As Alvaro Medeiros and I have gone door-to-door across Berkeley Heights in the last few months, talking with and listening to residents, we’ve had a great time meeting all kind of people and learning how we can serve them better when elected to the Township Council. The common thread through many of these conversations is a feeling of frustration. Residents have articulated how things that need to change never seem to, while other significant changes happen without residents having a say.
Residents we have spoken with and listened to want to know what’s going on, they want to be heard and they want to have a real voice in the future of our town. The lack of 21st-century communication tools currently used by the Township require residents to seek out information and all the communication is one way. For six years, the only voices that have been heard in town government have belonged to one faction. I have sat and watched as residents who have publicly disagreed with them, no matter how respectfully, have been interrupted and treated with disrespect when speaking at Council meetings. Alvaro and I believe this cannot be allowed to go on unchallenged, not if our community is going to be one where all residents feel valued and respected.
This is not a “Democratic vs. Republican” issue: it is about ensuring all residents have a voice and are valued, even when there are different ideas. This is why Alvaro and I are supported by many Republicans, including former Council candidate John Leo - because any government made up of the same people with the same ideas, serving year after year without changing their attitude towards dissenting views, is not going to represent most residents in our changing community. This is why our lawn signs are purple – purple is the result of blue and red coming together. Our goal is to give all residents a voice in town government, not just those with whom we agree.
Here are some specific ways we will improve communications and transparency while making sure all residents are given the respect they deserve:
- Utilize social media far more effectively, including regular updates and interaction with residents. We shouldn’t make residents go to the Township to find out what’s going on – it should be our job, as your elected officials, to keep residents informed and seek your input.
- Hold “Town Halls” on occasional weekend afternoons, providing updates on township government actions and taking questions from the public. This has only been done for one issue, and only after the Mayor and Council had already decided what it was going to do. We want to seek your ideas and opinions at meetings like these before deciding what to do.
- Have a town newsletter, including an e-newsletter. With the loss of the Independent Press, our town has no real print news source – one major reason why most residents don’t know what’s going on. With money saved by not spending $750 an episode of the “Mayor’s Roundtable,” we can bring back the Township Newsletter that was sent out as recently as 2010. We will also push for a real e-newsletter that residents can sign up for.
Apart from these things, we will also actively encourage all residents of our diverse community to be welcomed and valued. Local government obviously can’t solve all problems, but we can do our part to support an inclusive, welcoming community. If we really want to bring our town together to make real, positive changes, we need to ensure all of us can be part of that change.
If you believe you deserve more of a voice in the future of our town, then it’s time for a change. Please join the growing movement of Democrats, Republicans and Independents in voting for Susan Poage and Alvaro Medeiros for Township Council, Column A on November 7th. Thank you!