UPDATED: The final meeting of the year has been changed from December 30 to December 29, and the September 7 meeting was changed to September 6.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Brunswick City Council is scheduled to meet in public 25 times this year. Anyone is welcome to attend and to speak at the meetings.
The Council meetings are held on the top floor of City Hall, located at 78 Bayard Street in downtown, on the first and third Wednesday of each month.
Twice in 2015, Council meetings had to be relocated at the last minute to the Freeholder Meeting Room across the street, inside the Middlesex County Administration Building, because City Hall is falling apart.
Either way, parking is available behind City Hall for meeting attendees.
Council meetings are videotaped by City Hall staff, and published on the internet shortly thereafter at http://vimeo.com/cityofnewbrunswick. Unlike the county government, known as the Board of Chosen Freeholders, the City Council meetings are not broadcast on television, but the city says it plans to do so in the future.
The meetings begin at 6:30pm (5:30pm in the summer) and can last anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours, depending upon the agenda, how many members of the public wish to speak, and how long they speak for.
The meeting starts with the Council President reading the agenda aloud, known as the "agenda session," followed by the actual meeting.
Before the Council passes any resolutions, ordinances, or rules in any public hearings, such as those on liquor licenses, the meeting is opened up to any member of the public who wishes to make comments or ask questions.
At the end of the meeting, the floor is again turned over to any member of the public who wishes to speak on any topic relevant to the City of New Brunswick.
City Hall typically posts the agenda for Council meeting on the city website the Friday before the meeting.
Here is the schedule for 2016 City Council meetings:
- January 6 @ 6:30 pm (Reorganization)
- January 20 @ 6:30 pm
- February email@example.com
- February 17 @ 6:30 pm
- March 2@6:30pm
- March 16 @ 6:30 pm
- April 6 @ 6:30pm
- April 20 @ 6:30 pm
- May 4@6:30pm
- May 18 @ 6:30 pm
- June 1 @5:30pm
- June 15 @ 5.30 pm
- July 6 @ 5:30pm
- July 20 @ 5:30 pm
- August 3@5:30pm
- August 17 @ 5:30 pm
- September 6 @5:30pm
- September 21 @ 6:30 pm
- October 5 @ 6:30pm
- October 19 @ 6:30 pm
- November 16 @ 6:30 pm
- December 7 @6:30pm
- December 21 @ 6:30 pm
- December 29 @ 5:30 pm (Year End meeting)
Unfortuantely, two of the most powerful officials in city government make it a point not to attend the meetings: seven-term Mayor James Cahill and Police Director Anthony Caputo. Still, there are representatives from the Mayor's Office and nearly every city department in attendance.
Sparks sometimes fly as New Brunswick Today presses the Council and representatives of Cahill's administration for answers, and activists and residents challenge the Council to be more responsive to the issues that matter to them.
Since mid-2014, the Council has pushed for changes to the way their meetings have been run, specifically limiting public comments to five minutes or less. However, thanks to New Brunswick Today, the time that officials spend responding to the questions of the public do not count against the five minutes.
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.