These are my opinions alone, although I’d love to hear about our shared opinions and values!
We are truly fortunate to have a wonderful group of committed people running for Township Committee, so I wanted to take some time to explain why I’ve committed time and resources specifically to ask for your vote for Agnes Sym. I’m also writing in support of Township Committee members making the difficult political choice of our Township Committee having nonpartisan elections (like the Board of Education already does). Let’s keep our Township Committee focused on shared community values and not a stepping stone for a broader political party’s agenda. If the Township Committee was nonpartisan, we could advocate with whatever parties and legislators in power at broader levels to ensure the needs of our town are best met.
I believe that we need to continue to find more ways to be kind and tolerant of other people’s points of view, particularly in the current broader national political landscape. A core principle of Democracy is being able to heartily agree to disagree and then vote and live with the current decision (it doesn’t take our right to respectfully continue to advocate for what we feel would make things even better). We are neighbors, many of us have children, so let’s continue to find ways to respectfully disagree, so we don’t shut a whole point of view down but rather continue to grow through the diversity of thoughts and background our township provides.
We have a truly wonderful town with smart, committed residents ready and willing to not only share their opinion, but also pitch in and help make change where needed. Agnes is very involved with numerous groups in town including Newcomers, St. Jude’s Hospital local chapter, Cub Scouts and the PTO. She’s the mother of two children who go to elementary school in the District, so she’d also provide a different voice regarding what’s happening now for the many families who have younger children enrolled in school (other Township Committee members have children who have graduated or are in the later years of high school). She’s also a working parent - a lawyer in the legal department of a large financial services company.
I’d also like to speak to Agnes’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Her empathy, support and compassion for those who are marginalized in various ways is heartfelt and demonstrated by her time spent supporting diverse groups and causes. Her experience as a daughter of immigrants and discrimination she has faced and seen her family face provides with a further way where she can analyze complex township issues from a unique perspective.
We are losing one of the attorneys on the Township Committee, because he’s not re-running, so there’s a gap in that background on the TC that I’ve seen firsthand has been extremely helpful in the deliberative process in terms of looking at things those of us who are non-attorneys have not been trained to consider in the same way. I know how appreciative I’ve been over the years of attorney’s viewpoints on complicated matters, and we need an independent attorney’s perspective to ask the tough legal questions surrounding new housing developments, since the other attorney on the Township Committee has a conflict and can’t deliberate on many or most of these matters.
New housing being built in our town is a critical issue when addressing street safety due to further traffic congestion as well as increasing student populations. At this Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Dr. Burton provided an enrollment update with our school’s approaching a near high with just over 4,800 enrolled students. Fortunately, the Administration is already starting to plan for the planned influx of students from the Mack Cali development which Dr. Burton reported per conversations with the Township and the developer are estimated to be 100-125 new students enrolled next school year alone. If we don’t proactively and swiftly figure out a way to harness development in such a way that limits the increase in student population, our current school infrastructure will need to be substantially changed and at least one new building added and / or numerous additions made to existing buildings to accommodate the increase in students. Agnes is ready and willing to address new ideas and potential solutions to creatively problem solve on how to best meet the township’s fair housing mandates while protecting our schools from overcrowding and safety risks connected to further traffic. One idea that I haven’t personally heard before that she has suggested is to further research the use of 55+ residences. It’s too early to tell if that’s a viable solution, but regardless, it’s sensible and out-of-the-box thinking that would bring more potential shoppers to our local businesses without overcrowding the schools.
Personally, I’m super excited about a number of initiatives that the Township Committee has introduced particularly surrounding Diversity & Inclusion and will be voting for our current Mayor Dianne Eglow in recognition of her leadership on those issues. I’d personally like to see these initiatives take the next step and reflect broader representation of our diverse community in leadership positions as the Town recognizes the diversity of our community voting members with a vote for Agnes for Township Committee!
To reiterate, I am writing this letter in my personal capacity as a voting resident who lives in town. I am not in any way writing as a Board of Education member or representing anyone’s opinion but my own.