When I was a child, my mother seemed to know everything I was up to. When I’d ask her how she knew what I had done or was considering doing, she would shake her head at me and say, “A little birdie told me.” At first, this confused me to no end, as all I could envision was a gaggle of Disney-esque cartoon birds chattering in my mother’s ear, ratting me out.
This week, I have been hearing from my own gaggle of twittering birds, as people around town have been shooting me emails, convinced I am:
powerful as Donald Trump, without the comb-over
B) A small troublemaker
C) A seeker of justice (and sugar)
D) Someone stupid enough to stick her neck out and declare that Moorestown has gone mad.
Since this column runs on the day the students of Moorestown return to their classrooms, let’s start with the state of education in our little burb. Possibly the only person with a more “candid” mouth than mine would be Lisa Trapani, president of the Moorestown Education Association (MEA), and architect of all the very visible maneuvers executed by her teachers while they fought for a new contract. Let’s review her tactics, shall we?
Remember the fabulous march in June, with the red shirts on Main Street? Gosh, wasn’t that fun? The teachers also stopped doing bulletin boards, donned black shirts, and whined that they don’t make enough money and shouldn’t have to pay more for health insurance. Wake up and get your heads out of the sand, educators! Everyone is paying more for health insurance and I, personally, have not gotten a raise in five years, but I certainly don’t take it out on the children. Parroting MEA tactics, here’s how I’m doing story-time at the library this fall:
"Good morning, boys and girls. I’m your poorly paid storyteller. I just want you to know I love spending time with you, but because I haven’t gotten a raise in years, I will only be reading half of each book to you. I will spend the rest of the hour taking out my wage frustrations on you, the children, who really have nothing to do with how much I’m paid. Regrettably, I can’t do arts and crafts with you because your parents—who are not really responsible for my paltry salary—don’t support my needs. Instead, we’ll just sit here and count the mold spores.”
How interesting the contract debacle was hastily settled after it was revealed that resigning superintendent Brian Betze would continue collecting his $165,000 salary! Guess the BOE couldn’t cry poor mouth to the MEA after that juicy tidbit was made public. I believe there’s more to this resignation than meets the eye, as intriguing rumors continue to circulate through town regarding the REAL reason Mr. Betze is leaving our leafy village.
Please, “fine dining restaurants,” open soon and pump some much-needed ratable moolah into our faltering little town. We have Red Shirts marching on Main Street, sanitation workers being dumped by the township in what amounts to a “drive-by” layoff, AND we have the latest town council intrigue involving the peculiar, late-August-ordinance switcheroo involving more cash for politicians.
Their timing was almost impeccable, considering the fact that most of Moorestown is AWOL in August. But thanks to a few very faithful citizens who go to every council meeting just to keep an eye on things and were present at that meeting on Aug. 21, the rest of us got wind of the ordinance amendment and decided to fight back.
If anyone missed this, council decided to allow businesses to contribute up to $2,600 to individual political candidates and up to $7,200 to Moorestown party committees and PACs. Previous amounts were $300 to individual candidates and $500 to PACs and party committees. Democratic Party chairman Robert Gorman opined that the REAL goal with this ordinance is to increase the amount of money businesses can funnel into politics, with the goal of currying favor.
The lone dissenting vote at the Aug. 21 meeting came from Councilman Greg Newcomer, who contacted State Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s office to ask about Moorestown’s pay-to-play ordinance and whether it was in line with the state’s own proposed pay-to-play reform. According to Sweeney’s chief of staff, the amended ordinance passed by our council was not consistent with legislative discussions.
Deputy Mayor Chris Chiacchio—who, at the Aug. 21 meeting, waggled his finger at citizens opposing the ordinance—has suddenly, along with Mayor Stacey Jordan, decided to rescind the ordinance! After being confronted with a tide of signatures asking for a fall referendum, both the mayor and her deputy claim to have been “rethinking” the ordinance all along. In Saturday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, they said their decision had nothing to do with the 1,393 signatures gathered by Mo’towners. Oh come on! Really?
We have learned, over the past few years, that citizens CAN have a say in how their town or school district operates. We have also learned there are right ways and very wrong ways to get your message across. Holding the children of Moorestown hostage is obviously the wrong way. Pounding the pavement and talking to people about how we want our politicians to work with us seems to be the right way. Things are broken here, and it really is up to us to fix them. So, let’s all get busy!