Government South Orange Towns

After Online Attacks, South Orange Village President Asks for Respectful Discourse

In the wake of a decision by the South Orange Board of Trustees to award the lease of a former animal shelter building to a non-animal services bidder, Village President Sheena Collum has been called some nasty names online.

Although such behavior has become par for the course in the internet age, Collum is pushing back, calling out the behavior and asking for a higher level of discourse via Facebook yesterday:

“Being called a variety of interesting names by some on social media over the past few hours is not going to change the objective analysis that we needed to undertake and unfortunately reminds me way too much of the national political scene right now. As this process unfolded, it was pretty painful to watch how neighbors treated each other in this community whether on Nextdoor or Maplewood Online or Facebook, etc. All I have to say to that is just remember, the youth are watching how the adults behave and that matters. Reasonable and passionate people need to be able to agree to disagree sometimes and we can all do it in a respectful way that doesn’t disparage people who have different views.”

As an example, one Facebook poster wrote, “Perhaps this idiot woman should be inundated with emails/snail mails extolling her moronic decision…
Or perhaps some some cheap flowers sent with a note professing the same sentiments…or a basket full of toy animals with photos of nyacc’s daily euthanizations…
what freaking asses she & ‘the board’ are.”

Collum and Village Trustees were subjected to the name-calling after Trustees voted Monday night to award a five-year lease for 298 Walton Avenue to Run Jump Lift, a local crossfit training facility.

Run Jump Lift beat out three other bidders, including People for Animals, which runs South Orange’s new TNVR program. PFA proposed operating a spay/neuter clinic on the site, as well as providing animal shelter services for up to seven days.

Many animal advocates in the Maplewood/South Orange community supported PFA’s proposal, since it came the closest of the four bidders to providing the original function of the building — animal sheltering. However, Collum and the committee reviewing the applications noted that PFA’s proposal was not for an animal shelter but was rather for a seven-day hold.

The PFA proposal also raised concerns among near neighbors regarding noise and traffic. Collum said that the Village would work with PFA and the two other failed bidders to find locations in South Orange more suitable for them.

See Collum’s full Facebook remarks here:

Neighbors – as you may know, the Board of Trustees received four responses from our RFP for 298 Walton Avenue (a dog daycare and boarding facility, a training/fitness facility, youth after school programming/summer camps, and a spay/neuter clinic with a 7 day municipal hold for dogs). This was an incredibly difficult decision and I know the emotions and passion from our residents were very high on this topic. The Board of Trustees received hundreds of emails and petitions (on all sides), we hosted a community forum, and last night we needed to make a decision which ultimately would leave three out of four groups disappointed, which is never easy. A working group of myself, Trustees and staff (supplemented by the interviews and public input at the public forum) evaluated the proposals on a number of criteria, including:

1. Suitability of the proposed use for the facility and the site, (including the need for modifications to the facility and site, the interaction or conflict of the use with adjacent DPW use, the adequacy and safety of ingress and egress from the site, and the adequacy of the available parking);

2. Compatibility of the proposed use with, and its impact on, the surrounding neighborhood. (Including, hours of operation, nature of operation, traffic impacts);

3. Public Benefit provided by the use

4. Village’s Animal Control Services; and

5. Financial Benefit to the Village

Ultimately, the Board selected Run Jump Lift. Attached to this post is a detailed 10-page memo which I read into the record last night and I encourage everyone who was following this topic to review our findings to better understand why we selected RJL for the 298 Walton site (it will be a five-year lease agreement).

Being called a variety of interesting names by some on social media over the past few hours is not going to change the objective analysis that we needed to undertake and unfortunately reminds me way too much of the national political scene right now. As this process unfolded, it was pretty painful to watch how neighbors treated each other in this community whether on Nextdoor or Maplewood Online or Facebook, etc. All I have to say to that is just remember, the youth are watching how the adults behave and that matters. Reasonable and passionate people need to be able to agree to disagree sometimes and we can all do it in a respectful way that doesn’t disparage people who have different views.

Please review the memo. I will have an update at our next meeting on a shared service agreement with Livingston and Maplewood.

Download (PDF, 442KB)

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