My family attended the October 14 council meeting where I read a statement into the record supporting our pool so that Chatham Borough would continue to provide a way for children to learn how to swim, an important life skill, and for them, adults and seniors to enjoy the summer if they do not desire all the features of a private pool club, cannot afford one, or while they are on a waiting list for one.
Mayor Vaughan refused to let me finish my statement when I wanted to make a comment on an individual who was being appointed to the new pool committee, someone whose name was on the agenda and listed in the resolution to be voted on. I pointed out that I didn't plan to use the man's name, but he thought there were too many identifying characteristics in my first few sentences, and he asked instead that I submit it in writing for the council to consider. So I handed my statement to the clerk, as he asked.
It later came out that I had a legal right to comment on this individual, even if I wanted to use the man's name, but in deference to the mayor I decided to allow the council to consider my input in written form. This turned out to be a mistake.
The mayor called for a vote to approve the committee without even considering my statement. He led me to believe they would read it before the vote, and I was very surprised, disappointed and unhappy to learn that this was not the case. My comments that were directly related to and may have impacted the pool committee membership vote were not considered by the council prior to the vote.
During the course of discussion of any agenda item, the mention of an individual may be unavoidable in order to make a salient point. I am sorry now that I didn't read it into the record.
Here is what I wanted to say: "Lastly, regarding how we all move forward with this issue, I saw a name on the agenda of someone to be appointed to the pool committee, and I want to say that I think he is not a good choice. This man was part of the committee a few years ago that recommended Lum as the first field for artificial turf. The council at the time found his first report incomplete and had to ask him to resubmit it. I don't believe that he did a very good job then, and now you are about to consider appointing him to a similar committee. He did not have good relations with residents the first time around, and when criticized by them he responded by writing letters to the paper and calling them names - "rock throwers" to be exact. I was not happy that he signed his letter with a committee title, as though the whole Recreation Committee authorized him to do so, and it looks like he never asked for a vote of this committee and should have therefore signed any letters personally, not with the title of a mayoral appointment."
"Mayor Vaughan is now putting forward this man's name for another controversial committee that may have large neighborhood impact, but I do not believe that he is the right person for the job. I would instead like to see this committee populated by people who are flexible, open to arguments, can take criticism, and most importantly, will be civil. It is my opinion that his temperament makes him unsuitable to be appointed to a committee that has to work with neighborhood residents, and that we instead need someone with far more sensitivity and ability to take criticism, or we risk having another very divisive situation on our hands."
"I am both surprised and disappointed that this person's name was put forward since I believe that Mayor Vaughan strives, as he said he would, to represent civility in our government. Clearly the voters of Chatham Borough don't condone anything less, and I hope that all of you will vote against this particular appointment."
I don't know if my statement would have changed anyone's mind, but certainly, my input should have at least been considered. I grew up in Chatham, as did my parents, my family having been here since my great-grandfather came to town. But this was the first time I had ever been to a council meeting, and I was unimpressed with the way these people treat residents, with the exception of council members Collins and Mikulewicz. They stated they voted against the committee because I was not allowed to provide input, and I think that is representative of the true democratic process that Chatham needs.
Perhaps the process as it stands now needs to be reexamined so that residents' perspectives on any issue that affects our entire community are not stifled in the future. My wife and I came away realizing that we could not imagine a council without Neal Collins and Joe Mikulewicz, and we hope to see them remain on the council for the good and betterment of Chatham Borough.