By Walter Elliott
SOUTH ORANGE - Authorities are still searching for the person who fired gunshots downtown late June 15, ending a neighboring event early and leaving at least one person injured.
South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and Chief of Police Kyle Kroll added on June 16 that he had to call for mutual aid from seven nearby agencies to help disperse the hundreds of people from the Village Center and to assist with the field investigation.
Kroll and his officers first responded to on-scene colleagues' hearing three loud gunshots fired east of Sloan Street at 11:15 p.m. Saturday. The sound emanated from a nearby alleyway during a "Pride Under the Stars" dance party.
The dance party, said the chief, had drawn "hundreds of youth in addition to party-goers" to the downtown area.
Kroll soon called for mutual aid from NJTransit, Maplewood, West Orange, Millburn, Livingston and Bloomfield police plus the Essex County Sheriff's Office.
They and SOPD officers swiftly searched the area for victims. There was one minor injury suffered by a departing party-goer, who was treated by the South Orange Volunteer Rescue Squad and released from the scene.
Their canvassing found five 9mm shell casings in an alley bordered by the Bank of America building, Parking Lot Nine and South Orange Avenue.
SOPD detectives' preliminary findings are that the shots were fired in the air and not at anyone. Detectives further believe that the gunfire was among youths who were having an altercation and were not part of the dance party.
SOPD also sought out surveillance video recordings of the area to help clarify what happened in the alley and who were involved.
The dance was organized by North Jersey Pride to help mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Rebellion in New York City's Greenwich Village.
NJP was charging a $20 per person advance "suggested donation admission." Admission proceeds were to pay for event expenses and help fund its RAD Family program for LGBTQ youth programs.
The all-volunteer non-profit group was selling admission and tickets for those 21 years and older to enter its bar area along Sloan Street. The whole event, for that reason, was not open to those under 21.
North Jersey Pride, on its Facebook page 1:17 a.m. Sunday, estimated its audience at 400. when "a noise that 'sounded like gun shots,'" prompted them to shut down early.
It said that two people were injured while running from the party. That second person posted on the FB page that she was "still in the hospital."
NJP had meanwhile scheduled a June 20 screening of "From Selma to Stonewall" documentary at Maplewood's The Woodland community center.
"We're sad that such a happy, fun event had to end that way," said NJP, "but we're going to focus on the good and will update you when more information comes in."
Kroll and Collum added that the incident remains under investigation.
By Walter Elliott
SOUTH ORANGE - Participating registered Township of South Orange Village voters re-elected Sheena Collum as their Village President and chose the Zuckerman/Coallier/Jones slate to fill three Village Trustee seats here May 14.
Collum received her second term against the challenging Trustee Deborah Davis Ford by a three-to-one ratio, based on unofficial returns posted by Essex County Clerk Chis Durkin's Election Division 8:59 p.m. Tuesday. Davis Ford, who chose to run for VP instead of a trustee re-election bid, remains clerk to the Essex County Board of Freeholders.
Voters also chose the "Your Voice Our Village" ticket of Robert "Bob" Zuckerman, Donna Coallier and Summer Jones over two other slates of three candidates. The simply-named (Baynard "Bobby") Brown, (Toshie Y.) Davis and (Ed) Moore for Board of Trustees and Davis Ford's SO Forward team of Matthew Wonski, Stacey Trimble Borden and Edward Grossi finished in that order.
South Orange held the only "Local Talk" May nonpartisan municipal election.
Durkin also posted results for a pair of council races each in Cedar Grove and Verona. He and his Election Division staff therefore added all three municipalities' voter turnout data as one overall group.
There were 7,980 people from among a three-town pool of 34,826 registered voters who pulled voting machine levers at polling stations or check off paper ballots until the 8 p.m. Tuesday closing time.
Tuesday's so-far counted voters represented 22.91 percent of the registered pool - which is a slight improvement on their May 12, 2015 turnout. That election drew 6,362 voters, or 20.37 percent of 31,235, performed their civic right and duty.
Durkin, from his Essex County Hall of Records office in Newark, noted that all 33 polling districts reported in before 9 p.m. Tuesday - including all 12 in South Orange. That 100-percent report was the same May 12, 2015.
Keep in mind that the above and below Tuesday election returns are unofficial until at least May 28. Durkin legally refrains from certifying results for two weeks to allow for any late-counted ballots and/or challenges and recounts.
By "nonpartisan," political parties do not field candidates. Candidates may run independently, as in Collum's campaign, or, as in the three trustee teams, run together on a common platform or shared ticket.
There were 2,847 voters who returned Collum to the Village's CEO post Tuesday. They made up an even 76 percent of the vote.
