Even though the City Council voted on Aug. 13 to put the measure on the November ballot for a public vote after two years of his and the group’s lobbying, Alonso doesn’t think his job will be done, come Nov. 4 – even if the referendum is passed.
“I think it’s just begun,” Alonso said last week. “We want to maintain our presence and be a viable option to help independents who want to run.”
The four weeks since the council’s move, Alonso’s ardor has not waned.
“We're continuing getting events organized to get the word out and getting people to vote for an elected school board,” he said.
His group held fundraisers at TGI Fridays in July and Hendrickson’s restaurant in August. At least one fundraiser, and as many as three more, are planned for before the election.
The effort will include newspaper advertising, direct mail pieces, commercials, and four coffee klatches.
There will also be more door-to-door canvassing for volunteers and to promote the initiative.
“We’re going to have a strong get-out-the-vote effort,” Alonso said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get the school board election.”
Alonso said he knows that some current board members are against the elected board, as well as some citizens who are concerned with the costs associated with an April, school-board-only election.
“I prefer April,” Alonso said. “It’s our local school board; it should not be subject to political whims in November. Let’s keep it fully independent.”
Alonso said he was disappointed that the council did not take up the elected school board issue sooner, since Mayor James Davis and most of his ticket supported the idea.
“They waited. I was a little disappointed in the beginning,” Alonso said. “I thought maybe there was some disagreement on the council about it.”
He thinks his and his group’s continued efforts were the difference.
“We're continuing getting events organized to get the word out and getting people to vote for an elected school board.” – Michael Alonso
“I definitely made sure that the pressure was on the whole time,” he said. “I’m not sure if they saw the light or just caved in to us. Davis had made it part of his campaign. But it was the council that had to act.”
Davis went so far as to appear in the spring commercial that Alonso made promoting the change. Alonso counted Councilmen Juan Perez and Thomas Cotter as strong supporters early on.
If the council had not acted, Alonso was prepared to press without its help, with an Aug. 22 court date on a motion he had filed in the spring.
Though Alonso is not married and has no children, he doesn’t think his effort should be questioned.
“I own a home on Ave B,” he said. “The school part of my taxes is more than 50 percent of the bill. We felt enough was enough, that we should have a say on how they’re spending the money.”
He was critical of the fact that it took five years for teachers to get a new contract, which they will vote on soon.
Alonso said he has reached out to Bayonne’s state legislators and is waiting to hear back from them on whether they support the measure.
The original April petition drive failed because the validity of 400 signatures was questioned.
“I thought we had enough signatures and that we thought we had a correction period,” he said.
Alonso is confident that the referendum will pass.
“I think it will pass,” he said. “I think our efforts will be strong, and people will definitely turn out to vote.”
If school board elections are not passed this time, the group must wait a few more years until they are allowed to try again.
Since Alonso is running for the Bayonne-Jersey City freeholder seat, he has relinquished his School Board Chairmanship. The temporary chairman is Daniel Herrera, a council candidate last spring.
“I actually had to step down as chairman once the school board measure was put on the ballot and we became a recognized political action committee,” Alonso said.