By SEAN KEVILLE - WESTFIELD
I was baffled after reading Amanda Como’s letter to the editor in which she announced her candidacy for Westfield Town Council.
Ms Como wrote that, “Now more than ever, we residents need a councilperson that will listen to their concerns and act accordingly when it comes time to cast their vote.” She goes on to say that, “Westfield deserves a council of leaders that demonstrate a diversity of thought, ideas and approach. The town council should be encouraged to speak freely and engage in respectful discourse, healthy debate and free thinking. When those behaviors are stifled, constituents lose their representation and voices go unheard. That is currently what’s happening.”
As someone who opposed the proposed development on Ferris Place and Prospect Avenue in its current scale, I watched with interest at the town council meeting on Tuesday, May 24, when a resolution concerning the project came up for a vote. I know Ms. Como was present, though she did not speak during the public portion of the meeting.
From what I saw and anyone else can see by watching the meeting online, there was plenty of debate about the Prospect Avenue/Ferris Place development. I heard newly appointed Ward 1 Councilwoman Emily Root say that she listened to voters’ concerns about the project. “An important part of my job and my priority is to listen to your concerns,” Councilwoman Root said.
Councilwoman Root then said she could not support the project in its current form. “I want to see even more compromise given this property’s location in what I view as a transitional area – between downtown and the residential neighborhood on the westerly side of Prospect Street,” she said. “I believe this project should be scaled down so it would be a welcome addition to this neighborhood.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Linda Habgood also voted against the project because “I know so many of you still have concerns, and I want you to know that I am listening to you.”
Sounds to me like these leaders are expressing a “diversity of thought, ideas and approach” and that they are speaking freely and engaging in “respectful discourse, healthy debate and free thinking.”
From what I saw, all the members of the council put a great deal of time and thought into this important vote. While I don’t agree with the outcome, I don’t at all feel that our voices were unheard. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
When Mayor Andy Skibitsky and his council were in charge, I don’t ever recall council members speaking out against a proposal championed by the mayor. That was truly an administration that stifled debate and discouraged public input.
This mayor and council have sought public input at every opportunity, including the reexamination of the master plan that serves as the blueprint for much of the upcoming development on the former Lord & Taylor property and train station parking lots.
With so many major decisions facing the town council, now more then ever we need experienced leaders who have a demonstrated record of listening to constituents, considering what is in the best interests of the town and casting their votes accordingly.