GOP leader to Piscataway mayor: Resign! Democrat denies her allegations of religious and ethnic bias

(Note: If ever a private property owner was under siege, the Halper family is. 'At the Dec. 3 council meeting, Clara Halper asked Wahler a question about the farm and, after a brief silence, the mayor made comments accusing Clara Halper of espousing "anti-Catholic, anti-Hispanic views."' The major of Piscataway, New Jersey, neither answered Clara's question nor sought to do anything other than insult an honest, working and classy lady.)

January 23, 2003

By Patrick Jenkins

Star-Ledger Staff

pjenkins@starledger.com

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Piscataway Republican Chairwoman Bobbi Goodman is calling for Mayor Brian Wahler's resignation, saying he engaged in a religious and ethnic attack on a resident [and local farmer whose farm is under eminent threat of eminent domain] at a recent township council meeting.

In a statement to Wahler and the township council Tuesday night, Goodman said Wahler called Clara Halper a "sympathizer of anti-Catholic, anti-Hispanic views" during a Dec. 3 council meeting. During the November general election, Halper ran unsuccessfully on the GOP ticket for a township council seat.

"There is no place in responsible government for such religious and ethnic attacks," Goodman said.

"I therefore call upon Mr. Wahler to resign from the office of mayor and allow the position to be filled by someone who understands its responsibilities and will carry out those responsibilities without religious or ethnic bias," she said.

The GOP's call for Wahler's resignation is the latest salvo in a long-running battle between Clara Halper and the township over the Halper family's 75-acre farm on South Washington Avenue.

There has been bad blood between the Halper family and the township council since Piscataway first tried to take the property through condemnation in 1998. Last month the township won the right in court to begin the process of condemning the property, but the Halpers have vowed to appeal the judge's decision and say they will do so by the end of the month.

Wahler has in the past criticized Clara Halper's husband, Larry, for publicly making anti-Catholic and anti-Hispanic statements.

At the Dec. 3 council meeting, Clara Halper asked Wahler a question about the farm and, after a brief silence, the mayor made comments accusing Clara Halper of espousing "anti-Catholic, anti-Hispanic views."

Wahler did not respond to Goodman's comments at Tuesday's meeting. But during an interview yesterday from a conference in Washington, D.C., the mayor rejected Goodman's request and reiterated his comments.

Goodman said Wahler's remarks have offended many residents of Piscataway.

"In launching a religious- and ethnic-based attack, Mr. Wahler has brought shame upon the office of mayor and shame upon our township," Goodman said.

Wahler questioned Goodman's right as Republican chairwoman to speak for township residents, saying the party has been "hijacked" by the Halper family.

"Both the council and I have been calling the Halpers to task about this for months," he said. "Piscataway is diverse, but the Republican Party has never condemned this behavior."

Goodman accused the Democrats, who have controlled the township for years, of arrogance and belittling residents who question them at meetings, and of having police officers at council meetings to intimidate residents.

Wahler, in turn, said it was Goodman's Republicans who called township officials names at the meetings. Police were there to maintain order.

Larry Halper yesterday denied being anti-Catholic or anti-Hispanic and said the Democrats were distorting things he said to make it seem like he was.

"I asked them why they sent their kids to Catholic school instead of public school," he said by way of example.

Copyright 2003 The Star-Ledger

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