HOLMDEL, NJ - The Holmdel Ad Hoc Committee on Human Relations, approved by the Township Committee and headed by Deputy Mayor Cathy Weber, has come out with their report.
In it, seven recommendations to improve local government.
Notably, the issue that sparked the controversy that surrounded the emergence of the committee, the 'blue line', will stay for now. That may not go over well with student activists who have called in to public meetings for over a year to remove it. They have called it racist while supporters say it supports the law enforcement community. While recommending that the 'blue line' is not removed, the committee did share their view on it:
"The symbol has been appropriated by white supremacists groups and the Blue Line now has the effect of making some members of our community feel unwelcome, and even threatened, in Holmdel. The HRC finds this impact unacceptable. It should not be ignored that the Blue Line flag was carried alongside Confederate flags and Nazi insignia by the insurrectionists who breached our Nation’s Capitol on January 6th, 2020. The HRC therefore recommends that the HTC abstain from maintaining Holmdel’s Blue Line."
Holmdel residents Sarrah Buker, Francine Campis, Hannah Friedman, Carey Goldson, former Deputy Mayor Michael Nikolis, Robert Shearer and the Rev. Dr. David C. Bocock serve on the committee with various staff members from the township.
The view of the committee on the blue line is not shared by the law enforcement community.
Meeting regularly over the course of many months, the committee released their full list of recommended actions to be taken by the governing body. You can read them in detail HERE.
The presentation on the recommendations was made on Tuesday February 9th during the public meeting.
Their key findings stated were:
● While the HRC membership represents a range of perspectives and diversity in terms of age, personal and professional experience, years of Holmdel residency, religion, culture, ethnicity, and race, we recognize that we do not represent every subgroup or identity in Holmdel.
● The impact of national (and even international) problems does not dissipate at the borders of our township. We are both influenced by and engaged in statewide and national discourse on many levels. As Americans, we share common concerns. Still, the HRC recognizes that we cannot use a cut and paste approach to resolving these problems or concerns. We need solutions that specifically address the dynamics of our community.
● The history of racism and discrimination in Holmdel has deep roots. Sadly, Holmdel is not immune from our nation’s history of slavery. However, by understanding that history and acknowledging past harms, we can take steps towards preventing future harm and creating a stronger community.
● NJ law requires that law enforcement undergo various trainings that address community policing issues. Holmdel Police Department has fulfilled these training requirements and has established policies that, if executed properly, protect citizens from discrimination by law enforcement. Other than official arrest records, that do not indicate racial discrimination, the only way to gauge discrimination is through citizen complaints. There are no official complaints on record. The lack of formal complaints is not proof that there has been no discrimination. There are real obstacles to making formal complaints. It would be difficult for the Township to address issues of which it is not aware.
The ad hoc committee included seven different recommendations:
- That governing body and others sign the "Stand Up for the Other" pledge which was initiated at Drew University in March 2015 - the pledge is an affirmation that the signer would stand up for other people and challenge bigotry in any form.
- Publicize a summary of Holmdel's current policies to increase awareness and reporting of various forms of bias.
- Restore Holmdel's African-American Cemetery located near Canyon Woods and Grandview Avenue - there are public access easements to be improved there.
- Add additional training for Township Committee members, so they are more informed and sensitive to diversity, discrimination and inclusion issues.
- Add additional regular town hall meetings to give a timely way to gather community members together in a more structured forum to advocate for the changes they wish to see in Holmdel.
- Engage in more community education events with speakers and specific goals and objectives.
Stated the committee: "Given that the HRC was founded based on the public response to the matter of the blue line on Crawfords Corner Road, our proposal is to kick off the series with topics that pertain to race, specifically the black experience in NJ and/or the country. Additional topics can and should revolve around biases and experiences based on national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, and gender." This contemplates that there will be additional public meetings noticed for the year in addition to the regular schedule.
7. The Blue Line - On this last and most controversial issue - the committee recommended no actual change in its status. Long faded in most areas, there is not much of a blue line left (see photo). The double yellow line is in need of painting in areas.
"The HRC therefore recommends that the HTC abstain from maintaining Holmdel’s Blue Line. When it comes time for the section of Crawfords Corner Road that contains the blue line to be repaved, we recommend to the governing body that the Blue Line not be replaced. We advise that our roads only be marked for the purposes of traffic safety."