Mahwah, NJ has been in the spotlight since the summer for passing ordinances meant to exclude Jews from neighboring Rockland County, NY.
In passing Ordinance 1806, the Town sought to ban non-State residents from parks.
In it’s proposed Ordinance 1812, the Town sought to strengthen it’s ban on items affixed to utility poles (as Jewish groups sought to establish an Eruv on them).
Ordinance 1806 changed Section 9-1.3 to remove “and nonresidents alike”, thereby preventing Jewish groups from NY to use the parks. You can see the before and after language here:
This became a problem instantly, when the Chief of Police brought it to the attention of the Council. When the Council refused to reconsider the issue and attempted a new ordinance (#1811) to subordinate the Chief to a newly created position of “Police Director”, the Bergen County Prosecutor also informed the Township that this Ordinance was unenforceable and raised serious legal issues. Eventually, the State attorney General weighed in, suing the Township and likening “the conduct of Mahwah township officials to 1950s-era “white flight” suburbanites who sought to keep African-Americans from moving into their neighborhoods.”
This Thursday, the Council will introduce Ordinance 1820, which will reverse course and restore the original language of Section 9-1.3 back to what it what is was prior to the enactment of 1806.
Ordinance 1812 sought to modify the “unlawful acts” codified in Section 15-1.3 creating a prohibition for affixing an: “advertisement, notice, poster, paper, device or other matter to any public utility pole.”
That language was copied from an identical ordinance (16-15) passed by Upper Saddle River two years prior (in response to an Eruv being requested in the Borough). It has also become the subject of a Federal Lawsuit against Upper Saddle River by the Eruv Association and was listed in the complaint against Mahwah by the Attorney General when he filed a 9 count complaint against the Township citing discrimination through park bans and banning of lechis to create an eruv.
This resolution indicates the “Township will not adopt Ordinance No. 1812 nor will it introduce a similar ordinance.”
These actions are long overdue!
Mahwah’s Mayor, residents and other members of the public have been voicing concerns since the summer. Every level of law enforcement official from the Chief of Police, the County and the State have reached the same conclusion.
We would like to applaud all those that have spoken out against these violations of our freedoms. A large part of standing up for liberty, whether it’s freedom of movement, religious liberty or another right, is protecting the vulnerable. To stand up for democratic values is to stand up for the freedom we have always cherished in America.
Those that would limit the freedoms for people you may not like, will be able to limit the freedoms for those you do. That’s the point. That’s the entire reason many have cared about showing up in Mahwah.
Hopefully, this is the first step in correcting course. Will it be enough for the State Attorney General?
The meeting on Thursday will be live-streamed from our Facebook page.Ordinance 1820 (Recreational Facilities_Use of Facilities)