The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

(2017 Dem Primary) Shiloh candidate forums draw large crowd


The pastor and people of Shiloh welcomed a large crowd
to Thursday's candidate forums.



Despite a misty, drizzling evening, a crowd that eventually swelled to about two hundred and fifty came out to Shiloh Baptist Church for two forums featuring the mayoral and council candidates in the 2017 Democratic primary election.

The four mayoral candidates (Tracey Brown, Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim, Adrian O. Mapp [the incumbent] and Bridget Rivers) went first.

An out-of-town League of Women Voters representative moderated both forums.

In the mayoral forum, ten questions from cards handed in by audience members were asked. Though many touched on frequently asked questions such as cooperation with the school district, crime, youth services and activities, and vacant and foreclosed properties.

A question on tax abatements for construction projects was put forward as though developers pay no taxes whatsoever. Mayor Mapp quickly corrected this misimpression with a recitation of the facts concerning the large South Avenue development. Interestingly, not one candidate brought up the South Second Street development (directly across the street from Brown's church), which also makes use of a tax abatement program.

A question on the upcoming 2020 Census really winnowed the candidates out, with only Mapp showing a mastery of the complex issues involved and the benefits of as accurate a count as possible.

However, the most interesting question to me concerned what the candidates would do to keep young people like the questioner (a millennial?) in Plainfield. The question seemed to catch the candidates somewhat by surprise.

I can imagine the questioner was wondering about places to go and things to do (like dancing, dining and having a drink), as well as more shops that catered to their needs and interests. A question worthy of considerable thought by all the candidates. After all, all this development is aimed at a much younger demographic -- with its own ideas of what makes a community interesting and attractive.

After a short break to rearrange the seating, the forum for Council candidates took place. There were five candidate present (Ward 4 candidates Terri Briggs, Steve Hockaday and Elliott Simmons; and Wards 2/3 at-large candidates Cameron Cox and Joylette Mills-Ransome). Candidate Alma Blanco was absent due to illness, according to Ms.Rivers.

Questions ranged from how candidates would help foster successful prison re-entry programs to their visions for their wards. From homelessness and what to do about it to "wht drives crime in Plainfield", and what to do about incarceration rates among young Black and Brown women.

To my mind the most egregious cheap shot of the evening came from Cameron Cox in his closing statement, when he asserted "a lot of things haven't been working" (of course, without citing any specifics).

The first lesson I ever learned about Plainfield was how passionate everyone is about their community. That same passion was in evidence at the Shiloh forum, not only in the candidates answers (where you would expect it), but in the eager attention given by the audience (and ripples of laughter now and then that showed how hard everyone was listening).

These forums serve a valuable function. After all, the voters are considering giving the keys to our own "757 airliner", with more than 50,000 passengers, to three of these people.

You want to make sure you do the right thing as a voter.

Thanks are due to Pastor Hodari K. Hamilton and the members of Shiloh Baptist Church for their gracious welcome of the candidates and the community.

There is one more forum: The League of Women Voters candidate forum is next Wednesday (May 31), 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Emerson Community School, East 3rd Street and Emerson Avenue.

For more information on that forum, biographical sketches of the candidates and their responses to questions posed by the LWV, go to the League website here.

See you next Wednesday!



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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