Do You Want to Be Good, or Do You Want to Be Right?


Clifton resident Lily D'Amato offered these words to City Council at Wednesday's meeting. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


I come to every interaction whether it’s with a stranger or my husband with the belief that everyone has the best intentions because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. I say this because I’m about to share my observations regarding this council and city leadership, and I want to set the mutual understanding that we both have the best of intentions.

I had a professor in college ask me this question once, and I’ve never forgotten it.

Do you want to be good, or do you want to be right?

Do you want to be good or do you want to be right… it’s a weighty question. And this council makes me think of that question quite a bit because I believe that most of you are right. I could go down the dais and give multiple examples of how each and every one of you are right. Bill is right about how the police should operate. Joe is right that a tax hike is inevitable. Tony is right to dig deep. Our Mayor is right, that if there is another budget meeting, there will likely be no change. Lauren is right that Clifton is a great place to live. Rosemary is right that our firefighters deserve fair pay. Mary is right that the taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear the burden of government inefficiencies, and Mr. Villano is right that if we cut any more, we will see layoffs, and it will need to be last in first out, rather than performance based because we don’t have a system of performance management in place.

You are all right. And yet, we still don’t have a budget for 2023. That’s not good.

So what IS good? Here are my thoughts.

Good is being patient with each other, and operating as I am now with the belief that each of your fellow teammates (you are a team after all) comes to the table with good intentions. This includes helping newer councilors understand the budget without condescension. And good also means being humble and listening, even if the person who knows more feels like an adversary.

Good is putting personal feelings aside to get the job done. And if you’re sitting there thinking, “I do that,” please reflect on your behavior, because this is an opportunity that every single one of you has for improvement.

Good isn’t giving up because you feel you are at a stalemate. Good is rising above that and figuring out how to get a consensus to pass this budget, even if that means you have to concede your convictions.

Good is understanding that there is no progressing the city until this budget is finalized, and it’s July. We need you to do whatever it takes to get at least 4 votes. We need you to take this as seriously as the situation calls for.

Get the budget passed, THEN discuss how to streamline Clifton’s operations after because then you can do something about it. Pass this budget at 6 points, or 8 points I don’t care anymore, and make the vow to each other that you will work together to make this better for next year. Then get to work.

You are not 7 individuals, you are not a 4 vs 3, or a 5 vs 2, or however you vote. You are a TEAM and we need you to be a GOOD team. Please stop the obsession with being right. It only hurts the very people you’re all claiming to work for.

I appreciate each of you for all the good that you do and all that you put up with as part of this job, but we need you to do better together or we all fall apart.

If the decision is between right and good, please choose good.

Thank you.

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