A Brigantine citizens group has reached the number of signatures it believes it needs to move forward with a referendum that would revert the city to a three-member commission form of government.
Vince Sera, vice president of Respectable Government for Brigantine, said the group has submitted 1,410 signatures of the 1,382 it needs to put the referendum on November’s ballot. Under state law, the petition will now go through a period of review during which signatures may be challenged.
“We’re still collecting signatures,” he said. “If we get any thrown out, we’ll go in and submit new signatures that were collected.”
The group was launched this summer at a Republican-sponsored event and has since canvassed the resort community seeking bipartisan support to abandon the current seven-member City Council and manager system. A similar movement in 1989 resulted in the city abandoning the commission for the council.
Under the commission form, three elected officials would oversee municipal departments. In the current system, an administrator employed by the city manages operations.
The referendum’s advocates say a commission would streamline governance, shorten meetings and eliminate the ward system of geographical representation. Opponents say it would place too much power in the hands of a few people, creating opportunities for corruption and mismanagement.
Anne Phillips, of the Brigantine Taxpayers Association, declined to comment Saturday. The association has run several newspaper ads outlining its opposition to the commission form. Last month, Phillips and other residents raised concern about misinformation and the use of non-residents to gather signatures.
Councilwoman Lisa McClay, a Democrat, said she hopes not enough valid signatures were gathered to move forward.
“The people of Brigantine don’t really know what it’s about—it’s a bad idea,” she said Saturday. “They weren’t given enough information when they were asked to sign the petition.”
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