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Press And Journal editorial on wards was far off the mark

Posted 8/10/16

Dear Editor:

Maybe it’s because you’re fairly new to Middletown.

Maybe it’s because you didn’t personally witness the silencing of Middletown’s residents by the prior dictatorial regime. 

Or maybe it’s because, without …

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Press And Journal editorial on wards was far off the mark

Posted

Dear Editor:

Maybe it’s because you’re fairly new to Middletown.

Maybe it’s because you didn’t personally witness the silencing of Middletown’s residents by the prior dictatorial regime. 

Or maybe it’s because, without the flare of controversy, the topic of altering the structure of Middletown’s government wouldn’t be exciting enough to sell a paper.

But, something doesn’t feel quite right about your unwarranted attack on my character in the Aug. 3, 2016, “Editor’s Voice” editorial.

The insinuation I am anything similar to the tyrants fired by Middletown’s voters during the last election is disgusting and, frankly, I believe I’m owed an apology.

Would the prior regime ever have posted online informational videos in an effort to spark conversation and deliberation on a topic?

Would the prior regime ever have created online polls in an attempt to gauge public support or lack thereof for an ordinance?

Would the prior regime ever have walked door-to-door during a heat wave to speak face-to-face with constituents?

Would the prior regime ever have delayed something they wished to pursue in order to allow more time for public involvement?

The answers are never, never, never, and never.

The current government, however, has provided every available avenue to allow the people to raise their collective voices. There have been two informational videos, requests for input, online polls, a door-to-door petition, weeks of news coverage, a special Borough Council meeting, and, by the time a final vote takes place, a month of deliberation and three regularly scheduled Borough Council meetings. Cleary, the description of the process as “ram-rodding without proper vetting” is pure fallacy.

In a representative republic, it is the responsibility of each elected official to stay involved enough to know the wishes of the people and implement their will. That’s exactly what we are attempting to do, despite your assertion to the contrary. Even if council had taken action during the July 19 meeting, which it didn’t, the most that could have occurred was the advertisement of an ordinance. Any change to the structure of our local government is not binding until said ordinance is voted on following advertisement.

My vision/goal for Middletown can be succinctly summarized. I have clawed and scraped at every opportunity to unify our citizens, boost morale, support local business, maintain financial responsibility, and restore the voice of our citizenry. It is something I will continue to fight for because Middletown and its people are worth it.

Despite never interviewing me on this topic, you indicate “It’s obvious that Curry has had this on his mind for awhile. The problem is, it’s new to the public. So while it might be fully thought out to him, it’s not for us.”

Do you know the pulse of the town or is the foregoing the opinion of a few close friends of the Press And Journal who happen to oppose the proposed change? Have you walked door to door? How do you, a newcomer, have any idea whether this idea is “new” to the public? 

I have discussed this topic with fellow elected officials and members of the public for the past two and a half years. During my recent door-to-door conversations, many of the citizens have asked why this change wasn’t implemented years ago. Others have noted they never understood the purpose or need for wards. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the individuals I’ve spoken with do not know who their ward representatives are or what ward they live in for that matter.

Now is the perfect time to implement a change. You’re correct. I did broach this topic on July 19, a night where individuals were to interview for one of the current vacancies. You have insinuated that was a slight at the applicants. It was not. I noted my admiration for the applicants’ willingness to serve and apologized for needing to discuss eliminating the very seat they were seeking to fill. You conveniently left this out of your editorial. 

I reiterated this same apology at the Aug. 3 meeting. It must be noted, of the six people who applied to fill the First Ward vacancy, four have signed the petition to eliminate the wards and move to at large elections. Why? I submit it’s because they are willing to forego their personal ambition of obtaining a seat on council now in order to allow the people the opportunity to vote at large in November 2017. My hat goes off to these individuals. They are putting the people first. Their selflessness will be remembered.

Our government is far too big for a town of 8,900 people. I will not reiterate the facts and figures concerning surrounding areas, as the Press And Journal has confirmed other localities govern with smaller bodies, despite far bigger populations. As for wards, they are problem creators. They are the epitome of boundaries and divide. 

There are two current vacancies on Borough Council. If these seats are filled, three of the nine individuals serving will have been appointed, rather than elected. This is problematic. Also, not one person applied for the Third Ward vacancy. Do you see the issue? What are we going to do, beg someone who truly isn’t interested and/or dedicated until they finally give in? 

More importantly, there should never be a situation where candidates truly desired by the public are not elected due to limited seats per ward, but a candidate not popular with the public is elected because he/she ran unopposed due to limited choices in another ward. Give the power to the people. Allow them the opportunity to pick candidates townwide. Those with the most votes win.

The Press And Journal is owned and operated by good people, who I consider friends. The business cares about the community and has given and sacrificed to see it succeed. As a friend, I feel comfortable voicing my strong disagreement with your Aug. 3 editorial. I’m glad I took the opportunity to respond. At most, it will allow the public to hear the other side of the story. At least, it will stir some controversy and help sell a few papers. After all, everyone knows I support local business.

James H. Curry III is mayor of Middletown.