Then-Trustee Collum, in 2015, received 70.29 percent over opponent Emily Hynes. Outgoing VP Alex Torpey decided against a re-election run.
Davis Ford, who headed the SO Forward ticket, drew 889 votes for 23.73 percent.
There were 10 write-in votes that made up the remaining .27 percent. An overall 3,746 voters decided the VP contest.
Then-Trustee Collum ran a smaller percentage, 70.29, in turning back Emily Hynes for VP May 12, 2015.
Collum and Davis Ford, according to their state Election Law Enforcement Commission finance report filings, spent $50,000 between them to represent the village's 16,000 residents.
Some of that funding indirectly came Davis Ford's way from members of the village's FMBA Locals 20 and 240 firefighters union and the state FMBA. Some of "South Orange's bravest," who campaigned for Davis Ford door-to-door, said they felt left out by the long-proposed Maplewood-South Orange Fire Department process.
Davis Ford, in her controversial SO Forward handbills, said that the village would lose coverage, response and staffing levels should the two-town department be approved. She expressed concerned that Maplewood, as the merger's lead agency, would under-represent the village. She rather favored "a regional department with West Orange, Livingston and Millburn."
Some of SO Forward's funding went towards paying Steve Lenox of Lenox Consulting. Lenox, of Caldwell, handles public relations for the NJFMBA.
Among Davis Ford's endorsees were Freeholder President Brendan Gill (D-Montclair), State Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange) and Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss. Collum's endorsees included Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, Maplewood Deputy mayor Frank McGehee and former South Orange-Maplewood School District Board of Education Member Madhu Pai.
Between 12-year Trustee Davis Ford's VP bid and longtime colleagues Howard Levison and Mark Rosner opting not to run again, it was a matter of which new faces will grace the Board of Trustees on May 20. The new trustees will join their three incumbent colleagues in a swearing-in ceremony at SOPAC.
Zuckerberg, who headed his "Your Voice Our Village" ticket also headed the balloted field of nine trustee candidates Tuesday. He amassed 1,894 votes for 18.30 percent.
Running mate Coallier was second at 1,676 for 16.20. Jones completed the YVOV trustee sweep with 1,574 for 15.2.
Voters preferred the above trio despite their drawing Line C on the ballot.
Brown/Davis/Moore ticket leader Brown turned out as "best of the rest." He placed fourth with 1,248 for 12.06.
Davis was next at 1,018 for 9.84. Moore stayed in formation with 805 for 7.78. All three so scored despite being on ballot Line D.
Wonski became best of the SO Forward Line A trustee candidates with 776 for 7.50. Trimble Borden was next at 690 for 6.67.
Grossi completed the balloted field with 647 for 6.25. There were 20 write-ins for the remaining .19. There were 10,348 overall votes cast or written-in for the three trustee seats.
Student Group Rejects Apology, Demands Termination of Professor
By Lev D. Zilbermints
Dr. Williamjames Hull Hoffer, Professor of History at Seton Hall University, has apologized to the university community for his inflammatory remarks. He also deleted the online post in his blog that featured these remarks.
As was reported in the May 2 issue of Local Talk, in part, the blog entry reads, “The other idea is that “black and brown” students cannot learn from instructors who are not “black and brown”. In effect, the Concerned 44 are alleging that “black and brown” students are so racist they cannot relate or accept the word of someone who is not their skin color. As usual, replace “black and brown” with white and vice versa, and you cannot tell the difference between the Concerned 44 and the Ku Klux Klan….”
The full apology statement by Dr. Hoffer read, “I am writing this message in order to apologize to the university community and particularly students for my intemperate blog post and comments on social media. While I did not bring these remarks to the campus, I regret any and all ill-feeling they have caused. I have dedicated my life to the fight against bigotry through the dispassionate, objective search for truth. However, these communications did not serve that objective. While I believe it is important to engage in a free discussion, it is also essential to remain respectful and civil at all times. I sincerely hope we can move forward together as a community and am committed to learning from this so I can do better.”
The apology was distributed campus-wide by Dr. Karen Boroff, Interim Provost of Seton Hall University.
This apology came in as the protest was winding down. Many students were not satisfied with it.
Concerned 44 members and their allies gathered outside Seton Hall’s Walsh Library, holding signs reading “There is no diversity at Seton Hall University,” “Erase White SHUpremacy”, “You’re Supposed To Protect Us!”, “We Are Dying”, and others. While on the way to the protest, Local Talk monitored events as they unfolded via Instagram video.
