It is a wonderful thing when our elected officials live up or down to our expectations, don't you agree? After all, we elected them to be our voice in government, to speak for us and, more importantly, to listen to us. How refreshing then, that the majority of our beloved town council did what they set out to do in 2011: hijack the Open Space funds for their expensive fields project. How totally predictable.
I spent last weekend stewing about attending the council meeting on Monday. It was the day before my eldest son's birthday and the only time he could get away from work was that Monday night. I rearranged my work schedule so we could all go out for sushi, always thinking in the back of my mind "I should be at that meeting, I need to be at that meeting." So, why wasn't I there?
My sons, my family, will always come first. That is as it should be. After all, that's , remember? But wait. Didn't they then run for spots on the Moorestown Republican Municipal Committee after making that announcement and ? Just asking. Guys, it's a good thing you're spending "quality time" with your family these days, because not even your own party is inviting you to the gala. A little "Politics 101" lesson for Mayor John Button, Gallo and Testa: Listen to your constituents, not just subsets with deep pockets.
Starting early in 2011 , I attended meeting after meeting after meeting where multitudes of people stood up and spoke out passionately about preserving the Open Space funds for passive recreation, historical preservation and the acquisition of farmland. I even remember once upon a time, at one of those meetings, I actually sat there thinking "They HAVE to hear us; they won't take that money." That was way back when I was young and still idealistic—57 years old.
And so, on Monday night, the sushi was great, the company even better. It was my soon-to-be 22-year-old son who finally put things in perspective for me. My eyes kept wandering to the clock as it inched towards 7:30 p.m. My mouth was still saying the appropriate things while my mind was contemplating the meeting, envisioning that smug trio, feeling the frustration. Finally, Hank said to me, "Mom. You've been upset about this for a year. Why would you put yourself through that again? You know what they're going to do."
He was right; but please don't tell him that. Those in the cheap seats, AKA practically everyone on one side of the room that night, . Supposedly, it went on for over an hour: earnest townspeople begging them not to do what they set out to do several years ago.
Like the movie Groundhog Day, all the meetings I've attended have been exactly the same: People standing up and saying "Please don't use Open Space money," while the intransigent trio looked bored (Testa), arrogant (Gallo) and mentally in Massachusetts (guess who), while council members Stacey Jordan and Chris Chiacchio struggled to hide their disgust. And let us not forget the effervescent town solicitor Thomas Coleman. Should we be listening to his legal advice? , but hey, Mr. Coleman will tackle the pending Open Space lawsuit pro bono, for the good of Moorestown and mankind! What a guy!
Arrogance is ugly. And from what I hear, . Hmmm. , Mr. Mayor. You and your sports-addled buddies on council may have won the hearts and minds of the sports clubs in town, but everyone else is shaking their heads in despair. You will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Congrats, your highness.
Look at what's happening at Penn State. This was an institution that revered their football program above everything else, including education and the welfare of children. I would never compare Moorestown to Penn State, but there is a lesson to be learned by putting sports on a pedestal much higher than that of education. Anyone will tell you high school and college athletes are treated much differently than their peers. I would even venture to say many high school athletes are bullies. Ask any non-jock at and they will concur—anonymously of course.
I sincerely hope something positive comes from this mess. The coaches that wanted the turf fields, enhanced lighting and all the other bells and whistles are very happy right now. Good for them. And good for all those unfortunate young’uns who’ve been deprived from club sports due to those dangerous fields. Let’s not have one more “death by divot” on our hands, I beg you!
The way Mr. Mayor and his cohorts have pushed the fields issue through has divided this town in half. It is a very important lesson for all of us—that power in the wrong hands is a very dangerous thing. I did not go to Monday night's meeting because I am in mourning. I am grieving the fact that local government is no different than state or even national government: those with the power do whatever they want. We, the voting public, really don't have a voice. We elect our government, but only rarely do they listen.
In Moorestown, they don't listen at all.