Our town is a special place with amazing people; people who I have had the pleasure of listening to over the past year as I’ve gone door-to-door for this campaign. As I’ve knocked on doors and spoken to residents, a common thread emerged - we all love Millburn and have a story about why we put down roots here or fond memories of growing up here.
My story echos much of what I’ve heard from others. As a mother, I wanted my daughter to grow up in a place with great schools and a vibrant community. I chose Millburn, put down roots and opened a business in our downtown. I am deeply invested in our community and want to ensure that our town has a bright future ahead.
As a business owner, you learn very quickly that planning, budgeting and good customer service are the keys to success. I believe that, together, we can bring more of that to the Township Committee. To start, we need to have an honest conversation about our challenges as a community so we can begin down the path of creating real solutions.
At the root of many of our challenges has been a reactive approach to local government. Instead of planning ahead, our Township Committee has had a history of attempting to handle problems as they arise. Affordable housing, Complete Streets and rising taxes are all symptoms of this approach.
On affordable housing, the Township is now locked in a builder’s remedy lawsuit that largely takes control out of Millburn’s hands and places it with the courts and developers. Residents, specifically near the proposed Chatham Road Development, are concerned about how it will impact their neighborhood. We need to take a comprehensive inventory of areas that are appropriate to develop and create a plan to satisfy our obligations while avoiding more expensive litigation that is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Additionally, we need to bring residents into the fold by holding neighborhood meetings and visioning sessions, to ensure that all voices are heard.
The multi-million dollar Complete Streets project is another example of this approach. Poor planning and implementation and lack of appropriate oversight have left us with a situation in our downtown that has not only cost taxpayers, but has also increased cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods, adversely affected our business community and made it difficult for emergency vehicles to navigate the area. Countless residents and stakeholders have appeared before the Township Committee to voice their concerns, but have been met with half answers and zero plans to address the issue. Even my opponent acknowledged the problem when she, to paraphrase, said she wished she could turn the downtown to back the way it was and yet, instead of spending a moment to take a full and transparent accounting of how much was spent and how the project has impacted our downtown, has chosen to spend more taxpayer dollars pushing forward.
To be clear, the answer isn’t to rip the whole project out and start over. That would be reflective of the old way of doing things. What we do need to do is make an assessment of what aspects of Complete Streets are working and what parts aren’t then find the most cost-effective way to make it work.
Complete Streets and affordable housing are just two examples. Flooding, traffic, 24-hour businesses and, not least, high property taxes are all a direct result of a broken approach.
Here is what I propose: A local government that listens to residents, plans for the future and spends taxpayer dollars wisely. As a Township Committee member, I will hold office hours outside of Township Committee meetings, so residents can voice their concerns, on their schedule. I will call for an ad-hoc committee of residents and stakeholders to conduct a full examination of Complete Streets. I will work with partners at all levels of government to find new sources of revenue, including grant funding. And, I will work to create a four-year-plan that maps out long-term solutions to today and tomorrow’s challenges.
Our campaign has been about the issues. It’s been about having an honest discussion about how we can do better for Millburn, not personal attacks that have become so regrettably common. I pledge that as a Township Committee member I will stand on my record, on the issues and on results. I hope I can count on your support this Election Day.