopting ordinances with the intention to constrain religious practice. There is no contradiction here, as implied by the creator of the image: rather, private citizens are afforded the right to criticize one another while also advocating for the free exercise of religion unimpeded by the government.

Additionally, by NJ State law, any written communication sent to a public official in their official capacity is automatically a public record and can be made available to the public.

The intention of this site is to inform and shed light. We seek to analyze public documents that have been made available online or sent to us, not to make any individual feel attacked or harassed. If you feel that a particular public document we have contains personal data and wish it to be redacted, we understand your desire for privacy; after all, the contributors to this website are as of yet anonymous themselves.

If you find your full name or contact information on any post or document here and would like it removed (and are not a public official relevant to that post or document), we’d be happy to redact anything uniquely identifying including last names, email addresses, street addresses or phone numbers. Please email us at tips@jacksonleaks.com and let us know the exact location.

Note however, that many of the documents we have posted are already publicly available on the internet in other places, and any redaction we do won’t affect copies stored elsewhere. Also, anything obtained via OPRA can be re-requested by a determined person from the Jackson clerk in its original form.

Township Committee Shuffle

Confusion over a change in Jackson’s form of government has caused some issues in the past. But is it all cleared up now?

reina
Current Jackson Mayor, Mike Reina, being sworn in

The Jackson zoning board has seen a lot of turnover in the past few months, losing two members to criminal activity and scandal. Details have come out about former members that may end up calling into question previous decisions of the zoning board, such as denying the application of a religious school in town.

One might wonder, how did these people get on the board in the first place? The Jackson municipal code sets the procedure for filling a zoning board position as follows:

§ 244-8 Zoning Board of Adjustment.

A. Establishment.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment, presently in existence pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 et seq., is hereby continued. The Zoning Board of Adjustment shall consist of seven regular members, who shall be appointed by the Township Committee.

B. Alternate members.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment shall not have more than two alternate members, who shall be appointed by the Township Committee. Alternate members shall be designated at the time of appointment by the Township Committee as “Alternate No. 1” and “Alternate No. 2.”

So, according to the existing law, the “township committee” of Jackson must vet and appoint members to the zoning board. Which is pretty straightforward, except that Jackson no longer has a “township committee”! In 2006, voters chose to reorganize the government and split the five member “township committee” which included a mayor and deputy mayor into a five member council where the mayor was a separate position.

In the “committee”‘s absence, the new council seems to be filling the role of “township committee” by appointing members to the zoning board.

In fact, there are almost 200 mentions of “township committee” still on the books at Jackson. Approval from the “township committee” is still explicitly required for a number of activities including (but not limited to):

  • soliciting donations
  • selling anything in parks
  • renting public buildings or facilities
  • hiring a town planner
  • holding a parade
  • getting a commercial license
  • establishing a campgrounds
  • destroying garbage found on the street
  • spending open space trust fund money
  • naming a street
  • holding a raffle
raffle
Township committee approved!

Having the council step in, despite the code saying “committee”, seems reasonable, right? Otherwise the town would practically grind to a halt. Well, let’s see what the current administration says.

When asked to approve an eruv in the public “right-of-way”, another duty of the “township committee”, the council instead responded by amending the code to remove this phrase and the ability of anyone to approve “right-of-way” exceptions. Here is the code when the request for an eruv was made in August 2017:

§ 372-8 Obstruction of streets restricted.

No person shall encumber or obstruct any street or public place with any article or thing whatsoever unless permission has been first obtained in writing from the Township Committee of the Township of Jackson.

And here is the code after being amended by ordinance in September in response to this request:

§ 372-8 Obstruction of streets restricted.

No person shall encumber or obstruct any street or public place with any article or thing whatsoever.

They then explained why the change was necessary:

COUNCILMAN MARTIN stated amendments can be executed in the future and at this point the language needs to be corrected to indicate the Council form of government. The Council will continue to improve this ordinance.

COUNCILMAN NIXON stated the main issue is correcting the language in the Code to the current form of government. Before we can make accommodations or have conversations on this ordinance this must be corrected. It must have the proper format and provide the Mayor with the power to enforce and omit the Council which is stated under the current ordinance. My vote is yes.

COUNCILMAN PRESIDENT BRESSI stated he concurs with all the statements made by the Council. As mentioned at the previous meeting the form of government needs to reflect the current government. There may or may not be amendments to this ordinance and discussions are still being made. Thank you for listening to the different views and opinions given by our community. I vote yes.

That’s odd. Why is it suddenly impossible to approve an eruv in the public “right-of-way” without a “township committee”, yet dozens of other activities that require one (including appointing zoning board members) can still be done in its absence?

Seems kind of arbitrary, but maybe there is some pattern. Can you think of one?