PLAINFIELD – Are city voters happy with the current Democratic administration or are they looking for a new leader?
The answer could come with the outcome of the Democratic primary on June 8 in which four men vie for the post of the city’s next mayor.
Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who is seeking a third term, is challenged in one of Central Jersey’s hottest primary races by Councilor Sean McKenna, Board of Education member Richard A. Wyatt Jr. and Dr Henrilynn Ibezim.
With no Republican nominees this year and no indication of any independents running, it is likely that the first winner will be the next mayor of Plainfield.
Mapp runs on the slate of the Union County Regular Democratic Organization, while McKenna’s slogan is Plainfield Not Politics, Wyatt’s is Progressive Democrats of New Jersey and Ibezim runs on the Unity candidate’s slogan. .
Mapp works with Fourth Ward Councilor Stacey Welch. Terri Briggs-Jones is the vice president of Wyatt’s fourth division and Taleana Williams Hurst is the vice president of Ibezim’s fourth division. McKenna doesn’t have a running mate in the fourth room.
At a recent League of Women Voters forum, the four mayoral candidates addressed several issues, including a range of issues related to employment and economic development, crime and gun violence, and need for a hospital.
Crime and gun violence
While Mapp maintains his administration has dramatically reduced crime year on year, his challengers are questioning that claim, especially after the recent shootings. Candidates were asked how they plan to reduce gun violence.
McKenna seeks to strengthen the city’s police department.
“In the past 12 months, we have lost 20% of our workforce. We have 125 people. It’s a big deal to protect our citizens on many levels, not just gun violence. We need to start having more communication within the community. There is a huge disconnect. There is a huge problem with the city government at the moment who is able to befriend other people in the community, with community activists and neighborhood groups and block groups that stand together. come together to focus on these issues, ”he said.
McKenna added that there needs to be conversations in the neighborhoods about what makes young boys get involved in issues that get them killed. He said there was also a need for more discussion about hobbies and activities that offer them alternatives.
Wyatt said the community is not receiving information about the constant gun violence, especially in the Fourth Ward where small children cannot go out to play due to drive-by shootings and gunfire. fire.
“We have to make sure that we are addressing the root cause; some of these things are unemployment, underemployment, trauma, pain, poverty. What are we doing as a city to address these issues? ” Wyatt said, adding that families of young men killed by guns don’t want to hear crime is down 50%.
Ibezim, who was previously mayor in 2017, said people had to be busy to stay away from criminal activity.
“When people don’t have a job, they have to do something else. Hire them, keep them busy, they get tired, go home and go to sleep. If they are not busy they are not going to work and the only option they have is to go out and commit crimes. The solution: find work for these people. It’s as simple as that. If a person is working, he is tired, he goes home and falls asleep. he’s not going to run around shooting people, ”he said.
Mapp said if there was one crime in the city, it was one too many.
“Despite all the progress we have made in drastically reducing crime, it is extremely difficult for the person who has lost a child to accept the reality of what the numbers are saying. There is no doubt since I have took office. in 2014, violent crime, which includes gun violence, fell by 50% and non-violent crime by 45%; that’s a fact, ”the mayor said, adding that crime continues in the city. city, but it will aggressively tackle the problem and help is for community schools to remain open to provide recreational opportunities for young people.
Development and PILOTS
Mapp said Plainfield has more than $ 1 billion in economic redevelopment projects. He said he had been successful in championing economic development during his tenure as mayor. He said investors had confidence in his administration, which made it easy for them to do business in the city and attracted significant development and taxes to the city.
He said his administration will continue to focus on providing quality housing to people in need with a mix of commercial and residential development.
He said a $ 120 million downtown transformation project is expected to start at the end of 2021 and will offer high-quality business development, including a banquet hall for 400 people and a large restaurant.
Ibezim said the townspeople needed to improve their standard of living. He said there were too many unemployed residents. He said the city needs to attract enough development that can provide the city’s residents with jobs that will improve their quality of life. Ibezim said as mayor he would seek out companies looking to invest in the city and make a difference in the lives of locals.
McKenna said good government is not anti-development, but it is not pro-development at the expense of taxpayers, especially when they subsidize development through tax breaks and tax breaks.
He said the city center should be the center of the city’s development and that rethinking its use and cleaning it up by getting rid of landfill in rear parking lots is attracting development.
He said developers don’t bring business. He said they said they would bring an anchor, but they didn’t always deliver, and mostly they would bring buildings. McKenna would like to see the creation of an IT and innovation manager to help the city attract business. If he likes the idea of a banquet hall and restaurant in town, he would also like to see higher paying, high tech jobs.
Wyatt said the focus should be on revitalization, not development. He said the city lacks essential retail services. He said the city has developed too many unaffordable structures.
“We have to start promoting small businesses. The city has so many entrepreneurs who have great skills, but we as a city are not helping or supporting them,” he said, also highlighting the need for a community center.
Working in the municipal tax assessor’s office for more than 10 years, Wyatt said developers he meets always ask about downtown because while residents don’t care downtown, developers will not seek to invest in the city.
Wyatt and Ibezim have said they do not favor tax breaks for developers. Wyatt said the PILOTS, or payment in lieu of tax, and tax breaks offered to developers are not helping the community. Ibezim said if developers want to invest in the city, he expects them to contribute tax dollars, otherwise the tax burden falls on residents.
“Developers need to start paying their fair share,” Ibezim said.
“We’re bringing more taxpayer dollars to the city through PILOTS,” Mapp said, adding that if nothing had been done at The Quin, a South Avenue project, for 30 years the city would have raised 1.2 million bucks. Now, with the housing development, the city will raise more than $ 15 million.
McKenna said he’s not opposed to the PILOTS, but he doesn’t think they’re structured properly. He said they needed to be a little more balanced with taxpayers than developers.
“The pilots have an advantageous effect by bringing essential development and that is what they are intended for, it is a marketing tool. It is a means of stimulating development and revitalizing an area”, a- he said, adding that the mayor and his administration have done a disservice by not explaining that every time a PILOT shows up.
The city’s need for a hospital
Wyatt said Plainfield needed an acute care facility in the city because too many residents have to travel to other cities to get the services that were previously offered here at Muhlenberg Hospital.
McKenna said that while he would like the old Muhlenberg Hospital to be reactivated, it is not part of the current healthcare model and that the city will instead have a medical mall.
Ibezim, who has a background in health care, supports preventive and emergency care, but said it was not possible to know what decisions need to be made about the old Muhlenberg hospital without being in function.
Mapp said he brought in the development of the former Muhlenberg Hospital campus, which will provide a shopping center and medical services to the community.
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Suzanne Russell is a late-breaking reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, the courts and other chaos. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.