Plainfield View is a strong believer in transparency – not only of those holding public office but of those who seek to do so. Mayoral candidates are fortunate enough to have two different venues for expression of their beliefs – the League of Women Voters & NAACP forums. However, as these discussions happen only days before the elections, I decided to ask all four mayoral candidates to participate in a Q & A with Plainfield View five weeks before November 5. This is our first political Q & A, but hopefully not the last.
This discussion will feature Republican Sandy Spector (contact details at bottom) as well as Independents D. Scott Belin (www.putplainfieldfirst.com) and Mustapha Muhammad (www.mustapha2013.com). Democratic Party Candidate Adrian Mapp opted not to participate. The order of answers for all questions have been randomized for fairness.
Q: What compelled you to make the decision to run for mayor?
Mustapha Muhammad: A great combination of things over a significant period of time through the last three administrations, our City, the community, our families and the circumstances that has left us no alternative other than to step up, unite our City and govern ourselves based on the principles of truth and justice for the entire community, which, quite frankly, has not been taking place.
Sandy Spector: I really love this city and have witnessed her steady decline as she became entangled in the grip of “machine” politics. When you are governed from without the residents within are secondary to partisan dealings. I have watched Plainfield steadily lose her luster to crumbling infrastructure, increasing crime, unwelcoming economic development mazes, out of control real estate taxes, roller coaster public services, and a deeply distressing PR image…just to mention a few. For me, it became time to put my hat in the ring, not just talk about making a change, but actually rolling up my sleeves and doing it. I am up to the fight and I am up to the job.
D. Scott Belin: I was not compelled to run for mayor. I chose to run for Mayor, after years of waiting for progress in Plainfield that has been little and has not met my expectations. We are now at a point where we must accept what we have been doing is not the appropriate approach. I, like many citizens, am not satisfied with the direction in which the city is moving. I believe in the spirit of democracy which provides for choice. In Plainfield we do not seem to have practiced choice as it is intended. Many of our voters do not realize there is a race for mayor to be decided in the general election. The assumption is that whoever is given the party line is the chosen elected official as determined by the political group that is in the position of advantage. Some may argue we are recycling candidates and not incorporating new ideas or candidates. I hope my candidacy is the first of many that will join the process and provide new ideas, candidates and progress to the city of Plainfield.
Q: What is the importance of public service, and who is your role model as a representative of the people?
D. Scott Belin: I believe the importance of public service is just that, serving the good of the public, not the interest any particular party. We must put the interest of Plainfield and its citizens at the top of our priorities in building a better Plainfield. I do not have a role model in this quest other than believing in the city of Plainfield and that she is a good place to live and that she can be a great place for all.
Mustapha Muhammad: Jesus said the greatest among you shall be your servant. For even The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His Life a ransom for many. What better role model could there possibly be?
Sandy Spector: I have always felt the tug of public service. There is no more noble a gesture than to give of yourself to your fellow man. I have always been the quintessential volunteer having served on the boards of The Friends of the Plainfield Public Library, SARA, The Plainfield Symphony, MOPPUP, New Audiences for Plainfield, HANW, and so many others. I have almost lost count of the number of political campaigns I have worked on over the years…stuffing envelopes, planting lawn signs, making phone calls, ringing door bells, raising money, donating my time, energy and my company resources. I serve as Chair of the PMRC and serve as Executive Vice-Chair RCUC.
Q: What is your opinion of both Democratic and Republican party leadership in Plainfield and in Union County as it relates to the lives of Plainfield residents?
Sandy Spector: It is difficult for me to answer this question without a certain amount of bias as I Chair the Republican Organization in Plainfield and am the Executive Vice President in the Union County Republican Organization. I feel the Democratic leadership in Plainfield has sold us to the Democratic County Organization and their version of “Tammany Hall.” Gaining personal power, I have not seen Plainfield grow exponentially with the Democratic Municipal Chairman’s rise to party prominence. For all his rhetoric and braggadocio that he is the third most powerful person in New Jersey state politics, he was not capable of the averting the closing of Muhlenberg Hospital. Their Union County Chairwoman resigned among a frenzy of charges and the threat of multiple pending indictments.
Mustapha Muhammad: More importantly, much bigger then my personal opinion are facts, record, history and the state of our affairs weighed in the balance of who had the direct authority, duty, obligation and responsibility; particularly, to and in relationship to the residents of Plainfield that basically has determined what we see and have today in result.
D. Scott Belin: I do not have an opinion of the Democratic and Republican party leadership in Plainfield. I believe there is a place for both in the democratic process. I say to our citizens to look at where Plainfield is today and it is indicative of the leadership we have and then ask ourselves the question are we satisfied with Plainfield and its leadership? If the answer is no, I am the correct candidate to elect November 5, 2013.
