You have to admire Councilwoman Linda Mazzola. She appears to be the only member of the Highlands governing body who really researches things and thinks for herself. With the exception of the one time Councilman Martin voted against the bond issue for the new borough hall, she's the only one who has ever voted against the other four.
Oh, but wait!. Once Councilman Martin voted with Linda, then found his vote did actually mean the end of the $10 million Taj Mahal, he quickly changed his mind. He missed the next meeting, when the exact same ordinance was reintroduced, then came back to switch his vote on the same code. He might well go down in history as the only councilman who has voted both ways on the same issue!
Councilman Martin saw his vote killed the $10 million issue, and he really couldn't have the vote of everybody in town for how wise he was, because then those who didn't mind spending the $10 million wouldn't like him. He simply explained he's a "complicated person, not that he was a politician who wanted the best of both worlds. Hence the Taj Mahal is now still in the planning stages and Councilman Martin can go down in the history books as the councilman who made it happen...the second time around.
But not Linda!. She doesn't mind expressing her opinions, albeit so many times in the minority. She never minds letting everyone know why she votes the way she does. Heck, unlike all the others, she even goes into detail on where she's researched, what she's found, how it impacts the borough, and then announces here's her reason for voting against everybody else. Does it look like Linda Mazzola really does have a mind of her own? And really takes into account what she thinks is best for all the people in the town she represents?
Wednesday night's meeting showed Linda Mazzola at her prime. She didn't say whether she thinks selling marijuana, weed, cannabis, pot or the drug by any name that smells and acts the same, is a good or bad idea. She just said all she wants is for council to be reasonable. She wanted the majority to try to save some money, wait until all the facts and laws are in, and know essentially what the heck they are doing before making a decision that will bind the town, and the taxpayers to five years of something they have no idea, given present information, whether will be good or bad for the town. So read the statement she made Wednesday night at that meeting, a meeting by the way, that could only be attended by those who could get babysitters, have transportation, have no physical handicap or infirmity that prevented them from attending or any other reason that made the ease of virtual meetings replaced by the old custom of meeting in public. Funny, all those folks who want so much change in Highlands, don't like the change to virtual meetings at all.
Councilwmon Mazzola simply pointed out:
1. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission is not required to publish its rules and regulations for the legal weed industry until August 21st.
2. This is the same date that municipalities are required to pass ordinances opting out of the industry and either banning marijuana sales and businesses or altering their zoning laws to regulate where these businesses could be located.
3. An overwhelming number of municipalities have simply opted out because they are waiting for the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commissions rules and regulations. They do not have all the information they feel they need to make a decision, which will ultimately affect the residents of their towns.
4. Please note that any municipality that opts out, can opt in at any time.
5. However, once you opt in, a municipality is precluded from opting out or making any changes limiting the operations.
6. The League of Municipalities, which offers information and guidance to municipal officials, has recommended towns OPT OUT until the Cannabis Regulatory Commission issues its formal rules and recommendations.
7. So, why did this council rush to opt in? Complete rules, regulations and guidelines are not yet available. Why not wait, then move? New Jersey has 565 municipalities and approximately 70% have moved to ban, with many doing so because complete information is not yet available.
8. Secondly, Highlands does not have a traditional Business District. Ours is a residential Business District and as such, we need to be mindful of the residents who live here, raise their families here and pay taxes here. I am uncomfortable approving this type of business in the midst of our residents’ homes, especially since we are not privy to The Cannabis Regulatory Commissions’ findings. Take a second and simply ask yourself, then ask your elected officials: "Is Councilwoman Mazzola wrong to know all the facts before making a decisioni for the town?