(The following letter was submitted to the Randolph Township Council by Timpanaro, Weiner & Hernandez for Randolph Township Council on June 13, 2020)
Dear Township Council:
I write on behalf of myself, David Timpanaro and Jeanette Hernandez.
At the June 11 Council meeting, this body again declared that it would remain steadfast and dedicated in its efforts to take expeditious and practical steps in eradicating discrimination, bigotry and hatred in Randolph Township. To that end, the undersigned are in total agreement. It remains our sincerest hope and desire that the Council follows through on this promise while simultaneously remaining mindful of the many recommendations made not just by us but by many other Township residents on how best to achieve equality in Randolph.
When I spoke at the meeting, I reiterated the importance of the Council leading not only by words (as was done with the prior resolution) but by sound action. I indicated that the Council could start by formally acknowledging Diwali, the Indian New Year, given that such a pronouncement has twice been requested by the members of our Indian community, and twice been denied. I also stated that the Council would be making a huge statement of "inclusion" if it agreed to raise the Rainbow flag in recognition of LGBTQ Pride Month in a show of solidarity with our LGBTQ neighbors.
Mayor Carey responded with what has been this Council's mantra for quite some time: that we should never formally recognize any community so as not to run the risk of excluding another. In other words, it is the apparent public policy of this Council to mutually exclude everyone so as not to offend anyone. However, my response to that was simple: while maybe not intentional, such a policy of exclusion is part of the very problem we face as a community and as a nation. By refusing to expressly acknowledge and include, we run the risk of making those who have historically been marginalized feel like the perpetual cycle of inaction will never change. Yet to openly and expressly include and acknowledge everyone costs us nothing, and gives the community so much back in return.
I was also taken aback at Mayor Carey's comment that the Council was reluctant to openly support or acknowledge any "cause" because some community members may not agree. Such a mindset is troubling and problematic, especially when uttered from the very individual who is supposed to be the voice of the Township's residents. National origin, race, sexual and gender identity is not a "cause," it is an immutable characteristic of birth. To categorize sexual, gender, ethnic, or cultural identity as no different than one's political or personal ideology is fallacious, as it attributes them to a belief system, and that is insulting to the notion of individual identity and, quite frankly, underscores the very narrow mindset that we are trying to change. The actual "cause" that an open acknowledgment of our minority communities would embrace is that of equality regardless of one's personal identity. If there are some residents of this Township who are uncomfortable with that notion, why should the Council give more voice to them than the ones who have been historically ignored and marginalized? Some things transcend politics, even if they may be unpopular (though by observing the amount of involvement and outcry from the residents, and nation as a whole) on this issue, I believe the Council's position stands in stark contrast to that of the majority of the residents).
Mayor Carey also commented that no council member had ever been asked to raise the Rainbow flag (to which each council member acceded). This is untrue, as both I and Mr. Timpanaro (both of whom sit on the Municipal Alliance Committee) expressly asked that committee at our February 2020 meeting to recommend that the Council raise the Rainbow flag this June. Councilwoman Potter, as the Council's liaison to the committee, sat in on this meeting, and it is troubling that she apparently never brought this request to the Council's attention. That being said, I formally reiterated this request at the June 11 Council meeting, and Mayor Carey said the Council would take it under consideration. It is our sincere hope that the Council follows through and takes the simple yet powerful and symbolic action of raising the Rainbow flag in recognition of Pride Month.
Hearts and minds do not change overnight, but people do take their cues from their leaders. If the Council were to take decisive action in line with the foregoing, with one unified and powerful voice, it would send a loud signal to Morris County and its constituent municipalities that Randolph stands at the forefront of inclusion, acceptance and civic virtue. As one of the largest municipalities in Morris County, Randolph can take the lead on this issue which, in turn, could encourage and embolden other municipalities to follow. Where there is a spark, we can make a flame. There is nothing divisive about acknowledging others and letting them know that "we hear you, and we love you."
We look forward to following up with the Council and working with it towards this laudable goal.
Very truly yours,
Joshua Weiner, David Timpanaro and Jeanette Hernandez For Township Council