I am writing in response to a July 17 article written by former North Jersey reporter Mark Bonamo. Near the conclusion of the article Deirdre Dillon states “We don’t look at someone’s party affiliation when we make decisions. We look to see if we trust their judgment. We’re very transparent.”
Having served as an appointed member of the now defunct Ramsey Fine Arts Council I have a very different experience to share. I was initially appointed in 2005 following 2 years of working as a volunteer to help with the Summer Concert Series and the Harvest Festival. I remained on the board until 2011, the last year the Fine Arts Council was active in the community.
In 2009 Fine Arts Council was given insight into a county grant program from Julie O’Brien who was then Freeholder and who had for years supported our programming by volunteering at events. Along with the chairperson, I attended 2 county workshops on qualifying criteria and learning the format to complete the extensive application. In the months that followed the grant was given to Ramsey specifically for the 2010 Fourth of July Celebration at Finch Park. The money was placed in the Trust Account to be used to facilitate the program. During the event Bergen County Executive Director Dennis McNerny surprised Fine Arts Council with a visit and a plaque in support of the arts programming in Bergen County. It caused quite a stir among the Town Council to have him arrive and present the award on stage to the Fine Arts Council but they joined us on stage as well, smiling for pictures as if they were happy.
In the Fall of 2010 Fine Arts Council was looking to expand the board. An obvious choice for us was Julie O’Brien. She had been instrumental in helping us all along albeit on the sidelines with support and ideas. Her insight into the County government is the reason we were alerted to the grant money, which benefited the program, and in turn the community. It was unanimous among the members and the chair wrote a letter to the Mayor asking that she be appointed. It quickly became evident that our recommendation was not going to be considered, our liaison going so far at the time to explain that ‘Julie O’Brien was a troublemaker”. It was directly based on her politics as I could only think of all the trouble she went thru to help us with projects thru the years. The Mayor did not return one phone call. Several months later a personal friend of one of the members of the Town Council was appointed.
In the beginning of her comments Ms. Dillon asks the question, “Who has been shut out of Ramsey politics?” Ms Dillon has a short memory. I am speaking for myself here but if she needs help remembering she can ask any of the seven members of the 2011 Fine Arts Council.
(name withheld by editor)