ASBURY PARK – Asbury Park’s Charter Study Commission is in the driver’s seat as far as any upcoming changes to the city’s form of government and whatever it recommends will have to be presented to voters, most likely in November.
And while Asbury Park just went through a grueling City Council election where 22 candidates ran for five, four-year terms- it may have to happen all over again in the near future, depending on what the Charter Study Commission recommends.
According to Kathleen Cupano, a director at the Center for Government Services at Rutgers University, the charter study commission is not merely just an advisory board and their recommendation requires some action.
“If the CSC was established by the voters and its members elected by voters in a public ballot then their recommendation needs to also be placed on a public ballot. If the commission was created by the voters then its recommendation needs to go back to the voters.” she said.
Asbury Park’s CSC was formed last November after voters approved it and elected its five members. The commission must make its final published report by Aug. 5.
“Depending upon the recommendation of the Commission, the role of the governing body is very limited,” Cupano said.
“If the charter study commission recommends a change of government be recommended to the voters, then it is the duty of the municipal clerk to place the question of adoption or rejection on the ballot at a time specified by the commission in its report. There is no involvement of the current governing body in this process,” she said.
“If the charter commission determines that the form of government of the municipality is to remain unchanged, there is no also involvement of the governing body,” she said.
Cupano also said the City Council may have been able to opt to create a charter study committee, rather than an elected commission. Under that scenario, the governing body would have appointed five members to the committee and charged it with the same task as the commission, except its recommendations would have then been advisory only.
CSC Chairwoman Pam Lamberton said the commission will recommend some change in government “for sure” and that it will be voted on in this November’s general election. She said she hopes to have the final report prepared “sooner rather than later,” hopefully in about five weeks.
“But we have to have the final, printed report on the city clerk’s desk by August 5,” she said.
Lamberton said so far the commission is not leaning toward one form of government or another other than agreeing that whatever it is, it should have staggered terms.
A special public commission meeting will be held Sat., June 22 at the city council chambers from noon to 2 p.m.
“We are looking for more public input,” Lamberton said.
Cupano said the CSC could also recommend only minor changes to the city’s existing form of government to help improve operations and that recommendation would be advisory only.
She said that the commission can also opt to create a unique form of government not already approved by the state legislature but that such a move is uncommon and it would need approval from both houses of the state Legislature.
Other commission members are vice-chair Michele Maguire, Rita Marano, Duanne Small and Randy Thompson.