Yigal M. Gross

The TDMC Needs a Refresh

In a recent post on Blue Teaneck, a progressive Facebook Group, commentator Bill Orr posted that a large number of challengers filed petitions to run for seats on the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee (“TDMC”) in this year’s June 4th New Jersey Democratic primary, and that “these…TDMC challengers could bring about significant change” and would “threaten” the TDMC.

Mr. Orr is correct that an unprecedented number of challengers are running for the TDMC in this year’s primary.  But he is entirely wrong to assume that these challengers represent some kind of monolithic block or that their election would “threaten” the TDMC.  Quite the contrary.

With a little research beyond who notarized challengers’ petitions (guilty!), Mr. Orr would discover a highly qualified and diverse group of candidates who seek to make the TDMC a more inclusive, representative and effective body.  I proudly support these challengers.  Here is why you should too.

  1. The TDMC needs a refresh. Low voter participation (uncontested elections where 5% of eligible voters participate) shows that the TDMC is not engaging with voters and has become irrelevant.  Most Teaneck residents have no idea what the TDMC is or does.  That needs to change.
  2. TDMC incumbents do not represent Teaneck. Many TDMC incumbents have held their seats for years without any real challenge and despite changing community demographics.  TDMC representatives should better align with their constituents.
  3. Communal healing. The unfortunate divisions that have arisen between Teaneck’s subcommunities, and which arose under the TDMC incumbents’ watch—indeed, which some (like Mr. Orr) actively contribute to—should trouble everyone.  The time has come to replace divisive incumbents with candidates who will work with all residents to heal those divisions.
  4. The TDMC should represent voters, not political insiders. The TDMC has become an insider’s club that cares more about self-preservation than representing Teaneck.  At a recent TDMC meeting which was open to the public, the TDMC’s leadership addressed challengers who had joined the meeting as public participants, sought to dissuade them from running for office, and pledged to work hard to reelect the incumbents.  The TDMC even went so far as to vote to close their next meeting to the public.  Their view—and Mr. Orr’s—seems to be that any challenge to any TDMC incumbent is wrong.  That perspective is outrageous and demonstrates exactly why refreshing the TDMC is so necessary.
      • Elected office is a privilege, not an entitlement. Just because someone was elected once does not mean they should be elected again. Elected office belongs to the voters, not the incumbents.  Representatives should earn the privilege of representing voters in each election.
      • Positions are not lifetime appointments. There is no auto-renewal to elected office. Elections are held every two years for a reason, and voters have a right to seek the best option in each election.
      • Voters deserve a choice. A contested election is the hallmark of a healthy democracy, and the only way to ensure elected representatives best represent voters. It is shocking that the TDMC’s incumbents would seek to deny Teaneck voters a choice. All of us should trust Teaneck’s voters to make the right decisions.
      • Voters deserve representatives who will put their town first. Time and again, TDMC incumbents have paid lip service to values only to readily abandon them in the face of self-interest. TDMC incumbents called to open Teaneck advisory board meetings to the public, only to vote to close their own meetings to the public to bar challengers from attending. TDMC incumbents extoll diversity and inclusion, yet reveal their own ugly prejudices when they zero-in on challengers’ skin color and religious affiliation.  TDMC incumbents decry voter suppression, yet shamelessly bully challengers and attempt to dissuade them from running for office.  Teaneck deserves representatives who care more about our town than themselves.

In the coming days, we have an unprecedented opportunity to elect an outstanding group of candidates who will serve all of Teaneck’s residents and take the TDMC and our town in a better direction.  All of us should thank them for stepping up for Teaneck and support them in this important effort.

About the Author
Yigal M. Gross is an attorney who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey with his wife Tamar Warburg and their children Ella, Sara, Yonatan, Aviva and Norman.