Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Letter from Mike Morris about town government

EDITORIAL NOTE: I received a letter in yesterday from Middletown resident Mike Morris. I encourage folks to write on in. It's always good to get more voices involved with the community. Thanks, Mike, and please keep sending them in.

Much like their Republican counterparts down in Washington DC, the Middletown GOP is devoid of ideas and is morally bankrupt. Mayor Scharfenberger, Deputy Mayor Brightbill and Middletown GOP candidate for Township Committee Anthony Fiore and many of their cronies and supporters, such as Middletown Republican County Committee members Michael Vitkansas, Cathy Rogers and James L. Hinckley, or GOP supporters like Kathy Russo and Kira Nelsen, must rely on secrecy, deception, lies, finger pointing, character assassination and name calling to cover up their inequities. Whether it is an ongoing attempt to discredit their Democratic colleagues on the township committee, Patrick Short and Sean Brynes, or the ongoing smear campaigns against community stalwarts’ former Assemblyman Joe Azzolina or former chairperson for the Middletown Human Rights Commission Carolyn Schwebel and township citizens like Don Watson, their policies and actions speak volumes about their integrity and character.

The Middletown GOPers are content with their borrow, spend then tax policies. They have refused to listen to or consider proposals to eliminate the need for tax increases from Patrick Short and Sean Byrnes or take seriously the input of township residents when it comes to the ongoing budget process. Instead, Michael Vitkansas recently wrote that he was “outraged” at the thought that residents could possibly know better then his GOP leadership, when it comes to formulating an operating budget for the township. Mayor Scharfenberger also wrote recently that “proposals by Mr. Byrnes and Mr. Short, after a collective scrutiny by all involved in the process, it was determined that they would have decreased revenue in the township, but would have increased the size of the budget by several million dollars”.

Mr. Mayor, a few questions please, who was involved in collectively scrutinizing Mr. Byrnes and Short’s proposals? It certainly did not include Byrnes or Short because they expressed shock upon reading your comments.

How is it possible to have open, transparent government and trust in our elected officials when secrecy and deception is the norm for the Middletown GOP?

Mayor Scharfenberger and his fellow Middletown republicans need to stop blaming Trenton for the mess that is Middletown’s budget. Reduced state aid, pension funding and other mandates affect every town in the State, not just Middletown. Middletown needs to learn how to deal with it. It is time to cut spending, not increase it and live within our means. Practically doubling the township debt ($48 million - $80 million) from 2003 to 2008 and dolling out a 35% raise to the Township Clerk, are not examples of fiscal conservatism that the Mayor wants everyone to believe that they practice.

At a recent public meeting in the Oak Hill section of town, Mr. Scharfenberger again showed the lack of ideas and vision that is missing from the Middletown GOP. Again the Mayor attempted to link the proposed “Town Centre” project with the Middletown Democratic Party, telling the attendees that if you vote for a democrat, then Town Centre will definitely be built. As we know, this is a total falsehood; at no time has any Democratic candidate supported the Town Centre project. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the history behind the fight against Town Centre knows that Democratic Committeeman Patrick Short lead the fight against its development. As a result of this fight, the republican leadership, which had originally proposed the project to Mr. Azzolina and given it’s blessing to the project back in the 1990’s, were compelled to stop the project, which has since lead to a costly legal battle between the Township and former Assemblyman Azzolina.

If Town Centre is built it will be as a result of this legal battle, not by the support of the Democratic Party.

The retaliatory and mean spirited attacks against Carolyn Schwebel are a disgrace. As a member and Chairperson for the Middletown Human Rights Commission for close to twenty years, she dedicated herself to the service of helping others less fortunate then herself, only to be dropped from the commission because she questioned why Middletown had failed to comply with changes that where agreed to in order to settle a lawsuit, which pertained to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2007. Being a disabled person herself, Mrs. Schwebel was fulfilling her duties to ensure that Middletown was accessible to all individuals not just the more fortunate.

Mayor Scharfenberger’s personnel attacks against Don Watson and anyone who would dare to question or point out the Middletown GOP hypocrisy is totally unprofessional and shows his lack of moral fortitude. Instead of directly answering question that are raised, the Mayor and his Republican colleagues feel that it is necessary to continually address old news, in an attempt to discredit the legitimate concerns of Mr. Watson and other dissenting voices.

Is this the type of leadership that the citizens of Middletown voted for or deserve?

I can go on and on about the wasteful spending and the costly pet projects that are buried deep within the Township budget, much of which is hidden throughout various line items in the budget with little or no explanation. Is it any wonder then, why it is so difficult to get a proper answer from our elected GOP officials? If this practice is the model for which the League of Municipalities recommends to its members to follow, I have to wonder then who is watching out for the taxpayer?

It is truly sad to see that those who campaigned on a “New Faces, New Ideas” platform 3 years ago have nothing new to offer those that they represent. The only thing that is offered is more of the same type of government that the people of Middletown do not want.

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