The United States has just hit 100,000 deaths due to the coronavirus in just three months. Depending
on where you get your news, more than half of Americans feel the President and the federal government have let them down. However, all politics is local and here in New Jersey, local leadership along with the state have taken on the virus in partnership with neighboring states and it is within this arena that true local leaders rose and others were exposed for who they really are.
Most of the population in New Jersey is in the north, with cities like Newark, Jersey City, Union City and
Paterson. Throughout this crisis, mayors have played a big part in managing and protecting their residents and in the end, there is one city that stands out, Paterson. Newark was direct and early in how it addressed the crisis, Jersey City and Union City worked strategically to protect as many residents as possible including providing testing, food and information early on. This was not the case in Paterson.
When you walk the main streets of these major cities, most if not all the residents have masks on, and businesses have adapted to the CDC requirements to operate as safely as possible. In Paterson, it was
business as usual. In discussions with elected officials, each relayed frustration in how the residents were either not informed or disregarded the guidelines provided to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
In a simple look at the other neighboring towns and cities, the case was different. Union City being the second most populated city in the U.S., residents respected the safety requirements and even though business was slow, it was able to continue on in a limited basis. The same can be said for Jersey City,
Passaic and Newark but not Paterson.
The City of Paterson does have testing now and has received media attention but if you put all the reports side by side on a screen, you have mayors that are providing information, thanking first responders and relaying specific information about how the residents can either reopen or shelter at home. When the mayor of Paterson spoke, body language alone told the story. Unlike the other messages from mayors, the mayor of Paterson was loud, limited and involved more hand signals than a full four-hour football game.
Telling people you are a leader or making collegiate speeches about you as a leader does not make you or anyone a leader, how you handle a crisis, especially when lives are at stake is how leaders are made. If you want to see this for yourself, just google the mayors of the other major cities and hit play, as a truly born, raised and educated Patersonian, it is frustrating to continue to see such disappointment in my hometown and it brings up the question; Do the residents of Paterson respect the Mayor of Paterson?
Augusto Penaranda is a former Paterson resident.