On Saturday at noon, the New Democrat City Council candidates and around forty supporters kicked off their 2014 campaign push by opening their headquarters, located right across the street from City Hall at 508 Watchung Avenue. The election is on June 3rd, only forty-four days away.
In the Third Ward, Plainfielder of three decades and New Democrat Charles McRae is challenging Regular Democrat appointee Councilwoman Gloria Taylor and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, who is running with the slogan “Let’s Get Rid of Jerry Green”. Councilwoman Rebecca Williams, who serves as President of the New Dems, faces off against Regular Democrat Charles Eke in the Second and Third Wards. In the first Ward New Democrat Emmett Swan, retired Police Captain Siddeeq El-Amin, and Regular Democrat Diane Tolliver will all be on the ballot. As I explained before, this year presents a potential for the Regular Democrats to lose their majority on the governing body.
As you can imagine, the recent Council meeting spats involving Councilwoman Vera Greaves, candidate Rasheed Abdul Haqq, Council President Bridgette Rivers, and Councilwoman Rebecca Williams reverberated around the large room at today’s kick-off, both between mingling attendees and in the speeches of each of the three candidates.
“I’ve been in Plainfield for thirty years, and I’ve never seen (the City Council) worse than it is right now,” said Charles McRae. “People who will challenge the citizens and try to berate them is not representative of what Plainfield should be.” He went on to decry Regular Democrats for “denigrating” Mayor Mapp’s appointees, as well as for throwing out names like carpet baggers and thieves.
“You can’t move people forward if you aren’t going to work with the Mayor,” concluded McRae, clarifying that while he doesn’t always agree with the Mayor he can work with him to best move Plainfield forward.
“What I will bring to the Council is critical thinking, analytical thinking, and someone who is not afraid of compromise,” stated Emmett Swan, a newcomer to the city with twenty years of finance experience. “Compromise is not a bad thing as long as it is in the best interest of the city.”
Swan, who moved to Plainfield in 2010, insists that he, too, is not obligated to agree with Mayor Mapp, but complimented the Mayor’s “great accomplishments” in his first 100 days in the areas of economic development, quality of life, and instituting staff positions.
Councilwoman Rebecca Williams opened up by reiterating the New Democrats’ focus on ethical leadership over the past twelve years. “(We) are beholden to no one except the city of Plainfield and the residents therein,” emphasized Williams.”One of our opponents said that she is loyal to Jerry Green,” Williams continued with a jab at Third Ward candidate Gloria Taylor. “We are loyal to you and we want nothing out of Plainfield except a better quality of life for all of us.”
“I can’t do it alone,” said sole incumbent Williams, perhaps alluding to the difficulties in being so outnumbered on the governing body. “I need to have people of the ethical caliber of Emmett and Charles with me.”
Supporters were encouraged to donate their money as well as their time. Calling their campaign “very, very grass roots,” Rebecca Williams reminded attendees that there is no county party funding their mailers, signs, robo-calls, or headquarters. As for volunteering, “We’ve had more successes than losses, but we still feel that the best way to bring our face before the people is to literally bring it before them and walk – knock on doors,” explained Williams.
Many followers, including this blogger, were confused after reading Siddeeq El-Amin’s March 28th press release, which seemed to imply that he’d be part of the New Dems’ ticket, only to find Mr. Swan in his presumed place three days later. I was even more perplexed at this event when I saw Mr. and Mrs. El-Amin standing alongside the New Democrat ticket and Adrian Mapp.
The Mayor, after reiterating the candidates’ campaign messages, addressed El-Amin’s presence, calling him a good friend and supporter. Despite his rejection by the City Council when nominated for Director of Public Safety, Adrian Mapp says he remains “very committed to working with Siddeeq and making sure that he is in a position to give his best to the City of Plainfield.”
Mapp referred to the situation – both El-Amin and Swan running as candidates in the same race – merely as “the way it worked out,” emphasizing that there are no bad feelings. The two candidates shook hands thereafter. As eluded to by blogger Dan Damon, Emmett Swan’s eligibility as a candidate is being decided in court.
Mayor Mapp took the opportunity of this grand opening to address several other issues including PMUA, his term in office thus far, alleged disruption by the Council, and Liberty Village. I will treat this as an address and post the audio as well as the transcript.
I cannot be successful, the city cannot be successful, we cannot be successful the way things have been going the last three months. You elected me to bring change to the city. You elected me on the vision that I spoke to throughout the course of the campaign. We talked for over twelve months about the need for me to surround myself with a decent, competent staff – people that know what needs to be done and how to get it done. We talked about the need to invest in the right resources. I have done that. I see people misrepresenting the investment that we’ve made in terms of staff positions that are absolutely necessary for the city of Plainfield. People are being critical of the public relations person who the city of Plainfield is getting a new reputation. We are responsive to the media, to the press, and we are already putting a new face on Plainfield because there’s a level of communication that has occurred that has never happened before. That is all part of the rebranding that we have got to do. The Chief of Staff has been a conduit between myself, the businesses, and the community, and has raised the level of interaction that has occurred between city hall and the people of the city. We talked about the need to bring businesses into the city. We have put in place a Deputy City Administrator in Charge of Economic Development. We are working on so many good things, and being in a position to become all that we can be as a city. But in order for all of that to happen, we need a council that is working cooperatively, collaboratively with the administration. So, I appeal to each and every one of you to help us in every way that you can. Help these three individuals that are standing here – Williams, Swan, and McRae. You’ll be reelecting councilor Williams but you will also need to elect these individuals that are standing here.
All of you know the issues with the PMUA. I have tried so hard to put commissioners over there who will do the right thing, and I am being blocked from doing that. There is one commissioner in particular who has given one point something million dollars away of your money. I have been trying since January first to put commissioners who will bring about the kind of change that we need over there, to no avail as a result of an obstructionist governing body that is hell-bent on maintaining the status quo, and we’ve got to…(unclear). If we are to have the kind of reform over at that entity, you have got to act. You have got to help me bring the kind of change that is needed over at the PMUA by having the right commissioners. There is a vacancy over there. There is no commissioner in that spot. I have tried to put someone in that spot and they have blocked that. This is what you are getting from the kabob that is on the…(crowd laughter). I have been very patient. I have been very quiet. But at the same time, this governing body as it is presently comprised is not helping me to help you. This is why this is so important. You have heard and read about the discussions relative to Liberty Village, and you’ve seen or you’ve heard what has been occurring and the level of conversation that is coming from members of the governing body. We have taken an entity that has a building where we have ninety-five families that are living in conditions that no one should have to endure. We have vetted the situation as best we can and we have renegotiated an agreement that would put significantly more dollars into the coffers. Yet, for no good reason, the governing body has decided not to act. This causes the residents of Liberty Village to be in danger of not having a place to call home if this council doesn’t act to put the stamp of approval on the new contract that we have negotiated in order for those residents to have a better quality of life and where it could be a safer building and where we could get more dollars into the coffers. You need to apply pressure to this governing body so that they will dot he right thing and so we as a city can move forward. Pressure from you. You coming to the council meetings. By you speaking up and speaking out, by you supporting the right individuals on the governing body.