Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary offers these definitions of the word trust: "Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; A charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship; Something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another."
When residents in Newtown elect their township officials, these voters understand that they are voting to entrust these officials to represent their interests and concerns. Not the interest and concerns of those outside the community. This should not be hard for these officials to understand. And yet, somehow, in my view, the elected Newtown Township supervisors and some of their appointees don’t seem to understand who they represent.
And, even worse, they seem to me to have the confidence to not care. Rather, they feel empowered, I think, to make whatever decisions they want to make without fear of being held accountable. How can residents trust their elected supervisors and some of their appointees when they:
- Ask township residents to foot the bill for over $80,000 to pay for heathcare premiums and deductibles that were not initially properly authorized and raise taxes for this purpose.
- Appoint developers, those that work for developers and even someone who has been charged by the the US Attorney for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in connection with the storage of hazardous waste to the Township Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board and/or the Municipal Authority.
- Meet with developers and institutions to develop sewage facilities plan before meeting with residents.
- Prepare a budget and hold budget workshops where no mention is made of bonus money for the township manager and then early in the year, vote to pay a $9,000 bonus to the manager.
And in their latest breach of trust and lack of transparency, they discuss and presume to make decisions about the CR zoning amendment that will have a dramatic effect on existing neighborhoods. Does anyone doubt at this point that the amendment was not really an attempt to represent planning that is in the best interest of all residents?
If that were the case, early on in the process, those residents living closest to the areas where the change would occur would have received formal communication from their elected officials. Their officials would have reached out to them early in the process to help residents understand how and why this change would be made. Instead, it was not until public notice was required for a proposed vote on the amendment that homes nearest the affected areas were notified.
And instead of feeling concern for those residents, the initial response of elected officials was to chastise residents for not attending every public meeting. Public meetings that these officials could televise, but they refuse. Public meetings that could have accurate agendas posted before the meeting, but they refuse.
So, now election season is about to begin and there are two Supervisors positions as well as many other public elected offices whose positions are open. And, suddenly, there is some change in the CR zoning amendment in the area of Saint Albans Circle and Rhoads Avenue. But no change in this proposed amendment for the residents in Newtown Heights. I guess they are not worried about how the Newtown Heights' residents will vote?
Amazingly, the township’s proposed 537 plan will be changed as a result of recent public input even though the review of this alternative was requested and denied by these officials almost four years ago. Can residents really trust that these latest zoning and sewage facilities planning proposals are sincere? Or is this just an attempt to change the subject before elections?
Attendance at township meetings has increased dramatically over the past 6 months. It has been a terrific indicator of the passion and concern that residents have for their community. hope that this interest and attendance will continue. Voters of Newtown, I believe, have good reason to be mistrustful. I hope that in the coming year these voters will continue to ask questions and hold accountable those that they trust to make decisions for the community.