Sunday, July 04, 2004

What's Eating Fred Profeta?

In honor of Independence Day and our always-under-attack Constitution, I offer this letter, which I'm submitting to the News-Record tomorrow.
Several weeks ago, at a meeting of the Maplewood Township Committee, Springfield Avenue Partnership President (and former Mayor) Vic DeLuca presented the recommendation of the Partnership that the new police headquarters facility be located at the Maplewood Tire site instead of the Bette White location. Rather than simply thanking the Partnership and Mr. DeLuca for their input, Mayor Profeta took the opportunity both to dismiss the concerns of the Partnership's members and to chastise Mr. DeLuca at length for bringing them forward. The reason? It was unseemly (Mr. Profeta's word) to bring the issue up again after a decision had already been made by the Township Committee.

In the 7/1/2004 issue of The News-Record, Mr. Profeta published a "Point of View" op-ed piece entitled Late opposition threatens a democratic process. His column once again excoriated the Partnership for pressing their case even after the Township Committee had voted on the issue. Mr. Profeta's rationale for criticizing them (and, this time around, the Hilton Neighborhood Association too) was that, just by expressing a contrary opinion, they oppose and threaten the democratic process itself.

In what conceivable sense can a group of citizens, presenting their opinion about matters that directly affect them, be considered a threat to democracy? Democracy is, after all, government by the will of the people. It's worth noting, as we celebrate our Independence Day holiday, that freedom of speech, particularly political speech concerning matters of public policy, is the most fundamental right that we Americans possess. The Springfield Avenue Partnership, consisting of dozens of businesses on the Avenue, and the Hilton Neighborhood Association, representing nearly a thousand homeowners in the Springfield Avenue area, have re-examined the Police Headquarters issue. They have reached a new, democratically arrived at, position – and wanted to present their findings, and their feelings, to their representatives on the Township Committee.

Put aside the merits of any particular site for Maplewood's police headquarters. Just consider Mr. Profeta's Point of View. To have "the people" express their considered, and reconsidered, opinion, he says, threatens democracy - a system defined by “We the People.” For an elected American official to espouse such an opinion is at best, well, unseemly.

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