by Carolyn Schwebel
Since I have been unable to attend township committee meetings, following are some of my own thoughts, concerns, and suggestions regarding Middletown matters. I am speaking for myself only.
Township committee meeting locations:
“It’s Your Town” reported about the May 3, 2010 Middletown Committee workshop meeting that “The workshop meeting was held in the Conference Room, which was filled to overflowing. People were sitting on the floor due to the lack of seating for the public and the room temperature was excessive because the day was unusually hot. The overflow crowd was remanded to the hallway for the duration of the meeting.”
A speaker at the May 3, 2010 meeting recommended moving workshop meetings from this small room to the courtroom when a prescribed number of people attend. I make the same request or else that all meetings be held in the larger room. If you want to keep the informal flavor for workshop meetings, there is no need to sit on the dais; the tables below it could be used. Otherwise, there are signs of disrespect for the citizens attending, ADA problems, including reduced hearing of the meeting, lack of proper seating, and probably violation of fire codes for maximum capacity of the small conference room.
Current revision efforts of Middletown Human Right’s Commission (MHRC) mission statement:
These revisions of the mission statements for the commissions and boards that “currently do not have clear definitions” were described by your attorney at the May 3, 2010 meeting as necessary for the Citizen Services Act. My review of that act, P.L. 2009, c.141, which provides revisions to NJSA 40A:9.12, and of the DCA advisory for it revealed that information required for a township directory should include “C.40A:9-9.2 Directory of local authorities, boards, commissions…(f) the appointing authority and the enabling statute, ordinance, or resolution, if any.”
Nothing indicates that existing resolutions must be revised; Unilaterally changing the MHRC mission statement, which is part of its official bylaws, appears to be a violation of the bylaws procedures and Robert’s Rules of Order. For those boards and commissions that have no mission statements, rather than being written solely by an attorney, the mission statements should include input from members of the boards or commissions.
The MHRC membership requirement is set in resolution and bylaws at eleven members. We are deeply grateful for the four new members on 2010. Discussion by the Township Committee to reduce that number by nearly one-third is, however, unwarranted. Under P.L. 2009, c.141 when commission vacancies occur they must be filled in a timely manner:
“C.40A:9-12.1″h. Upon the removal of such officer for cause in accordance with law, or for any other reason prescribed by law. Whenever any of the above shall occur the appointing authority shall forthwith fill the office for the unexpired term in the manner prescribed by law…” (emphasis added).
To comply, please appoint members to our four remaining vacancies as soon as possible, preferably some with citizens who are racial minorities, since at present there is none in the membership.
Another committee may not be needed:
Creation of a Military Affairs committee, as suggested by the mayor, is surprising, since I had heard that the township committee was seeking to reduce the number of boards and commissions. Attention to our veterans is very important; in fact, as our minutes confirm, the MHRC has been looking at human rights issues for returning veterans for over a year. Due to a storm, we had to cancel a meeting at which an active, recent disabled veteran, head of a local VFW, would meet with us. He is scheduled for our September meeting. You are welcome to attend. The appointment of a recent veteran to the MHRC could help us with our goal of assisting veterans. We also have counseling and other helpful resource numbers for veterans.
Lack of response from Township Committee to MHRC requests for input:
Four years ago, in July 2006 (attached), MHRC sent a request to the Township Committee for suggested projects for the MHRC. No answer was ever received. Once again, a month ago, on April 12, 2010, our letter including the same request was hand-delivered to Town Hall for the Township Committee. We have not received a response, as of today, despite follow-up calls. Also, our vice chair and I made at least a dozen contacts by phone, e-mail, and in person to schedule the final part of the SPCA food drive, a publicity photo with the mayor to reemphasize for the public the continuing need for pet food and to provide positive image for the township in the media.
On each of these issues, we were not afforded the courtesy of a response. It is important that all members of the community, including volunteers, be given respect by the Township Committee and other leaders.
I will happy to discuss any of these items with you.