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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Teaneck voters need a break.

From what?

In this day and age, political debates on network news stations resemble reality TV. Problem is, nothing seems surprising anymore. If anything, Donald Trump’s bombast and rants, which sometimes draw his rivals to come back with some of their own barbs, seem to be the new normal, even if we all agree they shouldn’t be.

So we’re not surprised to see that it has perhaps given license to raised voices, examples of blatantly unbalanced news reporting, flyers and anonymous letters filled with their share of drivel that can at best be described as loshon hora. Indeed, watching Tuesday’s Teaneck live Town Council feed, there were moments where screaming rocked the meeting’s decorum.

The results of this grand and sometimes over-the-top campaign season will culminate on May 10, the date of the Teaneck municipal elections.

Council meetings are places where important decisions, mostly impacting budgetary practices, must be debated with intelligence, preparedness and accurate information. To violate a meeting’s tone with ugly comments or slanderous flyers violates the very spirit of civil conduct, not to mention parliamentary conduct, as called for by Roberts Rules of Order.

In a time when cameras bring meetings into our livings rooms and dens in real time, it’s important for everyone to remember, your actions aren’t reserved to a legislative chamber, but instead are available for anyone who desires to see. Applauding one council member who rails against abuse while booing another who says virtually the same thing only takes credence away from the audience, each member of which we know by name, because they speak “toward the end of the episode” during the Good & Welfare portion of the meeting each week. You are celebrities too, in your way.

It could accurately be noted that sometimes outside interests want to see the decorum lost inside a meeting. It serves their purposes to urge divisiveness and chaos.

What they don’t want to see is any attempt at balanced journalism or a clear interpretation of the facts. We in fact are accused of our own biases even when reporting the facts as they are presented. And what they also would deplore was our reporting on the wonderful, comforting and heartwarming sight to see from last Sunday when Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and African Americans all were co-mingled as they met and ate together at a campaign kickoff event. Halal and kosher food have never been served side by side in such a beautiful way. The mutual friendship and affection between Pruitt, Parker, Hameeduddin and Schwartz is a beautiful, yet rare sight.

These sorts of stories happen daily in the life of Teaneck, its citizens, public servants, business owners and elected officials. The story of Teaneck is that of diversity, respect and acceptance among its citizens. That story cannot be defined by a Town Hall meeting sometimes bereft of good conduct or described in slanted “journalistic” accounts.

We urge a higher level of debate, a more professional level of information dissemination and most of all, a fair conversation as we head towards May 10.

Yes, Teaneck voters need a break from the misinformation and raised voices.

They deserve clarity and integrity in these final weeks before the election.