An effort to overturn controversial changes to Moorestown’s ordinance governing contributions to political campaigns is under way following a rally on Main Street Wednesday night.
A group of citizens have handed out 32 petitions calling for a repeal of the modifications, passed at Monday night’s council meeting by a 4-1 vote, according to Democratic Party chairman Robert Gorman, who organized the effort alongside Mark Hines.
Each petition has room for 100 signatures on it.
“There were a lot of like-minded people that decided to get
meet and voice our opposition,” Hines said. “We handed out petitions, and now
we’re going around town to different spots to collect signatures.”
The group must collect signatures equaling 15 percent of the number of voters registered for the last General Assembly election, which they believe means the collection of 1,127 signatures, although the exact number must be verified with the township.
“I don’t think money belongs in politics,” said Joe Ponessa, one of the residents who turned out to collect petitions. “I’ve been here 43 years and elections have always worked well. I don’t see why big money should be introduced. It presents the possibility of being able to influence things.”
“I just don’t think it’s a fair way to run an election, especially in a small town where everyone knows each other,” said Dave Schill, who showed up with his wife, Lynne, to collect a petition.
Under the amendment, the maximum amount a business can give to campaigns increases to $2,600 from $300. Moorestown party committees and political action committees (PACs) can each now receive $7,200, up from $300 and $500, respectively.
Businesses must now also disclose exactly how much money they contribute to campaigns. Solicitor Anthony Drollas and Mayor Stacey Jordan have each stated the amendment was passed in the name of transparency, and to bring the township in line with bipartisan pay-to-play measures the Legislature is currently considering.
After Monday’s meeting, Gorman and Hines began organizing an opposition group.
Signatures must be collected and the petition filed with the township 20 days after the ordinance was enacted. Should the group collect the needed signatures and submit the petition by the deadline, the changes would then be put on hold. Council would then have to make a decision to either put the changes before the electorate on November’s ballot or repeal the changes.
Jordan and Councilman Greg Newcomer, the only member of council to vote against the change, each said they would make their decisions on how to proceed once the petition came before council.
Newcomer added he would be speaking with individual members of council about overturning the decision, although he had yet to initiate those conversations.
Gorman and Hines aim to get 1,200 signatures within two weeks, and they feel this is possible following Wednesday night’s turnout.
According to Hines, there were between 45 and 50 people on hand when the rally began on Wednesday night.
“We told people about this by word of mouth and email and we got about 50 people,” Hines said. “I’m optimistic we’re not going to have any trouble getting enough signatures.”
“I’m thrilled with the turnout we got,” Gorman said.
Those wishing to sign the petition should contact Gorman, at 123 Augusta Drive; Mark Singer, at 30 East Central Avenue; Barbara Rich at 37 East Central Avenue; Lisa Petriello at 266 Linden Street; or Francine Cartwright at 337 East Second Street.