Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Garage Critics Sue Ridgewood

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Garage Critics Sue Ridgewood

Article excerpt

RIDGEWOOD -- A group of residents is suing the village over a short municipal video that encourages the public to vote affirmatively in next week's referendum on the Hudson Street parking garage. The suit calls the 11-minute clip and related written materials "political propaganda" offering a one-sided view of a complex issue.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state Superior Court by six residents, cites a 1953 state Supreme Court decision declaring it "illegal for a New Jersey public entity to spend public money that promotes the adoption or defeat of a referendum question, including advertising or advocacy directed to voters urging a 'Yes' or a 'No' vote on the referendum."

As such, the suit demands a judgment "setting aside" the referendum results and "annulling any vote in favor of the referendum" because public funds were used to create and publish the clip, which is available on the municipal website. And the village, the suit said, "did not offer any opportunity to opponents of the referendum, such as [the] plaintiffs, to present facts, opinions or views in opposition to the adopting of the referendum."

The video, which cost about $700, features village Mayor Paul Aronsohn speaking about why residents should vote Tuesday in favor of an $11.5 million bond ordinance that would fund a parking garage at Hudson and South Broad streets. It also features Village Manager Roberta Sonenfeld, as well as the village engineer, chief financial officer and the designing architect discussing various aspects of the plan.

The suit also said the four pages of written material, which Aronsohn said he wrote, gave a "one-sided, slanted and unjust presentation of the issue" while "disparaging the plaintiffs."

Aronsohn said Wednesday village officials had "consulted closely with legal counsel and feel absolutely sure that we have both a right and a responsibility to provide as much information to the public as possible and to express support for a parking deck. …

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