FAIR LAWN, NJ - Republican candidate for Fair Lawn Borough Council Michael Rosenberg has declined the Fair Lawn League of Women Voters invitation to participate in a candidates forum which would have featured Democrat Cristina Cutrone and him in a question and answer setting, citing a disagreement in terms to use debate clips in social media afterwards.
Rosenberg and Cutrone are the lone two candidates on the November 6 election ballot for Borough Council. They are vying for the one-year unexpired term on the five-person governing body.
"I received a letter with a date already agreed to by my opponent," Rosenberg said on Friday. "It was not a good date for me because it was on an evening of a Board of Education meeting."
Rosenberg, a trustee of the Fair Lawn Education Board of Education for 11 years, said that while he was offered other dates, it was a rule of the debate that eventually helped him decide not to participate.
"We are not allowed to use any clips or quotes from the debates in our election materials," Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg has subsequently said he will participate in the League's information page, https://www.vote411.org/ , where candidates can list their positions and voters can compare participants side-by-side.
On Sept. 19, Rosenberg put this on his Facebook page: "Although we could not come to an agreement on the LWV Forum, I am supporting the LWV's mission by answering their questions for their election411.org information page, as well as attending their Civics for Citizens program they are sponsoring at the high school on October 10. I fully support their mission."
In a phone interview on Friday, Rosenberg reiterated his stance.
"I own my decision to not participate and fully stand by it," he said. "I will participate on the election411 questionnaire sponsored by the League and I am willing to attend other League-sponsored functions."
"I am trying to keep a very positive spirit going through this election process," he said. "I think people can see both of us in action, me on the Board of Education for 11 years and Cristina as an acting councilwoman."
"I have nothing against the League," he said. "I just respectfully declined the debate."
Cutrone responded via email this morning: "Fair Lawn has a long history of candidates from both parties participating in the League of Women Voters Forum. I strongly believe our residents deserve to hear their candidates views side-by-side in a debate or forum."
From the Fair Lawn League of Women Voters Facebook page:
"A Statement from the League of Women Voters of Fair Lawn:
The League of Women Voters of the United States was established in 1920, is grounded in all 50 states and is represented by local leagues in over 700 communities. Fair Lawn established its community League in 1937. For decades, the League of Women Voters of Fair Lawn has sponsored a Candidate Forum to give our community at large an opportunity to come face to face with the citizens who have dedicated themselves to campaign for elected office, regardless of party affiliation. The LWVFL has and will continue to be a non-partisan organization encouraging the active participation in local elections and our city government. The LWVFL has had protocols in place for many election cycles and consistently invites all candidates to participate in local candidate forums. Candidates may choose to accept or decline the invitation to participate in each local forum. The mission of all LWVFL activities is to encourage the informed and active participation in government and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.
The League of Women voters is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members of the public. We encourage a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.” LWVUS
When someone asked on the page where they could view the rules of the debate, the League responded the rules were provided to each candidate.
Rosenberg grew up in Fair Lawn and raised his family in Fair Lawn which now includes grandchildren.
Rosenberg has served on the Fair Lawn Board of Education since 2007, serving as President from 2011 to 2013. He is also on the executive board of the Bergen County School Boards Association. Rosenberg is a life member of the Fair Lawn Rescue Squad, serving from 1982-2011 and currently is a member of the Fair Lawn CERT Team. He is a member of the Fair Lawn Sunrise Rotary Club, Fair Lawn Boy Scouts, and former member of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Rosenberg is a graduate of Fair Lawn High School and holds a B.A. from Ramapo College. He currently teaches middle school social studies. Rosenberg was awarded teacher of the year in the 2009-10 and the 2015-16 school years. The Daughters of the American Revolution chose him as their NJ Outstanding Teacher of American History Award winner in 2016.
Councilwoman Cutrone , a democrat appointed on May 15 to replace former Mayor Lisa Swain, who left to take a seat as a state assemblywoman.
Cutrone is filling an unexpired term that ends December 2019, but because of when she was appointed, to retain the seat, she has to run in the November 2018 election.
In addition to her responsibilities as a Councilwoman, Cutrone is a public high school social studies teacher in Tenafly, where she leads AP Government and Constitutional Law classes, and is a Board of Education trustee for Bergen County’s Special Services School District. Additionally, she is a co-founder and president of Women Empowered Democratic Organization (WE DO), a grassroots group that trains and empowers Democratic women to run for office and get involved in public service. She and her husband, Stephen Musnikow, a lifelong Fair Lawn resident, are the parents of two young children, Cole and Nora.