At one point, Concerned 44 members parked a red car close by the Bishop Dougherty Student Center. A big red banner with the drawing of a black clenched fist in a black circle in the middle was draped over the parked car. Video showed a security officer and a SHU official arguing with Concerned 44 members, demanding that the banner be removed and the car moved elsewhere. According to the video, the banner was removed.
Video on Instagram showed Concerned 44 members walking on the campus green, with the red banner and signs clearly visible. Using a megaphone, protesters chanted, “There is no diversity at Seton Hall University!” “No Justice, No Freedom!” “Seton Hall must halt those who assault!” and other slogans. Later, when Local Talk arrived at Seton Hall, students were seen standing outside Walsh Library with protest signs. Other signs were pasted on poles and traffic cones.
The students’ demands included the removal of Dr. Williamjames Hoffer from his position as a tenured professor at Seton Hall University because of his blog post.
A sign posted outside Walsh Library read, “We demand that Dr. William James Hoffer is removed from his position as a tenured faculty member at this university. We believe that he has unmistakably violated the expected ethics of his position and tenure and he has put the well-being of students at risk.”
Chris Duran, an organizer for Concerned 44, told Local Talk, “The Concerned 44 resolves to push for the structural changes outlined in our demands over the next semester. This includes accountability for the racist words and actions of Professor Williamjames Hoffer.”
Nevin, the President of Black Men United at New Jersey City University, told Local Talk, “I can relate to this situation. When you look at history (of the black people) this is the situation that always plays out.”
As the protest was winding down, a statement finally arrived from Laurie Pine, the Seton Hall Director of Public Relations.
In an email response to Local Talk, Director of Media Relations Laurie A. Pine wrote, “Seton Hall is a community that embraces the values of inclusivity, civility and respect for all. Recently, a group of students brought to the attention of the University a posting by Williamjames Hoffer, a faculty member, on his personal online blog in October 2018 that did not reflect these core values. As a result, the University is currently conducting a review of the situation.
“On Monday, (April 29) Professor Hoffer publicly apologized for his online comments regarding the Concerned 44 student group. Per Hoffer’s request, his apology was shared with the entire University community via a broadcast email. In addition, he has removed the post from his blog.”
Evelysse, a biology B.S. junior, said that she felt “like this movement has empowered me to create changes on campus.”
Regarding Dr. Hoffer’s apology, Evelysse said, “It is not genuine. Unacceptable. Oh you are sorry for what? Being exposed?”
Duran, the organizer, said, “It (the apology) is the same old stuff that they are doing. It feels like the apology is just to make the issue go away.”
Concerned 44 members told Local Talk they felt there was not enough communication between students of color and white students at Seton Hall University.
Lianne Joseph, a public relations major, said, “I am personally very frustrated. It is a… lack of communication between students of color and white students.”
Ms. Joseph said that some white students did not bother to come over to the protesters, communicate and discuss issues. Ms. Joseph did mention that a couple of other students made an Instagram account so they could voice their opinions, at shu_freespeechanon.
Threatened Legal Action Against Student Government Association
Initially, Dr. Hoffer threatened the Student Government Association (SGA) with a lawsuit if they did not remove the statement condemning Hoffer’s post, the Setonian reported in its May 2 issue. However, the SGA Executive Board refused to back down. Instead, the statement was put to a vote by the SGA Senate on the night of April 29, even though the Senate was not formally notified, the Setonian reported.
The SGA Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve the statement, thus giving the approval of the legislative branch to it.
As events unfolded in the following days, it turned out that pressure from the Concerned 44, the SGA, the administration and attention from the SHU community had an effect. Dr. Williamjames Hoffer removed the offending post from his blog and issued an apology to the entire Seton Hall University community.
By Walter Elliott
SOUTH ORANGE - Residents and officials from within and outside the village have been taking opposing views over a flier concerning the South Orange Fire Department since its appearance on front doors April 12.
The color handbills, coming from the South Orange Forward campaign, shows the SOFD headquarters building on Sloan Street heralded with computer imposed "Property of Maplewood" lettering.
"In the May 14 Election for Village President, Vote No on Sheena Collum and Her Plan to Dissolve Our Fire Department," headlines the handbill. "Protect South Orange's Fire Department. Vote Deborah Davis Ford and the South Orange Forward Team."
The literature has VP challenger Ford and her three Village Trustee teammates - Stacey Trimble Borden, Edward Grossi and Matthew Wonski - standing before SOFDHQ.
Ford, who doubles as Clerk for the Essex County Board of Freeholders, is risking her two-term trustee seat to challenge incumbent Collum. Longtime trustees Howard Levison and Marc Rosner are not seeking re-election.
