By PETE WALTON
The president of the Bradley Beach Borough Council wants residents to consider changing the form of local government.
“The borough has outgrown its current form of government,” said Tim Sexsmith, who was elected to the council in 2019 along with Al Gubitosi on a ticket with incumbents Randy Bonnell and John Weber. Mayor Larry Fox nominated Sexsmith as council president when the governing body reorganized in January. The nomination was unanimously approved.
“I want to get everyone to start thinking about that question — has Bradley Beach outgrown its current form of government,” Sexsmith said. “If the answer is yes, then the process is very straightforward. We pass an ordinance authorizing a referendum question on whether or not to impanel a charter study commission. At the same time and on the same ballot, residents can run to be elected to the commission should it pass. The commission then has nine months to make a recommendation on what form of government is best for Bradley Beach. If they recommend a change, then that question would go on the ballot the following November.”
Sexsmith said that the borough switched to a “strong mayor, weak council” form of government in 1992 after a referendum.
“The form specifies that the mayor holds most of the power in the government and like it or not, is actually much more efficient with limited input from the council or the residents,” Sexsmith said.
“Some of the issues that we see in town and up here on the dais are no doubt caused by personality conflicts and politics,” the council president continued. “But it doesn’t really capture the reasons behind the depth of the rancor and mounting frustration of the public.”
Elections for the local office in Bradley Beach are nonpartisan. However, the Monmouth County Democrats website lists Fox and all four council members as “elected Democrats.”
The four councilmen overcame opposition from Fox when they voted in October to merge the borough’s zoning and planning boards into a single Land Use Board. The mayor drew criticism recently from council members and many residents when he announced changes to the municipal recycling program without input from the council or the borough’s Environmental Committee.
Bradley Beach and its three adjacent neighbor towns have four different forms of government.
To the west, Neptune City holds partisan elections in which the mayor is directly elected but only votes in the event of a tie among the six council members. Neptune, to the north and northwest, holds partisan elections for a Township Committee which chooses a mayor from among themselves each year. To the south, Avon-by-the-Sea has a three-member nonpartisan commission that selects a mayor from its own number, usually the high vote-getter in the general election held every four years.
The Bradley Beach council meeting earlier this week was held in public for the first time in several months and was also streamed live on YouTube. Citizens were able to make comments and ask questions via e-mail.
Councilman Gubitosi moved to hold a workshop session at the next opportunity to discuss online participation capabilities for future borough meetings.
The motion was approved 4-1, with Mayor Fox casting the lone dissenting vote.
DIGroup Architecture made a presentation on options for the future of the borough-owned former Methodist church on LaReine Avenue, which is being considered for conversion into a community center. Fox said a public forum on the proposal will be held Mon., Feb. 28 and that the matter would be discussed at a special meeting the next night, Tues., March 1.
There was no sound for the first half-hour of the architects’ presentation on the borough’s YouTube stream. A video of the full presentation, with sound, can be viewed on Facebook at the Preserving Bradley Beach page, which is not affiliated with the borough government.