Fresh Eyes for
Chatham Township's Future
Amee Shah and Phil Ankel are fiscally conservative, long-term strategic thinkers who will ensure that the community’s goals for the Township are successfully achieved. That’s because they have the humility and good sense to listen, first. Then lead.
Fiscal Acumen, Civic Engagement, Strategic Planning, Fact-Based Decision Making, Environmental Stewardship and A Return to Civil Discourse in Chatham Township Politics - this is what we stand for.
Question: Why hasn’t the Committee been thinking long-term about revenue sources and expenses?
We strongly believe in making sure that residents’ hard-earned tax dollars are used in the most financially prudent ways to benefit the Township. And, that we leverage other sources of available funding to supplement available tax revenues.
For years, Republican led Township Committees missed opportunities to properly plan for foreseeable expenses and thereafter raise much needed revenue for the Township.
Those Republican Committees failed to plan and save for easily foreseeable, legally mandated, Affordable Housing costs that are now due.
Those Republican Committees failed to collect developers’ fees which could have provided us with the funds to finance a significant portion of the Affordable Housing plan enacted by a Republican Committee under the leadership of then Mayor Curt Ritter (R). Had the Township been collecting these fees from 2008 as other communities did, the Township would have collected millions towards the Affordable Housing commitments.
Those Republican Committees failed to find alternative revenue for the eventual loss of cell tower revenue (several hundred thousand per year).
We note with approval the current Township Administrator’s success this year in obtaining over $200,000 in PSE&G grant money to reduce the Township’s energy expenditures for the years ahead. We will actively explore additional potential revenue opportunities once elected. We will also continue to find ways to reduce electric, heating, telecommunications, IT and other costs and share services with other local communities.
Civic and Civil Engagement
Question: Why are our elections and Township Committee meetings so uncivil?
We believe that civic and civil engagement is what defines small town America. As a community, we are blessed with incredible volunteers who support our schools, local recreational and civic resources, and our environment. We want to keep and grow that community spirit in Chatham Township with the Township Committee as active partner.
In a Township of 11,000 residents with an operating budget of about $10 million, we must be able to conduct our elections and our Township Committee meetings with civility and respect – as neighbors. For too long, that hasn’t been the case – and we intend to change that. There will be disagreements, no doubt. But angry and personal attacks on other Committee members or our neighbors in the community won’t be part of our approach.
Question: Why is our Chatham Township Master Plan so outdated?
The Chatham Township Master Plan is one of the key documents that allows us, as a community, to determine what’s important. Our Master Plan is dated and propose that the Committee work to update its key provisions which haven’t been updated, in some cases, since 1999.
Chatham Township should consider a holistic review of the its public spaces. We should, as a community, discuss how we create the kinds of public spaces that foster a vibrant economic and social community for us and for our children.
The Township infrastructure (Township Police and Meyersville Municipal Building) is old and in need of repair – caused by prior Township Committees’ neglect and underfunding. The portion of the Master Plan that addresses these topics was last updated in 1999. Our first-class police and first responders, municipal employees and Chatham residents deserve better.
Township recreational facilities (Colony Pool and Tennis Courts, our field complexes, Castle Park and pocket parks) are key resources for the community. Residents deserve to have places to go to within the Township that are available to everyone and around which we build community. Again, this portion of the Master Plan was last updated in 1999.
Fact-Based Decision Making
Question: Why are so many of the conversations around Affordable Housing focused on spin and not facts?
In 2018, the Township Committee, under Mayor Curt Ritter (R), entered a settlement with Fair Sharing Housing Center (FSHC) that set the terms by which the Township would meet some of its state mandated affordable housing requirements. The 2018 Settlement Agreement identified an unmet need of 155 units to be addressed through set asides on multi-family, market rate development. If these 155 units do not get built before 2025, it is unclear whether the courts and FSHC will expect them to be built in the 4th round. What we do know is the lack of planning and chaos from the 2018 process must not be repeated in 2025.
After factoring in the various credits the Township received, the Settlement Agreement left the Township with a current obligation to build 74 units of 100% municipally sponsored affordable housing without finalizing a site, or having the funds set aside to build it. These 74 units are the subject of the Township’s current discussions relating to our legally required affordable housing commitment.
The decisions of past Republican Majority Committees not to proactively address affordable housing obligations opened the Township to the very real risk that courts would allow large scale developments of combined market rate and affordable housing in our Township. Put another way, continued refusal to build any affordable housing opens the door to Builder’s Remedy lawsuits, which could result in the Township losing control over its zoning. This is why the 2018 settlement process lacked transparency and comprehensive planning and why kicking the can down the road is not a viable option.
The Affordable Housing Commitment is a state mandate. We therefore plan to actively engage with other local communities to learn from their approaches and collectively lobby our state representatives for a clearer and better planned affordable housing approach going forward.
Question: Given its history of environmental leadership, why isn’t the Township doing more to protect our environment?
Chatham Township prides itself on protecting its environment and has a strong legacy of doing so (even fighting off an airport development in the Great Swamp). We can and should continue that legacy.
Chatham Township’s recycling contract will soon be up for renegotiation. Changes in the global recycling business have resulted in substantial increases in cost associated with recycling programs. We intend to focus on the MUA contract renegotiation to increase recycling in the Township while reducing the costs of those services.
Chatham Township has begun negotiations with an energy aggregator to purchase power more cheaply and from renewable sources. We support aggressively pursuing ways to reduce energy costs while improving our carbon footprint.
A substantial portion of Chatham Township’s land is in the Great Swamp, yet Chatham Township has relatively little interaction with the Great Swamp Watershed Association. We can and must find ways to work together better.
WE ARE YOUR CHOICE FOR A FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE, CIVIC AND CIVIL CHATHAM TOWNSHIP FOR THE LONG TERM
We commit to acting ethically, responsibly, respectfully and with the Township residents’ concerns at the forefront of every decision we make. The time to act is now. Secure the future of Chatham Township and vote Amee Shah and Phil Ankel to Chatham Township Committee this November 3rd.