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Metuchen reinvigorates Human Relations Commission

METUCHEN — Borough officials are hoping to add another epithet to the town’s  name.

Already known as the “Brainy Boro” and “Doughnut Hole,” borough officials hope to also be known as a diverse, inclusive community.

The Borough Council approved, on first reading, amending a Human Relations Commission ordinance, bringing it up to date at a meeting on Sept. 18. A second reading of the ordinance was held on Oct. 2.

“Many, many people have expressed a need for this kind of commission,” Councilwoman Linda Koskoski said.

The councilwoman said resident concerns have been heard for a more formal way for the community to address discrimination and find ways to ensure that Metuchen is an inclusive community.

“We are introducing an ordinance to amend the Human Relations Commission code,” Koskoski said. “What this will do is pave the way for us to get the band back together so to speak.”

Koskoski noted that in light of what is going on around the nation with the rise of hate groups, the borough must, as a community, take a stand.

“We cannot allow that kind of hatred to take root in Metuchen,” she said. “The Human Relations Commission will look at ways to educate, inform and ensure Metuchen is the kind of inclusive place for people from all walks of life in the community.”

Koskoski said many residents offered their guidance on how to restart the commission and were instrumental in the changes made to the ordinance.

The Human Relations Commission will be made up of 15 members — seven residents, one member of the clergy, one member representative of the business community, one educator from Edgar Middle School, one member of the Board of Education, one member representative of the Metuchen Police Department, and one member of the Borough Council.

The commission will form a relationship among groups and residents in the borough to develop educational programs, formal and informal, that will aid in eliminating all types of discrimination.

Koskoski said in the past the Human Relations Commission fell apart due to a lack of participation, which she believes won’t be a problem now.

Councilman Todd Pagel said with the re-invigoration of the Human Relations Commission, it not only improves the borough’s relations with the residents in the community, but it also drives Metuchen to become a beacon and leader in the struggle to eliminate all types of discrimination.

“The Brainy Borough is so special for so many reasons, [our] flourishing downtown, [our] flourishing schools and [our] tree lined streets, [but] what honestly makes our town truly special is our community and the diversity of our community members,” he said.

Mayor Peter Cammarano at a previous meeting said the Human Relations Commission has been around since the 1960s.

“It’s unfortunate we’ve had to deal with a [human relations] issue recently, the deportation of a resident of the borough,” he said. “[The resident was the] primary bread winner [of his family], who had been here for 16 plus years in town.”

Cammarano said as a small, very close-knit community, the recent issue hit the community pretty hard and with that many in the community pulled together for the family.

“This is why I love being the mayor of such a great town,” he said. “Many of our residents pulled together and while [they] could not stop the separation of the family, they did what they could.”

Cammarano said many residents have been successful in fundraising efforts to help the man’s wife and son. He said the community will continue to support the family.

“It is times like this we often forget that we are not immune from the big national issues,” he said. “But what makes Metuchen unique is that we do pull together as a community, we have always done that and continue to do that. It’s a truly unfortunate situation, but as always Metuchen has always tried to make best of it. It just reinvigorates the community in difficult times.”

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