Successful petition leader is running for township council

Harvey Roseff wants to be part of the council he's thwarted

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  • Petition leader Harvey Roseff

By Joseph Picard

— The Byram Township Council has not yet said what it plans to do next regarding their beleaguered municipal building, after being forced last week by a petition drive to once again rescind a bond ordinance meant to finance the construction of a new building. But one result of the petitioners’ victory has become clear: The lead petitioner is going to run for a seat on the council.

Harvey Roseff, a high-tech small businessman who in the past has run unsuccessfully for county freeholder, is busy gathering resident signatures to enable a run for the governing body.

“I need 57 signatures,” Roseff said, adding he was confident he could reach that number by the day-after-Labor Day deadline.

Roseff is good at gathering signatures, having lead successful petition drives against funding ordinances for a new municipal building in 2016 and again this year.

Last year, Byram residents garnered enough signatures opposing an $11 million ordinance to finance a new municipal building to force the township council to rescind the ordinance. Earlier this month, residents submitted another valid petition that caused the township to rescind its latest new building ordinance to bond for over $7 million.

According to Byram’s form of government, if a petition gains signatures amounting to at least 15 percent of residents who voted in the last statewide election, the governing body can choose whether to put the ordinance up to a vote at the next election, or rescind the ordinance. Twice, the petitions gained more than enough signatures. Twice, the council decided on rescinding.

Members of the governing body were disappointed that their efforts failed, since the current municipal building, erected 50 years ago as a temporary structure, is sorely in need of repair or replacement.

“I understand how people feel,” said Byram Mayor Jim Oscovitch. “I am disappointed this was rescinded as we are in desperate need of a new building that will serve all the residents of Byram now and in the future.”

Councilwoman Marie Raffay entered a lengthy statement into the public record expressing her exasperation.

“It is with utter frustration that I am choosing to vote to rescind this bond ordinance for $7 million to build a much needed town hall,” the statement reads in part. “ Frustration because myself and the rest of this council have spent over 2 years earnestly working on getting to this point. All this work was quickly dashed by a petition fact sheet that spewed lies and suggestions that are only used to justify anger that people feel. More disheartening than the lies I read were that only one person, ONE, in my entire two years of working on this had the courage to come and ask me what the real story was.”

Raffay, who has served over two terms on the council, and whose term is up at the end of 2017, has decided not to run for re-election. If she had decided to run again, she would probably have gone head-to-head against Roseff.

“I made the decision not to run months ago,” Raffay said. “I’ve put 8 and a half years in at this job. Time to give someone else a chance.”

She said Roseff has expressed an attitude of “you all stink” on the council and thinks, if elected, he will try to take local government in “a totally different direction” that may not be good for residents.

“I hope someone else decides to run, but I know of no one now planning to,” Raffay said.

Roseff has often criticized the actions of the governing body, noting for instance when this year’s ordinance was blocked that council members had not respected the will of residents expressed in the successful petition drive of 2016 by wheeling out a similar, costly ordinance in 2017.

“Everything has to start with respect for the taxpayer,” Roseff said.

The governing body has yet to say what it plans to do next regarding the municipal building. Township Manager Joseph Sabatini said that no decision on a next move has yet been made.

“We are trying to figure out what to do next,” Raffay said.

“After listening to the public, we rescinded the ordinance and we are looking into other low cost options including renovation of the existing municipal building,” Councilman David Gray said. “The building is falling apart, so we have to do something.”

Mayor Oscovitch noted that “it's not easy to ask the residents to spend money.”

“As far as our next move, that may be a question for the next town council,” Oscovitch said.

Byram’s municipal elections are nonpartisan, even though they are held in November.

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