Orange candidates debate issues at two-night forum – Essex News Daily

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ORANGE, NJ — Candidates who faced off in the Orange City Council elections took part in two virtual debates, April 27 and 28, sharing their ideas for council with voters ahead of the May 10 election. In sessions based on the neighborhood in which they are running, contestants answered questions submitted by the audience and by moderators. Candidates from the North and South wards debated on April 27; candidates from the East and West districts debated on April 28. The events were organized by the HUUB, the University of Orange, the Community Improvement Association of the Oranges and the Friends of Metcalf Park.

In the North Ward, outgoing council vice-chairman Tency Eason and challengers Sharief Williams and Kami Willis are running. Willis was the only candidate available to participate in the April 27 debate.

Development was a topic of discussion, and a question posed to the contestant asked which development issues she felt were the most pressing. Willis said she wants to make sure residents are involved in the planning of new development projects in Orange.

“Before the money is allocated, residents will be notified where the money is being issued,” she said. “I will hold meetings before that happens, not after.”

When discussing safety and health, Willis said that in order to ensure residents have affordable housing and access to food and other social services, she wants to create a resource center where residents can find information.

“There will be training programs, computer classes, internships, showers and washers and dryers where residents can feel confident going out into society,” Willis said.

Incumbent Councilor Jamie Summers-Johnson and challengers Lynval James and James Ward are racing in the South Ward. All three were at the April 27 debate and also discussed development. James said there were too many homes being built with not enough parking spaces, causing residents to move around in search of space.

“We’re building, but we have nowhere to put vehicles,” James said. “We should be renovating at this point instead of building, as many of these buildings are outdated and in poor condition. We need to plan better and residents need to be part of the planning.

Ward said Orange lacked transparency and partnership around development.

“Builders are often tasked by municipalities to provide contribution opportunities on major works in an emergency for their approval,” Ward said. “I’ve seen municipalities and local community organizations ask developers to hire and buy locally to improve open spaces, update transit stations, and directly fund community initiatives. We need to legislate the pathways of Community Benefit Agreements and Business Improvement Districts to address the pressing needs of our community and how businesses can be drivers of positive change.

According to Summers-Johnson, one of the biggest issues surrounding development is education. She thinks residents need to better understand the impact different types of projects will have on the city.

“When you hear tax abatement or PILOT, it’s always in a negative way,” Summers-Johnson said. PILOT stands for payment in lieu of taxes. “Before I became a councilor, I felt the same way, until someone explained to me that a piece of land could bring in $60,000 in taxes, but then when we let someone develop on that land, it can bring in a PILOT payment of $250,000 and also create jobs.”

Summers-Johnson also said adequate parking is necessary, in addition to effective codes and code enforcement. On health and safety, she said Orange needs more community policing, so residents recognize police officers patrolling their neighborhoods.

“They can connect to neighborhood watches, which are always watching neighborhoods,” she said. “Once they can put a name to an officer’s face, it will put everyone at ease.”

She also wants to make sure youth recreation programs run year-round rather than just in the summer, so it doesn’t all happen at once. James agreed and also wants to expand the programs to seniors.

“We have feedback on what seniors want and what we can do to make a difference for them,” he said. “We can bring officials in and talk to them.”

In the East Borough of Orange, outgoing Council President Kerry Coley is running for re-election against challengers Tyrone Tarver and Fatimah Turner. Coley was not present at the April 28 debate, although both Tarver and Turner were. When discussing the development, Tarver said there was too much going on in the city.

“The re-designation of neighborhoods in the East Ward as redevelopment areas is wrong,” Tarver said. “It allows the city to claim eminent domain in a number of neighborhoods. Traffic problems will be huge in the years to come, and this influx of new residents who rent creates many parking problems.

Nor does Tarver support tax abatements; he said they were creating a loss of tax revenue, and as a result, not enough money was being sent to the Orange School District.

Similar to candidates running in other neighborhoods, Turner said more input from residents is needed.

“I think there should be town halls,” she said during the debate, also calling for greater accountability of council members. “When we have issues that are pressing this community, residents aren’t heard, their questions aren’t answered, and I think there’s a lot of poor education. Everyone should be involved in the planning process. It should be free and open to all (members of) the public.

Turner is a licensed therapist, and when talking about health and safety, she talked about the time she spends providing free sessions to East Ward residents. If she cannot take these residents as new clients, she recruits colleagues to see them. She wants to see more mental health programs offered.

“I also help the community clean up, pick up trash and try to reduce rat infestations,” she said.

The two candidates discussed food insecurity, and Tarver said that with the recent closure of the East Orange ShopRite, the city should reach agreements with other local grocery stores to increase home shopping services for seniors and residents with transportation difficulties.

“We can work out an agreement with the school district to use their buses to do weekend grocery pickup and delivery for those who have these challenges,” Tarver said. “It also creates jobs locally and in those markets. We can create safe and monitored ridesharing opportunities to these markets. »

Current West Ward Councilor Harold Johnson chose not to stand for re-election; To replace him on the board, challengers Jonathan Beckford, Quantavia Hilbert, Genora Jenkins and Mohamed Touré are coming forward. Both Beckford and Hilbert were at the debate on April 28; Jenkins and Touré were not.

Beckford said during the development discussion that he wanted to improve the process that leads to certain developments that have been built at Orange.

“What is due process to ensure developments are beneficial to the city?” asked Beckford. “Many times with these developments we have no idea how they were assigned. Also, we need more resident involvement. The voice of the inhabitants is not really heard during the attribution of these developments. The city does not really take into account their concerns.

Hilbert agreed that there needs to be more transparency.

“Development discussions should always include residents,” Hilbert said. “We need a participatory group outside of our planning board, outside of our zoning board, so residents can come forward and be a part of it. This also extends to leadership with board members. We need to have monthly community meetings where you make sure everyone is aware of current Orange issues. »

When discussing health and safety, Hilbert said she wanted additional entertainment space for programming that Orange residents could benefit from. Instead of building apartment buildings, she said developers could lease land to develop spaces that would benefit both the developer and the city.

“Not only do we own the land and generate revenue, but we also say, ‘This is why we have space in our community and you need to align with our community values,'” Hilbert said. also working to create a shared garden program within Orange I will also be fighting for grants for job training programs and social service programs as we need to enlighten our young people about other alternatives to the university.

Addressing food insecurity, Beckford said the city needs to have better options for finding good quality food in the first place.

“We have a supermarket in the western quarter, and the quality of the food is questionable,” he said. “It’s something we have to sort out. The other thing we have to consider is that for people to have the means to feed themselves, they also have to have a job. I want to provide financial literacy training to these people so they know how to budget and save, so they can eventually become homeowners instead of just renters.

Election day is May 10.

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