The Tuesday night meeting of the Westfield Town Council began with a moment of silence in memory of Lee Hale, 88, who passed away on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Acting mayor JoAnn Neylan spoke of Hale's lifelong legacy of commitment to community service. At the end of the meeting, Councilman Frank Arena shared his memories of Hale, noting that even while staying in Florida, Hale would call in to take part in the Downtown Westfield Corporation meetings, where he'd served as Board of Director and Treasurer.
"Westfield is a better town because of people like Lee Hale," Arena said.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Karen Egert, president of NJ Residents For Action, a statewide community-based group started by Westfield residents working towards meaningful legislation, which includes a federal ban on assault weapons and magazine clips, universal background checks, and stronger punishments for illegal gun purchases, spoke.
Egert and fellow group members said they were disappointed that Westfield Mayor Andrew Skibitsky was not in attendance Tuesday evening as they wanted to ask him to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns. More than 800 mayors from big cities and small towns from across the country, including those in Cranford, Fanwood and Scotch Plains, have joined the initiative yet Egert and fellow supporters said repeated calls to Skibitsky's office have gone unreturned.
Egert said the organization, a grassroots effort that began after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, has gained not only great momentum but also the attention of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will be sending Brian Levinson, a representative from his office, to meet with the Westfield group on Friday.
Before the meeting began, members of NJ Residents for Action distributed hand outs of an article 'And in Last Week's Gun News' that appeared in The New York Times detailing 14 recent shootings that have occurred since Jan. 21.
Two mothers who spoke before the council said each day it becomes harder and scarier to leave their children at school, not knowing when a lockdown might no longer be a drill.
NJ Residents for Action will hold its next meeting at The First Congregational Church in Westfield on Elmer Street at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb 6. All are welcome to attend.