The Bayonne City Council has mostly avoided any add-on agenda items so far in 2022. At both the January and February meetings of the council, add-on resolutions and agenda items were a thing of the past.
The move came after City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, who is running for mayor, objected to add-on agenda items at the December meeting. Ashe-Nadrowski motioned to adjourn the meeting when it came time to vote on add-on agenda items that had not been on the agenda posted for the public ahead of the meeting.
While the council did not vote to adjourn, Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa shared a similar sentiment about add-ons. After some discussion, he vowed not to vote on any add-on items in the future. However, the rest of the council did not feel the same, criticizing the move as arbitrary given the timing, because Ashe-Nadrowski had voted for other add-ons. She clarified she was not against add-ons, but rather add-ons that were not part of the agenda notified to the public.
Regardless of Ashe-Nadrowski’s and La Pelusa’s objections, most items can pass with just three out of five council votes if there were to be any add-on items in the future. But based on the agenda for the March caucus meeting of the city council, the trend of no add-ons agenda items, with few exceptions, is set to continue for the third straight month at the regular meeting of the council on March 16.
“We’re not allowing add-ons,” Ashe-Nadrowski told the Bayonne Community News. “Things just got out of hand. We were adding on stuff that wasn’t an emergency, like redevelopment plans and things that didn’t need to be rushed.”
Ashe-Nadrowski said that there are obvious exceptions to the rule for emergency items, if the personnel who proposes the item is at the meeting to explain it.
“Obviously, if there’s an emergency situation, we would all look at it,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “The person who would be submitting it would have to appear at the meeting and explain why it’s an emergency and why they missed the deadline. Then we would consider it.”
Coffey discusses internal rules
At the December meeting, Law Director Jay Coffey noted that the Law Department would be instituting a “hard-and-fast” rule to prevent the add-ons by not drafting resolutions if the paperwork is not submitted before the pre-agenda meeting the Friday before the council’s caucus meeting.
“If you make all them appear at the meeting, that’s stop it right away,” Coffey told the BCN. “Procedurally speaking, we have a pre-agenda meeting on the Friday before the caucus. It’s the goal to get proposed resolutions or ordinances in for that pre-agenda meeting that’s held with the representative of the administration, the clerk, and a representative of the municipal council. That’s the preferred goal to have everything for that date. So then on Wednesday, the following week, we have no surprises.”
However, Coffey echoed Ashe-Nadrowski that under emergencies, an add-on may make it to the agenda if it is proposed after the pre-agenda meeting but before the caucus meeting.
“The real world gets in the way and certain things can’t be done until you find out about them on Monday or Tuesday,” Coffey said. “So then you still have a couple of days to add stuff on at the caucus, which is totally proper.”
The caucus is the council’s workshop, making it the ideal last date to add something onto the agenda before the council’s regular meeting the following week.
“If you add something on at the caucus, that’s not so offensive either,” Coffey said. “And I still have a week to do resolutions, ordinances, whatever it is. Where it becomes more problematic is when someone wants to add something on after the caucus. But the real world does get in the way and things happen, especially during COVID.”
Emergency circumstances allow add-ons
Add-on items can still appear, but the person proposing it must explain it at the council meeting. Coffey said that given the outcry about add-ons at the December meeting, they will likely not appear on the agenda again barring an emergency.
“Given the admonition that was given to everybody at the meeting about late items, everybody was a little more punctual in providing their pink sheets,” Coffey said.
And the first instance of such an emergency scenario came to fruition at the March 9 caucus meeting of the city council. Two ordinances were introduced that would amend the city’s zoning ordinances to restrict the location of cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and other retailers licensed by the state to certain areas of Bayonne.
Assistant City Attorney Donna Russo was present at the meeting to explain the ordinance added on. “You’re going to add that?” La Pelusa asked surprised, before Russo explained the situation.
“This is establishing a restricted zone as follows: the back highway and light industrial,” Russo said, noting it was a major rewrite of the original ordinance. While the city adopted an ordinance establishing licenses for cannabis establishments in the city, it did not restrict where specifically the establishments could operate.
“There’s a time issue on this because the state will start issuing licenses and if we don’t have our ordinances ready when the state issues the license, they can come in and there is nothing guiding where,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “If we don’t put our rules around it, we can’t apply them.”
The next Bayonne City Council meeting is March 16 at 7 p.m. in the municipal chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.