ORANGE, NJ — On Friday, Oct. 20, Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Vena ruled Orange’s on-again, off-again effort to allow voters to directly elect chosen representatives to serve on the Orange Board of Education. This involves switching from a Type 1 district, in which the mayor appoints board members, to a Type 2 district, in which they are elected by voters. Last week Vena voided an order by Stephen Edelstein, the BOE’s attorney, to show cause.
But on Tuesday, Oct. 24, Edelstein filed another brief for emergent relief from the courts to block Vena’s Oct. 20 ruling. The Rev. Anthony Johnson of the Committee for an Elected Orange Board of Education said Edelstein’s latest filing does not mean the public question on the ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 7, is off. That question asks Orange voters to decide if they want to make the switch from an appointed board to an elected board,
“The election is still on. Nothing’s happened. They just filed papers,” said Johnson on Tuesday, Oct. 24. “We’ve distributed over four and a half thousand fliers about this election to date. I was never turned down for a signature by anyone that’s a current parent of a school, attending school in the district.”
Public Question No. 1 on the November 2016 election ballot asked residents to choose the type of district they wanted; they voted to switch to Type 2. In a special election held in March, two residents were elected to the BOE, but Vena voided those results in an April ruling, after Edelstein — on behalf of the BOE — requested an injunction to overturn the results.
According to Derrick Henry, one of the two residents elected in the March special election, the current, appointed board is still trying to disenfranchise Orange voters.
“It’s a … shame that the Board of Education and its counsel, Stephen Edelstein, would continue to resist the will of the people using the district’s tax dollars against our God-given right to vote. The vote does not need to be perfect. What it needs to be is exercised and finally respected,” said Henry on Tuesday, Oct. 24. “From what I understand, it’s probably going to be a hearing this upcoming Friday. Since the primary is Nov. 7, that’s what ‘emergent relief’ is. If there’s an election or something coming up then, yeah, you’re trying to get heard, as soon as possible.”
Attempts to contact Edelstein or current Orange Board of Education President Lydell Carter for a comment about their latest legal filing were unsuccessful by press time this week.
According to Janice Morrell, a member of the Committee for an Elected Orange Board of Educatio, on Tuesday, Oct. 24, “The Board of Education gave (Edelstein) a blank check.”
According to Johnson, attorney Renee Steinhagen, of the New Jersey Appleseed PILC, represented the Committee for an Elected Orange Board of Education at the hearing in Vena’s Newark courtroom on Friday, Oct. 20. He said she “effectively argued that there was no merit to the boardʼs legal action,” but that still hasn’t stopped them from rolling the dice and trying to block the referendum on the general election ballot.
“It’s apparent that the Board of Education will do anything to stop the will of the voters from being heard,” Johnson said. “I decline to make any conjecture about their motivations, but I’m describing what they’re doing. They’re suppressing votes. They’re trying to stop the voters’ will from being heard, from being carried out. They got last year’s election overturned and now they’re trying to stop this one from happening. We intend to fight it. This election will go on.”