Sunday, October 29, 2006

Why the Write-in is Important

Why the Write-in Effort is Important

The ballot candidates’ responses to the Debra Johnson for Mayor write-in campaign underscore the need for such an effort. What was a citizens’ movement, now takes on another aspect.

I, for one, was amazed by both Ms. Woods-Cleary’s and Mr. Gambatese’s words as published in the South Brunswick Post’s article about Ms. Johnson’s write-in campaign. After all, this is America, and the consensus is that American’s always have a choice. It is a remarkable fact both party candidates do not seem aware of, but all of our election ballots clearly have a slot for “Personal Choice,” or the write-in candidate.

Ms. Woods-Cleary stated: "When people enter the political arena they should play by the rules. The people spoke in June and said no to Debbie Johnson as the Democratic candidate and she should abide by that." What rules is she talking about? Ms. Johnson is not running as the Democratic candidate. She is running at a grassroots citizens’ group’s request in an independent democratic effort. The rules allow for write-in candidates. How can such freedom be wrong?

Mr. Gambatese’s response is even more disturbing: "I think it's disingenuous of the person, personally. This is a person who says 'I get beat in the primary I'm finished,' and now she's running a write-in campaign." One more personal attack in the Democratic arsenal, but this time, he can’t even bother to use Ms. Johnson’s name. Besides, he is woefully uninformed about who is running the campaign. This was not Ms. Johnson’s idea. This was a citizens’ initiative. As Ms. Johnson said in the same article: "After the primary they approached me to run as a write-in candidate and I said we need to let it go…. But they approached me again and asked if I was elected would I serve. And I said I would never turn away if called to service." These are not the words of a person who took an active role in beginning the write-in campaign.

But Mr. Gambatese’s criticism of the citizens’ write-in initiative after a loss by a bit over 100 votes in the primary is a bit disingenuous as well. By that logic, when he lost the Mayor’s race in West Paterson in 1990, to Frank Zaccaria, should he not have surrendered for good and all? Instead, when Mr. Zaccaria passed away and his wife, Mary Zaccaria was selected to become a candidate to replace him less than a year later, according to The Record of Bergen County, October 23, 1991, “Running for mayor (is) Frank T. Gambatese, an accountant, trying a comeback after his narrow defeat for reelection last year.” When he again lost to the Republican candidate by a substantial margin, he was far from gracious in defeat: “Gambatese offered these terse words in return: "I'm a firm believer that the people get the government they deserve and, in this case, it is obvious that the real losers in this election are the people. Mary Zaccaria is living proof that you don't need to know anything about running government to be elected. Evidently the people in West Paterson do not mind supporting with their tax dollars the Republican elite." (The Record, November 6, 1991)

How sad to read such words from a person who hopes to lead any town to positive goals.Candidates should welcome open elections, just as they welcome open government.

It is the people whose voices should be heard, not theirs. The write-in for Debra Johnson is an example of our democracy and its voting process at its best. We do have a say in the election. It’s time to be sure the politicians are listening.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Making the Right Choice

Election Selection

Just last night, when I mentioned the Debra Johnson write-in campaign, someone said to me, “Oh, I was going to write her in anyway.”

Interesting comment, and a partial explanation why Ms. Johnson accepted the draft as a candidate for the South Brunswick Mayor’s office.

Many of us who have been following local politics and local government, see no viable choices on the ballot. With all due respect to the Republicans, their candidates do not have the experience or knowledge to be effective on the Council. Their voices have not been heard at meetings and public forums, and some of the campaign statements they have made show they do not have a good understanding of some local issues.

To residents of the Eastern Villages of South Brunswick, the campaign has made some things painfully clear. We have successfully made our own voices heard and have accomplished a great deal with the present Mayor and Council. For that we are grateful, but why should the battle have been so difficult and bitter? The monstrous CNJ warehouse blots the landscape for what seems miles, and the last remaining lots of farmland to the east of the NJ Turnpike will fall to more warehouses in due course.

While we are forced to accept the development, we have gained little relief from its impact. Truck traffic still rumbles past our homes, roads become clogged during rush hour, and we still wait on promises of truck routes or new roads to ease the congestion.

We listen to developers being granted all kinds of variances on their projects so they can build what they want even if it doesn’t meet the standards of South Brunswick zoning codes, while residents have to fight to meet the letter of the law for adding a deck to their back yards.

Our city water runs brown because—well, no one quite knows why, unless it’s a warehouse up the street purging its fire system—and we still battle to figure out just why our State Parkland and its Category 1 waters can be flooded by Turnpike and warehouse runoff.

Progress has been made on saving the Van Dyke Farm, but that too demanded nearly two years of struggle. The Township has a historic preservation ordinance, but doesn’t seem to want to extend it beyond Kingston, so we watch as historic homes are bulldozed to oblivion.

Debra Johnson has committed herself to putting South Brunswick’s residents first. She wants developers to take a back seat in our Township. She left the organized Democratic Party because of its powerbrokers and their money. Today, we know she had the foresight to make the right move. John Lynch’s conviction of corruption involved a South Brunswick company and its efforts to destroy, for profit, some of the very parkland we are commited to protect.

Unfortunately the Democratic candidates on the ballot have chosen not to distance themselves from the powerbrokers. So, in the end, as the ballot is printed, there is no choice.

But, there is a Personal Choice—the write-in. And, I, for one, will be filling in Debra Johnson’s name for Mayor.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The "Art" of Warehouse Building

Just What Color is the Sky Anyhow?

After attending dozens of warehouse hearings in South Brunswick, I thought I’d heard it all. Not so. One trip to Upper Freehold Township proved me wrong.

I was asked by members of a local citizens group to attend a Planning Board meeting in Allentown where residents are battling against a large warehouse applying to build on lands next to their homes. They felt some of my insights into the impacts of such development here in South Brunswick would be a help to their case.

As I listened to the developer’s lawyer question the Township planners who had opposed the development, I was in familiar territory. Every argument was one I’d heard before.

But then it happened. The developer began to plead his case as to why he could not build the berms and tree buffers high enough to completely block the warehouse walls from view where the residents’ houses were.

The developer’s solution?

“Well, since we can’t screen the upper few feet of the building, we’ll just paint it sky color.”

My jaw dropped. Sky color? What, with animated clouds too—the facetious suggestion of one planning board member?

No offer hear to make the building smaller so a larger berm could be constructed. Just complaints that getting trees tall enough would be a hardship and an offer to artistically disguise their walls to match the sky, so on the exact day that the sky’s color matched their paint, then maybe, just maybe, the residents’view would look natural.

Ludicrous to be sure, but just one more example of how out of touch developers can be with reality when their minds are focused on getting the most for their money.

Watch out, South Brunswick. This new idea may take hold. We’ll have a new market for our artists’ community and murals in place of horizon.

Not exactly my idea of upholding a buffers ordinance.