Two newly elected council members were sworn into office during Hopewell Borough’s annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 3.
Standing in front of family members and friends, Samara McAuliffe and Debra Stuhler were each sworn into office for three-year terms by Mayor Paul Anzano. They are filling the seats on the council that were formerly occupied by Debra Lehman and Shelby Tewell, who did not seek re-election.
The two newest council members took their seats on the dais alongside Anzano and council members Chris Fossel, Ryan Kennedy, David Mackie and Schuyler Morehouse.
Morehouse was elected to serve as council president.
Anzano praised Lehman and Tewell for their service on council and added that “there is always a place” for them if they decide to volunteer again. They will be missed, he said.
Looking back at 2018, Anzano said much was accomplished. The council adopted an ordinance limiting the use of single-use plastic bags. The law includes an education component for residents.
“We started in one place and ended up in another place,” Anzano said of the plastic bag ordinance.
Council members are focused on rebuilding the town’s infrastructure, including the road reconstruction program, he said. The borough has performed road reconstruction work on nearly every street in town.
The governing body adopted a “forward-looking” redevelopment ordinance that does not call for the use of eminent domain, Anzano said. Eminent domain is the taking or acquisition of private property by government for re-use.
Council members and Planning Board members have held preliminary discussions about redevelopment projects “in a transparent way,” Anzano said.
The mayor said it is disappointing residents have said they are not aware of the projects. Anzano encouraged residents to pay attention to what the council and Planning Board are doing. Government is not a spectator sport, he added.
Anzano commented on a racially charged social media post made by a student in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District. The student said he said he was “troubled” by irrational and ethnic biases in the community.
Based on what he has observed, Anzano said, it involves a “distinct” minority of Hopewell Valley residents.
“There is no place for such hateful opinions and speech,” he said. “It is spoken in whispers, and at times openly and plainly expressed. We as a community must deem these whispers and words unacceptable and work to eliminate them from our social discourse.”
Anzano said he was gratified council members passed a “sanctuary city” resolution which made it clear the borough will not comply with the “anti-immigration rhetoric of a closed-minded few.”
During the next few months, Anzano said, he plans to work to “grow our willingness to respect others regardless of our differences, discourage hateful words and actions, and to speak up when necessary.”
In other business, council members approved the governing body’s liaisons to advisory boards and commissions, starting with the appointment of Morehouse to serve as the mayor’s representative to the Hopewell Public Library Board of Trustees.
Mackie was named to the Planning Board and McAuliffe was appointed as the liaison to the Board of Health and the Hopewell Valley Green Team.
Stuhler was named as the liaison to the Shade Tree Advisory Committee, and Kennedy was appointed to be the liaison to the Economic Development Committee and the Hopewell Valley Open Space Committee.