To the Editor:

There he goes again. Mayor Mike Kelly seems to have difficulty comprehending basic principles and arguments. He also continues to demonstrate an alarmingly poor sense of priorities in the face of the ongoing pandemic crisis. Rather than fully focusing on the only issue that should matter right now - keeping essential services running and advocating for the Township, and its residents, employees and business owners - it appears that Mayor Kelly actually thought it was a good idea to let the people know, in a letter to this publication, that he has been spending hours reviewing video of old Township Committee meetings looking for statements by us that were never made. More amazingly, he then proceeds to attempt to prove his point by citing two quotes that don’t say anything remotely close to what he seems to think. 

Let’s review. In his last letter to this publication (April 5, 2020) Mayor Kelly wrote, inaccurately, that we “have come to the microphone at public meetings numerous times to claim that Chatham Township should sue to fight its affordable housing obligation.” In response, we noted - unequivocally, and accurately - that in fact, we had never said that the Township should sue anyone. Now, in some sort of pathetic attempt at a “gotcha” moment, Kelly is back calling us liars and armed with, wait for it, two quotes from us wherein neither one of us advocates for suing anyone. 

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He does not seem to understand that stating the position that decisions that will potentially affect Chatham Township forever should not be made based solely on the fear that we might get sued by someone else (Hamilton), or questioning the validity of the position that we should capitulate to affordable housing advocates because if we don’t we might get sued by a builder (Felice) have nothing to do with Chatham Township suing anyone. As we said, check the video. Kelly’s statement that we “have come to the microphone at public meetings numerous times to claim that Chatham Township should sue to fight its affordable housing obligation” is a lie. 

We have never counseled suing anyone. Nor would we. Amazingly, the only public person in Chatham Township who has stated that perhaps we should sue someone is Mike Kelly. We certainly would never consider, as Mike Kelly has stated on the record he would, suing an elderly Township resident seeking to exercise condemnation and eminent domain over her property in order to advance an affordable housing agenda. 

What we have said, repeatedly, and will continue to say, is that real leaders should stand up for Chatham Township now and in the future, and make important decisions based on one factor and one factor only - what will in the end, no matter how hard-fought, yield the best result for the Township; not based on fear of getting involved in litigation. In other words, don't be afraid to stand up to bullies threatening litigation. The ironic thing is that this is probably exactly what N.J. Fair Share Housing (NJFSH) and its lawyers said to Kelly and his Democrat supporters on the committee in order to dupe them into a favorable settlement (for them): “Google other towns. You might get sued.” 

That Mike Kelly “researched” and wrote this letter tonight demonstrates a pathetic failure of leadership. Similarly, disappointing is his recent proud announcement that the Township had obtained a fourteen-Day extension of deadlines found in the affordable housing settlement in the context of the pandemic crisis. FOURTEEN DAYS - five of which have already passed. Is this a joke? Does Kelly think that the crisis will be over in nine days? Did he specifically instruct the Township attorney, Mr. Cruz, to inform NJFSH and the Court that we needed more time than that? The people need to know exactly how this came to pass. Was more time sought? Was such a formal request, to allow the residents and government of the Township to focus solely on the crisis for as long as necessary, denied by the court? We don’t think so. If it was tell us.  

This is absurd. Indeed, while we certainly wouldn’t expect to advocate this on most issues, if Mayor Kelly needs guidance on this issue from someone other than us, he should look to his colleagues in Chatham Borough who have stated unequivocally, and correctly, that the Borough will take no further action on anything with respect to redevelopment, including specifically affordable housing, until after the state of emergency abates and residents are allowed to attend meetings in person.

The same is true for Chatham Township. This is a “no-brainer.” This is not a Democrat or Republican issue or a liberal, conservative, or moderate issue. Mayor Kelly should, through Mr. Cruz, inform (not ask or request, but inform) the Court and NJFSH that no further action will be taken on affordable housing until after Governor Murphy declares the state of emergency over, at which time the events noted in the Case Management Order will be rescheduled. Put the onus on them to seek a court order compelling the people of Chatham Township to turn their focus away from COVID and meet (either in person or “virtually”) to address this non-emergent issue. If, after formal motion practice (although we don’t believe such a motion would be made, let alone granted) the Court orders such preparations and meetings to occur, then at least Mayor Kelly will have attempted to lead. Don’t tell us, as if you accomplished something, that you obtained fourteen days while Governor Murphy is on television intimating that this crippling lock-down situation may go on for months.

Ashley Felice and Mark Hamilton

Candidates for Chatham Township Committee