Local Officials Outline Goals for 2021
By Barbara A. Preston l February 9, 2021
Montgomery Township elected officials outlined their goals and priorities for 2021 — ranging from keeping residents safe during the pandemic to beautifying the entranceway to the township at the 518 / 206 intersection, where several dilapidated buildings have been left to fester for years.
A consequential year
“I believe the year 2021 will be the most consequential for our township,” Mayor Keenan said. “In the short term, we will continue to work as hard as we can to keep our residents safe during the pandemic. We will do everything we can to support (our health department) as we roll out vaccines.
"We must continue to look out for others and take care of those Montgomery residents who are facing severe economic hardship. I am heartened by the outpouring of generous gifts to our food pantry, from residents and civic groups,” she said. She also thanked Deputy Mayor Marvin Schuldiner, who will serve a second term as deputy mayor in 2021, for his work with the Monty CARES initiative.
One of the most visible concerns I want to address are the abandoned buildings near the 206/518 intersection,” Mayor Keenan said. “They are eyesores, safety hazards, and a lost opportunity, given their central location. The days of sitting on our hands while buildings crumble around us — waiting for the owners to do the right thing and take care of their properties — are over.”
The mayor also pledged to help businesses recover, to support local farms, and to rethink the mix of retail stores and office buildings in the township. "For many of us, working from home will be the new normal, and that will change our needs. We need to make sure we have the necessary digital infrastructure required for success.”
Mayor Keenan also noted that Montgomery's new municipal center should be open by spring 2022. "It will be a true center of community connectivity.” She said she will appoint a steering committee to make sure the municipal center is on track to achieve this goal.
“If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of community. The pandemic also has caused people to discover the outdoors, local agriculture, trails and sidewalks, and the value of our local businesses. Many have also gained a new appreciation of our schools and teachers,” Keenan said.
“These are the same reasons many of us chose to live in Montgomery," she added. "We need to double down on protecting our environment, and connecting our community. In the coming year, I will be prioritizing environmental protection, open space and trails for walking and bicycling." This includes reducing flooding, protecting clean water, promoting green energy, and managing the deer population.
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Deputy Mayor Schuldiner outlined the following goals at the January reorganization meeting.
• Redeveloping the 206/518 intersection. After the changes in the retail environment and the impact COVID has had on the commercial real estate market, we need to reassess the potential for the intersection. COVID has changed many things.
• Expanding open, transparent, and inclusive government. We want to update our website to be more user-friendly and accessible for all. We will strive to incorporate the I want to ensure information about the local government is available at your fingertips.
• COVID exposed another thing in our town – that many of you in Montgomery have inadequate Internet access, which in 2020 became as necessary as electricity and water in your homes. Future demands for universal broadband access will only increase. I will be spearheading an effort to see what can be done to improve digital access for all of our residents. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker is leading a similar effort at the state level and I look forward to working with him on this endeavor.
• I also plan on re-establishing evening office hours, initially by Zoom, to directly address any concerns our residents might have. I had to suspend that once COVID hit and we closed the building in April. Please reach out if you have any needs I can help with.
• I would be remiss if I did not mention the attempted coup that happened yesterday in our nation’s capital. Last year at our reorganization meeting, I spoke about the incivility in politics. That incivility has now spread to broader American society. This should scare each and every one of us. I mentioned last year how my wife was physically and verbally attacked at the NJ State House and on social media. Inequity still plagues this country and state. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among many others, are still unresolved. Our own hometown of Montgomery is not immune. Even one bias incident is too many. This simply must stop.
Read Related Story: Partnership Needed to Meet Montgomery’s Community College Needs / 2021 Goals of Montgomery Township Committeewoman Catherine Gural