To the Editor:
Bridgewater has proven to be a wonderful place for a family to prosper. If you’re not a native of NJ, it certainly exudes memorable first impressions for some transplants. Anyone moving here from a factory town up north (for example) may notice the well-kept lawns, an occasional exotic car and a perfectly synchronized high school marching band. It may even make one think that they’re suddenly living the opening scene in an episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s a feeling that it all looks too good to be true and that something’s a little “off”.
In reality, Bridgewater delivers on a lot of the good things that a first impression might imply. We’ve enjoyed bragging rights to some of the best schools. We’re arguably spoiled by access to great stores and restaurants that are conveniently located (a testament to how city planning used to be). As residents, we’ve built relationships within a remarkable community that is professionally and culturally diverse.
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But here’s the rub...we’ve been riding that wave of prosperity long enough for the wrong people to notice.
As is so often the case, complacency makes us vulnerable to our own success. We haven’t given ourselves enough time to notice all the developers closing in on our town, attracted to the prospects of tax breaks and profits.
We should appreciate the fact that this is a symptom of a bigger problem. We’ve allowed one political party to assume authority over a town which remains politically one-sided and unchallenged. It’s a critical flaw in a government that depends heavily on fruitful and civil debate within a two-party system.
If there were ever a wake-up call alerting us to our current political crisis, the recent Republican primary was it. Our government sustained damage, and it went almost completely unnoticed until it was finally exposed in the 2019 Republican primary election.
You might recall the huge campaign contributions from developers and their allies, many based outside of Bridgewater. You might also recall a political PAC based in Edison from which contributions were delivered. They called themselves “Protect Bridgewater”... apparently to hoodwink Bridgewater residents into thinking that their intentions were good simply because the name implied it.
When one considers the proposed plan to build 400 apartments, a supermarket, and a hotel at the former Sanofi site, it’s easy to see a connection. If that’s not enough to convince voters, there’s more… much more going on — with very little transparency.
Here’s a summary:
Total construction costs: $184,429,669
Total permits: 3,066
Additions: 60 permits worth $5,282,760
Alterations: 2,954 permits worth $59,447,964
New construction: 52 permits worth $119,698,945
On other fronts, those following community forums on social media will notice growing discontent with how road improvement projects have been handled. Washington Valley Road (WVR) has grown into one of the best known examples. Residents in the area have regularly raised concerns about drainage and access for school buses, mail and emergency services. Residents received boiler-plate responses from project managers saying that they’re in daily contact with officials on the issue without having delivered any substantive results. Things have improved since the initial outcry but, that shouldn’t exclude it from being a lesson on how to proceed with projects in the future — starting with direct communications on developing issues and project milestones at regular intervals. Social media and email has certainly afforded us that option.
Our issues are complex and numerous but, there’s a common thread. Let’s get government back in balance. We have a Democrat running for mayor, and it’s a good start. In fact, there’s a team of Democrats calling themselves “Change4Bridgewater”. It’s made up of Jeffrey Brookner for mayor and Patti Selikoff and John Arcoleo for township council. They’re running on a unified platform which supports more transparency and improved record-keeping. They want to break the status quo and one party authority. What’s really appealing is that they will likely show prudence with regard to dealing with the corporate circus we currently face. There’s finally a chance for the people who live here to have better access to information. Equally important, residents will have a real voice for collectively deciding what’s in their best interest.
It’s reassuring to see them approach this election as your neighbors. As such, they’re not likely to shut you out or block you on social media when you ask the hard questions. Don’t think so? That’s OK. Skepticism in politics can be healthy as a voter. Perhaps you should put that skepticism to the test...right now. Reach out to them. Speak your mind. It costs nothing.