As a candidate for the Randolph Township Council, I believe that it is imperative for me to hear and understand the points of view of all the members of the community I aspire to represent. To that end, I attended the “Save NJ Businesses” rally here in Randolph yesterday along with my running mate Joshua Weiner. 

I stood in the sun for over two hours, watching the small crowd wax and wane, listening to the event speakers and the conversations around me. I heard the genuine pain and fear of people trying to navigate through unprecedented and uncertain times. I heard small business owners from all over the area whose financial security is in jeopardy, just like many people all over the nation. I heard a lot of misinformation, too, from both the podium and the crowd. And silly name calling. I heard people trying to lay blame anywhere they could. And I heard a remarkable amount of cognitive dissonance which left me utterly perplexed. 

I saw maskless Republican politicians and candidates flagrantly disregarding safe social distancing practices while at the same time exhorting our Governor to trust the public to do what is safe. I heard business owners who in one breath touted their adherence to the safe social distancing and disinfection practices laid out by our health experts, and then in the next breath asserted with equal vehemence that those same scientists have no idea what they’re doing or talking about. 

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Over and over again I heard supporters of a political party which has for decades overtly and systematically favored Big Business interests, frequently to the detriment of “the little guy,” complain that big business like Walmart and Walgreens - which sell essentials like food and medicine - are given precedence over their own small business interests. There was a muddle of complaints about federal government handouts - which are bad, I guess, unless the one you receive is big enough? And members of the party which has worked for decades to weaken collective bargaining complained that unions continue to help workers.

I understand that small business owners are suffering. Many people in our community are. Many healthcare and social safety networks in our country have been broken for decades, and the current COVID-19 crisis has revealed just how broken they are. It will take a long time for us as a society to get this disease in check and our lives to a “new normal.” So many people need help and understandably, everyone wants to be a top priority and the first one in line. But the unfortunate reality is that not everybody can be. I fully support the re-opening of small businesses in a way that is safe and responsible. I also appreciate that as our understanding of this novel coronavirus evolves, our definition of “safe” will, too. 

In the midst of all this, our country is also grappling with a national outpouring of grief and rage not just over the senseless murder of yet another black man, but over centuries of systemic and institutionalized inequalities which undermine the very ideals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness which we all profess to hold so dear, and threaten to tear our society apart.

I stood at the periphery of that nearly all-white crowd, in a mostly affluent community, at the site of a business dedicated to a traditional sport of the affluent white leisure class. I heard assertions that not being able to charge people money right now to do things they can already do for free - exercise, or play a sport available at many community parks - is the very definition of facism, oppression, and tyranny. I heard many people in that crowd yell and cheer in agreement. It was, quite frankly, a gut punch.

It is essential that we all understand that we are, truly, in this together. As members of the Township Council, I and my running mates David Timpanaro and Joshua Weiner hope to work with the rest of the Council, as well as community groups and business owners, to find safe and equitable solutions for the problems we face. I want to find new and innovative opportunities for our community to move forward, because in a world that moves and changes so fast, treading the same old ground is the very definition of falling behind.

Sincerely,

Jeanette Hernandez

Candidate for Randolph Township Council