For here we admit a wrong; here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.
– President Ronald Reagan on Signing the Bill Providing Restitution for the Wartime Internment of Japanese-American Civilians
August 10, 1988
There are civil rights battles that transcend party, ideology and tribe. Mahwah, NJ is experiencing one of those moments.
As mentioned in the last post, Mahwah Councilman David May has proposed a county-wide eruv*, appearing before the BergenCounty Freeholders, last Wednesday. There are many problems with such a proposal and should he deem to answer the open questions put to him in my last post, I’m sure they will become readily apparent.
But on social media, David May and other elected officials have continued to press forward.
The Council President of Mahwah, Robert Hermansen responded via Facebook:
So let me get this straight Mr. Kaplan it is okay to build an ERUV inside a Bergen County town for residents in Rockland County for people to use but it is passing the buck if a county wide ERUV is being discussed. You can not make this up.
When Dave came to me with this idea I told him it had promise but getting the Freeholders who have been silent on the issue except Mrs. Amoroso who is adamant that the ERUV must stay to do anything on this would be a miracle. It is an interesting concept I believe the Freeholder who lives in Mahwah should comment on this I believe this is a better solution than having people come into your town in the dark of the night without permission. Then having vagrants showing up at town meetings looking to cause problems instead of coming up with solutions to people illegally installing items in other towns right of ways. I am still very confused like Mrs. Schepisi why a town in Bergen County needs to solve a NY problem. Mr. Kaplan admitted yet again that this request is coming from actual people who not only do not live in Mahwah but the state of NJ [sic]. I agree with Mr. May that I believe this is a solution that should be discussed.
But this episode goes to show that while Mr. Hermansen and Mr. May might have heard my words before the council at various meetings since July, they clearly have not been listening.
Perhaps if he considered his critics citizens instead of “vagrants”, he may have bothered to listen to what we were trying to impart.
Let me be clear: the issues Mahwah is mired in, are CIVIL RIGHTS issues. They are defendants in CIVIL RIGHTS lawsuits by the State of New Jersey as well as a Jewish organization.
The fact this is a civil rights issue is beyond dispute. Our republican appointed attorney general says so in his suit against the township and council. Soon, the democratic appointed AG will continue to say so, as he takes over the suit. This is an issue that transcends party and ideology.
Back in the summer, an acquaintance asked me if the eruv would “win” the lawsuit in Mahwah? I responded that the Constitution will win and the eruv will benefit.
I have spoken at length on this issue since July & August and my message has been the same — I (and others) have been going to Mahwah and speaking at meetings to DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. I’m not denying that such a defense of the constitution will benefit those bringing suit for denial of their rights viz a vid the eruv. But it’s the rights, not the eruv, that have prompted me to act.
Constitutional rights exist for everyone. They know no boundaries. I took an oath to uphold them, when I was sworn in by the township of Teaneck. Robert Hermansen and David May took the same oath when they were sworn in by the township of Mahwah.
On August 3rd, shortly after a group of us started attending meetings in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River, we heard the following:
“Standing for the First Amendment knows no state boundaries. Standing knows . . . no municipal boundaries. If there is truly something that affects [Plaintiffs’] rights, the courts will hear it. And the courts will be lenient in hearing this because this has been heard already in two major circuits in this area.”
That was stated at the August 3rd, 2017, meeting in USR by Council for the Township, Bruce Rosen. Mr. Rosen, defended Tenafly in their decade long litigation against an eruv. If anyone has experience and understanding in this area, it’s Mr. Rosen.
Why would I be opposed to a county-wide eruv, David May keeps asking me. Maybe, if anyone was asking for it and a need arose for such an accommodation, I’d consider it. But that’s not the case. It’s the proper role of government to ensure civil rights. It’s not the proper role to create eruvin.
What Mr. May fails to grasp is that this was never about an eruv. It was about upholding the oath of office we all took when we said we would support the Constitution of New Jersey and the Constitution of the United States.
In August, I asked if Mahwah understood the fundamental issues at stake here. This week, Mahwah makes me doubt they have learned what their error has been.
The Chief of Police told you that your actions were wrong. As did the County Prosecutor and the State Attorney General.
At some point, it needs to dawn on Mahwah’s leaders, so they can say: Here, we admit a wrong.
Only then, will healing the divisions they have sown, be possible.
At the last council meeting in Mahwah, I implored the council to start listening to residents and others coming before them.
It seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
* via Facebook, Mr. May stated that “this was not proposed as a solution to a current problem. This is a proactive thought that should be considered by the Freeholders.” He further clarified that “this is not about Mahwah. This is an opportunity for the county to be forward thinking and be a leader to all of their towns.”