Caitlin Giles-McCormick, Flemington Borough
Here on Spring Street in Flemington we got our “Stop Demolition…” sign about six months ago. While I had deep concerns about the redevelopment project, I desperately wanted it to come together and work, because we desperately need redevelopment on Main Street. The sign sat on our porch, mostly hidden behind our gate. I wasn’t committed to putting it up because my concerns were less about the historic preservation of the Union Hotel (although these should be better addressed) and more about the oversized building and tax implications for residents.
I have painfully been trying to find out why the council thinks this project will work and will benefit Flemington residents in the short and long term. I have respectfully asked questions because I want to be convinced. I also understood that things were heated and that more people than ever were paying attention and asking for information. A spike in public involvement is a good thing, but it likely requires an adjustment for our elected officials.
There have been many instances where Mayor Greiner and the Borough Council has had the opportunity to show its constituents goodwill, better sell its own plans, and lessen the hostility being directed towards it. They disappointed me with how they handled these situations, yet I still tried to see it from their perspective.
The last straw came for me at the August 14 council meeting, specifically concerning the nominations for the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).
The mayor has the right to appoint whom he wishes to the HPC, yet for the last ten years, the mayor has taken the recommendations from the HPC for these nominations. I was one of the two people HPC recommended. The mayor chose not to listen.
Elaine Gorman, current HPC Chair, and Richard Giffen, current Vice-Chair, expressed their dismay at the mayor’s disregard of these recommendations. The HPC is volunteer run and likes to vet its new potential members to ensure they are up for the commitment and have the best interest for Flemington at heart. Yet the mayor nominated someone the HPC members had never met along with someone the HPC had formerly reviewed and determined was not qualified.
Additionally, in discussion about the approval of the mayor’s candidates for the HPC Mayor Greiner said it was not appropriate to discuss the qualifications or lack of qualifications of the candidates. Being the only one who was not considered as a candidate, I inquired about my lack of qualifications for the position, even though the HPC had recommended me. In response Mayor Greiner said that a public meeting was not the correct setting to have that type of discussion. I responded that I did not care who knew about my qualifications or his concerns and again asked him to tell me why I would not be a good candidate for the HPC. He again refused to respond, citing an “inappropriate forum” for that type of discussion.
The HPC stated they are looking to hold fundraising events. I have extensive event planning, fundraising, and communications experience. The HPC was satisfied with my qualifications. The only logical explanation I can come to is that my rational questioning of the redevelopment project has been too much for the mayor or council to handle. I asked for clarification if this assumption is not correct, yet I received none. I still welcome feedback from the mayor, as I would from a job interviewer, because I want to grow and gain the skills necessary so that I can better contribute to our community here in Flemington.
Council member Susan Peterson suggested they table the motion to vote so that the HPC could review the credentials of the additional candidate and further discuss their recommendations and concerns. This was a completely reasonable request. Yet the motion failed. This is the type of request the mayor and council have continually refused. This is spiteful, does not help Flemington, and does not help their own cause of speeding up redevelopment.
I am disappointed that I will not be able to serve in the HPC, but I am devastated by the consistent disregard for reasonable input and inquisition by the mayor and council.
The people of Flemington want to be involved and want information. Mayor Greiner and the Borough Council are constantly asking residents to trust that they are doing their due diligence, yet they are not building any trust with the people who elected them.
CLARIFYING NOTE: The other individual the HPC recommendation for membership, was nominated by the mayor, but as an alternate, not in the full voting slot as the HPC had requested.