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Mayor Curry is a great cheerleader for borough, but he can cross the line, too: Editorial

Posted 8/30/17

“By state law, Pennsylvania boroughs operate under what is typically described as a ‘strong council-weak mayor’ form of government. Unlike in cities, where the mayor is generally …

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Mayor Curry is a great cheerleader for borough, but he can cross the line, too: Editorial


“By state law, Pennsylvania boroughs operate under what is typically described as a ‘strong council-weak mayor’ form of government. Unlike in cities, where the mayor is generally the chief executive, a borough mayor’s duties are limited primarily to oversight and administration of the police department.” — from the borough of Middletown website.

If you believe that the mayor’s role should be limited to this statement, then you probably are not a fan of James H. Curry III’s tenure as mayor of Middletown.

But if you believe as we do that the mayor needs to be a cheerleader for the borough, then we are lucky to have Curry as mayor. Middletown has no bigger supporter.

The “cheerleader” term is one we have long used in describing Curry, and he himself used it in a recent Facebook video he posted to his page, in defense of his most recent fundraising effort, Mayor’s Mangia Monday. 

“Some people say that’s the only role of the mayor. I would say you’re sadly mistaken. My responsibility for the 8,900 people I represent does not end at the threshold of the police department door. My job as mayor, at least the way I’ve seen this role in the last four years, is to be the cheerleader for the town. It is my responsibility to make you proud to live in Middletown. It is my responsibility to boost morale and show people and surrounding municipalities why Middletown is one of the greatest places to live in Dauphin County,” he said.

Curry and numerous other volunteers — including five members of Middletown Fire Department and members of the borough government — delivered pizza and other goodies from J&J Pizza & Family Restaurant on East Main Street on Monday, Aug. 21. They collected a total of $2,324 in tips and other money to help restore Kids Kastle playground in Hoffer Park.

Other Curry-led efforts include Mayoral Madness, an annual charity basketball game launched in 2015 and held each March to raise money to offset the cost of the borough’s fireworks display held over the Labor Day weekend. During the 2016 holiday season, Curry organized a drive to sell hand-crafted ornaments to be hung on the town Christmas tree to raise money to buy holiday decorations for Hoffer Park.

These are wonderful efforts. The fireworks are amazing. The Christmas tree was a lovely addition to the borough last year.

But, as the mayor states in that Facebook video, “no good deed goes unpunished.” That’s the perception he has when he was criticized from some corners about the Mayor’s Mangia Monday being a political ploy ahead of November’s election, in which he will face Robert Givler in a rematch from 2013. 

We don’t think it was solely for political purposes, although the good publicity certainly doesn’t hurt. We appreciate his efforts. Without a Chamber of Commerce or another strong voice to advocate for the borough, his efforts are needed.

But we must keep in mind a few factors which are not typical of former Middletown mayors, or even mayors elsewhere. He is young (33). He uses technology, such as live-streaming borough council meetings. He uses social media, in a way that most local politicians do not. 

However, it can be a double-edged sword. 

His recent 14-minute video about Mayor’s Mangia Monday had some wonderfully logical points and flowery statements, including the one at the beginning of this editorial in which he describes how he sees his role as mayor.

But he takes things too far.

“So let me address some of you cowards first,” he says as he launches into a response to criticism that the Mayor’s Mangia Monday event was done because he is up for re-election and needs to boost his reputation. He called the allegations “insulting” and “stupid.”

Later on, when referencing some criticism that delivering pizza using firetrucks was a waste of money, he says: “Some of you are so hate-filled, so bitter, and so, frankly, evil, that if it wasn’t for complaining you would have nothing to do in your daily lives.”

He continues later: “Some of you really need to do something with your lives because you’re pitiful, and you’re an embarrassment. We have 8,900 people in this town and there are a handful of you that want to try to bring everybody else down.”

He is way too critical of those residents he represents, and it’s simply not the type of statements we want to see coming from our mayor. “Evil” or not, he represents them.

These types of comments are not limited to this single video. He takes to Facebook constantly when he feels he is wronged. In early August, in a video he said he posted on a day off, he calls a resident “a liar, ” using her name, in regard to whether he supports the Hometown Heroes military banners program.

“I shouldn’t be doing this while on vacation. I’m sick of this,” he concludes.

He is right. He shouldn’t be doing it.

But that’s part of Mayor James H. Curry III, and part of why people both love him and hate him. We urge him to keep these things in mind:

• If you are going to do things differently than any other mayor in the history of Middletown, of course you are going to face criticism. People don’t like change and often view something new with hypercritical enthusiasm, especially when it comes from someone who is not a longtime resident. 

• If you post videos on Facebook calling residents liars, calling them pitiful, calling them evil, of course you are going to rub people the wrong way.

• If you create events — no matter how successful they are — and you include “mayor” in their title, then of course people are going to think you are doing them to toot your own horn, at least to some extent. Remember, two major events he created are “Mayoral Madness” and “Mayor’s Mangia Monday.” They just as easily could have been called “Middletown Madness” and “Middletown Mangia Monday.”

We can’t forget that while these events were the brainchild of the mayor, it’s the people of Middletown who made them a success. It was the residents who donated the more than $30,000 for various fundraisers that Curry is so proud of. He has plenty of volunteers who assist him as well. 

We are still more than two months away from the election. We will see how the campaigning progresses in that time. But it’s safe to say that Givler would be a very different type of mayor than Curry, and we don’t mean in the way they would run the police department.

Curry has done some great things as mayor. But will that get him re-elected?


You will decide.