Promises Made In the Past Four Years, But Not Kept

By Charles LaRosa - Westfield
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The Brindle administration’s smart growth plan was full of promises.

It promised to “strive to preserve the attributes of our hometown character.” It hasn’t. Westfield was once considered a safe place to live. Now we have to lock our cars or they may be stolen. Most recently, a home break-in turned violent. More frightened parents feel compelled to walk or drive their children to and from school. And, as crimes increase, arrests and convictions have been mitigated by policies of the Brindle administration. Police activities have been restricted, and a crucial amount of their manpower has often been diverted to jobs that were once done by civilian crossing guards.

In her 2021 state of the town address, Mayor Brindle reiterated one of her election promises, “strong fiscal oversight.” But, her administration has spent down our “rainy day” funds from $14.5 million to an estimated $5.8 million. It is also reducing tax revenues by offering sweetheart deals to housing developers, eg., the recent PILOT agreement with Elite Properties to develop the 193 unit Westfield crossing project on South Avenue. In designating this developer’s property as PILOT, (Payment In Lieu of Taxes), the administration allows Elite to pay an annual payment instead of normal property taxes for 30 years. Our schools receive none of the annual payment whereas they now get 60 percent of the property taxes paid to Westfield. Who makes-up for any shortfalls to the schools? Who else? Us. The taxpayers.

The growth plan promised “housing choices that will allow people to age in place.” Yet now, the town wants senior housing to pay them more of the federal funds it gets to subsidize rents in the form of higher land lease rent. Anthony Psomas, whose mother lives in Westfield Senior Housing, wrote on these pages last week that he is astounded that our town’s elected officials want to “put the screws to some of Westfield’s most vulnerable citizens.”

The plan also promised that as we grow, “we will lessen the adverse effects of growth.” This has not happened. Multiple high-density housing complexes have been completed, or are under construction or will be soon. Traffic congestion is increasing. Schools will deal with increased enrollment. And, with population projected by the US census to grow from 30,591 to 37,360 by 2040, these adverse effects on our town have not even been addressed.

In 2018, the newly installed Brindle administration shelved a $6.8 million renovation plan for Tamaques Park. Mayor Brindle told Westfield families it would be folded into a larger master plan process with a potentially better outcome for all our sports fields. But today, not one field is renovated. Instead, the administration presented an $18 million Edison Field proposal. The Brindle administration, which promised to hear public input, sprang it on stunned residents, especially those in Ward 4. The outcry was palpable! Traffic, parking, safety, noise levels and environmental issues topped the list of complaints. So, the administration revised the plan, but never resolved the problems.

Again, in her 2021 state of the town address, Mayor Brindle promised to deliver on key priorities, one of which is “championing quality-of-life issues.” She hasn’t. Bulk waste pick-up has gone by the wayside, and after one storm when properties were littered with fallen branches and other debris, Brindle told us the town couldn’t afford curbside pick-up. We had to do it ourselves.

Finally, one of the most repeated promises of the Brindle administration was “the revitalization of our downtown.” It hasn’t happened. Instead of more vibrant concentrations of retail stores, offices and services, we have thousands of square feet of retail store vacancies, highlighted by the closings of the Rialto movie theatre and the Lord & Taylor department store. Instead of revitalization, we got more fun and games… murals on the walls, festivals, seesaws in parking lots, butterfly artwork in the streets, and rainbow colored crosswalks. In ancient Rome, such sops, intended to quell public unrest, were called “bread and circuses.”

They didn’t save Rome and they won’t save Westfield.

We’ve had four years of broken promises. We can’t afford any more.

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