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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Councilman Mark LoGrippo, You Can Delete a Facebook Comment, You Can't Delete the Truth

Councilman Frank Arena
     At tonight's Westfield Town Council meeting, Councilman Frank Arena attempted to divert from the message by once again attacking the messenger.  He apologized to the public stating, "I'm so sorry you had to see this and hear this tonight," referring to comments made during the open public discussion. He called the remarks "self-serving" and never addressed the fact of the matter which was Councilman Mark LoGrippo's ill-advised and racially charged comment in the public Facebook group "Westfield, NJ."
     The text below is in response to a comment made by Councilman Mark LoGrippo at approximately 11:20 a.m. on April 21st, on the "Westfield, NJ" Facebook group moderated by TapIntoWestfield editor Jackie Lieberman with a membership of 8,760 people.  
     Tonight, Councilman LoGrippo denied posting the racially charged comment by stating, "Where are you getting this from?" Councilman LoGrippo would not acknowledge the fact that he had the incendiary comment deleted from Facebook moments after I commented accusing him of the bigoted comment on April 21st.
     Members of the  town council denied that race is an issue in Westfield and that it's a national issue and taboo to talk about in local politics.  Members of the audience were shocked that the town council denied that race should be a topic of discussion in local politics. 
     Westfield resident Pam Brug approached the microphone to refute this, using personal anecdotes to prove that it is in fact a concern for Westfield residents as it affects them on a daily basis. 

The following was read to the members of the Westfield Town Council and residents in attendance.

"On April 21st I got involved in an exchange of comments in a Westfield Facebook group after another member had posted in the group hosted by TapInto Westfield editor Jackie Lieberman.  A Westfield Councilman joined in on the discussion.

The original person posting, had attended a Westfield "meet the candidates" night and had described how inspired she was by this year's slate of candidates from the Democratic Party. 

What followed were comments from the public in support of these candidates, until a comment was posted by Westfield resident John Barker.  John Barker's wife Alicia Barker, who is here tonight, happens to be mayor Skibitsky's campaign manager for the upcoming fall elections. 

I responded with comments of my own, basically rebutting John Barkers comments, I kept it respectful, as did Mr. Barker.
My comments had gained the support of others in that comment thread, in fact one person posted..... "Mr. Kasko, your comments make so much sense and are so appreciated on here! Thank you!"  

Councilman Mark LoGrippo soon joined the conversation. 

Perhaps councilman LoGrippo felt the need to halt whatever momentum and support these new candidates were receiving, or maybe he was attempting to  contradict my comments.  

He reminded me that as a longtime resident of Westfield, I should be familiar with what happened in Plainfield and eluded to that when the governing body went from Republican to Democrat, stating, “you saw what happened to Plainfield.”

Councilman LoGrippo’s response to my comments, was directed at me, but clearly he was sending a message to each and every other person that was in the discussion, reminding everyone, what he thought had happened to Plainfield and why it has become what it is today.  He insinuated that the demise of Plainfield was attributed to the city government going from a Republican stronghold to a Democrat governing body.  

I then responded with a brief history lesson for councilman LoGrippo and admonished him for posting such an inflammatory comment that wreaked of racial bias. 

After I posted my response, and before I could screenshot his comment, it disappeared. It's quite obvious that he realized the mistake he had made with his inflammatory comment. 

What Councilman LoGrippo didn't realize, is that the riots that started on July 14th, 1967 and lasted 4 days/3 nights, is what brought about Plainfields demise.

The Plainfield riots caused the beating death of a police officer, countless arrests, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage.     

The Riots were started by a group of 150-200 residents from the west end of Plainfield. 

Civil unrest was occurring around the country in over 150 other cities most notably in New Jersey’s city of Newark.

For years black residents in Plainfield–including the local NAACP chapter, black ministers and others–had complained about various forms of racial discrimination, including housing segregation and slum conditions, school segregation, racist hiring practices by major employers (including the city government and the local hospital), low-wage jobs, lack of recreational facilities for West End young people (especially a neighborhood swimming pool) and harassment by local police. 

By 1967 only five of Plainfield’s eighty-one police officers were black. Black leaders and their white liberal allies complained that cops and radio dispatchers often used the "N" word to describe suspects over the police radio.

Emotions were at a boiling point. 

Historians have labeled what subsequently happened to Plainfield, after the riots, as the "white flight." 

Plainfield had a number of Republicans serve as mayor from 1915 until 1981. The last Democrat to lead Plainfield as mayor had been Percy Hamilton Stewart in 1914. It wasn't until 15 years after the 1967 riots that a Democrat was elected Mayor again in Plainfield, that was 1982.

During the riots of 1967, nine of the 11 council members in Plainfield were white and two of the council members were black, one of which was a Republican. So at the start of the riots, 10 of the 11 council members were Republican. 

At the time, the Plainfield town Council was dominated by Republican businessman and lawyers not unlike what we have here in Westfield. 

In fact, the Republican town Council in Plainfield in 1967 was reluctant to bring federal job training and other anti-poverty programs to the city which caused more animosity from the African-American community. 

Factories shutdown, businesses left and jobs were lost.  The city of Plainfield never rebounded to it’s glory days of the 40's, 50's, and early to mid 1960's.  

