Letter To The Editor: Resident Responds To Commissioner's Statements

A Cranford resident has responded to Commissioner Edward O'Malley's letter to the editor following Super Storm Sandy.

To the Editor,

I read a recent letter to the editor by Township Commissioner Edward O’Malley regarding the township’s response to Hurricane Sandy with much interest. This letter contains statements which I found to be hypocritical, out of touch and at times leaving me downright baffled as to why we even need to elect five commissioners, when Commissioner O’Malley says that only two are actually needed in the event of a crisis.

The first glaring area is Commissioner O’Malley’s continued attacks on Mayor Robinson for deciding to go to Florida with his family. Commissioner O’Malley writes of a “leadership vacuum” and that the mayor is the “primary” contact with PSE&G with respect to the power failures in the community. When I read this, I had more questions than answers in terms of Commissioner O’Malley’s train of thought. First, under Cranford’s form of government, we have a deputy mayor who assumes the duties of acting mayor in the mayor’s absence. With this in mind, Commissioner O’Malley’s assumption of a “leadership vacuum” could never have existed since at no point was Cranford without a mayor. There is a chance Commissioner O’Malley could be Cranford’s deputy mayor next year, and it is my sincere hope that if he does assume the position, he acquaints himself with the duties of the office.

Second, it is 2012, between phones, email, text message, instant message and fax, there are plenty of ways Mayor Robinson can stay in touch with township officials and PSE&G. He does not need to be in Cranford or in New Jersey or even in the United States to remain in contact and advocate for Cranford’s needs. PSE&G did not have the time to handle all meetings in person and would likely have been relying on other forms of communication anyway during this emergency, meaning that if Mayor Robinson was sitting behind his desk in the Municipal Building he would likely have been advocating for Cranford in the same way. In addition, Mayor Robinson was in Florida, which last time I checked would likely have allowed him the ability to access some form of communication with New Jersey.

Third, Cranford has an acting township administrator, who also serves as the police chief and emergency management coordinator for the township. To the best of my knowledge, the township administrator handles the day-to-day management of the township and has the ability to advocate for the township’s needs with regards to the utility companies. Is Commissioner O’Malley saying that Chief Mason, whom he helped appoint as acting township administrator, is incapable of handling these duties?

Commissioner O’Malley talks about “character assassination” and “personal attacks” in his letter, directing those comments towards Mayor Robinson’s response to him at a recent Township Committee meeting. I find this rather hypocritical since Commissioner O’Malley initiated attacks on the mayor’s trip to Florida at the meeting and in public settings in the community prior to the meeting. This line of thinking was similar to comments posted by Democratic Party supporters on local message boards prior to the election. Mayor Robinson was mainly responding to a personal attack that was initiated by Commissioner O’Malley; or does Commissioner O’Malley truly believe that when he makes the comments he is acting in a nonpartisan way and offering a leadership critique and Mayor Robinson is acting in a partisan manner and engaging in the politics of personal attack?

Commissioner O’Malley talks about not being on the township’s emergency management council and not being involved in those discussions. I have a couple of questions on that. First, Commissioner O’Malley is a duly elected member of the Township Committee and has every right to know what is going on in township government, especially during a crisis. Is he saying he did not attempt to find out what was going on and abdicated his responsibility to the township? Is he saying that if the full Township Committee had to make a decision in the immediate aftermath of the storm, he would not have been prepared? Is he saying that several private citizens have more standing to serve than an elected official?

Second, why has Commissioner O’Malley not sought to correct this action? Did he propose that the entire Township Committee be included on the emergency management council at the reorganization meeting this year or last year? Did he try to force a vote on this issue? Or does he not want the other commissioners on because this would force a quorum of the Township Committee to be on the council and could make these meetings open under the state’s Open Meetings Act? I think that’s a question Commissioner O’Malley has to answer. What did he do to involve himself, besides penning a letter to the editor complaining after the fact?

Commissioner O’Malley also brings up the need for someone to communicate nonemergency information to residents in the aftermath of the storm. This is a good idea and one the township should implement. But Commissioner O’Malley is showing a severe lack of understanding that this did occur, and worked well, in a grassroots manner. The residents took it upon themselves, through social media to do this and it worked. Unfortunately Commissioner O’Malley is showing that he believes that the only good can be initiated through government, not through community organizing and grassroots momentum.

In addition, I ask Commissioner O’Malley, if you believe so strongly in this need, why didn’t you initiate it yourself in the aftermath of the storm? You were elected by the people of this community to a three year term and those responsibilities did not somehow become null and void during the duration of the storm. There is nothing that stopped you from helping to communicate this to the town, either via Patch, a message board or social media. In Westfield, a member of the Board of Education took it upon himself to use his private social media to provide public information to residents in the absence of official Board of Education social media accounts. In New York City, the public advocate – who is independently elected from Mayor Bloomberg – has posted hurricane recovery information on his website. Commissioner O’Malley why didn’t you stand up and be a leader for Cranford, like you were elected to do, rather than taking the easy way out and criticizing others?

I believe Commissioner O’Malley has many questions to answer, from his belief that only the Mayor is engaging in personal attacks to his lack of leadership and his lack of understanding on how a township can be run. I sincerely hope that Commissioner O’Malley chooses to engage in a thoughtful dialogue with me and others on this issue and does not resort to name calling and other behavior that does not help for a productive community discussion on the issues facing our town. I look forward to that type of public dialogue continuing and for Commissioner O’Malley to remember that Governor Christie and President Obama were able to work together at the height of the election and continue to do so; and that now, after the election, the time for politics is over and now is the time to work with others for the betterment of Cranford.

Michael D. Celock



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