Arguably, AddamsFest is the marquee event for Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC), one of many events that are intended to promote the town and bring us all together. It is remarkable to see all the brands of our local merchants, sponsors and public/private personalities coordinate to bring events like AddamsFest to life. Planning these events attract risk because all the reputations of our stakeholders, including the brand reputation of Westfield, NJ, are comingled and often listed together as the event is promoted. When brands and reputations share in the responsibilities for a common effort, promoting themselves together and competing for top billing on lists, one could easily gain perception that actions and words from one are shared by all. It always feels great to participate in a successful event, where all stakeholders receive their contributed share of benefit, and the community shares in an opportunity to connect. This year’s AddamsFest was consistent with those feelings.
My hope is local merchants, property owners and citizens share similar feelings to those I have and see value in the connections AddamsFest makes available to stakeholders of the Westfield brand. Not everyone has opportunity to be friendly with Councilwoman Dawn Mackey, therefore you’ll need to believe me when I claim her hard work on AddamsFest through the DWC was evident, matched by none, and that all of the accolades, social capital and congratulations Dawn will receive over these next few days is well earned. As chairwoman of AddamsFest, town council designee and liaison between DWC and Town of Westfield, people in Westfield are already familiar with Councilwoman Mackey’s leadership for bringing AddamsFest to Westfield on behalf of the reputations and stakeholders committed to our downtown.
Reputations and stakeholders will be especially interested in Councilwoman Mackey’s leadership after a recent social media post from @westfieldtoday, the Twitter account used and controlled by the DWC, in response to a tweet from @JonBramnick, the twitter account used and controlled by New Jersey Assemblyman Jon Bramnick. This DWC tweet was aggressive, political and antagonizing. Additionally, this use of social media does not reflect a “commitment to strengthening the downtown Special Improvement District as the center of community life; improving the District's economic viability by supporting existing businesses; encouraging the establishment of new enterprises; …”
With all brands of our local merchants, sponsors and public/private personalities at risk, in addition to the brand of Westfield NJ, people are disappointed in the partisan attack coming from the public/private entity formed to strengthen the community life of our town. Further, people seeking to get current with the local scene browsing the Westfield,NJ Group page on Facebook this past Saturday could be confused by Westfield resident Liz Mullholland’s post, informing “please be advised the authorities have been notified about the fake DWC post being shared.”
Mrs. Mullholland is an un-elected participant in the public domain and is seen at many public events along with Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle. It is a fair statement to say that Mrs. Mullholland is perceived by many people as a “public figure” in Westfield. In fact, Mrs. Mullholland was seated in the front row at the debate for town council candidates at town hall on the evening of Monday, October 21st, with both Mayor Brindle and Rupa Motwani, Chairwoman for the Westfield Democratic Committee sitting directly next to her.
Standing alone, these facts are irrelevant to this DWC tweet matter. Yet, put into context with Mrs. Mullholland’s contribution to the Westfield, NJ Group Facebook page narrative at 1:47 p.m. on October 26th, many people could be left with an understanding Mrs. Mullholland is “in-the-know” with respect to town and DWC information, and are now asking whether Mrs. Mullholland has a formal role within Mayor Brindle’s administration or is simply overly-excited to be out front with the town’s public information. People in Westfield interested in the facts are also wondering who “the authorities” are that Liz Mullholland is referring to in her post.
To be fair, it is Mrs. Mullholland’s right to spend all day offering her perspective, and informing her audience of facts. However the perception many people have, Mrs. Mullholland is usurping the role of our local press and town public relations, as facts are being presented to the public by DWC, before the “authorities” and before DWC Executive Director Kathleen Miller Prunty (Democratic candidate for council in Cranford) could offer a formal announcement to the town regarding the DWC twitter matter.
We have never had to consider this nonsense in Westfield before. It all seems so silly in the absence of full transparency.
Knowing Councilwoman Mackey well enough, transparency will prevail. I am sure that Councilwoman Mackey will encourage the person responsible for this unfortunate error to identify themselves, publicly apologize to Assemblyman Bramnick from their own twitter account and turn the DWC twitter account over to someone that will better care for the reputation of stakeholders the DWC is committed to serving. Lastly, most people can be assured that Councilwoman Mackey will immediately redirect the attention and focus of the DWC to solving the issue of empty street level storefronts in the Westfield downtown, by helping Mayor Brindle’s administration with implementing the recommendations that were made by the previous mayor’s Downtown Task Force and re-recommended by the current mayor’s consultants two and a half years later.
Filled with merchants (or not), the characters of Addams Family painted on the windows of street level stores are as fun as any local gallery or museum I have been to in some time. The ghosts on our streetlights left me with a spooky feeling that I might be BOOed at any moment. Objectively, most stakeholders do not want this local scandal to take away from the terrific week Westfield has had as the beneficiary of AddamsFest. The success of this festival is a victory for our town. I do hope DWC can bring this festival to Westfield, NJ for a very long time. I also hope that Dawn Mackey can stay involved with this event beyond her elected public service, as her passion for and the results of this event reflect Dawn’s hard work. Congratulations and great job, Dawn. Boo!
Edward T. Stellingwerf