NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—For the second year in a row, something that the city administration originally did not want to happen became a reality, thanks to citizens who gathered signatures and submitted legal petitions to the city government.
Last year, citizens fought for and won the right to elect their own school board members in a close vote after submitting a petition to force the issue onto the ballot.
Earlier this year, disappointed activists mounted a campaign to force the City Council to ban dangerous gas drilling known as "fracking," a step they were unwilling to take earlier this year.
After months of residents speaking out in support of the ban at council meetings, the council attempted to put the matter to rest by adopting a nonbinding resolution that seemed to support fracking more than previous stances taken by the Council.
But, 500 signatures later, the Council was forced to either adopt an outright ban on drilling or let the issue go to a citywide vote on November 5. They chose to make the citizens' idea a law rather than fight against it in November.
The standing room only crowd burst into applause last night after the City Council passed the law, bringing an end to months of back and forth with citizen activists.
While New Brunswick officials were hemming and hawing over whether or not to ban the practice, the city's neighbors to the north, Highland Park, passed a comprehensive ban two weeks ago.
New Brunswick is just the second community in New Jersey to pass such a law.
Councilman Glenn Fleming, who seemed to be the least agreeable with the ban, was absent from the meeting. The other four members all voted yes to the ban, putting an end to this chapter of the fracking debate.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.