WEST ORANGE, NJ - Following the April 23 Town Council meeting, I sent the following email to the other members of the Town Council.  I felt that it was the perfect start to a column that I hope will proactively discuss West Orange, its strengths, and its issues.
 
Dear Council Colleagues,
 
        The word ‘civil’ is often referred to during our Council meetings.  Though I think we do keep a ‘civil tongue’ during our meetings, I find it quite often difficult to do when false assertions are made, we are publicly criticized,  and inferences are levied that demean our judgment as well as our decisions.  
          I do understand that in a civilized society everyone has a right to speak and speak out. However, last night’s meeting was one of the most peaceful, productive meetings we have had in a very long time.  There was a steady tone that did not cause anyone to bristle or engage in a combative public debate.  Public questions were raised and immediately answered, the Administration readily provided valuable information with an informative insight to their daily-goings-on and work ethic, beginning with the Police Department’s current Township UCR snapshot.
 
        Frequently at our meetings, we consistently hear the same voices and the same level of frustration.  Why?  Because our defense mechanisms are already in place, even before we hear the question.  We have already jumped ahead trying to seek a motive or defend a position, losing sight of the issue that needs to be resolved.  I find it demoralizing and so difficult to respond from that psychological place versus the receptive, constructive, productive manner public comments and responses were presented and received last night.  

 
         I am not sure if it is my role as an educator, peer mediator, staff negotiator, the fact that I’m a Libra or the additional years of experience on the Council that I have learned it is not a matter of adding sugar but conscientiously eliminating the stinging tartness that causes one to sour.
 
         Here's hoping that we, along with the public, will continue to question and debate keeping the best interests and image of the Town and it's taxpayers in mind.