JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – Less than one week after the resignation of anti-Orthodox fighter, Council President Barry Calogero from the township council, his successor, Alex Sauickie is hoping to turn the page in Jackson. Calogero resigned from his elected office after battling the influx of Orthodox Jews into Jackson Township and was one of two flag bearers for the movement to curb over development in the township. The other, Robert Nixon, resigned from office in November of 2019. In their absence, newly elected councilman Alex Sauickie, who gained office by winning the highly coveted Orthodox Jewish bloc vote in 2018 is seeking to reverse the decisions and ordinances passed by Calogero, Nixon and Ken Bressi. Bressi now remains the last man standing in the 2016 Jackson GOP ticket that led the fight against the Orthodox Jewish community’s growth in Jackson.
Calogero’s last action as a Councilman was to plead with Governor Phil Murphy to deploy the National Guard to neighboring Lakewood Township. A week later, he resigned from office. In recent weeks, Mayor Michael Reina has been attempting to arrange meetings behind the scenes with Orthodox community leaders in Lakewood and Jackson as his administration works to unravel the net of ordinances and actions it enacted between 2016 and 2020 against the Jewish community. Insiders in the legal world, suggest Jackson stands no chance of winning any of the several civil rights lawsuits currently active against the township.
In 2018, Mayor Michael Reina, Alex Sauickie and Andy Kern defeated Democrats Tracey Yostpile in the November election. The Republican team actively lobbied for the Orthodox bloc vote behind the scenes after trailing early during the election in polls run by former township attorney George Gilmore. After securing the bloc vote, that team then claimed Yostpile was working for Lakewood Democrats and the Lakewood Orthodox community, which eventually turned out to be false.
Now, with the gavel in his hand, Sauicke alerted the public that in Calogero’s absence things in town are going to change. Sauicke told the public, shortly after Calogero’s resignation of impending changes, noting people will like some of the changes and not like others.
Under Ordinance 4-17, the township outlawed the construction of religious dormitories, “Any building, or portion thereof, designed or converted to contain living quarters
which are provided as residences or for overnight sleeping for individuals or groups operated as an accessory use to a school, college, university, boarding school, convent, monastery, non-profit educational institution, religious order, or other.”
Ordinance 3-17 regulated the construction of religious schools and yeshivas.
At the Tuesday meeting, two ordinances were put on the agenda by Sauicke to repeal 2017’s two ordinances that prohibited and regulated religious dormitories in Jackson. At this time, this decision is not mandated by any court agreed settlement between the township and litigants in those matters. The ordinances signal a sharp change in direction for the township government who has been under fire for laws it passed in 2017.
It is expected that Reina and the current council will blame former township attorney Jean Cipriani for this ordinance along with Ken Bressi, but the original ordinances were voted unanimously into law by the town council and signed into law by Mayor Michael Reina. Cipriani had actually advised the township against these ordinances in 2017 because of legal liabilities that could arise concerning RLUIPA law and possible religious civil rights violations that could be implied upon their passage.
Shortly before the announcement of Tuesday’s agenda, the township began accepting applications to replace Calogero on the township council. It is expected that the replacement will be a member of the Reina, Sauicke camp.