A public message to the council president: Hostile image is hurting our town

| 22 Feb 2022 | 11:13

Editor’s note: The following statement submitted by Vernon Township Mayor Burrell is his comment made at the Feb. 14 township council meeting and directed at the new township council president, Patrick Rizzuto.

Mr. Council President, since the turbulent Jan. 24, 2022, council meeting, I have received an unusually large number of comments from individuals that I have encountered around town at the ACME Plaza, the CVS drugstore, and other locations around town. I have also received contacts and comments through phone calls, and through other forms of communications.

The most concerning of these contacts and comments have come from business owners who were, and I hope still are, considering locating in our town.

These contacts have concerned me so greatly because the negative, hostile image and atmosphere that has engulfed our governing body during the first month-plus of this year have caused some to question if the professionalism and the lack of vindictiveness and bitterness that has characterized the conduct of Vernon’s municipal government over the past two years, represented a real change in how we do things in Vernon, or just a pause from the embarrassing and progress killing behavior that has hurt our town for so long.

Business owners simply don’t want to become involved in, or risk the success of their business in, these types of personality and ego motivated “political food fights.”

And, the most damaging thing about this, is that it hurts our town’s ability to attract those kinds of commercial ventures that can provide the needed tax dollars to help offset homeowners’ property taxes, and provide the kinds of services and conveniences that Vernon residents need and want.

They all expressed shock at your behavior in response to my organized attempts to respond to the series of questions concerning the two special amenities, the Town Center Bicycle Pump Track and the Town Center Walking & Biking Trail, that the previous two councils and I have planned as two of the ways to help us bring some much-needed development and business to the Vernon Town Center.

Because your reaction to my presentation played out in a public forum at what was supposed to be a normal council business meeting, I believe that it’s appropriate and proper for me to deliver these responsive comments in that same public forum.

I specifically want to respond to your insinuations, and in some cases out right statements, that in carrying out the approvals that the previous two Councils have given me to move forward with these two special amenities, that I have somehow done something improper and/or illegal.

That is, of course, not true.

Because I believe you to be a nice man, I don’t agree with the many who claim that your statements and behavior at the turbulent Jan. 24 council meeting, were planned and orchestrated attempts to assassinate my character and erode my credibility.

And because I also believe you to be a smart man, I can only surmise that your mistaken point of view of my actions, and my authority to take those actions, are due to the fact that you are taking advice from — and I believe very bad advice — and that you are following the lead of, an individual who simply does not have a sufficient understanding of the responsibilities and the authority that the mayor has under the mayor-council form of government that the voters of Vernon approved for our town over a decade ago.

I clearly understand that you do not support some of the decisions and actions by me and the previous two councils — that’s OK; it’s your right to have a different opinion; in fact, it’s not at all unusual for one political group to disagree with another political group.

However, I believe that our town will be best served if I, you and the entire council would put aside any personality-based negative attitudes; if we refuse to repeat any half-truths; if we refuse to serve as surrogates for those who want to use our town’s government as a platform to settle old scores; and if we stop the excessive focus on trying to kill or reverse things that have already been done, and instead focus on working together on our mutual visions for Moving Vernon Forward.

I am ready to take these steps, whenever you are!

Mayor Howard L. Burrell

Vernon Township