It's all an effort to bring "civility" to the council meetings. That's why Woodbridge Council President Gregg Ficarra said that anyone who'd like to address the council can still do so, only this time, from the back of the room.
A wireless microphone on a stand was already set up in the rear corner of the council chamber Tuesday night in anticipation of the change. Ficarra motioned to the equipment and said the reason for making residents line up in the back of the room was because of the behavior of speakers at previous council meetings.
"People speaking out without being recognized, making comments, calling people names...I'm very uncomfortable with that," Ficarra said. "I think this is a room that requires professionalism and decorum."
The council president referred to recent council meetings where shouting went back and forth between town residents, council members, and paid township employees.
Residents did line up in the rear of the room and waited their turn to speak. Several people wondered if the reason they were being relegated to the back of the chamber was to keep them off the cameras that record town meetings to be played on local cable access channels.
The camera in the rear panned for a moment to the resident who was speaking, but for the most part, it stayed focused on the council members and employees of the administration of Mayor John McCormac; they are seated at the front and side of the room away from the speakers.
While Ficarra said the reason for the rear microphone was to instill decorum in the chamber, the business administrator made a comment that would make it appear the out-of-camera microphone arrangement might be more of a punishment for at least some Woodbridge pundits.
Woodbridge resident and frequent McCormac administration critic Tom Maras went to the microphone and brought up Woodbridge's ongoing woes with its Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) requirements that have been in litigation for years.
Maras cited a $3.9 million figure from a Star Ledger article on money Woodbridge has set aside for its COAH requirements and asked if that number was correct. Business Administrator Robert Landolfi said the number was "grossly exaggerated," but said he didn't recall the exact number.
Maras and Landolfi went back and forth on what the precise figure was.
"How much is it?" ask Maras.
"It's not $3.9 million. That's grossly exaggerated. It's much less than $3 million," Landolfi said.
"So it's $3 million...." Maras replied, to which Landolfi shot back, "No, it's less than $3 million. How much more exact do you need than that?"
The two got into a heated exchange on what the figure was, with Maras continuing to cite the Star Ledger's numbers while Landolfi said he was correcting Maras that the $3.9 million figure was wrong.
Landolfi started to shout at Maras, "You don't get to stand there and say it's $3 million", and then added President Ronald Reagan's famous debate line, "There you go again."
Maras replied, "Yeah, there I go again, showing you don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"That's why you're stand there where you're at. Because you can't control yourself," Landolfi said.