The Hopewell Borough Council gathered for its regular virtual meeting Thursday, July 2 to discuss an ordinance for senior center improvements and a Black Lives Matter resolution.
During public comment, two Hopewell residents voiced concerns about the statement released by the Hopewell Township Committee in response to several members of the Hopewell Township Police Department and municipal employees accused of improper conduct involving social media.
Hopewell resident Thomas Van Essen expressed his concern for Black residents, and shared with the Council that he does not approve of his tax money being used to enable what he characterized as the racist behavior exhibited by the Police Department. (For more, please see Hopewell Township police officers suspended.)
“I take very seriously the comments that I’ve been hearing from African American members of this community about how they feel they are targeted and harassed by the police. I believe them. I hate the idea that my tax money in this community is enabling that targeting and harassment,” said Van Essen.
Mayor Paul Anzano responded that the Council has unanimously agreed to have an elected official host an outdoor discussion with a diverse community representation about institutionalized racism and what Hopewell Borough can do to improve race relations.
Hopewell resident Bobbie Fishman questioned the investigation process considering “it seems straightforward that a post was made.”
Mayor Anzano explained that the Police are part of a union that offers police officers contractual rights as well as basic rights under the law to be investigated and have both sides heard by a neutral party.
Anzano said he, Borough Clerk Michele Hovan, and Council member Ryan Kennedy have expressed frustration with the Township for not keeping the Borough informed. The Borough is a major contracting party to the Police Department, yet they are learning through the media just as the residents are, according to Anzano.
Councilmember Samara McAuliffe said there are plans underway to form a community-based committee for race relations. The committee would meet regularly to discuss solutions to improve race relations in Hopewell, and McAuliffe said she believes it cannot be a one-time conversation. It is in the beginning stages and there will be letters sent out to the residents of the Borough.
The Council passed a resolution to declare that Black Lives Matter and that the Borough calls for the Police Department to utilize de-escalation training and to protect and serve the community in good faith.
Another resolution was passed for the renewal of the liquor license for Hopewell House.
Hovan introduced an ordinance authorizing a payment to Pennington Borough from Hopewell Borough for the improvements of the Reading Street Senior Center. According to Hovan, Pennington has already paid and Hopewell now owes the money. The senior center is ready for use whenever reopening occurs.
Kennedy informed the public that a business directory is available on the Hopewell Borough website.
The next meeting will take place Thursday, August 6 at 7pm.
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