by guest blogger Linda Baum
If you’ve been driving anywhere in Middletown, you can’t miss the big red and white signs that claim Mayor Fiore puts “taxpayers first”. That’s been the line for years now. That the Republican majority continues to use it shows their arrogance. Sadly, they have managed to keep so many of us in the dark.
I suppose they should feel confident. Remember last year when our Republican-controlled Town Committee left you with the impression that a 13.4% municipal tax increase was just 2.8%? They had at their disposal all sources of communication coming out of Town Hall – the town’s own newspaper, press releases, robocalls, and a tax information sheet all delivered straight to your home and paid for with your tax dollars. You were probably scratching your head back then. And I bet, like me, for a while you were uncertain of your own basic math skills. And that was the idea – not to inform, but to mislead. That is not how you serve taxpayers. What they did was deliberate and dishonest, and completely self-serving.
The Republican party’s control over information in Middletown has gone on for years. If you have ever asked a question at a Town Committee meeting, you may have experienced that first hand, and it has never been more true than it is now that an all-Republican committee sits on the dais.
Residents have just two opportunities each month – the first and third Monday — to connect with our representatives, but they don’t seem to want to talk to us. If you’ve been brave enough to stand at the microphone and ask nearly anything, you’ve most likely been made to feel like an annoyance. You’ve got just five minutes – that’s the rule. Use it or lose it, and no second chances after you sit down. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer you get, they may invite you to stay after the meeting when no one else is there to hear them. Or you can always try again at the next town meeting, if you don’t mind being scolded for being repetitive. I was, and my question went unanswered to boot.
It would be downright comical if it weren’t true. If you don’t believe me, then grab your popcorn and come down to Town Hall. You’ll have to catch the live show because town meetings aren’t televised in Middletown like they are in so many other towns. That’s for lack of funds, supposedly, but let’s see what the story is in 2014 when $200,000 in grant money becomes available from Comcast specifically for that purpose. What excuse will our Republican majority give then for continuing to keep us in the dark?
You won’t find much information about what was discussed at meetings in the Town’s meeting minutes, either. If you really want to know what happened, read “It’s Your Town Hall”, newsletter that are written by town resident Don Watson, who took it upon himself to attend town meetings and to keep others informed about what’s going on. If you want to be included in his distribution, send an email to Itsourtown@yahoo.com.
If taxpayers were really first, governmental proceedings would be accessible to all residents no matter what their schedule or ability to attend meetings, including those who are disabled or have limited mobility. And by the way, those folks are still waiting for the Township to fully comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Money is lacking, town officials say, among other reasons given for delays. However, since that law was enacted, our republican-controlled town committee has poured money into a host of costly unnecessary projects when better less-costly alternatives existed – the Pool Club and Arts Center are examples. Taxpayers are not only paying the debt for these purchases, but hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual upkeep as well.
And did you know that the town’s appointed engineer – the same firm now for 40 years –pockets about $1 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds awarded to them as no-bid contracts? Think how much tax relief could have been provided by putting those engineering contracts out to competitive bid. That’s money that could have been returned to you or used for other purposes. If taxpayers were really first, our republican majority would have done just that. Instead, members of that same engineering firm can be seen celebrating with republican candidates every year on election night. If it sounds like pay to play, that’s because it is. And you’re paying for it.
Somebody is first in Middletown, but not taxpayers. Not in a very long time. On November 8th, you can change that.