The following is an open letter to the South Orange Board of Trustees and the residents of South Orange and Maplewood from SOMA ACTION*, “a group of friends and neighbors in South Orange and Maplewood who share an interest in resistance to the Trump Agenda and the broader right-wing agenda for the United States.”
WE, the members of SOMA Action, urge the South Orange Village Board of Trustees to act now to defend democratic self-government and the rule of law. We seek local resolutions affirming widespread support in our communities for:
- Constitutional norms and longstanding practices regarding the intolerability of financial conflicts of interest impairing the integrity and normal functioning of the Office of the President of the United States; and
- The equal, respectful, and dignified treatment of all persons, regardless of immigration status.
(1) Financial Conflicts of Interest. We believe that President Trump’s steadfast refusal to reveal vital information about his vast financial empire and its reach, operations, and creditors; his refusal to release his tax returns; and his refusal to divest himself of his holdings and to place his assets in a truly blind trust, constitute nothing less than a grave threat to the Republic. The President’s unprecedented conduct with respect to present and immediate financial conflicts of interest should alarm people of all political persuasions.
- Ethics Lawyers for both Bush and Obama say it is “nakedly unconstitutional”:
We therefore call on our elected officials in South Orange to enact a local resolution in support of pending national legislation in the U.S. House and Senate seeking to curb the President’s ability to ignore constitutional norms. Further, this resolution should call on New Jersey Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor this pending national legislation.
The pending legislation in the House of Representatives is H.R. 371, introduced by Representative Kathleen Clark (D-MA) on January 9.
- Text of H.R. 371, The Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017:
- Read about H.R. 371 here:
As of now, only New Jersey Representatives Pallone, Pascrell, Sires, and Watson-Coleman have co-sponsored this bill. Our representative, Donald Payne, has not. We should call on Representative Payne to add his name to the list of co-sponsors.
- Here is a list of H.R. 371 co-sponsors:
The pending legislation in the Senate is S. 65, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on January 9th.
- Information about S. 65, A Bill to Address Financial Conflicts of Interest of the President and Vice-President:
As of now, only Senator Cory Booker has co-sponsored this bill. Senator Robert Menendez has not. We should call on Senator Menendez to add his name to the list of co-sponsors.
- Here is a list S. 65 co-sponsors:
- In December, the Maplewood Township Committee passed such a Financial Conflicts of Interest Resolution, the text of which can be found here:
(2) The Equal, Respectful, and Dignified Treatment of All Persons, Without Regard to Immigration Status. We believe that President Trump’s derogatory comments about immigrants and immigrant communities, his repeated threats to deport millions of undocumented persons, and his professions of religious bigotry against our Muslim sisters and brothers, constitute nothing less than a grave threat to the Republic. His statements should alarm people of all political persuasions.
- The text of the Maplewood Resolution can be found here:
We applaud the efforts and actions of the Maplewood Township Committee for passing these resolutions about Mr. Trump’s financial conflicts of interest and affirming the equal dignity of all persons, without regard to immigration status. Your actions make us proud to live here.
We urge the South Orange Board of Trustees to enact the same or similar resolutions. We urge South Orange residents to email Board of Trustee Members to express their support for the enactment of these resolutions.
The next meeting of the South Orange Village Board of Trustees will take place on Monday, January 23, at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC). People who what to speak should arrive at 7:45.
Will Sanctuary Threaten a Loss of Federal Aid?
Some in our community fear that enacting local resolutions that resist Trump’s threatened immigration policies would put us at risk of losing federal funds. This concern is not unreasonable. However, the threat to our fundamental values is grave and immediate, and the risk of any such sanctions is hypothetical and remote. There is now no federal law or rule that specifies any sanction for enacting and adhering to the terms of the Maplewood Equal Treatment Resolution. Were such sanctions to be adopted at the federal level, they would certainly be subject to both widespread local resistance and constitutional challenges.
- See Brown University Professor Corey Brettschneider’s comments about local noncooperation and legal issues in Time Magazine, here:
Finally, were any federal sanctions to be upheld, a local governing body could easily make a new decision on compliance or noncompliance. We hope that the South Orange Board of Trustees will act now to send a message to the Trump Administration that we will not be complicit in racial and religious bigotry and discrimination.
* * * *
*SOMA ACTION is a group of friends and neighbors in South Orange and Maplewood who share an interest in resistance to the Trump Agenda and the broader right-wing agenda for the United States. We share information about, and actively engage in, grass-roots efforts to stop the Trump Administration from enacting or implementing many elements of its program.
SOMA ACTON has quickly grown to 160 members. We hold regular face-to-face meetings. We’ve set up a website: www.SOMAaction.org We are committed to working together at the local level to mobilize quickly against Trump Administration threats to our democracy.
Our next meeting will be held on Sunday, January 29, at 1:30 pm, at the Hilton Branch of the Maplewood Public Library. Our group is very much a work-in-progress. All are welcome.
If you would like to find out more about us, please contact