To the Editor:
Another Hopewell Township Committee Meeting, another round of vitriolic public comment, and yet another antacid (or three) required after listening to the same people disrupt the meeting by kibitzing audibly in the back of the room and speaking out of order—in between approaching the podium with a variety of accusations and demands.
In most people, this constant barrage of disrespect along with the angry and accusatory comments would decrease their willingness to compromise. Not this committee. Again and again, I see them respond with earnest interest to the public’s questions and comments and then actively look for every reasonable action available to address their concerns—no matter how those concerns are posed or who poses them. Even when they’ve just been directly insulted—again.
For example, at the April 9 meeting, Deputy Mayor Julie Blake moved to table an ordinance related to expenditure for the acquisition and installation of water treatment plant controls for the Township water utility so that the Committee could further evaluate the alternatives on how to pay for it—because of public comment. (Worth noting: during the budget process, the original payment plan along with its long-term benefits to impacted residents had previously been vetted with and approved by the head of the Washington Crossing Homeowners Association.) Even so, the committee ultimately opted not to move forward with the ordinance so they could take time to respond to the concerns of the public.
As another example of the responsiveness of this Committee, Township counsel reported that as a result of public comment, the Township had gone back to the developer for the Zaitz tract and gotten them to agree to include a sewer trunk line that Diverty Road residents could tie into. Because the Zaitz tract is subject to a redevelopment plan, the Township was able to ask the developer to include this “off-tract” improvement for the Diverty Road residents. (A “redevelopment plan” is basically a big ordinance that allows the Township to control what developers can and cannot do with a property.)
The one thing that is becoming abundantly clear to me by attending these meetings is the layers upon layers of complexity that this committee is required to unpack week after week, particularly when it comes to Affordable Housing.
We are so lucky to have so many on the dais who do all their homework and so are maximally prepared to address our questions and concerns. We are lucky that their commitment to the office is so strong and their emotional intelligence and maturity so high that they are able to put aside whatever natural reaction they have to what is being said and focus first on serving the public. It’s a hard job, done well. We have outstanding leaders on our Township Committee—let’s treat them with the honor and respect they deserve. They’ve more than earned it.
Brandon Farms, Hopewell Township
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