In Your Opinion: Prasad Owes Catalpa Park Opponents An Apology


Raliegh Steinhauer

By Raleigh Steinhauer, Somerset.

Councilman at Large Rajiv Prasad has accused opposition to the Catalpa Park project of being racially motivated against Asian Indians. Councilman Prasad singled out the Facebook group leading the opposition known as the Tranquility Protection Alliance of Franklin Township, and directed the Human Relations Committee to issue a statement denouncing Tranquility’s Facebook page, which was founded by residents in order to fight overdevelopment in the Township. Councilman Prasad bases his allegations against Tranquility on what he claims to be Facebook posts containing cryptic racist undertones and code words.

Contrary to Councilman Prasad’s baseless assertions, opposition to the Catalpa Park project by Tranquility and others in the Township has nothing to do with racism. The Catalpa Park project, which has been controversial from the start, is legitimately opposed by many residents, including Tranquility, based upon a pattern of overdevelopment in the Township. Whether the park actually provides necessary recreation for residents, or constitutes unnecessary overdevelopment in the Township, can and should be thoroughly debated. Councilman Prasad’s insertion of racism into the discourse however is small-minded and intellectually dishonest.

Councilman Prasad, who is seeking re-election this year, should be able to fully explain and defend his vote for the project without resorting to personally attacking those opposed to the project; who, as Councilman at Large, are his constituents. Though, instead of engaging in any meaningful debate regarding the project’s merits, he prefers hurling unfounded charges of racism at his constituents solely because they disagree with him. Indeed, Councilman Prasad actually seems to be genuinely appalled that his constituents would dare even question him in the first place, as if somehow they have no right to do so. Perhaps, this is an attitude acquired from too many years in office.

As Councilman Prasad has alleged that the opposition to the Catalpa Park project is racially motivated, it is only fair to question his motives regarding the project. The manner in which the project was steamrolled through and over the vocal opposition of Township residents certainly makes one wonder. To that end, the engineering firm CME Associates, which is building the park, have been large political contributors to Democrats in Franklin. In addition, some of the individuals that came to the Council meeting to support the project when it was approved were residents of Edison Township seeking to enjoy and benefit from the largesse of Franklin Township taxpayers. Unsurprisingly, many political contributions to Franklin Democrats have come from Middlesex County.

As I am running for Council myself this year, I fully expect Councilman Prasad to claim that I am self-motivated in writing this article, and therefore my opinion should be discounted. To that I would say that I am more than happy to debate Councilman Prasad on the merits of the Catalpa Park project, and any other legitimate issue affecting Township residents, and then residents can make up their minds for themselves. In the interim, however, I will not stand idly by and allow unfounded charges of racism to be leveled against residents, including many of my friends and neighbors, simply because they happen to disagree with a project on legitimate grounds. These kind of vile attacks have no place in Franklin Township.

To conclude, there is an old adage that goes, “Don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.” Perhaps, Councilman Prasad should take heed of this adage, and instead of impugning the motives of others, should take a hard look at his own. At the very least, he owes his constituents an apology.

Steinhauer is a Republican candiate for an at-large Township Council seat.

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