With election day fast approaching we need to take a look at what is important to our town.  Remember, “all politics are local”.  As we have seen on the national stage, we are becoming a country represented by people who have no concern, in fact a real disdain for their constituents’ concerns and desires.  Our elected officials continually show us the attitude of “be quiet, we know what’s best for you”.  This attitude was openly practiced right here in New Providence concerning the Oakwood Park sale to Union County issue.  Over and over again the Mayor and most of his friends on the board (as well as in other, appointed positions in town) made their contempt for the townsfolk very apparent.  It took a mistake by the planning board that allowed the delay in the process to prompt them to finally agree to offer a referendum on the upcoming ballot (and not a proactive decision as Mayor Thoms would have you believe).   

That brings us to what’s at stake.  It’s all about the children.

When you were a child, don’t you remember how proud you were when you came home with grass stains or a muddy uniform?  It was a badge of honor, evidence of the hustle that was it so important to show to our parents, coaches and teammates. Fake grass takes that away.  Instead you get painful “rug burns”.  If we stop and think about what’s important we have to ask what’s in it for the children?  Do you want to deprive them of that richness of experience?  Not me.  After all, it is all about the children.

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We owe it to our children to provide them with a safe community as well.  Should we sell the park to the county, that opens it up to visitors from outside of town in events NOT sponsored by New Providence organizations.  That means that we will have strangers driving around our neighborhoods looking for this park.  That coupled with the fact that the park is under the jurisdiction of the Union County police department and NOT the New Providence police department should give you pause.  With the increase of amber alerts and notices of strangers approaching some of our children, do you want to provide even the slightest possibility of more?  I think not.  After all, it is all about the children.

It has been said by some proponents of the sale that our children are embarrassed to host a sporting event at Oakwood.  If you have a child participating in sporting activities, ask them simply the following non-leading question, “what do you think about when you play a game at Oakwood?”  I would be surprised if more than a handful (if any) used the words embarrassed or ashamed in their response.  Hopefully they would respond instead with sentiments about the game itself as they should.  Ask yourself the same question, altered to  “what do you think about when you watch your child play a game at Oakwood?” and if your answer isn’t first and foremost about your child’s experience, then you are fooling yourself.  After all, it is all about the children.

While no one will argue that we owe it to our children to have fields that are safe to play on, the issue of safety and control should be paramount in our decision.  Selling the park to the county relinquishes enough control to raise significant alarms.  While it may improve the safety of the playing surfaces, it does introduce an opportunity to attract people into our community that otherwise would have no reason to be here, potentially putting our children at risk.  What will happen years from now when the members of borough council and county freeholders have changed and the promises being made are no longer honored (like lights, replacement of aging turf, and local control of scheduling)?

One of the things that has attracted many of our residents to New Providence is the home town, small town feel of the community.  Opening up the park, in a quiet, residential neighborhood, doesn’t jibe with that feel. 

Do we want to improve the playing conditions at Oakwood?  Of course.  Do we want to give it to the county for them to control? Of course not. 

Please remember this when you vote on November 2.  After all, it is all about the children.