To the Editor:
As I sat in the March 12 Hopewell Township Committee meeting, I became increasingly appalled at the behavior of Mayor Kevin Kuchinski and the Township Committee’s efforts to stifle public opinion.
The Committee’s use of a three-minute clock is a blatant limit on the public’s freedom of speech.
During public session, each person gets only three minutes to speak, even if there are only five people in the audience, and people are no longer permitted to speak again even after all others have finished. If a person goes beyond the three-minute time limit, they are told in a harsh voice by the mayor to sit down. Their efforts are disrespectful to the public and a clear attempt to stifle dissent to their one- party rule.
Sparks flew at the March 12 Township Committee meeting. Mayor Kuchinski gave former Mayors Harvey Lester and Jon Edwards the three-minute clock treatment, as I like to call it. But the surprise of the night came when the Stony Brook Watershed Director, Jim Waltman, came up to the podium to discuss the building of Affordable Housing units around the Bristol Meyers Squibb ring road. Mayor Kuchinski apparently did not like Mr. Waltman’s ideas. Just one minute into Waltman’s time, Mayor Kuchinski harshly interrupted him and asked him to speak with respect. Everyone in the audience appeared to be taken aback by Mayor Kuchinski’s behavior, and complete silence prevailed, except for one voice who shouted, “That’s the Director of the Watershed, Mayor,” as if to remind the Mayor to whom he was stifling. Later that evening, Mayor Kuchinski raised his voice to the audience to tell them to stop making remarks when the committee was speaking as if we were unruly children in need of a scolding. Were he more respectful, so too would be the public.
At a recent meeting, Mayor Kuchinski swore at Committee Member John Hart for voicing a dissenting opinion. A gentleman in the audience had brought his young son to watch that meeting. After Mayor Kuchinski used the word bulls…t, the gentleman escorted his son out of the meeting. The Mayor was asked to apologize, but never did.
These are all tactics used to discourage the public from speaking and from voicing dissent.
Recently, after beginning a public meeting at 7pm, the Township Committee took an immediate recess until 8pm in order to go into closed session, making the public wait for one hour before resuming the public session. When the meeting was closed, I watched many people leave the building rather than wait around for the public meeting to resume.
When citizens of Hopewell Township attend a Township Committee meeting, they expect that their elected officials will treat the public with respect and dignity. We are all taking note of this unacceptable behavior and will take these memories into the voting booth!