The Ritacco Effect? New Jersey Lawmaker Seeks to Ban Naming of Public Places After Living Politicians

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3 mins read

With an effort by New Jersey’s left to name buildings and roads after now-deposed Democrat state Senator Steve Sweeney, one GOP lawmaker is saying enough is enough.

Assemblymember Beth Sawyer, a Republican who was part of the team led by truck driver Ed Durr to unseat Sweeney last November introduced a law after the left’s effort to memorialize Sweeney, while he is still living and active in politics.

The township of Harrison is proposing to name a road “Senator Steven M. Sweeney Way”. At Rowan University, college officials want to rename a building in honor of Sweeney, calling it the “Stephen M. Sweeney Center for Special Service” or a “Sweeney Center for Public Policy”.

Sawyer believes the honor of naming public buildings in honor of past politicians should strictly be a posthumous bi-partisan endeavor.

Sawyer’s bill states, ”     This bill prohibits naming a public building, facility, complex, bridge, street, highway, or parkway owned by the State or any political subdivision thereof in honor of any living public official.  The bill provides that if a public building, facility, complex, park, bridge, street, highway, or parkway owned by the State or any political subdivision thereof is named in honor of a living public official prior to the effective date of the bill, the name of that public building, facility, complex, bridge, street, highway, or parkway may remain.”

Perhaps the most shining example of naming a building after a public official went wrong was in Toms River where Republican-backed Superintendent of the Toms River Regional School District Michael Ritacco.

While serving as an active superintendent, Ritacco’s school board allies named a multi-million dollar event center and sports arena in his honor, the Ritacco Center. Public dissent was immediate, despite Ritacco being well-liked in the community. Many felt the arena should have instead been named in honor of student alumni who died while serving the country in America’s wars.

Later, Ritacco was arrested, charged, and convicted by the FBI for political corruption and school officials removed his name from the building. Since then, the district has not officially named the building, instead, selling naming rights to the facility which changes its name every few years from Poland Springs Arena to the Pine Belt Arena and now the RJW Barnabas Arena.