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In Your Opinion: ‘E Pluribus Unum’ In Reverse

By Skip Schaeffer, Somerset.

“E pluribus unum” is Latin for “out of many, one.”  It is the national motto of the United States and can be found on the Great Seal of the United States as well as some U.S. currency.

Franklin Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad apparently has his own translation, though.  He interprets the national motto to mean “the many should serve one.”  The “one” being himself.

Mr. Prasad and his right-hand man, Councilman James Vassanella, are pushing the Township Council to approve the installation of four statues of famous people on to public township land – Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. This project has been variously described as Mr. Prasad’s “dream,” his “brainchild,” his “vision,” something he has wanted to make happen for over 10 years. Which leads me to ask the following questions: since when is it the public’s duty to make an elected official’s personal dream come true? Since when is the public supposed to serve an elected official? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

Although the cost of the statues is rumored to be privately donated, there will be public tax dollars required for this project.  Land, maintenance, security, maybe installation. Mayor Phil Kramer initially estimated these costs may exceed $100,000.

The irony in this “dream” of Mr. Prasad’s to put up monuments to honorable people is that many people in this town consider him to be morally and ethically challenged as a public servant himself.  He has repeatedly – REPEATEDLY – lied to the public he supposedly serves over the years. I won’t rehash everything here. Just do a search on this site of “Catalpa Park” to review many articles chronicling Mr. Prasad’s latest in a long line of egregious public actions. The mystery is why Mr. Prasad was re-elected to his Council position last time, but then New Jerseyans are notorious for re-electing morally and ethically challenged politicians.

Now let’s focus a little attention on the Township Council as a governing body over the years. Our public servants who are supposed to be good stewards of our tax dollars.  A quick re-cap of some of our tax dollars flushed over the last dozen years or so:

  • Mini dump annually subsidized for $150k until changes were demanded by the public
  • Garbage pick-up study for $40k that was embarrassingly not even presented to the public
  • Telecom bid and services mismanaged for at least five years where thousands of dollars were paid for services not received
  • And the latest granddaddy of them all – over $250k spent fighting a losing lawsuit regarding digital billboards on Rt. 287 because of one council member’s personal dislike of them.  Gee, how many accidents has that billboard caused, Roz Sherman?  And this fiasco was fought even though there were already other digital message boards installed in town.

These are just a few instances I can recite off the top of my head.  How many others are there?

Staying with the Council here – at least those members who were serving during Mr. Prasad’s Catalpa Park episode: Mayor Kramer, Councilwomen Shanel Robinson and Kimberly Francois, and Councilmen Ted Chase, James Vassanella, and Carl Wright. When presented the opportunity and asked by the public for their comments regarding Mr. Prasad’s actions, none of them uttered a word of admonishment for the record. A couple of them said they spoke to Mr. Prasad in private about his actions. Who knows and who cares? You are public servants and are accountable to the public. Silence can be taken as complicity. You showed that party loyalty is stronger than loyalty to the public you were elected to serve. Does that ring a bell given the times we live in? I’m sure you’re all good people that know right from wrong. It’s too bad your public silence stained you as well as Mr. Prasad. So why would you support this man’s personal dream now? And why is a decision of this size made by 9 out of 65,000 residents? Why can’t you put this out to a public vote? (And what future quid pro quo is Mr. Vassanella expecting from Mr. Prasad for his odd unwavering support of this project?)

So back to Mr. Prasad’s apparent interpretation of “e pluribus unum.” Given his past political actions and given the Council’s history of not protecting our tax dollars, why should the 65,000 people of Franklin Township foot the financial bill for the personal “dream” of one? Our township residents have dreams of their own – a youth center, a YMCA, safety in our schools, sidewalks for our children walking to school, preserving open space, preventing a natural gas compressor station, decreasing crime, lowering our property taxes, our public officials not lying to us, etc., etc., etc. These are some of the dreams of the many that our elected officials should spend their energies and our tax dollars on. Not the “dream” of one.

 

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