EDISON — Just days before the election, a disagreement emerged over how the council is structured in terms of the town’s geography.
The issue, raised during the council work session on Oct. 26, initially stemmed from Lois Wolke’s comments about the status of the Jewish Renaissance Foundation’s (JRF) proposed health care center project at the Toth building — a project that was postponed for discussion because the council is still researching the JRF’s proposal, Council President Robert Diehl said.
However, it was a seemingly offhand comment by Wolke, a township resident, that dominated much of the rest of the meeting.
“I notice a lot of these things [like the JRF project] that are coming through are in South Edison,” she said.
According to Wolke, most council members hail from North Edison, leaving the southern part of the township underrepresented.
“I think maybe when voters go to the polls, they ought to vote some people from South Edison in as council members so there’d be more overall coverage of the town or better representation.”
Her comment prompted reactions from council members and fellow residents alike.
“I’ve got to absolutely disagree with you,” Councilman Robert Karabinchak said. “We all represent everybody in this township, regardless of where you live.”
Karabinchak went on to praise various projects in the southern section.
“There is no north and south; we’re Edison, as one, as one community,” he said. “When we make a decision here, we make it for everybody.”
He said Woodbridge has a ward system, with council members fighting only for their respective areas instead of the township as a whole.
“That’s not what this council is about,” Karabinchak said. “That’s not what this council has done.”
Resident Fred Wolke, who is the husband of Lois Wolke, disagreed with some of Karabinchak’s comments, saying that South Edison residents do feel like they’re “second-class citizens,” although some of that feeling has nothing to do with the council. He also stressed that he wasn’t criticizing the work of the council.
Fred Wolke said J.P. Stevens High School, which is in the northern part of the township, is a much better school than Edison High School, which is in the southern part of town, and South Edison has more congestion. While saying a ward system would be a better solution to ensuring full representation, he acknowledged that the ward system has not gained enough traction in Edison, and was not approved in a referendum in the past.
“I still believe in the ward system,” Fred Wolke said.
Councilman Wayne Mascola said he feels there are two Edisons, however, adding that during his campaign process, he has found that residents from each of the two areas have different questions and issues.
“I know we’re one town, but in reality, the way people really, really speak and feel, there is a difference, and no matter what we say up here, we’re not going to change that — because that’s the way people actually feel. And there is a big difference,” Mascola said.
That doesn’t mean he’s in favor of wards, though.
“You as a voter get to vote for every council person that sits here,” he said, adding that in the ward system, “you only get to vote for the person in your area and the at-large [council members], so there could be other people on that council that you do not have the right to vote for.”
Mascola asserted that he was against the ward system in the past and continues to oppose it.
“The ward system, in my opinion, would not be good for Edison,” Karabinchak said. “You want to polarize more than what it is today? Do wards.”