Lakewood Briefs

LAKEWOOD -

Jackson Council President Apparently Caught in Contradictory Statements

Jackson’s Town Council President seems to have been caught using a manufactured excuse in his explanation as to why the government board could not pass a resolution condemning Rise up Ocean County (RUOC), a group widely labeled as anti-Semitic.

At a February 12 public meeting, the council was called upon by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to adopt a resolution drafted by its leaders calling out the controversial group that has aggressively used social media to malign the Orthodox community in and around Lakewood. The call was joined by several clergy and elected officials, including Republican State Senator Samuel Thomson who represents Jackson.

Council President Robert Nixon made several general statements against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry but did not adopt the resolution or call out RUOC by name. One reason given was that the Council was “legally prohibited from passing a resolution, as it hadn’t issued the proper public notice.”

Last week, a forum known as “Jackson Leaks,” revealed that Council President Nixon seems to have done just that at a meeting in June 2016.

At that meeting, a new measure was introduced regarding gas tax increases. The move was supported by township attorney, Jean Cipriani who said that “the agenda is in control of the chair, and if something happens on an emerging basis or a recent basis there is no problem adding it to the agenda.”

Jackson Leaks has existed for over two years and since then revealed several documents that revealed additional background and internal discussions regarding the township leaders moves regarding various issues relating to the Orthodox community.

Budget Proposal Gives $15 Million More to Lakewood

The Lakewood school district will receive a boost of $15 million as per the budget proposal introduced last week by Governor Phil Murphy, according to a report by Asbury Park Press. The boost is part of a gradual attempt to shift funds to more needy districts after years of allocating funds according to what a wide range of elected officials labeled a “broken” funding formula.

Details of the coming year’s budget had still not been released early this week, but Lakewood’s increase was an anomaly in Ocean and Monmouth counties were the vast majority of districts saw the second year of increasingly deep cuts to funding.

The increase will not alleviate Lakewood’s perennial budget shortfall as its deficit is expected to continue to increase this year. In past years the district has survived on bailout loans from the state Department of Education. Last year, it took $28 million to keep public schools and a smattering of services the district provides to private schools afloat.

Lakewood school board and district officials and state appointed monitors have long said that deficits will not be relieved until a permanent “carve-out” is made in the funding formula to account for the large number of private schools in the town who receive funding for transportation, special education, security, textbooks, and nursing through the district.

While some other area districts also received increases, several in Toms River, Howell, Jackson, and Brick received cuts.

In the last year of the Christie administration, state legislators formed a committee to address what had long been seen as an antiquated funding formula that left districts that had become more needy underfunding and others whose needs had decreased, overfunded.

The Governor’s budget proposal is far from final. It will be debated by the legislature and ultimately voted on in late June. Until then it is likely that elected officials from towns that have taken cuts will advocate for adjustments.

NJ Attorney General Addresses Concerns over RUOC at Public Meeting

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal fielded several questions regarding the controversial group “Rise Up Ocean County” at a public event in Lakewood.

According to a report by the Asbury Park Press, after the reading of several anti-Semitic and insightful statements attributed to the anonymous on-line group, the Attorney General said that while such speech is largely protected by the Constitution, that officials should be mindful of the “fine line between what’s protected and what rises to a criminal matter.”

The Lakewood Town Council and the County Board of Chosen Freeholders have formally condemned the group, but the councils of Toms River and Jackson have declined to do so. The Attorney General said that he could not intervene in local government decisions, but encouraged residents to “hold your elected officials accountable at the ballot box.”

The event, held last week at Lakewood’s High School was billed as focusing on the Attorney General’s “Immigrant Trust Initiative” as well as on bias crimes, gave a spotlight to the controversial program which directed state law enforcement to limit its cooperation with federal immigration officials.

The event was attended by about 100 participants including County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer and Lakewood Police Chief, Gregory Meyer.

The directive orders local police to refrain from conducting any inquiries into a crime suspect’s immigration status, joining federal immigration operations, or releasing documents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

At the event, the Attorney General touted the initiative as an attempt “to build trust so that all members of diverse communities feel comfortable coming forward to report crimes, to cooperate with law enforcement and not to fear anyone with a badge.”

ICE has criticized the order saying that the lack of cooperation from local police will necessitate more involvement from federal officials to enforce immigration laws.

Two Measles Exposures in Lakewood

Nearly two months after the county’s measles outbreak was declared over, the state health department reported two incidents of exposure to the highly contagious virus in Lakewood.

One infectious individual visited Congregation Sons of Israel and Kol Shimshon on February 26 and 27. Another exposure was reported to have taken place on March 5 at a branch of LabCorp on River Avenue.

Someone who suspects their immunity has been compromised during these latest exposures could develop symptoms as late as March 25.

Over the fall and early winter months the number of measles cases in Lakewood climbed to 33. By the time it was declared over in mid-January most of those who had been infected had since recovered.

Much larger outbreaks continue in Brooklyn and Rockland County.