Q: How well-equipped are you to negotiate and work with a city council that may not always agree with your vision?
D. Scott Belin: I am a professional with over 30 years of business experience. I have worked with diverse groups on many successful projects, delivering them on time, with quality and usually under budget. In any endeavor where change is required, there will be different views. I am more than qualified to work together with any group towards a successful end. In this case I am prepared to work with the City Council on common goals resulting in building a better Plainfield.
Mustapha Muhammad: Deliberative dialogue as a foundation for and in the service of the residents guided by complete transparency and free of partisan party politics will allow the people, excluding none, to negotiate and work with the council for a vision that they will very much be a part of.
Sandy Spector: Good leadership does not dwell on the issues that divide us but on the common threads that bind us all together. I believe we all share common goals for the growth of our city and improved quality of life for her residents. If we all keep those goals in mind, I am sure we can work together to achieve them. Any elected official who puts partisan politics squarely before the good of the constituents does not deserve to be in office.
Q: After four years as mayor, what will we be saying about your first term in office?
Sandy Spector: I think they will find tremendous growth and a road back to fiscal accountability. I think they will see how various factions can work together to improve the city we all call home.
D. Scott Belin: I believe the citizens of Plainfield will be saying we have a Plainfield with improved Quality of Life, growing Economic Development environments throughout with new business and job opportunities and where I am proud to live with Plainfield Pride.
Mustapha Muhammad: God is Good, all the time and the devil is a liar!
Q: How united of a city is Plainfield as it relates to class divisions?
Mustapha Muhammad: Plainfield is a reflection of the whole rather it be county, state, region or national with adjusting graphics, stats and demographics we see the same basic matriculation that goes up and down based on leadership, power and there dynamics generally speaking; Nevertheless, this is where the rubber meets the road, on the local level, where real change can take place more quickly and efficiently as long as we don’t continue to repeat the same thing and expect different results. All structures start from the ground up, and more importantly, function supersedes all structures.
Sandy Spector: I think the term “class divisions” is inappropriate in describing the mind set of the residents of Plainfield. Every urban area has different neighborhoods with their own identities. Part of Plainfield’s strength is her incredible diversity. We need to take full advantage of the incredible wisdom that dwells within our boarders. Making concerted efforts toward cultural and ethnic education, we can become one with the full appreciation and respect that brings to the table.
D. Scott Belin: I am not sure about this question and would rather not answer.
Q: How can Plainfield’s political establishment better integrate Latinos, who constitute a large part of its residents, work force, and voting public?
Mustapha Muhammad: As with what we all aspire; Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, rather we are Latino, Caucasian, Caribbean, Asian, Arab, African, Native American or last but not least African American, with the principles of Truth and Justice for all institutionally, economically, socially, and politically.
Sandy Spector: It pained me to see the need for “Guardian Angel” patrols to reduce violence against portions of our Latino population. I worked with the Decennial Census in 2010 and had the privilege of interviewing a large segment of our Latino population. On the broader scale, for the undocumented, we need to provide a reasonable path to citizenship that would, therefore, enable them to engage in the democratic process. Flor Gonzales, through her coalition, is doing wonders. We need to embrace and recognize the skills and potential for contribution of this segment of our city. We all have so much to share and so much learn from each other.
D. Scott Belin: I believe we in Plainfield can do a better job integrating all races and cultures into the future of the city and understand the strength in doing so. We must celebrate our diversity and invite the growth of our community in all ways that benefit the city and its residents.
Q: What is the single most important issue facing residents of Plainfield as a whole?
Sandy Spector: We need to see real and sustainable growth in Plainfield. We need to broaden our tax base to take the burden off the individual home owner. Our empty commercial buildings can house light manufacturing. Our downtown can offer appealing shopping for everyone. Muhlenberg Hospital can be repurposed within approved medical boundaries and not turned into 600 units of high density housing. We can revitalize our declining neighborhoods, take transit village lessons from our neighboring municipalities, and improve the quality of life for each and everyone of us.
Mustapha Muhammad: Through all the complexity and the many single most important issues, our common denominator is Our Unity. For if we are One “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, in spite of Our Political Party, Our Religion, Our Language, Our Race, Our Nationality, Our Culture, Our God, Our Traditions and Our Customs, and act on our Unity to form One Community in spite of Our diversity. The greatest of all will have been achieved in our pluralistic society, City and Community.
D. Scott Belin: There is no single most important issue facing the residents of Plainfield as a whole. There are several challenges that we must address in Plainfield. We must address the issues of improving our Quality of Life, we must fund this through Economic Development that will reduce the tax burden off the shoulders of homeowners and we must have Pride in Plainfield. If we start with these three important aspects and drill down from there we can build a better Plainfield together and benefit as a whole.
Thanks to all of the candidates who participated.
**Sandy Spector’s website is under construction, please call (908) 756-0310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org