Written by Jason Maddux
Middletown should be proud of another great National Night Out event.
Hoffer Park again was full on Tuesday night, Aug. 2. Estimates put the crowd at about 4,000 people. That’s an amazing number for a borough of less than 9,000.
Congrats especially to Officer Gary Rux and the rest of the organizers for making it happen.
We hope those who enjoyed all the free stuff at the event remember why it was being held: to foster relations between residents and borough police.
More than ever, in these uncertain times, that is a worthwhile goal.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:53
Written by Jason Maddux
Maybe it’s because it’s such a major change in our borough government.
Maybe it’s because we worry about a lack of representation for areas of the borough.
Or maybe it’s just because whenever a politician tries to move a proposal through the system quickly, we get suspicious.
But something doesn’t feel quite right about Mayor James H. Curry III’s plan to reduce the number of borough council members and eliminate Middletown’s ward system.
In fact, his actions at the July 19 council meeting harken back to a previous period when many — including Curry himself — believed that issues were ram-rodded through the body without proper vetting.
We respect that he and some other members of council are all-in on this proposal. Curry and others have been pounding the sidewalks getting signatures on petitions and working hard to raise awareness on the issue. We might ultimately agree that the number of Middletown Borough Council members should be reduced. But this just seems to be moving too quickly, and we are not convinced that seven at-large council members and/or scrapping the town’s three wards is the best plan.
Curry wants to reduce the number of council members from nine to seven, and get rid of the current setup that has three members from each of the borough’s three wards. He would get rid of wards altogether.
With two vacancies, he argues, it’s the perfect time to do it. Council can, he says, change its makeup through an ordinance.
It’s all neat and tidy, so why wait?
While the system might seem tedious at times, let’s remember that expediency doesn’t always make for good government.
It’s obvious that Curry has had this on his mind for awhile. The problem is, it’s new to the public. So while it might be fully thought out to him, it’s not for us. Give us some time to consider it and make an informed decision.
It didn’t help his argument that at the meeting at which he made this proposal, four of six people interested in filling one of the empty seats attended the council meeting to be interviewed by the body. That hardly seems to be indicative of the apathy that Curry says is plaguing the current way we elect council members. We also can’t ignore the elephant in the room: Eliminating wards threatens representation for the First Ward, traditionally home to a majority of the borough’s minority residents. There is a socioeconomic divide that is undeniable. Without wards and some guarantee that there will be council members from the First Ward, are we truly representing all of Middletown?
In one of two Facebook videos that Curry posted on the topic, he argues: “The necessity for wards has diminished and disappeared. It’s an antiquated system and the need for it no longer exists. The main reason for having wards is that you live in a city that is so big, that you need an elected official that lives in your particular area so that you feel you’re being represented in the city as a whole.”
We don’t totally buy that. No, this is not New York City, or even Harrisburg. But neighborhoods still matter in Middletown. And having a council member who lives in your neighborhood can’t be dismissed as antiquated. Another argument Curry makes on video: “When a nine-member council comes together to make a multimillion decision, how is it fair that as a resident, you’re only responsible for putting three of those people on the body?”
That’s how the legislative branch works. We don’t elect every state legislator, and they are making even bigger decisions that the council about our lives. Curry is worried about the number of resignations, that three of the nine council members will be appointed rather than elected. But will having fewer members really slow down the number of resignations?
If it’s too hard to keep people on council, then shouldn’t we look at the reasons why they are leaving and the tenor of borough government instead of simply saying, it would be easier with fewer members?
Our suggestion would be to set up council as it is done in other states: Have a mix of wards and at-large council members. If each ward had one representative and then there were four at-large council members, you could have seven and maintain representation from each ward.
But that isn’t likely to happen, and the issue cannot be placed on the ballot as a referendum to let all voters in Middletown decide.
So please attend if you can tonight’s borough council meeting. The topic will be discussed. If you agree or oppose the change or want to offer an alternative, make sure your voice is heard.
It is likely after discussion tonight that a vote could be taken at the next council meeting in less than two weeks.
If the reduction is going to happen, we would prefer that it not happen immediately. Fill the open councilors’ positions and eliminate and/or reduce the number of council members effective at a future date. Allow people who want to serve now to find out what borough government is all about.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 August 2016 16:26