To the Editor:

If it’s not already clear to Chatham Township residents, the past twenty months have been tumultuous for our community. The leadership of the community has overseen an unthinkable amount of animosity, dissidence, neglect and outright negligence. Current Mayor Kelly and Deputy Mayor Ness have been at the epicenter of the problems that now plague our community. Yes, most are well-informed about the Affordable Housing saga; involving at least two lawsuits from groups of residents, a proposed bond issuance, which is forecasted to increase real estate taxes by 12.6% in 2021 and a clear lack of comprehension of the issue and options to address it by Kelly and Ness. Incompetence and neglect are the two most obvious words associated with the township committees of the past two years. 

Current Deputy Mayor Ness and fellow Democrats Stacey Ewald and Celeste Fondaco all campaigned on a message of “change” for Chatham. They were all narrowly elected during elections with low voter turnout and a shockingly high number of mail-in votes; rumored to be predominately from younger voters registered in Chatham but residing in other geographies. There is no doubt that Chatham Township has changed over the past 20 months, while Mike Kelly was Deputy Mayor and Mayor. The Township has seen plastic bags removed from local stores, taxing local patrons financially, medically and logistically. Under Mayor Kelly and Deputy Mayor Ness, the township leadership has proactively deceived the community with their intentions regarding Affordable Housing, on MULTIPLE occasions, as has been outlined in committee meetings, letters to the editors and lawsuits. 

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Mayor Kelly and Deputy Mayor Ness have made several nefarious attempts to unilaterally push personal agendas related to Affordable Housing and Censorship in Chatham Township. At the direction of someone on the committee, the current Administrator Bob Hoffmann has directed DPW employees to confiscate personal property from homeowners and ordered town contractors to trespass on private property without appropriate protective equipment; potentially endangered the lives of young residents. Such indiscriminate use of town resources to the detriment of the community has not elicited a singular comment of reprimand for Hoffmann from the Committee. In the real world, when employees act to the detriment of their employer and undermine the efforts of the “community”, those individuals are relieved of their responsibilities and/or terminated for cause. The conduct of Hoffmann has brought rewards and praise from Kelly and Ness, which is beyond common sense and irresponsible. 

Mayor Kelly and Deputy Mayor Ness have presided over countless town meetings with attendance well beyond capacity limits, lasting well beyond historical norms. In response to the significant active community involvement and interest in addressing Affordable Housing, Kelly and Ness (Ewald and Fondaco as well) have ignored resident relevant expertise, suggestions and opinions regarding how to best serve the Chatham community. The mayor’s inability to see any other path forward than the one he and Ness devised will have long-lasting effects on property values, infrastructure, educational resources and sense of community within Chatham. It is very likely that neither will remain in Chatham to see the long-term destruction to the Township community that they have pursued. I say unilaterally because there hasn’t been any demonstrated support for the plans they have put forth from ANY community group or singular supporter from inside Chatham Township. Yet, there is significant divisiveness within the community. 

As outlined here, and in other forums and Letters to the Editor, many observers have articulated the damage done to the community at the direction of the current committee, led by Mayor Kelly and Deputy Mayor Ness. They have acted in an irresponsible manner and have indeed “changed” the community. The vast majority of residents would suggest the “change” brought about from Kelly and Ness, Ewald and Fondaco has been for the worse and very few, if any, would suggest Chatham is a better place today than 20 months ago. What has been unsurprising to many who closely monitored the 2019 election is that Stacey Ewald and Celeste Fondaco have been irrelevant on the current committee. They were not informed nor qualified to address the issues facing the Township when they were elected and they have demonstrated their shortcomings for all to witness over the past seven months.

Yes, they were both in attendance at the executive session held in November (following the election) where Kelly and Ness devised the original plan to introduce Affordable Housing at the Meyersville site. Ewald and Fondaco didn’t use their voice to question an obviously flawed process put together under a veil of secrecy by Kelly and Ness. Why not? Ewald and Fondaco have added absolutely nothing to the policy discussion and strategic options available to the Township with regards to Affordable Housing, or any other issue for that matter. They have simply followed the incompetent leadership of Kelly and Ness and have been irrelevant. 

For the 2020 election season, Chatham Township needs committee members who care about the Chatham Township community. The township needs leaders who understand the interests and desires of the community. Future leaders are people who can “read the room” or simply read the local papers, about what the residents want and will listen to the community. After having listened to the community, responsible leaders effectuate policy that serves the interest of the community. In the US, leaders represent the interest of the constituency they were elected by. In local community politics, it’s even more important that the local community is served and not ignored. 

Both Ashley Felice and Mark Hamilton have openly confronted the current Mayor and Committee on the affordable housing issue. Each has presented reasonable and thoughtful strategies to address the issues facing the town. They have been largely ignored (and censored during the Kelly controlled remote meetings), to the detriment of community and community relations. 

Ashley Felice and Mark Hamilton are both relatively new residents to the Township, though Mark has lived in the Chatham community for decades. Both have a vested interest in maintaining Chatham’s desirability as a place to live and educate our children, they are both here for the long haul. Ashley and Mark are thoughtful, well-informed and professionally trained, to serve the Chatham community’s interests as advocated by the vast majority of residents.  Ashley and Mark are the right candidates to represent the community on the Township Committee. They are infinitely more qualified and each highly motivated to improve community relations within the Township. 

When you receive your mail-in ballot for the primary in mid-June and the general election in November, please support the candidates who will responsibly lead the Chatham community. 

Vote for Ashley & Mark!!!

David Deuchler

25 Hickory Place