Wow, what a meeting tonight at GW Middle School. I got there at 7:00 and I think I got the last seat in the auditorium. It was HOT and the room was packed with loud, angry, aggressive people, chanting, shouting, clapping, waving signs. By the time the meeting started at 7:30, there were a few hundred people outside, chanting and yelling and even banging on the fire exit doors.
(And, for all of you who were mad about the move to GW, part of some evil strategy...the meeting was moved ONLY because of Project Graduation at BF. That's it! I promise! The District never should have approved the meeting at BF, but as soon as the conflict was realized, they told the Planning Board they would have to go somewhere else. That's it, folks. Nothing more nefarious than that.)
What most of the people in attendance didn't realize or care to understand, is that the Planning Board was there to hold an actual meeting...to conduct business. They are governed by very specific laws as to how they conduct that business. One law they must follow is to conduct their business according to the rules of evidence and sworn testimony (which means everything from random shouts to sidewalk chants to emails to Planning Board members and even petitions, are not to be considered in the Board's deliberation). And the other important rule for tonight was that they needed to create a record of the meeting...there needs to be a record so that if anyone wants to challenge their decisions, or to understand those decisions, there is a record to consult. It's hard to create a record when there is so much shouting and yelling that the Planning Board members cannot even hear each other speak.
I have to be honest, it was a little scary inside the auditorium at one point. I'm all for freedom of speech, but this was getting extremely tense and tempers were high. I was worried that one person might shove another person and then all hell would break loose. It came close a couple of times, near where I was sitting. I know there was one arrest outside (not sure what for).
In the end, the Planning Board voted to amend the Master Plan. What I hope people would understand is that this is just one step. There will now be work at the Village Council, there will need to be an ordinance, it will require public comment, the Council will have to vote, etc. Then there would be site plans, with hearings and comments and approvals. And so on. Lots of public comments, votes. Possible legal challenges. And so on. And on.
We're in for a marathon, Ridgewood. Let's pace ourselves.
Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org