Now that people have started receiving their mail in ballots, I’d like to take the time to remind people to think about the impact that local government has directly on their lives and to vote for the right candidate for the right reasons instead of just checking off the party line. Sure, I know how tempting it might be, but this Democrat is voting for at least two Republicans. I did it in last election on faith., and this time I am doing it based on record.
When Mayor Al Smith came to my door last election cycle, I was friendly but I let him know that I was a Democrat and while I’d be willing to listen to him, that was my leaning. He responded that he wanted to be mayor to everyone and asked me what issues were important to me personally. I listed a few things, including downtown redevelopment and the answers he gave were thoughtful, reasonable and achievable. After chatting with him for a while I decided to vote against party lines and give him a shot.
I have never regretted that decision, not even once.
Mayor Al delivered on the promises he made and then some. After decades of inaction and false starts, our downtown redevelopment is finally seeing real action. Approved plans, intelligent zoning and work on the court-ordered affordable housing rules have interested developers waiting in the wings. Improved emergency communications and response, as demonstrated by the township in the last big storm. He supported our local first responders with new fire trucks, improved radio communications for our police. And most importantly, a sound fiscal policy that has delivered necessary services while keeping the tax increases to less than one percent per year on average over his term.
During the pandemic, Mayor Smith showed not only reason and leadership by example; he was also there for all of us. Keeping the citizens safe and regularly informed. Working with local businesses to assist them and showing up at restaurants to encourage residents to do take out and support them. Recognizing the need and volunteering at food banks. Advocating for safe public health policies and setting guidelines.
And when it came to social issues, Mayor Al didn’t shirk his responsibilities either. He addressed issues like violence, racial unrest or policing reform. He also was there at the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter marches and knelt in solidarity with protesters. When Chinese restaurants were facing racism due to the pandemic, he was there to show support. Mayor Al made it clear that racism has no place in our town, again leading with more than just his words. When people are in crisis, Mayor Al has always been there.
So once again, I will cross party lines and vote for this exemplary man. I have nothing against his opponent; Josh Losardo is a fine man and has done a wonderful job as Deputy Mayor. But the campaign flyer he sent out listing talking points about what he and his running mate will do simply reads to me as a continuation of what Mayor Smith and Councilman Ted Spera are already accomplishing now. And while I am encouraged that Josh would carry on the hard work, why would I vote to put that momentum into someone else’s hands simply because they were in “my party” when I can let the people who originated it and have the best chance to move it forward?
In short, I am firmly behind seeing Mayor Al see through the plans he has worked so hard to put into motion. And I realized a long time ago that since local government has the most direct effect on our daily lives, our economy and our safety, that selecting the best candidate for the job is more important than party loyalty will ever be.
You can count me as a “Democrat for Mayor Al” and I think that if they look at the record and decide what’s most important, my fellow Democrats will likely join me.
Robert Anthony Pitera
Scotch Plains, NJ