To the Editor:
At the suggestion of a 12-year-old resident, Chatham Borough is hosting an “alternative parade” to honor our first responders for their service and sacrifice during the pandemic and to recognize, in some small way, the Fourth of July holiday in the age of social distancing.
Unfortunately, as reported by TAPInto Chatham, Mayor Kobylarz has invited Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill to participate in the event by riding atop one of our Borough firetrucks. I say it is unfortunate because although the parade itself is grounded on good intentions, it has been hijacked by the Mayor and turned into a political event showcasing the Congresswoman who is running for re-election in November. In essence, at the Mayor’s behest, the Fire Department has been drafted to perform a political service to the Democratic Party. A task that doesn’t sit well with some members of the Fire Department.
While I appreciate the Congresswoman’s public service, both before and after her election to Congress, as well as her willingness to visit Chatham Borough, I think it is inappropriate for her to be one of only two invited guests participating in the event, at a time when she is running for re-election. (The other guest is the 12-year old who suggested having an alternate parade.) Congresswoman Sherrill’s appearance unnecessarily politicizes the event and our Fire Department. I also believe that it is improper to use Borough fire equipment to support a political campaign.
Let me be clear, I do not object to Congresswoman Sherrill’s participation because of her party affiliation, but simply because she is currently a candidate for re-election. “The parade” will take place 3 days before the primary election and while the Congresswoman is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, the opportunity to sit atop a firetruck and waive to residents provides her a Borough-sponsored public relations event that will allow her to connect with potential voters even if from afar. What makes the situation even more bizarre is that the Mayor didn’t even invite our local Council Members to be in the parade. How do I know this? Because I am a Borough Council Member. I guess in an election year the Mayor thinks it is more important that Congresswoman Sherrill be on hand to show her thanks to OUR first responders rather than have our local officials do the same.
I hereby request, on behalf of the Fire Department and our residents, that the invitation to Mikie Sherrill be rescinded.
Borough of Chatham Council Member