Village Appeal Rejected

Yesterday, a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously affirmed the trial court’s September 2, 2020 ruling that ordered One Village One Vote’s election consolidation question to be placed on the November ballot in Ridgewood. The panel of Appellate Division judges refused to void the results of the election and reiterated the trial judge’s finding that the Village Clerk, in trying to keep this issue off the ballot, violated the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. As a reminder, this appeal arose from the Village’s appeal attempting to overturn a previous trial court ruling as well as the overwhelmingly approved election consolidation question.

You can read the complete ruling here. However, below are a few selected highlights that we believe capture key points within the opinion:

  • “Ridgewood voters…were free to vote against the initiative. There was no statutory requirement that two separate questions had to be placed on the ballot.”
  • “…we conclude that the use of a single question on the ballot did not disenfranchise voters, who were clearly informed that voting in favor of the election date change would affect both the BOE election and the Council election…. We are satisfied that the result of the election was not affected by using a single question. ‘Therefore, the expressed will of the [Ridgewood] electorate will not be disturbed.'”
  • “…it would be improper for this court to overturn the voters’ mandate because the number of signatures on the petition was insufficient… The full and free expression of the popular will was to adopt the initiative and consolidate the elections.
  • “By not informing plaintiffs until much later, and refusing to accept the initiative petition, defendant essentially created a dead end for plaintiffs…
  • “…when municipality moves the BOE election to November, voters no longer approve the general budget, but may vote on the expenditure of additional amounts that exceed the two percent cap. Defendant’s… role is not to take sides on the public policy implications of initiative petitions…. Defendant’s perception of the advantages or disadvantages of moving the BOE election are not relevant to performing those duties.”

We are saddened that what should have been a cooperative democratic process between concerned citizens and their local government instead was forced into the courts at unnecessary taxpayer expense. Judge Geiger, speaking for the panel, reminded us that “The Faulkner Act was adopted in order to encourage public participation in municipal affairs in the face of normal apathy and lethargy in such matters.” The Village Council majority’s efforts to prevent this question from even appearing on a ballot, and then on appeal to void the results of the election that overwhelmingly approved the question (by nearly a 20-point margin), go well beyond “normal apathy and lethargy” into outright obstructionism at the expense of the taxpayers.

We call upon the Village Council to drop any further litigation, to acknowledge the Village’s mishandling of this situation, and to productively work with the community to ensure our November local elections are a success for all of Ridgewood. It is time for us to all move on, together.

One Village, One Vote!

Bob Fuhrman
Matthew Lindenberg
Stacey Loscalzo
Deborah Steinbaum
Siobhan Crann Winograd

Be sure to sign up for emails at www.onevillageonevote.com in order to receive all of the latest information and learn how you can help support this change in our Village. Thank you.

Preserve Democracy and Drop the Appeal

Earlier this year in Washington, DC, the will of the nation’s voters was respected. Here in Ridgewood, the opposite is occurring – our Village Council is aggressively seeking to overturn the voters’ decision to consolidate our local elections. The measure passed by an overwhelming majority, yet the Village Council continues to ask the NJ courts to void the results.

This week, our attorney submitted a response to the Council’s most recent legal appeal. We remain appalled that our Council is trying to quash the will of the voters, and doing so at ever increasing taxpayer expense.

The League of Women Voters of Ridgewood agrees and “urges the Ridgewood Village Council to respect the vote and to cease litigating, which could overturn the vote.”

photo of text which reads, The voters of Ridgewood voted "Yes" on the municipal ballot question by a vote of 7,582 to 5,315. The question read as follows on the ballot: "Shall the ordinance submitted by initiative petition for the establishment of the date of Ridgewood Board of Education elections and for Ridgewood municipal elections as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (the General Election Day) be adopted?" In keeping with the National League of Women Voters' mission to protect democracy by respecting the will of the people, The League of Women Voters of Ridgewood urges the Ridgewood Village Council to respect the vote and to cease litigating, which could overturn the vote.

Ridgewood, now is the time for us to remind our Village Council that democracy is strong here. Our votes matter. Please contact the Council and demand that they abandon their appeal. Insist that they honor the public vote, save taxpayers additional expense, and preserve democracy by dropping the appeal.

One Village, One Vote!

Bob Fuhrman
Matthew Lindenberg
Stacey Loscalzo
Deborah Steinbaum
Siobhan Crann Winograd

Be sure to sign up for emails at www.onevillageonevote.com in order to receive all of the latest information and learn how you can help support this change in our Village. Thank you.

Village Council Asks Court to Void Election Result

Dear Ridgewood Community,

In a court filing last week, the Village Council asked the court to overturn voters’ recent decision to approve local election consolidation. On November 3rd, 2020, the people of Ridgewood overwhelmingly voted YES on this initiative. Despite this, on November 27th, the Village’s attorneys asked the Appellate Court to void the result of the election.

The results of the election were clear; election consolidation won by a decisive margin of over 2200 votes. This election demonstrated that Ridgewood voters could and would vote on local issues in November elections. More votes were cast (nearly 13,000) than in any previous off-cycle election. The people of Ridgewood resoundingly made their voices heard.

Now a majority on the Village Council has decided to spend even more taxpayer dollars to appeal their initial loss in court. In September, a trial judge ruled that the consolidation question should be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide. The judge also found that the Village Clerk, in trying to keep this issue off the ballot, violated the petitioners’ civil rights. This violation meant that the Village is obligated to pay all legal fees associated with this dispute – which amounts to $17,284.46 at the time of this post and increases with each day that they continue this fight.

In the current appeal, the Village has contracted with an outside attorney to assist the Village Attorney. This will, by necessity, further increase costs to the taxpayer. It appears that the Village Council has chosen to spend taxpayer money to overturn the election results.

Are members of our local government truly placing their own political interests ahead of the will of the people? At taxpayer expense?

What can be done?

If you are disgusted with the Village’s ongoing efforts to subvert the will of the voters, attend the next Village Council meeting via Zoom and make your voice heard during Public Comment. Alternatively, you can also contact members of the Village Council directly:

Thank you again to all who have continued to support us in this positive change for our community.

One Village, One Vote!

Bob Fuhrman
Matthew Lindenberg
Stacey Loscalzo
Deborah Steinbaum
Siobhan Crann Winograd

Be sure to sign up for emails at www.onevillageonevote.com in order to receive all of the latest information and learn how you can help support this change in our Village. Thank you.