As Labor Day approaches, I watch with some irony as the Middletown Township Committee continues to routinely demonstrate, both in words and in deed, great insensitivity to the present economic circumstances impacting our local citizens and community as a whole.
We all know friends and neighbors who are now unemployed or under-employed. Many of our residents are struggling at this time to maintain their standard of living. Yet, just when they least need it, the Township Committee, lacking any meaningful fiscal oversight or discipline, has delivered another financial burden to their doorstep -- a large local property tax increase!
This is a special community, which is why I chose to move here with my family over twenty years ago. I had an opportunity over the last year to observe our Township Committee in action as it deliberated over turf fields and bonding issues. Although members of the Committee encouraged participation, sadly, after nearly a year of attending these meetings, I have come to conclude that the Committee itself is dysfunctional, at best.
Why? Several reasons: First, the necessary information that would allow a Committee Member to properly consider proposed resolutions is not disseminated evenly to all Committee members. As best I can tell, there is little, if any, communication across party lines. As a result, few matters are thoroughly discussed beforehand by the group as a whole. After attending many meetings, instead of collaboration, I observed rolling of eyes and disdain for fellow Committee members. Even though these individuals serve residents as Committtee members, they clearly remain political adversaries.
Second, unfortunately, due to the political breakdown of the current Committee, the majority rules. I have witnessed the exchanges, and I conclude that these meetings are often nothing more than a routine gang up by party members along party lines, rather than a transparent group of leaders, seeking to do what is right for those represented. At the last meeting, I was stunned by the lack of respect accorded to Committeeman Sean Byrnes, who as best as I can observe, continues to ask reasonable questions that are essentially ignored by the rest of the group. This open display of behavior, in public, is despicable.
From the vantage point of a concerned resident, the Committee has become a non-functional political machine, seeking to maintain the status quo, rather than taking on the tough job of careful collaboration, consideration and transparent debate on the serious issues facing our Township. We, as voters, elected these leaders to make the hard choices, so critically called for, especially in these unprecedented, difficult economic times.
I was disappointed to see that the latest focus of our Mayor is on re-writing State laws on how our schools are funded. While such discussions make for interesting debate, they are a needless distraction at a time when our residents need relief from onerous taxes. We need leadership, not a distracting debate over whether we should utilize property taxes, or sales and income taxes, to fund our schools. From my perspective, the current majority lacks the will to do what is necessary in these difficult times.