PATERSON, NJ- The Paterson Branch of the NAACP held their first of two candidate forums on Tuesday welcoming 11 of the 14 candidates running for one of three At-Large seats on the Paterson City Council.
For nearly two hours the candidates present fielded questions submitted by the audience, which numbered near 100, and took turns sharing their views and vision for the city, as well as on what unique credentials and ideas they would bring to the body if elected.
Following are just a few highlights from the forum.
Aslon Goow and Kenneth McDaniel, both former members of the city council, separately suggested that their past experience on the body would put them in the unique position of being assets to the community immediately. Goow also recounted securing an additional $2 million in aid from the state government when he felt the city was being “shortchanged,” while McDaniel said he would be a force to end the “legacy of mismanagement.”
Dr. Lilisa Mimms and Flavio Rivera both discussed their professional experience, including “27 years in corporate America” for Mimms, and certification as a Certified Municipal Finance Officer (CMFO) for Rivera, one of only two professionals in Paterson to have earned that designation.
Mimms also serves as a Commissioner of the Paterson Planning Board, and has spent years getting to know and serving the community, while Rivera spoke of how he recently helped save the school district nearly half a million dollars because he “knew the right questions to ask.”
Juan “Mitch” Santiago also pointed to his seven years as a member of the Paterson Board of Education, as well as his more than two decades as an employee of the Department of Public Works where he has seen how Paterson has been run under several different mayors.
Community activist and Paterson school teacher Zellie Thomas shared parts of his platform on housing saying that Paterson residents are “overly burdened” by housing costs and proposed to use CDBG grant funding to help prevent foreclosures.
Bernard Jones, a Commissioner of the Paterson Housing Authority, said that among other things he would commit to creating a viable first time homebuyer’s program for city residents while Casey Melvin suggested that “one of the greatest opportunities (the city) can give residents is an opportunity to buy a home.
CHANGING PATERSON’S IMAGE
“The only way to get economic development into the city is to make Paterson safe,” Davon Roberts told the audience. To do this, he said that he would work closely with the Paterson Police Department and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, and ultimately strive to change the perception that “Paterson is a place people want to get out of, not go to.”
Reverend Douglas Maven, who has spent 27 years as the Paster at First Zion AME Church, and also serves on the Passaic County Board of Social Services, as well as on the Paterson Housing Authority, said that while Paterson may have a “negative image” it also has “all the ingredients to make it great again.” What’s lacking, he said, is a “common vision.”
FIRST 60 DAYS IN OFFICE
First time candidate Fatima Bell who has said that she is hoping that her candidacy will motivate millennials to participate in the electoral process said that she would spend her first days in office “learning” about the budget, and getting to better know all of the community organizations so that they can “start collaborating and stop colliding.”
Councilwoman Martiza Davila, seeking to retain her At-Large seat, was at a Paterson City Council meeting and unable to attend the forum.
The organization will host a similar forum on Sunday, April 15, in partnership with the Eastside Neighborhood Association, featuring the mayoral candidates. This event will begin at 6:00 p.m. and be held at the Alexander Hamilton Community Center on East 34th Street.
Election Day is Tuesday, May 8. Voters will have the opportunity to vote for up to three candidates for Council At-Large.
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