“I’d like to have council’s permission to change it from the Annual Holiday [Tree] Lighting back to the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting if that’s all right with everybody,” stated Mayor Carl Hokanson at last night’s Mayor & Council meeting. He was referring to the popular winter annual event currently known as the Annual Holiday Tree Lighting And Gala which will be held next Friday. He announced his proposal by producing a flier he had included in every council member’s meeting packet which is usually distributed days before a meeting.
Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey immediately commented, “Well, I’ve got to say Mr. Mayor, I have checked that out and every other town in the area calls it a holiday lighting or a tree lighting. I think that this is moving away from inclusiveness to exclusiveness so I cannot support that.”
Mayor Hokanson responded, “Well, again, that’s everybody else. That doesn’t have to be here. I’m just asking if that’s what everybody wants.”
Third Ward Councilman Ryan Kelly endorsed the proposal, stating, “Mayor, I support changing the tree lighting ceremony from Annual Holiday to Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.”
Councilwoman Storey continued, “Well, I have to say as an individual and representing those individuals who do not celebrate Christmas I see no point in going to a Christmas Tree Lighting and I won’t be there.”
The mayor also requested that the ceremony be changed back to the first Friday of December starting next year.
A roll call was taken and the proposed change was approved by a 4-2 vote with the councilwoman and Fourth Ward Councilman Mohamed ‘Gino’ Elmarassy voting ‘no’.
As the meeting progressed, during the Borough Engineer’s report, Councilwoman Storey left the dais. Almost five minutes later, the Council President returned momentarily to pick up her coat and belongings then left the meeting for good without saying a word to anyone. Later on, Mayor Hokanson appointed Councilman Kelly – the longest sitting member of council – as the acting Council President.
In a year where the mayor has proudly – and repeatedly – announced that Roselle Park has become more diverse and celebrated it with numerous culturally-specific events at the Casano Community Center as well as when there have been new hires to the police department, Councilwoman Storey’s initial point is understandable. It is especially more understandable when the majority of those on the governing body are members of the Democratic Party, a party of inclusiveness. Mention is made of elected officials’ political party in response to some of those officials themselves repeatedly bringing up political party activities and events as part of their council reports during a municipal meeting. It is not known exactly why the councilwoman left the meeting since she made no public announcement but if she left in protest, her subsequent actions – for whatever reason – should not detract from her original concerns.
It is presumed that the name change will take effect immediately although there was no mention of whether the Casano Center Tree Trimming event would also be changed to the Casano Center Christmas Tree Trimming.
The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony And Gala will be on December 11th at 6:30 p.m. at Michael Mauri Park or the Casano Center if there is inclement weather.