Red Bank Charter Study Commission
The Red Bank Charter Study Commission completed its work on July 19th, 2022 and have made the following recommendation for the voters of Red Bank as a referendum on the November 2022 election ballot.
A change in government from the existing Borough Form to the Faulkner Act (OMCL) Council-Manager Plan
Directly Elected Mayor and 6 Council members serve 4 year staggered terms
Mayor has a vote, not just a tie-breaker
Professional Administrator/Manager to run the day-to-day business of the town
Nonpartisan Elections, every 2 years
Everyone listed together on the ballot for the position they are seeking - similar to the Board of Ed
Runoffs to ensure candidates are elected by a majority of Red Bank voters
The entire report can be read here.
The people of Red Bank voted overwhelmingly – by a 70% margin – to establish a charter study commission. The Commission viewed this as a mandate to closely examine Red Bank’s Borough form of government – which has existed over one century – and determine whether a newer form of government should guide Red Bank through its second century.
Over the past nine months, the Commission has educated itself – and the public – by conducting numerous interviews of current and former Red Bank governing body members, current and former business administrators, current employees, a political scientist, local government experts, and elected officials from other municipalities. The Commission also received public comment at meetings, through written submissions, and informally made to individual commissioners.
The Commission finds that the Borough form of government is not meeting the needs of Red Bank. While it can be debated whether certain inefficiencies are caused by the form of government or its officeholders, the Commission finds that the Borough form itself presents two clear structural deficiencies that can be improved upon.
First, the Borough form lacks sufficient delineations of authority for officeholders, which has allowed councilmembers to meddle, micromanage, and overstep their role as individual legislators. The Borough form indiscriminately vests executive responsibilities in the collective mayor and council and contains an optional business administrator, allowing the latter role to be altered by the whims of council. The Borough form’s inefficiency is compounded by the governing body being nominally led by a “weak mayor” that only casts tie-breaking votes. The Borough form of government lacks defined and effective roles for the mayor, councilmembers, and administrator, which are required for Red Bank’s government to operate efficiently in the 21st century.
Second, the Borough form’s annual partisan elections have created a divisive environment that has undermined Red Bank’s government from properly functioning. The high frequency of elections prevents the council from embarking upon long-term projects without being impeded by short-term political considerations. The partisan system has caused elected officials to oppose the other party's ideas for strictly political reasons in divided government, and when there is one-party control, there has been in-fighting on public display that has prevented consensus building.
After reviewing the options available to it, the Commission recommends that Red Bank adopt the Council-Manager form of government with non-partisan elections, as further detailed in the Commission Report.
The Council-Manager form allows a directly elected mayor to serve as the head of government and as a voting member of the council – not just a tie-breaker. The mayor and council exercise all legislative powers and set the policy for Red Bank. In turn, the mayor and council hire a manager to run the day-to-day municipal operations. The manager carries out the executive functions, and the mayor and council are required to act through the manager. The Commission believes this structure will directly address and rectify the micromanagement issues that have been seen in the current Borough form.
The Commission also believes that non-partisan elections will improve Red Bank’s electoral process. The Commission finds that the current partisan elections have led to biannual division and acrimony. Nonpartisan elections will allow any candidate to run for office by filing a petition, counteracting the outsized influence of party endorsements and favorable ballot position, which has directly affected the council’s governance in recent years. Those elected would serve four-year terms, with elections staggered every two years.
The Commission will be submitting its recommendation to voters in this November’s general election. If adopted, voters will elect a new government in May 2023. This timing ensures that the newly-adopted government takes effect as soon as possible, rather than waiting for a November 2023 election that would allow the Borough government to operate in lame duck status for over a year. It will also allow the new governing body to be chosen in an election exclusively focused on Red Bank issues. The recommendation also provides for run-off elections in the unlikely event that candidates fail to attain a majority of votes for mayor and/or council. After the new government is installed on July 1, 2023, it may choose to move future municipal elections to November, which this Commission recommends that it do.
The Commission hopes that the breadth of this Report demonstrates the seriousness by which it took its obligations and the amount of thought that has gone into the recommendation it makes. The Commission remains grateful to the people of Red Bank for this unique opportunity to look into and improve our local government, and to those who assisted the Commission through this process, especially each of the parties that provided interviews to the Commission and the residents of Red Bank that offered public comments.
We would like to hear from you!
The Charter Study Commission is holding a second public forum for input and feedback regarding Alternative Forms of Government available to Red Bank on Wednesday May 4th.
Residents are invited to speak with the Commissioners on the recent presentations by Ed Sasdelli, State Technical Advisor DCA and Professor Julia Sass-Rubin.
Review our questionnaire about the alternative forms of government to help with your participation.
Join us May 17th, where we will have discussions with elected officials from municipalities with the alternative forms of government under consideration.
Edward Sasdelli Presentation
Julia Sass-Rubin presentation
A Once in a Generation Question
The Charter Study allows for Red Bank to do a deep dive into its current form of government and to make an informed decision on what changes may be needed to improve our municipal government.
The Charter Study Commission meets the 1st Wednesdays and the 3rd Tuesdays via Zoom at 6:30PM
All meetings are open to the public and are live-streamed on the Charter Study Facebook Page and uploaded to our YouTube channel.
Watch our latest meeting
the Charter Study road map
Red Bank's Current Form of Government
Red Bank is governed by a form of local government called a Borough form.
The Borough form is often referred to as a "weak mayor-strong council" form. The mayor retains all general law authority, presides over council meetings, and can vote in the case of a tie. The mayor appoints, with the advice and consent of council, all subordinate officers of the municipality. The council is the legislative body of the Borough. All executive responsibilities not placed in the office of the mayor by general law, or the Borough law remain with the council. A Borough may appoint an administrator and delegate all or a portion of the executive responsibilities to him/her. The council may also adopt an administrative code, prescribing how the council shall perform it duties.
The population of Red Bank has changed demographically in the last few decades. One area that can be studied and explored is whether it makes sense for a different form of government that allows more members in our governing body or not.
Another characteristic of the Borough form of local government is that the mayor is elected at-large to a four-year term. Six council members are elected at-large to staggered three-year terms. What this means is that we have a local election every year. This is not the case for other forms of local government where there might be one to three years between local elections.
The mayor and council are elected on an at-large basis. This means they do not represent a specific district. An option available under alternatives is to elect members of the Council by districts. That may or may not be desired depending on whether you think the districts' interests are being fairly represented.
A fifth characteristic of our current form of local government is that elections are held on a partisan basis. What this means is that we have two local elections every year - a primary election held in June and a general election held in November. Other forms of local government allow for elections on a nonpartisan basis and municipalities in Monmouth County have chosen to hold elections on a nonpartisan basis.