Collum, who was elected to her first term in 2016, is seeking re-election on her own.
There are also two more teams of three first-time trustee candidates.
Borden, Grossi and Wonski - all first time runners - complete the only full slate of VP and trustee candidates on this year's nonpartisan municipal ballot here this year.
Bob Zuckerman, Donna Collaier and Summer Jones are campaigning for trustees under their own "Your Voice Our Village" Ticket.
Bobby Brown, Toshie Davis and Ed Moore are running together under their eponymous "Brown, Davis and Moore for Board of Trustees" ticket.
Registered village voters are to choose who would be their next VP and which among nine other candidates to fill three trustee seats May 14.
The controversial card includes the following statement from Ford: "We are all for ways to increase governmental efficiency and save money for South Orange taxpayers - but not at the expense of our public safety. We must protect the good union jobs of the firefighters who live in our neighborhoods. The Collum plan would leave our safety in the hands of fewer firefighters who live elsewhere."
Ford and her SO Forward card puts the under-negotiation South Orange-Maplewood fire department consolidation plan in the spotlight.
Collum, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, their municipal legislative colleagues and State of New Jersey officials are currently sorting out what a SOMFD would look like. Those details include:
· Meshing civil service SOFD members with their non-civil service Maplewood colleagues.
· Coordinating the independent volunteer SO Rescue Squad with the in-house MFD rescue unit. (The volunteer Maplewood Rescue Squad disbanded in 2016.)
· Deciding on a governance and revenue structure. While negotiators are deciding between either a SOM regional or joint meeting department, funding the entity appears headed to a 55/45 percent split between Maplewood and South Orange.
Negotiators have been referring to an October 2017 report by consultant Manitou, of New York. Manitou, who was hired by both municipalities' Joint Exploratory Committee in 2016, made these, among other recommendations:
· South Orange and Maplewood would each save $600,000 in annual operations expenses.
· No fire stations will be closed, or firefighters laid off.
· There would be between three and six firefighters per station for 17 fire personnel per shift.
· There would be four rotating shifts between the towns.
If Davis Ford wanted to spark controversy in South Orange Campaign 2019, she sure did so.
Village and two-town social media have been largely decrying the flier as "misleading" and "negative." Collum and DeLuca have gone point-by-point in clarifying the handbills statements and issues raised.
Davis Ford, in an April 15 interview, said she deliberately worded her flier raises issues.
"There's a difference between being negative and focusing on the issues," she said that Monday. "I'm very proud of our multiple shared service agreements. But not every proposal is good and this' one of those that's not good."
Davis Ford took to task that Maplewood was named the consolidation process' lead agency. It or South Orange had to be so designated by state law.
"If we're so progressive, this initiative is very regressive in taking away civil service jobs," said Davis Ford. "I'm sensitive to that as an African-American woman. My focus is on South Orange; I'm not running to be VP of South Orange and Maplewood."
Davis Ford stood by her earlier contention that "I'm not willing to support anything that will save taxpayers only $10 a year." Collum said that the consolidation would save both towns' taxpayers $100 annually.
Davis Ford has demanded that Collum release the draft consolidation agreement. Collum said she will release the said document at a proper time.
Davis Ford indicated that she has support of some SOFD members.
"I and the SO firefighters who support me have no issue with any kind of consolidation," she said. "Regional would probably be better so long as we've a form of governance. I'm not against anything that would've taxpayers save money."
An April 24 statement from SOFD Firefighters locals 40 and 240 meanwhile decried 'the internet chatter" about the consolidation plan but thanked "Davis Ford for bringing this to the forefront.
"We've asked to be part of this conversation for well over a year," said the joint locals' statement. "VP Sheena Collum has continuously hidden behind a veil of secrecy, saying that negotiations were ongoing and confidential. After resisting our requests for a meeting in summer 2018, Collum was finally cajoled into a meeting including state, Maplewood and South Orange union leadership in March 2019."
DeLuca, in his April 20 response, said that Manitou had consulted with both towns' firefighters 2016-17.
"Your Voice Our Village" member Zuckerman, on April 13, called the SO Forward mailer as "inaccurate, alarmist and negative campaigning.
"Because we're not involved with the negotiations, we don't have access to the full details," he said. "We generally support the concept of shared services. If elected, we'll carefully examine the proposal's details and support it only to the extent that it saves money without compromising public safety."
"We need to focus and finish," said Brown, Davis and Moore on their website. "It's been 17 months since the report has been delivered - time in which we could've been enjoying improved services at lower cost and time in which we've put members of our fire department in limbo, not knowing what the future holds for them."
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