“Welcome. We are building an inclusive community” reads the sign as you approach Red Bank from the north on Route 35. It’s a bit hokey, but I like the sign. It makes for a nice aw-shucks moment just before Rt. 35 takes that bizarre twist and turn at City Centre plaza.
Problem is, watch out when you pass Borough Hall a little down the road. There, the inclusivity momentarily disappears - at least when it comes to political thought. It’s like some kind of cerebral black hole, where dissenting opinions are whisked away to an imperial singularity and where not even common sense escapes the event horizon.
This is a tale involving the Mayor and our local Environmental Commission (EC), where two outstanding Commissioners were denied reappointment on January 1st. Their malfeasance? I don’t know, but I guess you can pick your offense. Seems they were a bit too vocal. Seems they were quick to vet issues in the public forum, that they didn’t instead work back channels - how odd for those on a public body that was implemented to serve the public at large. Seems they didn’t always go along with our all-for-one-and-one-for-all governing body. Yes-men they were not. Neither am I. And this has nothing to do with my friends that remain on the EC, all great people and active in their own ways, but that’s why I resigned from the EC shortly after hearing the news and once the reasoning was explained to me. There was no right or wrong response, just my personal choice.
Listen, I get it, the EC members are appointed by the Mayor at his pleasure. One of the job perks, I guess. But, I’ve vented about this lack-of-political-diversity-and-tolerance subject before, this past election cycle. Here I have to bring it up again because our Mayor is betraying the Council’s claim on an inclusive community. You may have heard the sound bites before: diversity, inclusiveness, etc. All good stuff. Our Council even adopted a nice Diversity Statement, as spearheaded by the Human Relations Advisory Committee. In part, it reads, “in an effort to set an example for inclusivity, (Red Bank) adopts the broadest definition of diversity with the following statement: the dimensions of diversity shall include, but are not limited to the following: race, ethnicity... political beliefs, age, and national origin and status.” Catch that one after the ellipsis? Yup, “political beliefs.”
So how is that two citizen volunteers with valuable topical professional experience and genuine concern for environmental causes are not reappointed?
It’s not like there were people waiting for the spots, willing to give up their leisure time. So, I invite the Mayor or Council to set the record straight if I’m wrong. But to this observer, and given the limited information I have, it just seems they didn’t follow some unwritten “code” that only our Council knows about. Because I double-checked official Borough Code and there are no EC prerequisites that involve falling in lockstep or proudly waving the local Democratic Party flag.
I know my former colleagues on the EC will continue to look out for our in-common natural resources. And, I hope a few citizens reading this will throw their names into the mix for the open seats. For this is an administration whose environmental record is far from stellar, even ignoring our leadership’s lack of transparency and inclusivity on this matter.
The whole experience made me realize that we should probably complement the Rt. 35 inclusive community sign with another. Plant it right at the corner of Monmouth and Maple, next to Borough Hall. It could read something like this: “Political Dissent Free Zone” or “Do Not Enter, One Way Politics.”