A quick review of 2010 Red Bank census data confirms what one would surmise just by travelling around town: we are a diverse little town. Pick a demographic - ancestry, age, sex (twice a week?), income, housing status, education level, marital status, you name it and we have a pretty good spread across the categories. I’m sure if we dug deeper, beyond the typical census data, our diversity would manifest further. For example, how many people reading this blog prefer National League to American League baseball? Pepperoni to sausage? Pepsi to Coke?
However, one place I don’t see diversity is on Borough Council. How’s that, you ask? Doesn’t our Council makeup reflect a range of ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and assumedly, preference in pizza toppings? Yes. All true, and all great. Seemingly, it’s a pretty good cross section of the population. But put on an affirmative action blindfold for a moment and you’ll see the absence of diversity to which I allude - that of political thought. For as much as I find the inclusivity of the Council’s structure laudable, I find the apparent lack of internal political dissent troubling.
For full disclosure, although those that have read my past musings already know I’m politically right of center, I am not registered with any political party. As for the Republican Party, I believe the neocon agenda has severely crippled the platform. And I still have no idea what the Tea Party stands for. So, force me to make a political affiliation under threat of no beer for a month and I’ll tell you I’m a Libertarian Light, or maybe a quasi-Libertarian. I want limited government, a preference for market oriented solutions, and advancement of individual liberties.
For further disclosure, I’ve only attended a couple of Council meetings over the years - between schedule conflicts involving kids, home life, work, etc. - we all know the story. But, I am involved locally through volunteer activities and I stay in tune with the pulse of local government. With several local and hyperlocal news outlets available, I can easily read news items in lieu of attending meetings.
Now, back on topic: this lack of political diversity notion is not a unique observation on my part. Obviously the Council is all of the same political party. But furthermore, their collective reputation is one of a cozy little family - maybe a little too tight knit. Not in the conspiracy sense, but rather in the vein of non-diversified representation. I’ve heard this insularity implication from different sectors during unrelated conversations.
So, as a knee-jerk skeptic coming from a science background, I wanted to put the innuendo through a statistical test - to see if there is fact behind the inference. I therefore contacted Borough Hall to inquire about a running tally of voting records... but no such animal. So, I did the next best thing within my blogging budget of zero dollars - I randomly opened Council meeting minutes on the Borough website. The pattern seems to be that yeas and nays are unanimous across the vote on any given matter (granted, many of the topics were rather vanilla where one would not expect much debate). Further, local news stories tend to show the Council in constant harmony. So maybe there is something behind the neighborly chatter and street corner gossip. Maybe our Council’s bloc mentality reputation is earned and well deserved.
Though some more than others, I’ve gotten to know our Mayor and Councilpersons over the past few years. I enjoy working with them. They all seem like genuinely good people. But, whether or not I would send them a Christmas card doesn’t influence my desire to see a truly representative branch of local government. I think something is lost when there is no opposition, when a large minority percentage of the population has no voice. So, no personal offense to either Mike DuPont or Art Murphy, but this Council needs a yin to the yang, a Tory to the Progressive, a Pepsi to the Coke. This November, vote for dissent and let’s give Suzanne Viscomi a chance.
I’m Andres Simonson and I approved this message.