Why Vote in the Maplewood Township Committee election on November 4th?

There are three important reasons, in my opinion.  In this letter I will discuss the first of these.  Over the coming days I will share additional thoughts on the remaining reasons. 

Here is Reason #1...

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Over my 30+ years as a Maplewood resident I have seen our town from different perspectives; living in three different locations; commuting to a job in NYC, owning a local business (Freeman’s Fish Market); and raising four children who have learned well at both public and parochial schools, but mostly from their life experiences in our Town.  Two of my grown children have even invested in, and operated their own businesses in Maplewood!  Yes, I love Maplewood!

The sense of belonging and community that I have personally experienced living and working in Maplewood has made this a great place to raise our family.

Recently, I have begun to worry about Maplewood.

You see, I believe this is a defining period of time for our town, and we need to pay special attention to the issues before our elected representatives on the Township Committee. Their decisions, particularly on major issues like tax spending, controlling taxes, reducing crime, and real estate development opportunities like the Woman’s Club, the PSE&G Development, and the Village Post Office Redevelopment projects contribute greatly to  Maplewood of the future - bad, good, or great.

These are complex issues that would benefit from a Township Committee representative that truly engages and listen to the taxpayers and businesses in our community and practice a decision-making approach that results in the best decisions possible for our community.  This year you have choices with four candidates for the two open TC seats. 

Over the past few years I’ve paid greater attention to local government, and while I voted for certain members of the current Township Committee in the past, I can’t vote for them now. Not this year.

When I attend Township Committee meetings, I want to see and hear evidence of our representative democracy in action.  We are a diverse community, with diverse views.  This diversity of thought is not evident at many public meetings.  

Our elected officials need to disagree with each other occasionally and, in the process, cast votes that reflect more than one perspective.  A defeated proposal is not a failure, it is an opportunity to explore alternative opinions and ultimately arrive at a better solution.

Too Busy to Vote? I Know the Feeling!

I own my own business, and time is money ... and I have family demands.  We are all busy.  Over the past few years only about 1/3 of eligible Maplewood voters actually voted in Maplewood.  Last year, it was just over 35%.  I hope my thoughts will encourage you to go to the polls on November 4, 2014, and increase that rate to at least 50%.  Maplewood deserves and needs your vote.

Over the next two weeks I will be sharing with you the three most important reasons I believe you should share your voice by voting in the Township Committee election.  

Today, I am sharing Reason #1..

While I believe these are important issues I respect that they will be meaningful to you only if they are relevant and urgent to you and your family. 

If my thoughts pique your interest even a bit speak with our elected representatives, along with the alternative candidates who are running for election this year.  They should be around Town this month. 

REASON #1 – Two Numbers:  317 and 16

Over the last two-year term, our elected representatives on the TC turned in unanimous votes (5 in favor, 0 opposed) nearly 95% of the time they voted. 

Based on the available minutes for the Township Committee meetings held between November 2012 and this past September, our elected representatives voted 317 times on issues directly related to Maplewood.  Of these 317 votes your elected representatives only disagreed 16 times!

That is an astounding 95% of the time that our elected representatives on the Township Committee voted unanimously! 

Note: as of this date the meeting minutes for two meetings, which include the voting record, could not be found on the Township website.  The minutes have been requested and, when they are available, I will update the data.

How can it be that the issues resulting in dissenting (3 - 2 or 4 - 1) votes included the handling of feral cats, the height of backyard fences, and MaplewoodStock drinking options … while vastly more complex issues resulted in unanimous votes?

We are talking about major issues like tax spending and crime.  We are also talking about real estate issues like the Station House Development, the Post Office Redevelopment, PSE&G Property Redevelopment, the Daibes Development on Springfield Avenue, the purchase and development of The Women's Club, to name a few. 

All of these decisions affect how our tax dollars are prudently spent, our consistently escalating taxes, and local crime rates.  They also impact the demands on our school system and services, our history and the future direction of our town.

Maybe this is why the Daibes project on Springfield Avenue has languished so long,  denying the Town tax revenue; or maybe it is the reason the targeted primary tenant (Kings) and the developer (L&M) our elected representatives chose as the best answer to developing the Village PO Property have both backed out of the project. 

If this developer and primary tenant were the best solutions in the eyes of our elected representatives, what will we get next?  The second best option?

I have been married to the love of my life, Helen, for over 33 years.  We have raised four children into adulthood, and along the way we have had many highs and some lows. 

Despite us being best friends and knowing each other very well, we do not agree anywhere near 95% of the time.

What about you? Is there anyone close to you that you agree with over 95% of the time?

Why This Matters

A sage boss, Denis once shared with our team that, “….if all of us agree most of the time, then at least one of us is expendable.” 

Denis, and other effective leaders, realize that welcoming alternative views, varying perspectives, and leveraging our diverse experiences and skills leads to the best possible decisions and outcomes.   Without disagreement how do we possibly validate or de-validate that the decision at hand is the best outcome for all involved?

The one possible, legitimate answer to why these elected representatives might vote in unison is that differing opinions and disagreements are worked out prior to the scheduled Township Committee Meetings.  This is not likely, however. 

Private, closed meetings, meetings without corresponding meeting minutes would all be in direct violation of New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act or the “Sunshine Law”.

In the upcoming days I will share my Reason # 2 to the question; Why Vote in the Maplewood Township Committee election on November 4th?

In the meantime, please consider attending the Hilton Neighborhood Association's Township Committee Candidate Forum at the DeHart Center on 120 Burnett Avenue at 7:30 PM on Thursday night October 16th. 

At the Candidate's Forum you can learn more, and ask questions of the four candidates seeking your vote for the two open seats on the TC in the November 4th election.

Finally, if a Maplewood friend, neighbor, family member, or favorite merchant is someone who will be interested in this dialogue please share this email with them - or ten of them!  

Please share any questions or insight.  In the meantime, have a great week - John