BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Spurred on by comments from residents decrying the invasion of the Capitol building in Washington, DC on Jan. 6, Bernards Township officials recently announced their intention to craft a resolution condemning such violence _ but were unable to agree on whether such a measure should focus only on the insurrection, and also confirm President Biden's win.
[Update] But contacted last week, Democratic Township Committeewoman Joan Harris said on Friday she and Township Committeeman James Baldassare, who had planned to meet to come up with a proposal, agreed to move on after they were unlikely to mutually approve wording for such a resolution.
Had 'opportunity to express our views'
"We each had the opportunity to express our views at the last meeting," Harris said in an email on Friday. "By agreeing not to adopt a resolution which could not be unanimous, we made room for all views," she said, adding, "I think this is the best approach under the circumstances."
On Saturday night, Baldassare said Harris is correct, and he had nothing more to add.
At the Jan. 12 Township Committee meeting, Harris and some public speakers called for such a resolution at the same time Washington, DC and state capitols around the nation were bracing for civil unrest before the presidential inauguration scheduled for Jan. 20.
"I can't equate a riot with the takeover of the Capitol building preventing the peaceful transfer of power," Harris said in a response to a suggested resolution from other members of the Township Committee that would declare as unacceptable all of the violence that has taken place in the United States in the past year.
"No one who is a rational person condones violence," Township Committeewoman Kate Grochala said during the Township Committee discussion, adding, "We need to [find how] to move forward" in a united way.
Baldassare had offered to meet with Harris to work on a resolution. He said while he is a "fervent believer in the right to speak and gather peacefully," he said he renounces all forms of violence.
Baldassare said that includes the violence, rooting, and looting and burning of businesses that has taken place around the nation for the last six to months. "It's unacceptable."
A handful of residents had brought up the topic at the Jan. 12 meeting. "It's upon all of us to condemn this act of sedition," said Anneke Forzani. "What we saw last week should sicken you...I don't care if you are a Republican or Democrat," she said.
Another speaker, Jane Conklin, said that the events on Jan. 6 had a deep impact on the town. Such images as a noose and Confederate flags, along with pictures of rioters wearing shirts espousing Nazi themes, were a reminder that "These are scary times," she said.
Conklin and another speaker, Jennifer Kluger, asked the Township Committee to confirm a belief "in democracy" and the fairness of the 2020 presidential election. "The people of Bernards Township deserve to know that our leadership does not buy into the falsehood that the election was stolen," Kluger said.
Democrat Catherine Santaiti said that local Democrats recognized that the two Republican candidates, Baldassare and Grochala, in the 2020 election for two seats on the Township Committee, won "fair and square."
Baldassare had said at the meeting that he wanted to let residents know that none of their elected officials condone what happened during the insurrection.
Harris said she condemns the Jan. 6 insurrection as an act of "sedition." She had asked at the meeting that the Township Committee let the community know "that we are committed to upholding the Constitution and the peaceful transfer of power."
Harris added in her Friday email, "I am very happy the insurrectionists and those who incited them did not succeed in their effort to interfere in our democratic process of free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power." She added she is thrilled the nation has its first woman vice president and she has much hope for the country under Biden. "The tone of the inauguration made me think of President Bush's inaugural address when he said, 'America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kindler the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.'"