WAYNE – Crass political moves usually succeed. So when they don’t, it’s time to stand up and cheer.
A majority on the township council here presumably felt they would have no trouble pushing through an ordinance changing the mayor’s job from part-time to full-time, and in the process, boosting Mayor Chris Vergano’s pay to $140,000 a year. The job now pays less than $20,000.
An ordinance to do just that was introduced earlier this month and a vote to adopt it was on the agenda for Wednesday night.
However, between the time of introduction and adoption, many residents got involved. They signed a rapidly-organized petition opposing the idea and voted overwhelmingly against it in an online survey by TAPinto Wayne.
And when the council assembled before an unusually crowded council chamber, the die seemed cast.
Vergano was not there, missing the meeting because of a medical issue, the council explained.
Franco Mazzei, the council president, began by saying there would be no vote on making the mayor a full-timer. That’s because the mayor had asked for the ordinance to be withdrawn. Unlike tabling a measure, which is just a delay, a withdrawal is as if the introduction never happened.
The council unanimously backed withdrawing the ordinance, but not before everyone had their say.
Francine Ritter, the lone Democrat on the council and an outspoken opponent of the proposal, said simply that the idea was “widely unpopular.” She also said there was no official job description for a full-time mayor and no transparency in how the council suddenly introduced the change.
None of the council members said elevating the mayor to full-time was a good idea, even those who originally supported it. Public sentiment, one supposes, does matter.
However, some said the public outcry was a good thing.
Councilman David Varano said a council committee reviewing the proposal had constructive dialogue about it.
Fellow Councilman Jonathan Ettman scanned the congested room and said, “This is what we want to see.”
Such pious tributes to civic involvement, of course, have their limits.
This was a passionate issue and as is normal, emotions can get out of hand.
There were council comments decrying the fact that some critics had brought up the health of the mayor, who was identified as a “cancer survivor.”
Yes, politics certainly has a nasty side.
Councilwoman Jill Sasso objected to comments on the issue that she termed as “slander.” She added, “I think we’re better than that.”