Mahwah Council Still Doesn’t Get It: Diligence Necessary [by Lisa Wisotsky and Yossi Mandelbaum]

By: Lisa Wisotsky and Yossi Mandelbaum

Announcing the nine count State Lawsuit against the township of Mahwah, then Attorney General Porrino said, “Our message to those public officials in Mahwah who are leading or following this misguided charge is meant to be loud and clear: We intend to hold you accountable.”  However, as of this writing, the township council has shown that it remains unwilling to recognize their pivotal role in inflaming the hateful environment which led to discriminatory ordinances.

Although the Parks Ordinance was rescinded and the Sign (Eruv) Ordinance tabled, the hateful environment continues in Mahwah. Council President Hermansen and Councilman David May continue to participate in online forums and refuse to call out blatantly anti semitic language from their constituents. Mr. May even mockingly presented the concept of a full Bergen County eruv to the county freeholders.  The display of contempt is unmistakable.

This stance was made clear by the Mahwah Township attorney, Brian Chewcaskie at the 12/14/17 meeting (see video).  

He described the ordinance undoing the Parks Ban and the Resolution (424-17) to table the Sign Ordinance as just a “strategic move” and does not address the offensive behavior or environment that led to the State of N.J. initiating a lawsuit and condemning the civil rights violations in Mahwah.

In January , the Township Council, in a move which can only be described as pure “chutzpah,” re-installed Robert Hermansen as Council President. Upon being sworn in, he immediately began to lash out at the “outsiders” instead of taking responsibility for the current legal predicament.  This is precisely the same defiant attitude Mr. Hermansen struck immediately following the news of the Bergen County prosecutor (and the now current New Jersey Attorney General) instructing  the Chief of Police in Mahwah not to enforce the unconstitutional Park ordinance.  Specifically, he declared to a concerned “outsider,” “I promise you, there will be a Parks Ordinance and there will be one that is going to be enforceable in this town whether you like it or not.”

The audacity of the Council continues with the current effort to recall Mayor LaForet. The Mayor changed his original position opposing the eruv and now urges the Council to alter their course as well. Mr. Hermansen, consistent with his inability to offer contrition, is supporting the recall effort. Mr. Hermansen adds the thinnest veneer of professionalism stating in a recent interview that as council president he can’t  take a stance on the recall, however as a private citizen he fully supports it.  This is of course nonsense.  Not only is Mr. Hermansen actively supporting this effort, he has used the his position on the town council to symbolically censure the Mayor and even stated at a council meeting “If I had my way his [Mayor Laforet] ass would be on the other side of this dais, and not even in this room and sitting at this Meeting.”

Finally, when Keith Kaplan, at the January 9, 2018 Council meeting ( see video) asks Council President Robert Hermansen if the Council will renew the resolution in 2018 stating that the Council will not reenact Ordinance 1812 (Sign Ordinance), Robert Hermansen becomes argumentative and refuses to answer.

The Parks and Sign Ordinances were enacted in a hateful environment that was permitted and at times encouraged by the council. Rescinding the ordinances, without accepting responsibility and offering contrition, is unacceptable. This leaves open the possibility that similar ordinances may be enacted in the future when attention is shifted away from Mahwah.

2 Responses to Mahwah Council Still Doesn’t Get It: Diligence Necessary [by Lisa Wisotsky and Yossi Mandelbaum]

  1. Jennifer Diamond says:

    You guys are just trying to stir the pot again. It’s been a little quiet lately, and this time, you’re not going to rattle us. We just want to be able to use our own parks, which are usually pretty quiet, without having to ask permission for our children to use the swing, or to have a turn spinning on the mushroom, because out of the blue, it’s mobbed. I know that’s boring and that the Nazi thing is a whole lot more interesting and press worthy. The fact remains, the council would have been bombarded with complaints no matter who or what took up all the parking spots and filled our playgrounds. I’m sorry if that doesn’t align with your smear agenda, but that’s the truth.

    • Keith Kaplan says:

      Ms Diamond, I have never said that adequate rules were not to be enacted.

      In fact, when I had a conversation with Council President Hermansen in July, I had inquired why the issue of overcrowding led to an ordinance banning non-residents, instead of an ordinance which would deal with overcrowding? I suggested that an ordinance prohibiting groups of a certain size, without a permit, would be better suited to the needs of the community for which he was describing.

      I also spoke about the possibility of such an ordinance to Councilman May at several points over the following months.

      I would ask why the council never took such a simple and proactive step towards addressing the problem. That would have been a much better use of their time and efforts.

      In fact, now that they have repealed all of the ordinances we had issues with, it might be a good time to pass an ordinance regarding group size now — before nicer weather brings large groups back.

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