Cranbury committeeman calls for civility in wake of civil rights decision

At the May 14 township committee meeting, a proposal for Civil Rights Commission and the alternate operating name of a Human Relations Commission was voted down in a three to two vote.

The proposed commission’s objectives were admirable on points, such as welcoming residents, promoting tolerance and arranging speakers on topics of diversity. On those points the whole township committee agreed. We offered support and encouraged the individuals to establish this group as a private entity like the Lions, Woman’s Club, Historical Society and CHA, who have done tremendous good for the town. If they did so, the town would provide equal township recognition.

Unfortunately, some elements were concerning, such as the Civil Rights Commission conducting an assessment of the community to determine need relative to diversity and human rights issues. There was no plan for how the assessment would be done and how to ensure it would be a factual analysis.

The proposal called for a forum for residents to report if they experienced or witnessed potential hate or bias incidents, hear these cases and provide the people with resources for next steps. It is incredibly dangerous to legislate speech or judge one on perception of an incident. We have law enforcement, state resources and other areas to go to if real issues occur. This would be a “paper tiger” with only the potential to do harm to innocent residents when falsely accused.

It also sought to develop policy. Our residents elect individuals to set policy. What if there was a disagreement over policy and the township committee acted counter to a CRC recommendation? To what extent would such a commission look to enforce their view on over an elected body and by what means?

No budget or financial estimates were provided. Voting to institute a board without knowing the cost is akin to making a large purchase and not knowing the price. It may feel good, but you have no clue as to if you can afford it.

The mayor that night, in trying to explain why women should be encouraged to seek office and should have the support of their husbands or partners at home (if there is one) didn’t use the best choice of words in trying to make the point in hindsight.

Since that meeting, residents have used social media to state harsh words about the mayor as well as for individuals who raised the CRC. This is doing great damage to our town and I’d ask a moment to address.

Cranbury is a community – one that makes most of us proud. We’re as much porch swings, apple pie and lemonade on summer evenings as that wonderful town of TV’s Mayberry.  

Our residents are owed a town government that represents everyone. For generations, our government has run on old-fashioned, handshake, and know your neighbor ideals.  

Integrity and confidence in our elected officials begins by firmly stating party politics and guiding by right wing or progressive views has no place in town government under any circumstance.

I adamantly believe we must not and cannot individually represent political ideology and function for the betterment of the community.

When we make decisions we must do so in consideration of the town as a whole. Basing a decision out of a political view on a national or state issue, or because you want to be an activist, is dangerous to the town and to our town’s integrity.

Holding these tenants means we won’t please everyone – that is not our task. We lose our moral integrity when we use the township committee as a means to gain friends and curry favor. Our primary role, our only role is to be a steward of the town.

I understand people are upset with the CRC discussion and comments made by committee members and residents alike. It is hard to forgive and easy to hate. Hate is the easiest emotion to embrace. Hate creates anger and together they do more damage to individuals, to families and to society than anything else. These feelings poison whoever holds them.  

The anger from the last few meetings sowed the seeds of anger and hate within the community. If we continue to feed these emotions, we will most certainly destroy that which we value – our town.

We need to look to what kept our town welcoming and inclusive for generations.  We need to look to the things that are supportive and give us strength – hard work, faith, inclusiveness and family. Perhaps some of this strength weakened with the decline of volunteers in local organizations, longer commutes and a work life that does not end at five. It takes more effort now to know our neighbors and find common ground.

Right now, Cranbury is hurting and being divided largely due to influence from what is occurring nationally on both sides. We’ve let our disappointment with Washington, DC politicians on both sides of the aisle seep into Cranbury.

These issues only impact Cranbury if we let them. Pause and think why you moved to this town. Did you move here to change it and break it down as has been occurring in recent weeks? Or did you move here and call this town home to be part of the welcoming and inclusive melting pot that we have always been?

Is Cranbury so intolerable that destroying it from all sides is the only solution? Challenge yourself to look and seriously ask yourself if it is the town or the way you perceive the town. I am not saying the town is without flaws. But is the town as a whole so bad that tearing it down by ruining people on both sides through reputational destruction is the only option?

Recent actions do not represent the majority of Cranbury residents or our values and certainly do not foster a better community. If we truly believe and support diversity of thought and an open mentality, then we should be open ourselves. We should not push to force someone out of office or run to social media with hate and anger. What a sad world it would be if we all looked, thought and acted the same.

A friend once told me that every person can agree that the one thing they want is a tomorrow. A dying person wants one more tomorrow, a person challenged with difficulties hope for a new tomorrow, those oppressed seek a better tomorrow, with families a tomorrow with our kids, and so forth. Let us challenge ourselves to think of how each one us individually can make Cranbury better when they wake up tomorrow.

We must agree to disagree and move on, fair government is not a unanimous vote. All of us have different views.

If this fall I am not re-elected because I support the ideal that political parties and those ideals have no place in town government, that is fine. If I am not re-elected because rather than back down, I stand up and endorse and support Mayor Glenn Johnson, a man who has worked tirelessly for the community at church, in the Lions, as a zoning board member and committee member, that is fine.

When faced with challenges and pressure, we must hold to our values. I would rather be voted out knowing that I can look myself in the mirror each day then continue with sacrificed integrity. I can be truthful when I tell my kids when you see something wrong stand up and say something. I can avoid feeling like a hypocrite when I hold my children accountable.

Town Happenings the next few weeks:

  • Monday is the Memorial Day Parade starting at 1pm
  • June 8 and 9 is the George Washing Celebration. Starting at 7 p.m. Friday is an adults only cocktail party under a tent with visits from George Washington, Hezekiah Stites, and the Marquise de Lafayette. Tickets can be bought on the Historical Society Website.

James Taylor

Cranbury Township Committeeman