HILLSBOROUGH: Back-and-forth literature heats up referendum

Last-weekend fliers try to persuade voters

By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
   Before tomorrow’s election, Hillsborough residents were bombarded with last-weekend campaign information, mostly about the local referendum question on use of future open space tax funds to build recreational facilities.
   A second Republican Party mailer supporting the referendum followed days after a controversial first one that drew howls of protest from opponents of the referendum and state environmental leaders, who said they were misquoted.
   It drew a second response from Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, urging Hillsborough voters to reject the attempt.
   The local Democratic organization picked up on the growing furor and produced a handout, entitled “Don’t Buy the Lie,” of its own. In it, Arthur Skaar, the Democratic candidate for Township Committee, urged a “no” vote on the open space ballot referendum.
   ”If the Republican Party will deliberately mislead you about open space, you need to replace them,” the hand-delivered material read.
   The ballot question asks voters’ permission to use up to 20 percent of future years’ open space tax receipts for the “development and improvement” for the township’s recreation and open space properties.
   The Republicans’ information, which was ordered and produced at the same time as the first piece mailed a few days earlier, on one side cited three “myths” and their corresponding corrective “facts” about the referendum. They addressed questions on money for open space, what the diverted money would be used for and the existence of a “slush fund,” which they denied.
      On the other side of the information, the flyer repeated a partial quote from Mr. Tittel. It said “new revenue” was needed for recreation and to allow people to use open space they had paid for. The quote used an ellipsis (the three-dot “. . .” ) to indicate words had been left out.
   Mr. Tittel put out a second press release decrying the maneuver and labeling it a “dirty trick.”
   The original quote was about using a portion of the statewide sales tax for open space and recreation, “and had nothing to do with a local open space trust fund,” he said. “The fact that they have to go to lies and distort a quote shows that they are wrong,” said Mr. Tittel. “There are still plenty of important environmentally sensitive properties in Hillsborough to be acquired. This diversion will hurt those efforts by promoting sprawl and over development, which will lead to higher taxes, trafficking and flooding.”
   ”If they can deliberately lie and mislead on a piece of mail they should not be trusted with open space monies,” said Mr. Tittel. “We urge the people of Hillsborough to vote no against these dirty tricks and for open space.”
   Candidate Skaar’s flyer urged voters to reject the GOP flyer. “Don’t believe it,” reads the Democratic Party material.
   The third mailer from the Hillsborough Republican Election Committee landed in my mailbox on Monday. Called “Hillsborough Highlights,” it dedicated one of the four pages to the open space ballot question.