Curley takes meeting time to the people

Councilman says
most support
meeting later

Staff Writer

Councilman says
most support
meeting later
Staff Writer

RED BANK — July in the borough means the Kaboom! fireworks display, film festivals and an earlier meeting time for the Borough Council.

Some people want to see that last item changed.

Councilman John Curley is campaigning to have council meetings moved to a later time to encourage greater participation by residents.

He is circulating a petition to get the support of residents to have the meeting time changed to 7:30 p.m.

Curley started pounding the pavement last week, planning to knock on every door in the borough to get residents to sign his petition.

According to Curley, the idea for the petition came from Judy Hathaway, Ambassador Drive. Hathaway belongs to the condominium association for Elk Ridge.

She is in the process of contacting several other condo associations to have the petition, which she drafted, circulated around those developments.

"People care," said Hathaway, "but we’re all so busy, it’s hard to focus on things that are not right in front of us."

Hathaway said that before her retirement from the corporate world she had difficulty attending the meetings.

The council’s regular meeting time is 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. During July and August, the meeting time is moved to 5 p.m.

Neighboring towns hold their meetings at a later time, such as Long Branch, which holds its meetings at 8 p.m., and Fair Haven, which begins its meetings at 7 p.m.

At a June council meeting, Curley initiated a discussion about the possibility of scheduling council meetings later in the evening. He said the later time might result in more community involvement.

According to Curley, many residents would have to leave work early just to get to a council meeting on time, he said.

Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr. said that the council had tried scheduling the meeting later in the evening, but it seemed that even fewer people showed up.

He said that if the aim is to encourage participation, the meeting should be held when the greatest number of people have attended.

But Curley is convinced that the council meeting should be held at a time when most residents could attend.

Councilwoman Jennifer Beck supported Curley’s attempt to change the meeting times, citing the need for accessibility for commuters.

"By and large, residents are not really aware of when our meetings are held," said Beck. "We all have to do more to promote meeting attendance."

Beck has offered a compromise, suggesting that the first meeting of the month be held earlier in the evening, and the second meeting be held later, or vice versa

"I just want open government in Red Bank," Curley said. "We need to create greater accessibility for people."

"Even if more people don’t end up coming to the meetings," he said, "at least the meetings will be more accessible to those people who don’t get out of work until 5 or 6 p.m."

On Thursday evening last week, Curley was out on his fourth round of going door to door. By the end of the walk, he had gathered 102 signatures for his petition.

"I have been relatively lucky in catching people at home," said Curley, estimating about 60 to 70 percent of people were at home when he knocked. Of those, Curley said he has received almost unanimous agreement with his cause.

Carol Veizer, Mechanic Street, was very supportive of Curley’s cause, saying that recently a friend asked her to go to a council meeting. Because of Veizer’s work schedule, she was unable to make the early meeting, she said.

"I think the town needs what you’re doing," said Jeff Dean, Mechanic Street. "We make the Planning Board meetings whenever we can, because they are later in the evening."

Barbara Hyer, Mechanic Street, has lived in the borough since 1961, and had several issues to discuss with the councilman at her door.

"I’m not totally happy with the way things are done in Red Bank," said Hyer.

Issues like parking meters, LOSAP (Length of Service Award Program) for the first aid squad, and the public works department were all on people’s minds, and Curley stopped to discuss every issue.

When residents were not home when the councilman called on them, he left his card and a letter explaining the purpose of his visit, and included his home number.

Once he has reached out to the entire community, Curley said, he will present the petition to the council.