Edison, NJ – Two local lawmakers are proposing a referendum allowing Edison residents to vote on the controversial proposed lease of Edison’s water and sewer systems to Suez North America.
Council Vice President Ajay Patil and Council member Joseph Coyle introduced a resolution at Monday night’s meeting that would place the Suez issue on the ballot in November. “I am introducing a resolution that will place this issue squarely before the voters on November 5, 2019,” said Mr. Patil.
“I believe that the residents of Edison should decide. We should trust our residents to make the right decision. We should give the information to the public and let the citizens decide their future. Eight people should not bind 100,000 for 40 years,” said Mr. Patil in his introduction of the resolution.
William Northgrave, the Township's attorney, previously stated that a referendum was not permissible under existing Court rulings. But in a novel approach, Mr. Patil and Mr. Coyle’s resolution asks for a non-binding referendum, an issue not addressed in the court opinion cited by Mr. Northgrave.
“I understand that our attorney has taken the position that a public referendum is not allowed on this issue. While I am not confident in that argument, certainly there is nothing preventing a non-binding referendum,” said Mr. Patil.
The Council will vote on whether to add the resolution to the agenda on Wednesday after Council President Alvaro Gomez declined to allow a procedural vote during Monday night’s meeting.
Mr. Gomez’s decision sparked a procedural debate on the issue.
“I’m reminding everybody, we’ve taken every opportunity to educate everyone as to the intricacies of this deal,” said Mr. Gomez. “To take any action now is premature.”
“I am confused on what we need to talk about,” said Mr. Coyle regarding the procedural delay. "It’s a referendum. This council is well educated on what a referendum is. It’s allowing the voters to vote on whether we want to lease out our township sewer and water for forty years. Is there anything different about that? If not I believe we have a motion on the table. I’ve seconded it. And I am requesting a roll call.” said Mr. Coyle.
“This matter will not be taken up today,” responded Mr. Gomez.
If the council approves the proposed referendum, residents will have the opportunity to vote in favor or against the proposed concession agreement with Suez.
“There will be a vote to add it [on to the agenda] on Wednesday night,” said Mr. Northgrave, stating it was the Council President’s discretion not to hold a vote on whether to add the resolution to the agenda on Monday night.
The Council will next meet on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Municipal building to take up the issue.