The only positive thing that can be said about the ongoing battle to turf the town is the fact that this has NOT been a partisan fight, Democrats against Republicans, but a tussle between citizens for how they think the Open Space funds should be used. In this insanely polarized world we now live in, how refreshing to know Mo’town is bucking that trend. To be sure, both sides of the argument are angry and absolutely positive they're right and the other side is wrong, but it is not a donkey/elephant thing.
Into this fray comes a sweet young lass by the name of Victoria Napolitano, a Republican candidate for town council who, at 24 years old, believes she has what it takes to make this town a better place. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! I can’t even tell you what I was doing when I was 24 except that I was living in Chicago. I plead the Fifth on everything else.
When I saw the Republican slate, my curiosity was piqued. I was happy to see another woman might be joining Stacey Jordan, then surprised to find out Victoria was such a young’un. I decided I needed to have a sit-down with her and say things like, “Are you crazy? Have you seen what’s been going on with town council this year? Do you have a death wish? A library card?”
Fortunately, I kept those questions to myself when I contacted Victoria and begged her to chat with me. “Please disregard everything you’ve heard about me,” I whined. “I really don’t kill geese or maim athletes. I just want to talk.” And so, we met in the New Jersey Room of the library last Wednesday evening for a lovely little Q&A session, during which she confided in me that, yes, she DOES have a library card. Hallelujah!
All kidding aside, Victoria is a Jersey girl who has lived in Moorestown for all of three years. There are people who have lived here for 15 years, 30 years, yet they never felt called to serve on town council. How is it that this fresh-faced young woman, three years in, thinks she can make a difference in our town?
Victoria is quick to say that she is ready to rumble. The antics of town council this year have not scared her. On the contrary, she has been inspired by the disharmony to help set things right.
"I’m impressed with how people care for this town and care for the big issues," she said. "I want to make this town better."
She also believes the Republican slate, which has clearly stated they are against depleting the Open Space Fund for field improvements, is a team that is good at finding a consensus. “We believe in compromise,” she avowed, when I quizzed her about the testy turf issue. “I have never felt that it was necessary to use the Open Space funds for field improvements," she said. "It is a great project, to be sure, but I’m very disappointed in the negative way it was handled.”
When asked about Judge Bookbinder’s decision on booze at the mall, Victoria demurred, saying she wanted to read the entire judgment before giving an opinion. Spoken like a true politician! Victoria does not see a Main Street soaked in booze, but she would like to see it become more like Collingswood or Haddonfield. “I would love to see the marketing of Moorestown done right. It's a beautiful downtown. We just need to generate more foot traffic."
Speaking of Main Street led Victoria right to her pet peeve about our town—Lenola. She and her husband have been living in Lenola the past three years and it really irks her that Lenola gets short shrift. Most of her door-to-door campaigning has been in Lenola.
"I've met generations of citizens that have always lived in that part of town. I hate to see people feel like they're lesser because of where they live in Moorestown," she said. "What's good for Main Street is good for Lenola."
My mind immediately called up hundreds of council discussions over rejuvenating Lenola, how every few years it seems the town makes a halfhearted attempt at cleaning up, knocking down or beautifying what essentially is a gateway to Maple Shade. The problem is many of the properties are privately owned. Property owners can only be prevailed upon to do so much. Still, I find Victoria's position refreshing. She is not just a young renter, but a Lenoleum as well. When was the last time a politician represented that particular demographic?
Close to the hour mark, I asked Victoria about the municipal complex. She nodded her head thoughtfully, then began with the rec center: "I think Theresa Miller is doing an excellent job. The rec center is, after all, the heart of our town. I know staffing is difficult, but there are so many underserved kids in town who need a place to play." Having seen this population getting rowdy in the library, I was quick to agree with her. "You know, the big projects seem to be moving towards resolution, thank goodness. Town hall needs to be back in the center of town.So does the police department."
And what about the library? When I asked for her opinion about the library, she smiled. "I have fond memories of using the library in Cranford when I was growing up," she recalled. "It is SO important for a town to have a library. I mean, everyone can benefit from a library—not just retirees and stay-at-home mothers. When I have children, I want them to have the same positive experiences that I had."
"I haven't been involved in the very long struggles facing Moorestown," she said in wrapping up our interview. "People are sick of arguing. I'm not concerned with that. I have my eye on the future."
To read more about Victoria Napolitano and the Republican candidates, visit their website.