May 01, 2007

The Ruby Slippers

In Grand Rapids someone made off with the “Ruby Slippers” that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of OZ; it was reported in the NY Daily News. The size 6B red shoes were actually stolen from a local museum in 2005. “The case is still active,” Police Chief Leigh Serfling said. The shoes owner, who had loaned the famous footwear to the museum, told ABC News, “When I heard they were stolen, it was like the Earth fell from beneath my feet.” When I related the story to my son’s girlfriend, a movie musical buff, her response was an alarmed, “That’s just not right!”

There are certain things that are just a part of our American culture that we seem to possess an inborn respect for like Mom, apple pie, and of course the Ruby Slippers. Than there are those non-tangibles such as a respect for another’s personal space, abiding by the Golden Rule and the expectation that we respect each other’s differing opinions/views. The Freedom to express how one feels about an issue or a situation irregardless of who you are, is just a part of the “American Way” especially when it relates to our government, after all isn’t that what the founding fathers had in mind?

An intentional ambush of those unspoken tenets has been very obvious at the most recent meetings of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, so obvious in fact that it was the subject of a recent editorial in the local Worrall Newspapers.

Rather than addressing what can be called a quality of life issue presented by county resident and activist, Mrs. Tina Renna, one freeholder has chosen to go on a convoluted attack. Not addressing the real issue, the availability of safe parking for residents wishing to attend the public meetings, Freeholder Daniel Sullivan, an Elizabeth resident, has feigned insult, pooh-poohing the FBI crime stats for the city. Further, the freeholder has twisted Mrs. Renna’s words and the intent of her comments, which was to question why directions to the administration building and available parking is not on the county website which would encourage public participation. It must be noted that the closest county lot, across the street, is enclosed by a secured iron fence and off limits, and that attendees must park about two blocks away and traverse dimly lit, lonely sidewalks like sitting ducks in a shooting gallery. Meanwhile, Mr. Sullivan, has the advantage of hopping in his vehicle in his driveway and depositing it at the meeting site in secured parking directly under the admin building in a reserved spot by the entrance, not setting foot on the city’s turf, a point made by Mrs. Renna and ignored by Mr. Sullivan.

Instead, during his closing comments he attempted to launch into a personal attack on her credibility because she attempted to clarify her previous week’s truthful comments, regarding the parking, earlier during the meeting. In an effort to defend herself, she requested time at the podium which of course was denied and a verbal free for all briefly commenced, which Chairwoman Kowalski appeared ill equipped to handle. Mr. Sullivan definitely was on the path to “crossing the line” something that residents who attend and express their dismay over the boards activities are frequently reprimanded for by the county’s counsel.

A smart man, Mr. Sullivan, certainly knows in his heart just why county residents from towns like Westfield, Cranford and Summit don’t venture to Elizabeth except when summoned for jury duty; in fact there are life long residents who have never been there out of fear for their personal safety. The board certainly wouldn’t relish those who pay the most in county taxes holding them accountable for their actions so why would they make it comfortable for them to do so? But, there are some hearty souls, who like Mrs. Renna, a former NYC resident and self admittedly not intimidated by the perils of the city, who do come and wish to address the issues and express their feelings as is their expected right only to be shut down. It has become abundantly clear that this Freeholder Board doesn’t want to hear it, or have the press in attendance hear it, as they appear to have adopted a policy of stealing the “Ruby Slippers” right off the residents feet, and “That’s just not right”.