My name is Stephen Yellin, and I’m asking to represent the residents of Berkeley Heights on the Township Council. I’m a lifelong resident and active volunteer in the community, and have a track record of helping to bring positive change to our town.
The question I most often get while meeting with residents and talking to them about their vision for our town is: “Why are you running?” Here’s why…
Three generations of my family have called Berkeley Heights home, and they definitely made the right call! Growing up in in this town meant I was fortunate to be educated in one of the best public school systems, walk or ride my bike on some of the safest streets, and, on every July 16th, watch the greatest fireworks display in the state of New Jersey at the annual Mt. Carmel festival. I love our community, and I decided early on that it was important to me to give back to the place that I have always called home.
At first, my vision of serving Berkeley Heights was pretty abstract: I wanted to help solve problems. Then in 2011, I was introduced to the residents of Free Acres and other homes on or just off Emerson Lane. They were trying to fight a proposal to build a 51,000-square foot, private swim club right next to their heavily forested neighborhood. A building the size of an NFL football field and several stories tall was going to completely transform this quiet little part of town – an area in which, years ago, I’d played with friends on streets with not a sidewalk or street light.
When I listened to the concerns of the Free Acres residents, it became clear that this proposal was totally wrong for our town. This was no longer abstract – this was a decision with real impact on real people.
So I jumped in, attending neighborhood meetings and offering ideas to help the residents win their fight. The leaders of Stop the BAC (as the neighborhood movement was called) welcomed me to join the leadership team and help explain to our community why the BAC shouldn’t be in anyone’s backyard; I later served as chairman of the campaign committee to help rally support against the proposal.
Our campaign modeled how I want to help lead our town as a Councilman. We brought together residents of every background including Democrats, Republicans and Independents of all ages; from “lifers” like myself to brand new residents. We worked hard to make sure the community was informed about the vote and why they should vote “No.” Most importantly, we listened to the residents, answered their concerns and welcomed their ideas. What Stop the BAC was fighting for was each other – all of us, the residents of Berkeley Heights.
In May 2013, despite being outspent by more than 4 to 1, and all the challenges of getting people to vote, we won that fight with an incredible 81% of the vote! With 40% of total eligible voters in town showing up to be heard, it was clear our community had spoken. The BAC found a new, better location for its new facility, and I learned a powerful lesson. As Margaret Mead stated, “Never doubt that a thoughtful group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."
That is the vision I have for Berkeley Heights: All of us being given the opportunity to come together and meet these challenges. If our Mayor and Council members truly embrace this mission of inclusion, embracing all those voices that have been ignored or forgotten, then I have no doubts that the challenges we face, repairing and maintaining our infrastructure, while making sure our new developments, including the new municipal complex, reflect the needs and wants of our residents.
I would be honored to have the opportunity to earn your vote this November. The other members of my team, Angie Devanney for Mayor and Alvaro Medeiros for Township Council, share my vision, and we ask that you vote “purple” on Tuesday, June 5th, Column B. Purple represents people of all political persuasions working together toward bettering our town. The more people who vote purple, the stronger message we can send that it’s time for Change We Can Agree On. You can learn more about us at our website, http://www.ChangeWeCanAgreeOn.com, and please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
See you around town.