A week before the special election that could change the size and makeup of the Town Board, both proponents and opponents of the ward system are voicing their opinions.
Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish policy organization based in Manhattan, issued a statement, urging a “no” vote in the upcoming referendums, which will ask voters whether to increase the number of Town Board members from four to six, and whether to separate the town into six geographical districts to elect a Town Board member from each district.
“The unstated goal of the referendum is to weaken the political influence of Orthodox Jews in the town by permitting them to vote only for candidates from their immediate neighborhood rather than the town as a whole, which is the current system,” the statement read. “The bulk of the Orthodox Jewish community would be concentrated in only two of six districts under the ward system.”
“The people of the town of Ramapo will be better served by having representatives designated to serve specific geographic segments of the population,” Abato stated. “We need more accountability in the interest of fairness across the town, and I urge residents to come out and vote yes to both questions on the ballot.”
The Ramapo Republican Committee, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, as well as Chris Day, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in the 17th District, have already endorsed the ward system.
Mona Montal, chairwoman of the Ramapo Democratic Committee and Ramapo’s purchasing director, issued a statement last week, opposing the ward system, saying that the change would be costly for taxpayers.
During the two referendums set for Sept. 30, Ramapo voters can say yes or no to the following propositions:
• Whether to increase the number of Town Board members from four to six.
• Whether to separate the town into geographical districts — or “wards” — to elect a Town Board member from each district. Currently, four Town Board members are elected at large and don’t represent specific areas of the town.
If both measures are approved, the town would have six Town Board members, each representing their home district.
Local activists Robert Romanowski and Michael Parietti had filed petitions to force the town to hold the referendums. They said that a ward system will make Town Board members answer directly to the voters they represent, and that a seven-member board can reduce tax hikes because it will require five votes to override the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap. Currently, three votes are sufficient to override the cap.
Voters can cast their ballots at their general election polling sites from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 30. Visit www.vote6wards.org for more information.
An informational meeting on the ward system is set for 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Hillcrest firehouse at 300 N. Main St., Hillcrest.