Committee to meet as judge deliberates fate of ballot question

ORANGE, NJ — The Committee for an Elected Orange School Board is scheduled to meet on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. at the Church of the Oranges Seventh Day Adventist on Reynolds Terrace, ahead of the general election Tuesday, Nov. 7, that could decide once and for all whether or not Orange voters will be able to choose their own elected Board of Education members by switching from a Type 1 to a Type 2 district.

“The attorney for the Orange Board of Education filed an emergent appeal to overturn Superior Court Judge Tom Vena’s dismissal of the Orange Board of Education’s lawsuit to stop the referendum to convert the OBOE from appointed to elected. There will be a decision on the appeal sometime during the week beginning Monday, Oct. 30,” said the Rev. Anthony Johnson, chairman of the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board, on Sunday, Oct. 29. “The Committee for an Elected Orange School Board is campaigning for the ‘Yes’ vote, in spite of the board’s attempts at voter suppression.”

On Friday, Oct. 20, Vena ruled that the public question — which asks voters to vote on a change from a Type 1 district, in which the mayor appoints BOE members, to a Type 2 district, in which voters elect BOE members — is back on general election ballot. The judge previously voided an order by the BOE’s attorney, Stephen Edelstein, to show cause, but on Tuesday, Oct. 24, Edelstein filed another brief for “emergent relief” from the courts to block the Vena’s ruling.

Attempts to contact Edelstein or BOE President Lydell Carter for a comment were unsuccessful by press time this week. But Johnson said Edelstein’s latest legal filing on the BOE’s behalf does not change the fact that the public question will appear on the ballot.

“The election is still on. Nothing’s happened. They just filed papers,” said Johnson on Tuesday, Oct. 24. “They would want you to assume, just because they’ve done something, that it’s done, but that’s not the case. We’ve distributed over 4,500 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.”

Derrick Henry and Tyrone Tarver both won seats on the school board in the BOE’s special election Tuesday, March 28; however that election was voided by Vena in a ruling Thursday, April 13. At the time, Vena ruled in favor of Edelstein’s request for an injunction to overturn the results of Public Question No. 1 from the previous general election ballot.

Henry and others have said the judge’s ruling in favor of the BOE, with supporting Friend of the Court briefs from the city’s legal department on behalf of Mayor Dwayne Warren’s administration, was a clear-cut case of voter suppression, since more than 70 percent of the voters agreed to change to a Type 2 district in that election. They also said the current board of appointed members is still trying to disenfranchise Orange voters.

“It’s a damn 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. “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.”