EDITORIAL — Belleville painting is hardly in unsafe hands with mayor

There’s a lot going on in this world of ours. We just marked the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed half a million Americans. Businesses continue to struggle. Unemployment is high. It’s been difficult for some to get the vaccine.

And yet, in Belleville, somehow, the talk of the day is a painting? What the? Seriously? This all reeks of petty politics of the worst kind. And here’s why we think this.

It is pretty clear, based on our research, the painting in question, from the early 1800s, was donated to the Belleville Historical Society by the family who once (key word, once) owned it. 

The BHS has allowed the painting to be displayed in the library for decades, having gained possession of it circa 1962.

It’s a beautiful painting, indeed, one that should be displayed for all to enjoy, not just a chosen few.

But for crying out loud, the Belleville Library Board did something responsible with the painting when it was clear leaky tiles could destroy it — it voted to lend the painting to the township’s Chief Executive Officer in Mayor Michael Melham until the roof is fixed, at which time the mayor will and must return it to the library.

To insist the painting is in “danger” in Melham’s hands because of its value is nothing short of absurd. In fact, aside from the police department, we couldn’t think of a safer, more fortified place for it to be than in Belleville Town Hall. 

There are many things that could be considered dangerous for the painting that once sat on the floor of the library to keep it away from dripping water. Loaning it to the mayor, temporarily, is hardly irresponsible. Or dangerous. Or a liability as some have suggested.

Melham will return the painting once the leak is no more. We’ll be observing to ensure this occurs. But enough already! With all that ails this world, a temporary home for the painting is not and should not be a priority for anyone. 

And it’s petty, small-town politics, at its worst.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.