This is a public service announcement for all communities in Atlantic and Cape May counties. Pay close attention to the activities of your local board of education.
Up to 66 percent of your local taxes are school purpose taxes. Most communities are very well managed at the local purpose taxes level. It is the school taxes that are spiraling out of control.
Keep a very close eye on how your local school board conducts the public's business.
Case in point, the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education and its outrageous public conduct regarding the implementation of a transgender student locker room and bathroom policy.
Our communities and our body politic must adopt a compassionate approach to grappling with this issue which has not yet been reconciled within the evolution of American society.
Board member Jack Haines' conduct at the Feb. 28 open public meeting was disgraceful and disrespectful to the taxpaying public.
On Feb. 23, board President Lou Della Barca removed the transgender issue from the Feb. 28 meeting agenda because he determined that it did not have enough board support to pass.
The media was formally advised that the item had been removed from the agenda. On "Hurley in the Morning" I made a number of on-air announcements confirming that the issue would not be on the agenda.
More than 200 people showed up to the Feb. 28 meeting anyway. They didn't trust the Board of Education to keep its word. They were right.
With no warning, board member Haines leapt out of his chair, and moved toward fellow board member Pete Castellano. Despite the item not being on the agenda, Haines introduced a motion to adopt a transgender locker room and bathroom policy for Egg Harbor Township Public Schools. Castellano seconded the motion immediately.
The motion failed 5-4, with the board members voting as follows:
Justin Riggs, Ray Elis, Amber Umphlett, Barbara Szilagyi and Marita Sullivan all voted no.
Haines, Castellano, Della Barcarca and Chris Moran all voted yes.
I interviewed Haines on air Monday, March 6, about his sneak attack. He refused to apologize to the public for the disrespect shown.
It's also important to note that much of the urgency regarding this issue was tamped down with President Donald Trump's executive action to overturn Barack Obama's previous transgender executive order.
Many in attendance were aghast at Haines' surprise political maneuver, with no way to know how many more residents would have attended if the item would have been on the agenda.
During my interview with Haines, he attempted to make the case that current litigation about the transgender issue was the reason he made his surprise motion. However, but the lawsuit was not guaranteed to go away if they passed a transgender policy and they were still waiting to hear back from the New Jersey Department of Education, from which the board had requested guidance.
In other words, there was no rush whatsoever for Haines to do what he did.
By comparison, the Toms River Board of Education recently placed its transgender policy on hold. It's pending further review at the direct counsel of Strauss Esmay Associates, who have been working with New Jersey schools since 1972 on policy and regulation matters.
What Haines did is inexplicable, because nothing about this issue was ripe to rush to a vote on Feb. 28, Unless Haines was trying to sneak one past the public. It was undignified and unprofessional and it calls Haines' judgment into question.
Additionally, the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education is still waiting for guidance from the state; especially considering that this is now a states' rights issue. It makes Haines' actions all the more inexplicable.
Egg Harbor Township resident Michael Heath, a construction contractor, has offered his services at no charge to visit each and every Egg Harbor Township public school to determine the feasibility of installing separate locker room and bathroom facilities for transgender students.
This could be the exact compromise that brings everyone together. It's certainly worth exploring any and all options that can achieve consensus regarding a sensitive public issue, where there has been so much rancor and disagreement between warring factions.
Haines also revealed something important during our recent on-air interview. In attempting to defend his sneak attack, he stated that this is not unusual and he confirmed that "many times over the years, we have voted on items that were not on the agenda in this exact same manner."
I reminded him that multiple wrongs don't make it right. I also stressed that this particular matter is of great interest and that the public had been deceived by his actions.