On May 29, 2020 I, along with my running mates David Timpanaro and Jeanette Hernandez, called upon the Township Council to immediately pass a resolution condemning hatred and bigotry in all forms. In response, the Township Council did just that at a specially convened virtual Township Council Meeting held on June 5, 2020. We applaud the Council for listening to us and the town residents by taking what was an important, but still largely symbolic first step in combating racism, hatred, and bigotry in Randolph.
At that meeting, Mayor Carey stated the Council’s intent to eventually form a “joint commission” with the Board of Education and “focus groups.” We hope this will prove to be more than merely a symbolic statement and will in fact be the next step forward in addressing the issue head-on. We need to facilitate the formulation of practical, well-informed, sound public policy and social programs. If this is the case, then the Township Council appears to have heeded our open and public call for the formation of a “joint task force” in conjunction with the Board of Education, a call we formally submitted to each council member via email and publicly posted on this website (“Request for Action to the Randolph Township Council”) as well as our campaign’s Facebook page (“Timpanaro Weiner & Hernandez for Randolph Township Council”). We will continue to hold the Council accountable and ensure that they follow through with practical and assertive action in our fight against racism, hatred, and bigotry in Randolph.
Three additional things stood out to us at the June 5 special meeting. First was the historic turnout. The exact numbers are hard to come by, as the Council’s Zoom capabilities limited attendance to no more than 100 individuals at any one time. Anecdotally, the total tally of active participants (including those who were never able to patch through) appears to be in the hundreds. The Township Council acknowledged they had never seen such attendance at any meeting, which usually have no more than a handful of attendees. The outpouring of voices in support of the resolution was inspiring.
The second was the inexplicable surprise several Council members expressed that racism and bigotry exist in Randolph. Indeed, one Council member openly stated he had “no idea” racism was even an issue in Randolph until the events of the prior weekend were brought to his attention. Yet anyone who has paid any attention to the number of incidents of bias and discrimination in our community knows that this has been an ongoing problem for decades. Strong leaders are willing to tackle those difficult and uncomfortable conversations, to acknowledge the pernicious evil of hatred and ignorance lurking among us in order to root it out. Instead, our leaders have stuck their heads in the sand for years and only plucked them out now when our demands for change were too loud to continue ignoring.
The third was, unfortunately, emblematic of the manner in which the Council has historically remained silent regarding racial, ethnic, and cultural relations in Randolph. A lone voice of dissent regarding the resolution angrily engaged in a passionate but misguided discourse that systemic racism does not exist, is not an issue in Randolph, that openly denouncing it is an unnecessary tautology, and that he felt offended that he needed to “apologize for being a white male.” The vitriol with which this young man spoke and his evident hatred were an unnecessary detour from the expressions of hope and cautious expectation of positive change that permeated the rest of the meeting. This individual had every right to speak at the meeting, regardless of how myopic and misinformed he may have been. But the Council likewise had every right – indeed an obligation – to denounce his statements. Indeed, it is not uncommon for municipal leaders to publicly retort if a meeting attendee’s speech is inappropriate, hateful, or something that should otherwise be denounced. Yet rather than even politely disagreeing with this young man’s diatribe, not one Council member said a single word. Their silence was deafening. It spoke louder than any other thing said at that meeting.
If we are to move forward as a community, we need to start with a fresh perspective. It is a simple concept: our current operating system is outdated and no longer up to speed. It requires some much-needed upgrades in order to provide a new outlook and manner of conducting business. “Randolph 1.0” may have gotten us to where we are, but now we are stuck in place and sliding behind the times. Sticking to the status quo is no longer an option. Some of the new features of our “Randolph 2.0” plan are faster response times to the people’s concerns; clearer and more open dialogue with the public; recognition of all the voices in our community; and an ability to embrace new and novel ideas rather than retreading all the same old ones time after time. Another important feature of “Randolph 2.0” will be its ability to respond to the concerns and issues of both residents and local business owners in ways that are informed solely by sound public policy and practicality, and not political expedience or insider gamesmanship. In short, “Randolph 2.0” provides its users with quick and decisive action, not just words.
To effectively combat racism, bigotry and hatred, Randolph must embrace the idea of a system reboot. As one of the largest municipalities in Morris County, we should be leading the fight against hate, not following local re-treads and limiting our response to platitudes.