The Parsippany Board of Education's $7.7 million athletic fields referendum is scheduled for Tuesday. And with one day prior to the special election, many residents say they still have not received sample ballots in the mail. One township man decided to take action to ensure that people can make an informed decision at the polls.
Peter Bradley created a flyer that he distributed to his neighbors over the past weekend. He said concern over the lack of information moved him to act—and he accused the school board of being deliberately slow in getting information to voters.
"I’m convinced the BOE believes the referendum would fail if more people knew the full story," he charged. "I’d prefer a fair vote and let the results be what they may be. I don’t think we will have a fair vote on Tuesday. The date is very unusual; most people would not expect to vote on anything in January. The BOE sent a flyer with bias and incomplete information, and some of the residents will not have received sample ballots. I didn’t get one."
Bradley's flyer offers information that he said has been obscured by the school board, details that have led him toward voting no.
"$7.7M is just way too much to get our fields into playing condition," he said. "We could turf the fields and replace the tracks for a lot less. We don’t need lights, or bathrooms. The BOE has done very little to explore less expensive options."
"I find that very disappointing."
He accused the board of not addressing citizen questions and concerns regarding added operating expenses, parking, noise, security at night or lights.
"My feeling is these are tough issues, and the BOE would rather not engage with homeowners," Bradley said, calling the situation proof of what he called the board's "lack of managerial courage."
And he offered a message to those who support the plan, saying students at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools need improved fields now.
"The Hills football team seems to be doing well with the field as it is," alluding to the Vikings' ascension to the state sectional championship semifinals in 2012. "The field is not perfect, but it’s a football field, for goodness' sake. Plenty could be done to improve things today, fences could be repaired. The track at PHHS is fine, as are the bleachers. We’ve been doing just fine without [80-foot] lights, we don’t need them."
He suggested the board deal with improvements "based on specific needs by each school."
"A lot of what is being proposed are 'nice to have' things," said Bradley. The 'Turf our Fields' group started with the presumption that our fields are terrible and embarrassing. Rather than just address the field conditions, the BOE expanded the scope and added huge costs.
"We need to ask ourselves, can we afford this?"
And he said he worries as well for what he called the school board's "dysfunction."
"I see a lot of bickering, finger pointing and lack of trust among the board," said Bradley. "The superintendent compensation debacle still lingers and makes the BOE look very bad."
And while Bradley's flyer makes the fields proposal look very bad, he insisted that the primary goal of his personal effort was to convince residents to vote, even if they support the school board plan.
"I’d prefer a fair vote," he said. "Let the results be what they may be."
The referendum is slated for Tuesday from 2-9 p.m. at nine polling sites in the township.