Jackson Delays Vote on School and Dorm Ordinance Repeal
Jackson’s town council pushed off a vote on a motion that would have suspended controversial ordinances that have banned the construction of schools and dormitories.
The zoning laws, which were largely seen as a targeted attempt to stymie the growth of Jackson’s Orthodox community, have been the subject of a lawsuit by the Agudath Israel of America since shortly after their passage in 2017. Two weeks ago, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a parallel suit to the Agudah’s.
Under increasing pressure from the DOJ and other external sources, and reeling from the sudden resignation of the second council president to step down in a six-month period, the governing body had introduced a measure to rescind the ordinance. At a public meeting, several remote participants urged council members to push off the move until an in-person public hearing could be held.
The vote had been scheduled for last Tuesday, but has been subsequently delayed. Courts are now reconsidering a request for an emergency injunction by the Agudah which would suspend this and another ordinance that banned the construction of communal eruvin until courts can rule on the matters.
Ocean County Officials Press for Faster Retail Re-Opening
Ocean County officials called for the state to move faster in its efforts to allow retailers and restaurants to resume operations as COVID lockdown restrictions are being gradually phased in.
“As the summer season approaches, our small businesses need to be allowed to re-open,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who is liaison to tourism and business development. “These businesses are owned by our neighbors. They are embedded in our communities and do everything they can to make our towns a better place to live.
Mr. Vicari noted that summer tourism brings in some $4.8 billion of county business revenue and noted that while “big box” stores have been deemed essential during the pandemic, smaller ones have lost potential sales to them.
“Is it fair to small businesses that one of the busiest departments in Target was the swimsuit aisles while small businesses that sell swimsuits are shuttered to the public,” he said. “We need to be fair and we can no longer justify keeping small businesses closed if they meet safety guidelines.”
Retailers have been able to sell by way of curbside pick-up since New Jersey entered Phase One a few weeks ago. This week, Governor Phil Murphy announced that they would be able to operate under restrictions, but not until June 15.
Most of Ocean County’s elected officials have criticized the governor for moving too slowly with re-opening plans, endangering local businesses.
Assemblyman Edward Thomson (R-Ocean/Monmouth) asked for restaurants to be allowed to offer outdoor dining in the meantime. The practice had already met with the approval of the Toms River town council and was being considered in Lakewood as well.
“Bars and restaurants have been decimated by this shutdown and need to start re-opening soon if they are going to survive. Allowing outdoor dining will go a long way toward helping these businesses be successful under new restrictions that will be in place for the foreseeable future,” he said. “If people can go to Walmart or hold a backyard barbecue with up to 25 people, we should allow restaurants to use outside areas while maintaining social distancing and other safety measures. As we head into the warmer weather, we need to start letting our bars and restaurants use innovative methods, like expanded outdoor dining, to re-open their doors safely.”
Protests and Local Officials’ Responses to the Death of George Floyd
As cities across the nation burned with anti-police rioting, several areas were the sites of protests that remained peaceful.
Even so, ahead of a planned rally in Asbury Park, mail service had been paused on Monday out of concern that violence could erupt. Over the weekend, a protest in Long Branch drew several hundred people and one in Freehold near the I Play America on Route 9 drew a few dozen people. Neither came near the crowds of over 1000 that demonstrated against COVID lockdown measures last week in Point Pleasant.
In response to the focus that the death of George Floyd has brought to accusations of the use of excessive force and racial targeting by police, the Ocean County Prosecutors office released a statement condemning the incident.
“The images of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis are deeply disturbing. Mr. Floyd’s death is being investigated not only by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in Minneapolis, but by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights division, as it should be,” said that statement signed by several state prosecutors. The statement stressed the close community relationships that New Jersey police are guided to build.
“In addition to being county prosecutors, we are all part of the citizenry we serve and as such, we pledge our continued commitment to ensuring justice for each and every resident of our state, to holding all offenders, police officers included, accountable for their crimes, and improving relations between law enforcement and the community.”