Lakewood Briefs

Jackson Council President Resigns

In a move that both surprised and left many asking questions, Jackson Council President Robert Nixon abruptly announced his resignation last week. Mr. Nixon has been at the forefront of several struggles over issues that have affected the town’s Orthodox community.

Despite wide conjecture as to the reason for his resignation, Mr. Nixon insisted his decision was purely a personal one.

“I have a number of personal and professional opportunities ahead of me that simply require my full attention and they must become the priority of my life,” he said in a prepared statement read at a public meeting. “For almost eight years, I placed Jackson ahead of myself, my job, my family and the time has come for me to put them first.”

Mr. Nixon works as a lobbyist for the New Jersey Policeman’s Benevolent Association and serves as chairman of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority and is an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Despite a multitude of professional commitments, the timing of Mr. Nixon’s announcement raised suspicions. He is nearing the end of his second four-year term on the council and would have been up for re-election in November 2020. Additionally, this coming January, the council is scheduled to hold its annual re-organization meeting when various council offices are voted on by the members.

Mr. Nixon was a vocal advocate of two controversial laws, one effectively banning the construction of new schools and dorms and another that was a de facto ban on eruvin. Both were seen as thinly veiled attempts to discourage growth of the town’s Orthodox population. After a set of emails from Mr. Nixon showing a concerted effort directing town officials to stalk out areas where he suspected private minyanim were being held, he was added to a lawsuit over the two measures in a personal capacity.

Notwithstanding the obvious pressures that the ongoing legal battles claiming religious discrimination have placed on Mr. Nixon and stigma they have attached to his name, he went out of his way to dismiss any rumors.

“There is no hidden message in my decision,” he said. “But I know I can’t control the misinformed or the liars. I can’t control the political cowards who seek only to cling to office. I can’t control the special interests. I’m not concerned about them and nor should any of you.”

Barry Calogero, who has served as vice president until now, has assumed the presidency. The sear will be voted on formally by council members in January.

Senator Singer Introduces Bill to De-Criminalize Marijuana

Senator Robert Singer co-sponsored bi-partisan legislation to de-criminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Legalization of the drug was a key campaign promise of Governor Phil Murphy but fights over many details led to a failure in passing such an aggressive move in New Jersey’s legislature. Last, week, the Governor and Democratic leaders in the legislature announced support for a law that would de-criminalize the substance, but not legalize it.

Senator Singer extolled what he presented as the advantages of the bill.

“There’s no need to arrest people and lock them up for personal-use cannabis,” said Singer (R-Ocean). “It’s a failed strategy that has ruined lives, filled our prisons, and bogged down our courts. It is time to end this unnecessary and unfair practice.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Ron Rice (D-Essex).

“I still think legalization is a step too far with so many concerns related to the impact of marijuana on children, public health, urban communities, and the safety of our roads,” said Sen. Singer.

BOE Approves New Classroom Extension for Spruce Street School

Lakewood’s Board of Education has approved a plan that will add new classrooms to the public-school district’s Spruce Street School according to a report by the Asbury Park Press.

The extension is intended to replace a set of trailers that are mostly used to house classes for special education classes.

Plans are being prepared by the El Associates architecture firm.

The district has been operating on growing deficits in recent years and sources of funding for the project have not yet been determined.

Assemblyman Dancer Condemns Bill to Fund Education for Prisoners

Assemblyman Ron Dancer decried passage of a bill that will provide state money for student financial aid to prisoners.

The bill was passed, largely along party lines and Governor Phil Murphy has voiced his support to sign into law.

“It’s shameful that Democrats would prioritize prisoners over the needs of hardworking families in this state and make them compete for funding to help with the overwhelming costs of college,” said Assemblyman Dancer R-Ocean). “Taxpayers who can’t afford to send their own children to college without burdensome loans now have to foot the bill for incarcerated individuals who broke the law. It is unfair… First and foremost, we need to do something for the law-abiding citizens who can’t afford college in New Jersey.”

Under the bill, prisoners would be eligible to receive state-administered student grants and scholarships.

Currently, college courses are currently offered in seven of the state’s nine prisons through the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium, or NJ-STEP. About 550 students are currently enrolled in the program which is funded through private grants and some federal aid from Pell grants.