Editor’s note: The opinions here are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.
To the Editor:
I am writing to express my deep disappointment at the way the Morris Township Planning Board handled the public comment session it conducted on July 17, 2017, for the review of the Township Master Plan, a comprehensive long-range plan that will govern land use in the Township for the next 10 years.
Those of us who have been following the process were eager to attend the public session. Some submitted queries via email, but we were told others with questions or concerns would also be able to speak.
The session began promptly at 7:30 p.m., but it became obvious that this was a final editing session for the Board; the residents present were barely acknowledged throughout most of the meeting.
In fact, the Master Plan document that was online was not the document the Board discussed. That made it difficult for the public to follow along.
The chair of the Board, Rick Haan, kept promising the attendees they would have a chance to comment, but the only ones allowed to comment prior to 10 p.m. were a group concerned about sidewalks in their neighborhood.
A number of us left at that time because it was obvious the Board was going continue its editing work before allowing others to comment.
On the plus side, the Master Plan is a very detailed, professional document and obviously the result of much hard work. The downside is that once again the Township Committee and its Board pays little heed to public input.
Why was the public comment session scheduled at the very end of the process? The Master Plan will be finalized in the next few weeks. Why can’t public comment be presented at the start of a Township meeting? Why couldn’t the small edits be done via email earlier so the meeting could focus on substantive matters?
As it stands, I had three specific questions I never got to ask.
By the way, this is certainly not the first time a Township governing body has been dismissive of its residents. I attended and spoke in support of the Fair and Welcoming resolution at the May Township Committee meeting.
While the members of the committee certainly had a right to vote down our resolution, it did not appear that any of them were even clear about what we were proposing.
It had nothing to do with sanctuary cities, by the way. Even worse, in his recap of the meeting the following day, Mayor Bruce Sisler never even mentioned the resolution, which took up the majority of the meeting.
Our Township governing bodies need to become much more responsive to their residents, particularly at public meetings.
Noel Robinson, Ph.D.
Noel Robinson is former chairwoman of the Township Democratic committee.