Petition Group Begins Brigantine Ballot Battle
A group of Brigantine residents, intent on changing the resort community’s
commission form of government, yesterday submitted a petition to the city Clerk’s Office containing 1,547 signatures of local residents who want to put the government-change issue on the November ballot.
The group BEGIN (Brigantine Effort for Government Improvement Now) is recommending a change from the 58-year-old, three-member commission form of government to a seven-member council-manager form with an elected mayor. BEGIN needed 20 percent of the city’s approximately 5,300 voters, or nearly 1,100 signatures, by yesterday’s deadline.
The petition drive was sparked by the Atlantic County municipality’s proposed $1.5 million purchase of bayfront property, owned by former Mayor John Rogge, that had been carried on the city’s tax rolls as having a fair market value of $196,000. Because of public pressure, city officials backed out of the deal in July.
Residents are also angered over the proposed sale of a section of the Brigantine Country Club and Golf Course to a California company that wants to build housing there.
BEGIN member Nancy McConlogue that said the success of the petition drive reveals that residents “feel very strongly that the commission government has outlived its usefulness.”
However, Brigantine Mayor Edward Kline, an opponent of the change, contends that the present form of government “has been effective.” He has stated repeatedly throughout the controversy, “Vote us out of office if you want, but don’t change the form of government.”
Under the present three-member commission form, the mayor is a member of the commission who is selected by his fellow commissioners.
Kline also suggested that many of the signatures presented may be those of summer residents who live elsewhere. But McConlogue said that BEGIN had gone over the signatures and “perhaps three are summer visitors. All the rest are legitimate” year-round residents.
City Clerk Agnes Phillips has 20 days to validate the signatures. If additional signatures are needed, BEGIN will have 10 additional days to submit more names. Then, the city then has five more days to validate the added signatures before the question is placed on the November ballot.
McConlogue said BEGIN will continue gathering additional signatures and registering new voters. Of the 1,547 names submitted yesterday, she said, 362 are new voters.