On Friday, John Reichman, who says he represents the Capital Finance Committee, emailed candidates running for office in local elections coming up in May, asking that they attend an open meeting in Council Chambers on April 2 at 7:30 p.m. so that the public could hear their views on capital spending issues.
But Township Manager Marc Dashield responded with his own email, warning that it's "improper" for a committee of the township council to become involved in electoral politics.
Furthermore, Dashield wrote to Reichman, the township policy limits the use of township facilities for the purpose of conducting candidate forums organized by "The Montclair Times" and the League of Women Voters—nonpartisan organizations.
Consequently, he said, the proposed meeting can't occur in Council Chambers on April 2.
In response, Reichman wrote Dashield back, telling him that the township manager's email "is illogical and contradictory.
"You state that township policy only allows the use of township facilities to be used by nonpartisan organizations," he said. "The CFC obviously fits squarely within this definition. We do not support any candidates and just like the forums held by the League of Women Voters, we will be providing a means for voters to better understand the positions of the candidates.
"Please also tell me where the 'policy' you cite is located and please send me a copy," Reichman continued. "There is nothing the slightest bit 'improper' in the CFC soliciting views of the candidates and the public about the important debt and capital spending issues the township faces.
"You should be supporting, not objecting to, the free exchange of ideas on this important subject," he said.
In Reichman's first email to the candidates, he had said that: "As most if not all of you have indicated, capital spending and the township’s growing debt is one of the most important issues in this year’s campaign."
He said the meeting on April 2 would be designed so that each slate and each independent candidate had the chance to address the following issues with specificity:
1. What policy, if any, the township should adopt with respect to the overall level of capital spending.
2. What policy should be adopted for prioritizing capital spending.
3. Whether you support the conversion of short term notes to bonds even if this increases debt service in the short run.
4. Whether the township should continue to borrow money to pay for annually recurring expenses such as shade trees and the repaving of streets.
5. What role the CFC has and whether you support the resolution recently adopted by the council which prohibits the CFC from examining particular capital spending projects.
6. Whether there are items which should be eliminated from the pending capital budgets prepared for the Township and the BOE.
But now, following Dashield's email, it doesn't appear this meeting will take place—at least not in Council Chambers.
This is certainly not the first time Dashield and the Capital Finance Committee have been at odds.
In an email to township council members last October, Reichman claimed that Dashield had been uncooperative. And, previously, the Capital Finance Committee has been critical of the town for allegedly failing to craft a long-term capital spending plan. In November, Dashield asked the council to evaluate the role that it wants the Capital Finance Committee to play in the township.
For more background on this story go here.