Middletown Democratic Committeemen Partick Short and Sean Byrnes rleased the following in response to a letter written Greg Vasil, President of the Concerned Citizens of Middletown:
Township Committeeman Patrick Short and I have read with dismay Mr. Vasil’s recent letter to, The Two River Times. We have no issue with his position on the Town Center project. In fact, we agree with Mr. Vasil: We don’t want the project either. We have been very clear on this with both of us voting to petition the state Supreme Court to overturn the recent Appellate Court decision that ruled in the developer’s favor. Indeed, before his election, as he did with the athletic complex in Lincroft, Mr. Short led the campaign to block the project.
Where we take issue with Mr. Vasil is when he parrots the campaign mantra of our mayor. Since last year, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger, when speaking in public and when writing to newspapers, has claimed that we support the Town Center and that we are in the pocket of the developer, Joseph Azzolina. These accusations, like so many made in this year’s campaign, have no basis in fact and are part of a desperate effort to hold on to power in Middletown.
We find it quite revealing that a party that has held power for 30 years campaigns on fabricated allegations, rather than on their record of governance. Given the history of controversy involving Republican elected officials in Middletown, our mayor and his party have calculated that this year’s Republican candidates will gain votes if he casts the Democrats as favoring the Town Center. So, although we have stated openly our opposition to the project and have voted accordingly, our mayor – and now Mr. Vasil – continue to suggest otherwise.
The comments attributed to Mr. Short in the mayor’s recent introduction of an ordinance to rezone the property in question are misleading. Each of us took issue with the mayor’s decision, taken without any discussion with other committee members, to re-introduce the identical ordinance that had been struck down only weeks earlier by the Appellate Court. We did so, in part, because we feared this action would cause the court to take matters into its own hands and judicially order the approval of the Town Center project.
The Appellate Court’s recent decision severely criticizes Middletown and comes very close to ordering that the project move forward. We made a motion to table the ordinance for two weeks to allow discussion and to correct numerous errors in the ordinance that the mayor overlooked in his haste to make it a campaign issue. Even as we voted on our request for this brief period of time to discuss the ordinance, the mayor immediately alleged a connection to Mr. Azzolina. Regrettably, with nothing else to campaign on, there is little we can do to silence these baseless allegations until this election is over.
In truth, Mr. Azzolina, the developer of the Town Center project, is a long-time Republican, and the Town Center idea came from the Republican Party. He split with the current leaders of his party, who initially encouraged him to purchase the property to build Town Center. We find it somewhat amusing that our mayor, and now Mr. Vasil, would attempt to use this Republican Party spat to criticize Democrats as supporting the Town Center. We work for Middletown residents, not Mr. Azzolina. If he has expressed support for us, he has a right to do so, but any effort to characterize that support as a quid pro quo for our support of Town Center is mistaken.
Sean Byrnes and Patrick Short
Middletown Township Committee