CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Borough resident Tracey Tango read a letter of thanks after the Borough of Chatham Council passed a "Welcoming" resolution on Monday night, but followed up with a counter-point to council member Peter Hoffman's statement, by asserting that two Chatham moms appearing on Fox News last month had made Chatham a "global target."
Chatham mothers Libby Hilsenrath and Nancy Gayer had appeared on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight on Feb. 20 to discuss the emphasis on Islam in a 7th grade "World Cultures and Geography" class. That prompted a request by residents, who signed a petition asking for a "Welcoming" resolution.
The resolution authored by council member Len Resto had passed by a unanimous voice vote before Hoffman made a public statement about the resolution. (Full videos of all three statements are included below).
"I initially found it a bit ironic that we were talking about considering a resolution that stated that Chatham values all viewpoints and opinions, when at the same time the citizens who raised concerns to the school board about an issue of import to them had their character repeatedly besmirched and denigrated, often with some abhorrent labels leveled at them, by many citizens of the town we are about to re-affirm as “welcoming,” " Hoffman said in part.
Tango read a letter, which had been written by resident Colleen Markley, thanking the council for the resolution and then followed with her own response to Hoffman during the public portion of the meeting.
"I feel I need to address Mr. Hoffman," Tango said. "What you said tonight in your statement. Yes, we all have a right to question any board. Yes, we are all neighbors. And being the Girl Scout leader that I am, we teach girls to treat each other with kindness at all times. And I feel it doesn't hurt to tell adults sometimes the same. I heard about the two women going before the board of ed and didn't question it. Just as many of my neighbors and friends didn't think twice about it.
"However, once they appeared on Fox News, to my knowledge, the majority of the community of people at that time felt that them questioning the religion of Islam and saying to be taken out of our schools, basically, going on the television, put Chatham students, parents and residents as a target. Not just a target in Chatham, not just a target in New Jersey, or the United States, it put us as a global target. And if you do read through many of the comments made, if you have gotten a hold of any of those emails through to the middle school, to the board of ed, they came from members outside of Chatham, not just inside of Chatham."
Tracey Tango, Chatham Borough residents, responds to council member Peter Hoffman's remarks
Hoffman read his own statement on the resolution after it was unanimously passed during the regular meeting on Monday night. His statement reads as follows:
I’d like to commend Councilman Resto for drafting a resolution which sets the right tone and sends the right message regarding the reaffirmation of what I believe is already generally the case, that Chatham is a welcoming town.
That being said, I am generally not a fan of passing resolutions which engage in the practice “virtue-signaling,” resolutions designed to proclaim our own good character or moral rectitude on a particular issue. I’m usually not sure of what the purpose of such resolutions are other than to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. I think the way we treat each other in actions and deeds speaks much more forcefully than do resolutions which are forgotten about the day after they are passed.
However, I do support this resolution because it expressly affirms the right of our citizens to question those in authority, including this governing body, the school board, etc. , and to ask for transparency of policy makers in a civil way in an appropriate forum.
I initially found it a bit ironic that we were talking about considering a resolution that stated that Chatham values all viewpoints and opinions, when at the same time the citizens who raised concerns to the school board about an issue of import to them had their character repeatedly besmirched and denigrated, often with some abhorrent labels leveled at them, by many citizens of the town we are about to re-affirm as “welcoming.” So because of the way these women were treated, I do in fact think we need to reaffirm their right, and everyone’s right, to engage in civil discourse without being accused of bigotry or having other base insults flung at them just because others may find the concerns they are expressing uncomfortable. It’s critical to democracy that people express concerns and debate policy in civil way and attempts to shut down that debate with what is essentially name- calling is counterproductive.
Peter Hoffman reads his public statement on the "Welcoming" Resolution, which he voted for
Len Resto read the resolution he authored into the record. The full text of the resolution follows
RESOLUTION REAFFIRMING CHATHAM BOROUGH’S WELCOMING NATURE AND BOTH ITS DIVERSITY AND TOLERANCE OF DIVERGENT VIEWS
WHEREAS, the core strength of the Borough of Chatham lies in its rich diversity, in the welcoming nature of its residents, in the respect and dignity with which we treat each other; and
WHEREAS, the residents of the Borough of Chatham have proven again and again that they value all of its citizens and recognize that many ethnicities and many faiths have come together in a rich mosaic to give the Borough its strength of character; and
WHEREAS, the Borough of Chatham recognizes that there is strength in diversity and inclusivity; and
WHEREAS, the Borough of Chatham realizes that only through education can we learn about each other and that education builds bridges that overcome barriers.
BE IT RESOLVED, by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Chatham that they and the residents of the Borough of Chatham respect the right of its citizens to express their views in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and shall not condone or tolerate any form of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, age, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, physical or mental disability or veteran status.