Dear Editor:

In an era in which everyone feels the need to scream their politics, I think we get more done by listening. Politics has become a sport for some people, but when you’re elected to an office in which you have the power to make decisions that will affect the property and prosperity of your residents, you can’t treat it as a zero-sum game. As a Councilman for the past four years, I have felt that my primary responsibility is to fix what doesn’t work in Scotch Plains while making sure we protect what does.

The fact that I was raised in Scotch Plains gives me no special claim to legitimacy on the Council, but it does give me a unique perspective. In my lifetime I have watched Scotch Plains change from a small town with an amusement park, a zoo, and hundreds of acres of family farms, to a largely residential community on par with Westfield. As we’ve changed, we have had to keep up with the times. I am proud that over the past four years I have been able to help expand our police force for the first time in 25 years, preserve large tracts of land on both the North and South Sides from future development, and raise the level of services for our residents, from storm communication to increasing the number of annual branch pickups. But change doesn’t stop, and neither can we.

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The best way to make intelligent change is by staying true to ourselves. In 2017 the town ran a survey and found that 82% of respondents believed Scotch Plains needs to develop its downtown. Residents overwhelmingly chose a Colonial design modeled on the Palmer Square area of Princeton as the best look for future redevelopment, and I wholeheartedly support this design. I pledge that any change I support must be right for the town, taking into account its character, its history, and its people.

I understand change can be difficult to accept. Maybe not everyone agrees with my marching alongside our Police Chief and my fellow Council members for George Floyd this spring. And the fact that our redevelopment plan hasn’t been finalized hasn’t stopped it from being attacked by people who haven’t even seen it yet. As leaders, we must always be wary of implementing fashionable ideas in the name of progress, but whose untested results and unintended consequences our town will be forced to live with long afterwards. We need not look externally for our identity; we have always had one that we can and should embrace. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe is right.

I’m proud to be running alongside Al Smith, the most energetic mayor in town history, but I am not in his shadow. We sometimes disagree and occasionally vote differently, but he respects my individually as a councilman. He knows I will always vote for what I believe is best for Scotch Plains. We both share a common goal of a continuously improving Scotch Plains and a common vision of budgetary responsibility, transparency and accountability in local government, and community over partisanship. With your support in this election we can keep Scotch Plains moving forward together.

Ted Spera
Scotch Plains Town Council