The city of Plainfield's demise had nothing to do with a changing of political party in town government as Councilman LoGrippo insinuated to in his comment, in fact some might say that the Republican leadership in Plainfield and its refusal to accommodate an ever changing demographic is what led to what Plainfield has become today. 

When I ran for town Council as an independent in 2011 against Mark LoGrippo and Democrat nominee Matt Sontz, I took part in a candidates forum here in this Chamber, with Lauren Barr of the Westfield Leader moderating. 

There were approximately 10 to 12 questions we had to be prepared to answer.  

Having been a resident of Westfield, at the time, for almost 40 years and having retired from the police department with some intimate knowledge of how things were being run, the questions were not that difficult to answer. 

I had a few index cards with some key bullet-points I wanted to emphasize, should I be asked a specific question.  Each candidate was asked two questions of the 10 or 12.

Democrat candidate Matt Sontz was well-prepared that night, being able to answer questions extemporaneously. 

Councilman Mark LoGrippo
Councilman LoGrippo sat to my left that night and each time he was asked a question he had to refer to what I now call the "Republican playbook" for his answer. 

When he was asked a question Mark would pause and look down at a three ring binder, flip to the page that would address the question asked, and then would read verbatim, a prepared answer of what was written on the page for him. 

On April 21st, in the Westfield Facebook  forum, Councilman LoGrippo posted an incendiary comment without the knowledge of local history necessary for a factual rebuttal. 

Instead, he posted a comment, reminiscent of that "Republican playbook" in that he had no intimate knowledge on the topic being discussed.  Only this time, his remarks were misguided and are an example of “fear mongering” in an attempt to possibly sway votes.

This town council needs members that will represent the people of Westfield regardless of political party, and not just be a rubber stamp to the policy's of Westfield's mayor, regardless of who it will be. 

Councilman LoGrippo, I believe you owe the residents of Plainfield and Westfield an apology for your public comment on April 21st.

Comparing what could happen here in Westfield, to what happened in Plainfield, should voters elect democrats to this town council, was not only disingenuous in an attempt to sway voters, it was reprehensible. 

Once again, thank you for the time I've been allotted here tonight, I thank you all for your service to the town, and I wish all the candidates for town council the best of luck in November." 


Greg Kasko

     Immediately after I finished speaking I was accused of bringing race into the discussion, however, my comments were in response to Councilman LoGrippo interjecting race and the demise of Plainfield, into his own public online comment.

7 comments:

  1. As a 19-year citizen of Westfield, I am angered by the party politics being played in Westfield. I attended last night's town council meeting and witnessed something so shocking and disgraceful. Many people might not know that our town council is entirely republican (in a democratic majority town I might add). The town council and some of their supporters are continuously saying that the opposing side is focusing on "national issues" that have no place in Westfield. A councilman vehemently denied making a racially provoked Facebook comment, which he in fact did post but deleted a few minutes later. One councilman refused to discuss the environment and even said, and I'm paraphrasing, "What do you want, my position on abortion?" What the councilmen and a few disgruntled Facebook users (who shall remain unnamed) are doing is trying to dismiss any opposing viewpoints as national issues whether they actually are or not. Not once have the slate of democratic candidates brought up national issues in their campaigns, that's just what Alicia Barker wants you to think.
    The people who are elected to our very own town council are refusing to acknowledge or represent anyone who has a differing opinion! So for any Democrat, Independent, OR Republican: if you ever decide to attend a town council meeting and challenge the officials who are supposed to represent us, know that your opinion is unwelcome and you will not be heard.
    Great article. Thank you.

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    1. One time.. in band camp...

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  2. The demeanor exhibited by the Westfield Town Council last night is "par for the course" as they would say in golf.
    If you took notice, anyone that approached the microphone that said anything that was pro town Council, they were applauded by acting mayor JoAnn Neylan and others.
    Anyone that approached the microphone, that said anything contradictory to the Republican agenda was dismissed, ridiculed, and publicly admonished.

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  3. Heard Mayor Skibitsky was absent from the meeting, AGAIN.

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  4. When Councilman Arena or Councilman Della Ferra feel threatened by facts, they will automatically attack the messenger and not the message.
    Neither addressed the online comment posted and then sebsequently deleted, by Councilman LoGrippo.
    Councilman LoGrippo even denied ever making the comment that was seen publicly by others.
    Typical response from arrogant town council members that believe they are beyond reproach.

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  5. More than one Ward 1 person has told me that they wish it was Frank Arena that Linda Habgood was running against. Pretty sad at the local level!

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    1. Councilman Frank Arena is a puppet to Skibitsky. In Skibitsky's absence last night, Arena attempted to be the knight in shining armor. Apologizing to the public in attendance for having to hear comments regarding LoGrippo's ignorant comment on Facebook, as if Westfield is so sterile from the topic of racism and bigotry.
      It didn't take long for Arena to realize that Westfield has an issue after Pam Brug took to the microphone and described her own personal experiences dealing with race in Westfield.
      For the record, it wasn't the speaker at the microphone that interjected race into politics last night as Councilman Arena suggested, it was Councilman Mark LoGrippo's ill-advised ignorant comment he made on the Westfield, NJ Facebook group that interjected race into the mix.
      I was merely addressing the issue in open public forum which the town council does not want happening. Their attempts to sanitize the issue by attacking the messenger and not the message, failed.
      More to come.

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