Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Some surprises at Council, Board of Ed forum

Participants in the LWV Council candidate forum (l. to r.):
Barry Goode, Norman Ortega, John Campbell Jr., Cory Storch.

With its usual élan, Plainfield's chapter of the League of Women Voters hosted one of the best-attended forums in recent years for City Council and Board of Ed candidates on Tuesday evening.

Today, I will take up the City Council portion, and leave the Board of Ed for a second post.

In the hour allotted for the Council portion of the evening, five areas were explored in questions from the audience: Latino concerns and participation, the Council and the budget process, the meaning of Economic Development, vacant (and foreclosed) properties, Plainfield's population, and where the candidates see Plainfield in four to eight years.

As in all politics, the questions can be boiled down to one: Which way forward?

You can read a blow-by-blow at Bernice's blog today (see here). I will only note that none of the candidates picked up on the changes in Plainfield's population in relation to the question of perks that come our way if our tally is in excess of 50,000. The 2013 Census population update gives Plainfield a total of 50,588 (see here) -- comfortably over the finish line.

My observations will focus on the candidates generally.

As to the question of "which way forward?", the split was with "independents" Campbell and Ortega in opposition to the direction indicated by Mayor Adrian Mapp and with Storch and Goode in support of the mayor.

John Campbell Jr. turned out to be, in my opinion, a one-string banjo: It seemed every question was turned into an opportunity to pan the proposed Gateway apartment development for South Avenue. At one point, Campbell even said that people "don't come to Plainfield for apartments . . . they are looking for spacious back yards."

Evidently he has not kept up with the studies that show the younger generation (Millenials) just coming into their own as householders are not looking to buy -- partly out of lifestyle preference and partly out of economics (with little savings, later marriage ages, and high student debt loads).

Though running as an "independent", Campbell is still registered as a Republican, and rankled at having his prior run for the Assembly on the GOP slate brought up in a Facebook post.

I was reminded of the Pillsbury dough boy image: Likeable-looking, but yeastily pudgy with air, and with no there there.

Norman Ortega was another matter altogether.

I am not sure how much traction he will get with his politics of resentment. Ortega's major mode throughout was to attack or denigrate Mayor Mapp and his administration as not supportive of Latinos and their interests.

It does not seem to have occurred to Ortega that probably 99% of the votes that will be cast will be by non-Latino voters. So, how can one hope realistically to be elected if one does not put himself forward as the best candidate to represent all the people?

I find the difference between Ortega's style and that of the late Council President (and my friend and neighbor) Ray Blanco to be that of night and day.

Ortega did try to pass off one big whopper when he claimed to have lived in Plainfield for the past thirty years. Those with decent memories will recall that Ortega first came to public attention posting letters to the editor in the Courier in support of Jerry Green policies a number of years ago. At that time he was resident on West End Avenue in North Plainfield. Time for a little truth-telling in politics?

Ward 2 incumbent Cory Storch underscored that after years of struggle, Plainfield is at last on the cusp of significant development -- even taking into account the temporary setback by a Council majority for the Gateway apartment project.

He looks forward to furthering Mayor Mapp's agenda in this regard and -- in my opinion -- has earned the right to enjoy the fruits of years of plowing the hard soil of Plainfield politics.

Newcomer Barry Goode is bringing a welcome bounce and energy to the campaign, with a forward-looking emphasis on youth, jobs and business development -- which he also believes points the way toward stabilizing property taxes, a perennial issue.

In closing, he reminded voters to vote Column B (Democratic) with a mnemonic: B for Barry, and B for the Best man.

That goes for both Goode and Storch in my book.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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