To the Editor:
One would think that during a State of Emergency a candidate for election to a leadership position would strive for factual accuracy. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case for Mark Hamilton and Ashley Felice, candidates for Township Committee.
In their letter to the editor published last week, they refer to:
“Mike Kelly's wildly unpopular affordable housing agenda.” In striving for a controversial campaign sound byte, Hamilton and Felice ignore the facts that the Township's Affordable Housing strategy was developed from 2015-2020 under six different Township Committees, four Mayors and two Township Administrators. The Township's Affordable Housing agreement was adopted almost 18 months and two Mayors ago in December of 2018. The current Mayor and Township Committee now have inherited the responsibility to implement that strategy.
“On March 12, he ignored directives from our President and our Governor...” by holding a “jam-packed public meeting.” Not true. The March 12 meeting was entirely within size limits for public gatherings at that time.
They then change direction and object to any virtual or teleconference meeting, saying: “Holding a meeting in this manner does not satisfy the public access requirements....” For two attorneys, it's shocking how little they know about the law. The N.J. Department of Community Affairs specifically says that virtual meetings meet all the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act. (See: “Planning Board and ZBA Remote Public Meeting Guidance” on the Township website's Affordable Housing page)
Even the basic premise of the Hamilton-Felice letter is false. Contrary to their claim, the Mayor does not set the agenda or set the meeting schedule for the Planning Board. How do two attorneys who brag about their legal knowledge not know that... or do they just not care?
The only qualification claimed by Hamilton and Felice for service on the Township's governing body has been their shared credentials as attorneys. They claim the Township Committee needs their supposedly astute legal minds. But we have all heard the truism: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” And in Hamilton and Felice's case, when the only skill they have is as a lawyer, than the only solution they can imagine is to sue.
Litigation is the Affordable Housing strategy recommended repeatedly by Hamilton and Felice. They have come to the microphone at public meetings numerous times to claim that Chatham Township should sue to fight its Affordable Housing obligation. These two Legal Beagles ignore the fact that the N.J. Supreme Court has ruled in four different Mount Laurel decisions that all municipalities have a constitutionally-mandated requirement to allow Affordable Housing. They ignore the fact that it is the Superior Court that oversees each municipality's Affordable Housing plan. And they ignore the fact that no town has successfully sued to stop its Affordable Housing obligation.
Google “Englewood Cliffs Affordable Housing” to see what happens when a town chooses legal action rather than developing an Affordable Housing plan. Google “Franklin Lakes Affordable Housing” where a former golf course is being destroyed to accommodate affordable units. Google “Ridgefield Park Affordable Housing” where a five-story affordable apartment building is rising in their small downtown. Google “Saddle River Affordable Housing” or “Paramus Affordable Housing” to read the large numbers of affordable units some towns have been forced to accept as negotiated settlements. Ask anyone from those towns about another statement from the Hamilton-Felice letter that claimed: “There are effectively NO court deadlines in New Jersey right now....” Or better yet, read the court's Case Management Order posted as item No. 50 on our Township website's Affordable Housing Page, which shows our court-ordered deadlines as recently as March 27, 2020.
So when Hamilton-Felice rail about what they're against, ask them what they're for. Then check if their opinions have any factual basis, or if they are just indulging in magical thinking.
But above all, question their judgment. Because anyone who spews falsehoods and fabrications during a State of Emergency caused by a potentially lethal pandemic doesn't have the judgment to serve in a leadership position.