|Jim, Rebecca, and John at library grounds cleanup|
Even when there are political or ideological disagreements between neighbors, we can still come together for the good of our community.
I am writing regarding an issue that has come up over the past couple of weeks. It seems that civility and Plainfield are oxymorons in the minds of some Plainfield residents. The other night, a few members of the school board (Campbell, Edache, Hernandez, and Phifer) came to the special meeting of the City Council and a couple of them lambasted us (one very acrimoniously) for voting to move the school board election date from April to November. Let's get one thing straight--the election date is not "their" election date--the law provides for either entity (governing body or school board) to move the date. The BOE members who appeared expressed a desire to have had a prior dialogue and discussion about the change, but it was clear that, aside from their anger about not being consulted, they didn't want the date changed. Even Wilma Campbell's husband, John, who exercised his right as a citizen to speak on the agenda item, didn't want the date changed--for reasons I am still not clear on (more on John later). Oddly as well, Alex Edache called the vote a "catfight"--although there was no fighting or even arguing of any kind--I don't know who was fighting.
The only board member who attempted to reach out to me was Wilma Campbell, in the form of a cordial phone message--hardly a "cat fight." What was strange to me in the comments, however, was the extreme degree of acrimony directed at my colleague Adrian Mapp. All the council members seemed to be in agreement about the positive aspects of moving the election date, but Adrian was the only one singled out for the nasty-toned invective. Indeed, the council voted unanimously in favor of changing the date. I noted in my comments that the low turnout for Board of Education elections has long been a topic of conversation among members of our local (non-partisan) League of Women Voters organization--long before any of the current members were elected. To be accused of playing politics by people who never even spoke to me or shared their viewpoint about this issue is unfortunate and inaccurate--voter registration, education, and actually getting out the vote has been my mission since I was in my teens.
What I found truly upsetting, though was the comment John Campbell (with whom I have always had a cordial relationship) made about Adrian speaking English with a Caribbean accent. First, there are many accents from the Caribbean--Dominican, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Barbadian, etc. A huge number of children in our school system speak or have parents who speak with accents. To deride and disparage Adrian for the way he speaks was the most offensive thing I experienced the other night. To witness the contempt on the part of a school board member's husband for someone who speaks accented English made me wonder about other biases--the lack of sensitivity and the freely-expressed bias was stunning. I remember hearing another Plainfield resident come before the microphone and make outrageous comments about another group. This is not acceptable. What was truly sad was that no one from the board felt the need to apologize for the remarks that John made on behalf of "our" children.
Criticism on issues is certainly fair, but to just deride is a waste of time and suggests that something else is afoot.