By JON LEO
Message from Susan & Alvaro: Thank you to Berkeley Heights Republican leader and Council candidate John Leo for putting town before party and supporting us! We need to bring our community together and make sure all voices are heard, and that’s why Republicans like John are for #ChangeWeCanAgreeOn!
This election year, we face real challenges that we need to overcome: better long-term planning, upgrading infrastructure such as our roads, paths and sports fields, building a more sustainable downtown that keeps private businesses strong and supportive of the community, and more. To meet these challenges requires leadership that respects the views of all residents and is committed to greater inclusion and transparency. As residents it is our right and responsibility to maintain an awareness of the decisions our town government makes while also making the personal effort to get involved.
There absolutely is an “agreeable center” if the right people create the context to make this possible. Successful township governments are inviting and communicative. Among our neighboring townships we can find YouTube videos of mayors giving periodic resident briefings or councils providing budget presentations on which residents can submit to Q&A sessions. A quick comparison summarizes my first political canvassing experience. From witnessing the local government process in town hall meetings and hearing what a resident has to say, the answers lay with our people. They are intelligent and willing to provide input but when our council actively worked to remove referendum and provide few avenues for input it is demoralizing to the community.
The driving concern is with an all too common attitude against public opinion and dissenting views. Like the Mayor and Council, I am a Republican; as a Republican, I believe a major conservative value is to trust the people to make the right decisions. Echoing a national problem, skeptical viewpoints, sometimes in the minority are suppressed or ignored when there is in fact merit in those positions. I will stand by any leadership that provides an opportunity for discussion before decisions are made so that public fallout or resentment does not follow.
These are not Democratic or Republican challenges, they are our challenges. It was out of a desire to do my part to help us overcome these challenges that I ran for Township Council earlier this year. I still believe that sincere, accountable leadership must find our collective voice as a community and bring us together to make needed changes. The current governing body has fallen short in creating that needed unity. Despite having six years of full control they have not taken the right steps in many areas where our town needed action. Municipal improvements have not been handled or explained well while our township debt more than doubles. Meanwhile, other important priorities have been neglected or met with half-measures.
Since the primary, I have listened to the candidates and their respective visions for the kind of change we need. Change is needed if we are going to move our town in a better direction: change that requires all of us to have a voice in the future of our town, and leaders that recognize the importance of this. Having spoken with Susan Poage and Alvaro Medeiros, I firmly believe they are the right candidates to bring about this change. That is why I am endorsing their candidacy for Township Council, and am urging all Independents and open-minded Republicans to choose people over Party by voting for them on November 7.
I am confident that Susan and Alvaro will ask the tough questions, work to give every resident a voice, and promote common-sense proposals to overcome the challenges we face. Their backgrounds as a beloved local teacher and a corporate executive, respectively, make them an excellent team to provide diverse leadership in our town. Their desire to stand up now and run for the Township Council, as Democrats eager to work with Republicans and Independents to make change happen, proves they want to move our town forward in a positive, forward-looking direction. United. Not divided.
I do not agree with Susan and Alvaro in some aspects, party affiliation included. To their credit, however, they are approaching the challenges we face from the position of promoting common sense values: fixing our roads efficiently, questioning borrowing before engaging debt, forming a special taskforce to develop practical ideas to improve our downtown and establish reasonable, long-term planning, actively working with county and state leaders to bring back more of our tax dollars, and more. Susan and Alvaro’s campaign is strong evidence of the desire to directly engage with residents on all available mediums, specifically public platforms. Though it is difficult decision, their presence on the council satisfies my conservative values.
We need leaders with the humility to point to other towns who have moved in the right direction and emulate their progress. We need leaders who will evaluate the benefits and risks of major decisions as individuals, not simply to go along with a group, while welcoming the views of residents to bring in their own, valuable expertise and opinions. If we are going to have a successful future, someone needs to ask tough questions or else we may suffer unforeseen consequences. Susan and Alvaro possess the necessary perspective and qualities that can make this possible.
Please join me in voting for the best choices in this general election, Susan Poage and Alvaro Medeiros, on November 7. With our help they will begin moving us towards the kind of unity, transparency and accountability we need in local government. I encourage all residents to visit their website, http://www.changewecanagreeon.com to learn more about them and their platform of Change We Can Agree On.