Chatham Township Residents and Mayor "Dialogue"; Petitioners Unhappy with Wording of Proclamation

Kellie Doucette asked for more open dialogue about diversity Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter's March 9 proclamation was not popular with residents speaking at Thursday night's Chatham Township Committee meeting Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham resident Jane Devlin told Mayor Ritter she did not feel a proclamation was an appropriate substitute for a resolution Credits: TAP Chatham
Committee member Mike Kelly was encouraged by the dialogue at the meeting Credits: TAP Chatham
Resident Donna Leyens advocated for a discussion on the root of the problem Credits: TAP Chatham
Resident Jessica Romeo listed all the dates she contacted the committee members by email and made her disappointment in the proclamation known Credits: TAP Chatham

CHATHAM, NJ - The public portion of the Chatham Township Committee meeting was dominated Thursday night by residents chastising Mayor Curt Ritter for making a proclamation in lieu of a "Welcoming" resolution at the March 9 committee meeting.

Ritter pointed out in his remarks Thursday that he had been "proactive" and acceded to the petitioner's request he received for a proclamation:  "Please sign this petition to invite the Chatham Township Council to issue a statement proclaiming that our town is welcoming and accepting of all people regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sexuality, national origin, gender, disability, marital or veteran status or any other legally protected status. Chatham Township rejects hate and intolerance of any kind."

The full text of the petition can be found by CLICKING HERE 

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Chatham resident Kellie Doucette identified herself as an Indian-American who was asked on a plane ride why she lives in a place like Chatham, which is "20 years behind the times." She was one of the residents who had been seeking a "Welcoming" resolution, similar to the ones passed recently by Madison and Chatham Borough.

Ritter had offered a proclamation titled "Take Pride in Chatham Township Day" at the March 9 meeting in response to request for a welcoming petition.

Residents took issue with the proclamation, which they did not feel was worded as strongly as the one requested in a petition that contained 215 signatures. After being chastised by one speaker after another, Ritter made an emotional response in which he "apologized for being proactive." He also apologized to those who felt he was not responsive to their requests, and said that he took personally what was said about him on social media.

Resident Jane Devlin explained why she didn't think a proclamation was appropriate in place of a welcoming resolution.

Jessica Romeo said residents felt "shut down" at the March 9 meeting because of the proclamation and were seeking an interactive discussion. She stated that the proclamation did not go far enough in denouncing intolerance. 

Chatham resident Donna Leyens said it would be better to "dialogue" about the the root of the problem instead of digging in heels on the issue.


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