To the Editor:
Elections are coming to Bridgewater, and I have questions.
As someone who’s never registered with any party, I consider myself to be pretty impartial. That said, there are some things on which I won’t grant the benefit of the doubt.
The Republican primary was one of the most divisive and bitter fights I’ve ever seen, with the #DeveloperDan movement relentlessly launching highly personal attacks on Mayor Hayes. It was followed by revelations about Hayes receiving over $100,000 in campaign funds from
corporate interests outside of Bridgewater. All this was occuring while he sat on the planning board, refusing to recuse himself. It became abundantly clear that, as a town, we were heading in the wrong direction.
So, who challenged Hayes in the primary?
His opponent, Matthew Moench, seems like a reasonable alternative. He’s experienced and seems ready to face the issues - even expressing an anti-overdevelopment and anti-corruption theme in his campaign platform. In fact, he won the primary! Easy peasy, right? And if you’re from Bridgewater, you might think he met all the criteria of a great mayor. In Bridgewater, it’s easy to overlook the fact that we can have a conversation about this without uttering the word “Democrat” ... and therein lies the problem.
Is there evidence of a one-sided government? Our election statistics bear that out. Is there evidence of an emboldened political party dominating our town? That’s debatable. I can say that contradictions from a candidate seem inconsequential in our town when they represent the dominant party. For example, Moench’s current public aversion to overdevelopment contradicts his 2016 vote in favor of a very large development plan.
“AN ORDINANCE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF BRIDGEWATER IN THE COUNTY OF SOMERSET AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY ADOPTING A "REDEVELOPMENT PLAN" FOR AN AREA IN NEED OF REDEVELOPMENT…”
The ordinance adds a new section, 126-321.6 , entitled "R-SEED REDEVELOPMENT SPECIAL ECONOMIC AND EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT DISTRICT ZONE "GOVERNING THE DEVELOPMENT OF A BRIDGEWATER REDEVELOPMENT PLAN” .
The ordinance makes zoning adjustments that will allow for the construction of:
1. Rental housing (400)
2. Boutique-scale retail
4. Recreation areas for personal health and social interaction.
5. A hotel for conventions/corporate visits
6. “Small” office space
It does so with very little concern over the increased burden to infrastructure and public services. The application to build has also sought a PILOT program which stands for “Payment in Lieu of Taxes.” It’s basically a tax abatement program for businesses, reducing their tax burden and potentially raising ours by directly shifting funds away from our schools. It seems a lot like a street hustler’s shell game ... where you lose.
I wonder when that ever seemed like a good idea ... and to whom??
Note: Mr. Moench has made public statements in opposition to PILOT programs since his 2016 vote, and the town council has since decided not to support it.
And the view from 10,000 feet looks a little unsettling too, with public statements that incorporate slogans from the national political stage. For example, Matthew Moench wants to “ Drain the Swamp,” a slogan borrowed from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. If Bridgewater has been overwhelmingly Republican, I’d like to know how he envisions the “swamp” and what he has in mind for draining it.
His use of the slogan makes me wonder if he admires the president enough to emulate his plan.
Tweets that imply that someone is a protégé of Donald Trump send a disturbing message that they might also follow an ideology exhibited by him. If Donald Trump hired someone who’s anti-public education to be the Secretary of Education, and someone who vowed to shut down the DOE to be the Secretary of Energy (as part of a plan to “drain the swamp”) what would someone with a similar ideology apply to Bridgewater as public policy?
And for those of you who are life-long Republicans, I’m certainly not asking you to change your party. What I urge you to consider are actions to get your house in order. A protest vote for change might actually wake up your representatives to the point that they return to their historical role in government. And by “historical role,” I mean a legitimate and reasonable counterbalance to liberal agendas. There’s a 2014 quote from journalist and writer Becky Sarwate that describes it perfectly.
"For years now, we’ve watched the Republican Party degrade from a once viable conservative response to liberal philosophy, into an apocalyptic crazy town where thinking and humanity go to die."
There is a growing movement to return Bridgewater to a balanced two-party government. My advice to any Bridgewater resident old enough to vote, is to know the candidates, become informed as much as possible and give special consideration to who you want to be in your local government this year.