Rev. Owens:

I truly commend you for having the courage to run for public office after living in Scotch Plains for close to 38 years! Your sudden late entry into politics is rather interesting and self-serving. But please sit back, read (and think) about my comments below and quit impersonating Chicken Little. The sky is not falling down in Scotch Plains! 

What you consider "nasty exchanges" in city hall, I call it a "healthy democratic debate". Would you rather have these exchanges behind closed doors? This is a Democracy not a Dictatorship. You will not become Mayor and tell everyone to shut up and just do things your way. Things do not work the way you're thinking. Issues will be debated with the other four individuals on the Council. You will need to build a coalition with both Republicans and Democrats. You can't just sit back, watch YouTube videos and then complain about the level of discourse at city hall. You have to take action and participate at a grassroots level to better understand the issues under discussion. You need to physically attend these Council meetings - at least once.

Sign Up for E-News

Both Democrats and Republicans are not bad people. They are all volunteers and they all work very hard individually to serve the common interest of the people of Scotch Plains. They do their homework before getting behind those desks at city hall. Beyond what those individuals exhibit at Council meetings, they all contribute in many other ways and serve on multiple other committees to further the interests and progress of this township. They volunteer for so many things other than just getting behind those desks and arguing amongst themselves. They are truly vested in their positions before they finally meet publicly at Council meetings.

Take for example, before becoming the Mayor, Kevin Glover served on multiple commissions and volunteered for multiple initiatives in addition to serving as a Councilman. Rose Checchio has done so much for the community before stepping up to run for Council. John Del Sordi Jr. volunteered countless hours before running. Colleen Gialanella advocated for so many opportunities for the citizens of Scotch Plains before she ever attempted to run for her Council seat. And no matter where I stick my nose in this community, Llewellyn Jones is always there – a relentless volunteer for all causes Scotch Plains - a good man!

These are all excellent people and they all have the right to advocate for their chosen causes. Even when you look at the current slate of candidates running for Council, (Al Smith, Ted Spera and Luisa Bianco) they are all very active and contributing to the community in one way or the other. So yes, healthy, somewhat contentious debate is good for a democratic Scotch Plains. Before you disparage the accomplishments of these individuals and "raise a lot of hell", please start by attending at least one city Council meeting and learn some details about the critical issues facing the town of Scotch Plains and stop attacking the generous people volunteering to help this town.

The theme of your campaign is to complain about high taxes when you are almost done raising three children through the township of Scotch Plains? Really? There must be a reason why you're still here after all these years.  Maybe waiting for the last child to graduate? You pay a premium price to live in a premium town - plain and simple! If you take a closer look at your tax bill you will notice that only a small fraction of the tax goes to Union County. That is hardly a reason to cry wolf. A large percentage of our taxes go to support the quality education provided by the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school system in which you have managed to successfully raise your great kids. Don't personalize your tax rate with the performance of the individuals tirelessly serving our community. If you are paying $25,000 a year in taxes, something tells me you live in a McMansion and you may just need to downsize and save on your taxes.

Personal political attacks against harmless volunteers will not get you elected. Besides, Scotch Plains is hardly the only town suffering from high taxes, the entire state of New Jersey is dysfunctional when it comes to the tax system. But I don't see anybody quitting and moving their kids to Russia or China. This is the price we pay for living in a quality town offering great education and safety for our children.

And now, what about you? What have you done specifically for Scotch Plains? I understand you received multiple personal letters of commendation from Gov. Florio (for your work in Camden) and Gov. Christie Todd Whitman (for your work in Jersey City). Did you get any letters from anyone for your hard work, dedication and volunteer activities in Scotch Plains? Except for touting your longstanding years of public service and accomplishments in Camden or Jersey City, you have nothing to support any record of public service in the 25 maybe 38 years you have lived in Scotch Plains. You served for 23 years as a Pastor in Jersey City. How many years have you served the people of Scotch Plains? Again, what have you done for Scotch Plains? And yes, congratulations on your "very effective" educational programs and senior services initiatives in Camden and Jersey City. How many of your programs are based in Scotch Plains to help the youths of Scotch Plains? How many employment opportunities and scholarships have you provided to the youths of Scotch Plains? Of the 50 people you claim to employ, how many of them are from Scotch Plains? Since you were a member of the Clintons' Democratic fundraising team in the 1990s and you enjoyed a great relationship with several of the Mayors in Jersey City, why aren't you working with them to create a special scholarship fund for the youth of Scotch Plains?

How dare you even mention the playing fields at Terrill Middle School? What exactly do you know about these fields? For the last several months, Rose Checchio has worked tirelessly to bring together a coalition of important individuals to start the redevelopment of these fields. She has brought together all parties from Fanwood, Scotch Plains and the Board of Education. Colleen Gialanella has been working hard to establish a dedicated Girl's Softball home field at this very location so that our young Girls can finally have a place to call their own "home field". Grants are already lined up and their efforts are progressing nicely. But of course you wouldn't know these facts because you are too busy in Camden and Jersey City. At any moment’s notice, you can always count on Llewellyn Jones to chip in and help out the Cub Scouts in Pack 98.

Please get involved in Scotch Plains first and understand the facts before complaining about a non-issue. You need to quit your private cocoon at Shackamaxon and talk to real people on the streets of Scotch Plains. You are welcomed to play Shady Rest at Scotch Hills at anytime - for less money and with real people.

Thanks for acknowledging the rich history of John Shippen. But, for your information, the local African American community does care deeply about the Shady Rest Clubhouse. Are you even familiar with the history of Shady Rest? Do you know why it is so important to African Americans? “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana).  Rev. Owen, please learn your history before criticizing those that are working hard to preserve the Shady Rest. These volunteers have worked hard for many years to retain and maintain his legacy within our community. That just shows how "out of touch" you are with your own local African American community - right here in Scotch Plains.

You belittled President Obama for not doing much for the African American community as if he was elected to serve only African Americans. May I remind you that a President's job is to serve ALL citizens regardless of race, creed, color or religion? In your thought processes, he should have just unilaterally focused on African American issues without caring for anyone else. Again, this is not how government works! This is not the right way to think. This is a democracy and he is operating within the parameters of a democratic system. He is not perfect but, for goodness sake, please respect what he has been able to accomplish in the face of relentless congressional opposition.

You don’t need a title to be a leader! If you have something to offer, first do something for Scotch Plains (other than being a Mayor) before complaining about people who are actually sacrificing their valuable time to volunteer in Scotch Plains. If any of your accomplishments are not connected to Scotch Plains, you simply have no business running for the Mayor of Scotch Plains. The people of Camden and Jersey City are very lucky to have you. Please go run for Mayor over there.

Alfonse Akins
Scotch Plains, NJ