Council set to approve BLM parking-lot painting at special meeting

The Teaneck Town Council is having a special meeting on October 13 at 4:30 pm (planned to close by 6 pm) to discuss a resolution authorizing the painting of “Black Lives Matter” on a parking lot.

Mayor Dunleavy had been criticized on Facebook for a long monologue in which he blamed the slow mural authorization progress on legal issues: “I brought in legal counsel to explain the legal issues we had, relative to the mural. … one of the initial questions they had was whether or not they had gone to, want to do this, with the Board of Education, because this is being prompted by the students. And their answer to us was ‘No.’ We also offered the possibility of putting it on township property. Because the issues are many, as you have heard, from a legal standpoint, especially in D.C., with putting these things on the street and having us protect the town from other people putting things on the street that we don’t want, similar to what we had to do with the [LBGT] pride flag. They said no to that.”

The reason for the Council’s original refusal to allow names (particularly that of Phillip Pannell) or images on the mural was “because we wanted something that we felt was would bring together the township, would show that the township as a whole could support it and where behind our black community here in Teaneck. … something else is going on that I think is in terms of manipulation that is turning this into a political event than a social justice event. And I don’t want this council to be a part of that…

“I was also thinking, Councilmember Kaplan, about your great idea and maybe wanting to get them involved with you as you talk about your history mural the history mural and things like that, I thought that they would want to get involved with that. But, so at this point in time I’m not inclined to do anything, because, as I said, something’s going on, something political, and I’m not playing that game.”

The current resolution, 210-2020, authorizes painting the words “Black Lives Matter” in huge letters within the Votee parking lot, across from the Rodda Center, “as a form of government expression.”

The meeting can be joined via Zoom or via phone, with passcode 038918, at (301) 715-8592. To join in, wait for Good and Welfare. Then, if you dial in, press *9 and wait; or, if you are online, use a reaction button to indicate your desire to speak. Citizens can each have three minutes, and no more.

The full resolution is:

WHEREAS, our nation was founded on the principles that all men and women “are created equal” and “that they endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;” and

WHEREAS, despite the foregoing principles, the United States has a long and shameful history of discrimination against people of color beginning with the enslavement of Blacks until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.

WHEREAS, Mechanisms such as poll taxes and literacy tests were designed to deprive Blacks of voting rights and other rights afforded to non-Blacks, segregation in education and public accommodations, and suppress votes among Black voters.

WHEREAS, economic liberty was threatened through housing discrimination, the adoption of Jim Crow laws and segregation in education and public accommodations

WHEREAS, unequal enforcement of laws has resulted in the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of Black citizens and housing discrimination; and

WHEREAS, for many years such discrimination has manifested itself in violence committed against Blacks including beatings, lynchings, the burning of homes and places of worship and

WHEREAS, although many of us can never be able to experience the personal pain, fear and despair of Black Americans in light of these events, we can recognize and acknowledge that the lack of respect for human life, fueled by prejudices, is contrary to the very principles upon which we as a people hold dear and that all people, regardless of color, race, or ethnicity, deserve to be free of violence and treated in accordance with life, liberty and afforded equal opportunity for the pursuit of happiness and

WHEREAS, the Township Council of the Township of Teaneck has heretofore declared that there is no place in American society for racism, hatred, bigotry or violence directed against any person or group by reason of ethnicity, race, color, creed, national origin, gender or sexual orientation; and

WHEREAS, we, as Americans, must stand united in firmly fighting against racism and acknowledge and declare to ourselves and to the world that we are committed to seeing each other as equally deserving of life, liberty, respect, dignity and the presumption of innocence; and

WHEREAS, while the Township of Teaneck takes pride in being a multi-cultural community comprised of citizens of different races, colors, creeds, gender or sexual orientation and national origins, we recognize that much progress is needed to create a more just society in which we can all reap the fruits of equal justice, economic prosperity, and human dignity; and

WHEREAS, the Township of Teaneck owns and maintains a parking area within a portion of Votee Park along Palisade Avenue; and

WHEREAS, although the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is incorporated by reference in 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655, Subpart F and shall be recognized as the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway, bikeway, or private road open to public travel in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 109(d) and 402(a), parking areas, including the driving aisles within those parking areas, that are either publicly or privately owned shall not be considered to be “open to public travel” for purposes of MUTCD applicability; and

WHEREAS, the Government Speech Doctrine establishes that a government organization, such as the Township of Teaneck, may advance its own expression without requiring viewpoint neutrality when the government itself is the speaker, so long as its expression does not show religious preference. See Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744, 1757 (2017)(“the First Amendment does not say that Congress and other government entities must abridge their own ability to speak freely.”) See also Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U.S. 460, 467 (2009) (“The Free Speech Clause restricts government regulation of private speech; it does not regulate government speech.”) Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Assn., 544 U.S. 550, 553 (2005) (“[T]he Government’s own speech . . . is exempt from First Amendment scrutiny.”); and

WHEREAS, the Township Council wishes to authorize the painting upon said parking area “BLACK LIVES MATTER” as per the graphic attached here to recognize that in order for all lives to matter it is essential that “Black Lives Matter” and Teaneck’s commitment to racial justice and equality as a form of government expression;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council of the Township of Teaneck, Bergen County, New Jersey that the Township of Teaneck hereby renews its commitment to racial justice and racial equality and authorizes the painting of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” as depicted in the attached graphic upon the parking area along Palisade Avenue across from the Rodda Center for a period of ninety days, and can be renewed for an additional 90 days by the Council, in recognition that in order for all lives to matter it is essential that “Black Lives Matter”; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Township Manager coordinate with The Black Lives Matter Mural Committee for them to paint and maintain said display as attached to this resolution.

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About Dave 26 Articles
David Zatz is an organizational change agent and writer, with four books appearing in 2020. He has lived in Teaneck for two decades. He can be reached at (973) 925-6079.

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