MILLBURN, NJ — In an effort to better understand the feelings of constituents in town, newly sworn-in Millburn Mayor Jackie Lieberberg held a coffee and conversation event yesterday afternoon in town hall.
The inaugural meeting, dubbed "coffee and conversation," brought over a dozen people to the second floor chambers of town hall for an open forum and discussion on topics of importance to people in town.
One of the main topics was business and commerce in town, as a large number of business owners were in attendance. of the issues discussed, two main ones came to the forefront; the number of empty stores and by extension the trouble of getting people to downtown, and the continuing debate over complete streets, which has happened since the first stage of construction.
Lieberberg listened to suggestions about how to improve the situation, and while there was back and forth discussion on what to do and how to do it, the conversation remained mostly civil and produced some potential suggestions to work on.
As she noted after the meeting, hearing the information directly from business owners and residents was key in parsing out the situation as it stands.
"I feel like it's a story that I've heard before," Lieberberg said. "I think we have to look at it comprehensively. I don't think it's one thing, i think it's a confluence of events and structural changes in the way people shop and eat and participate. So, I think that this is something that is systemic in our communities."
"I think it's valuable, because I want residents and store owners and merchants to know that the township cares, and that we're looking at all these things to try to address," Lieberberg said. "What I heard today was looking at more events, I think this is something that's close to my heart. I've already spoken to some of the other departments here about driving engagement, which is really what it's about."
That discussion was music to the ears of Roxanne Giacalone from the Millburn Chamber of Commerce.
"The chamber of commerce receives so many phone calls of complaints, ideas, you name it," Giacalone said. "And I felt that the message would be better received if the township committee hears it directly."
Giacalone noted that often times, the complaints are vented directly to her at the chamber, which can lead to the township hearing the message over and over from the same people.
"This way, it gave everyone an opportunity for the merchants and the residents to come in and tell them how they feel," Giacalone said.
While there is not set schedule at the moment, Lieberberg she was open to starting up a regular discourse either monthly or bi-monthly.