Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Who's Got the Best Program? Orange Picks a Mayor
Ben Jones, first African American councilman of Orange, NJ, welcomed fellow residents to a Mayoral Forum on March 29th. Ben was all smiles as he admired Patrick Morrissy's historic campaign button that read "Win with Ben." People were gathered to meet five of six very impressive candidates for Mayor. The city- one of the Main Street towns I'll be following closely - was rocked by scandal in September 2007 when Mayor Mims Hackett was arrested on bribery charges. Much is riding on the selection of a strong, honest leader. I had the honor of moderating the forum which was held at the Appian Way. The Forum was sponsored by Citizens for Responsible Government, CRG. CRG is a newly reconstituted group, drawing on the leadership of an older CRG: Citizens for Representative Government. The earlier CRG was founded in 1958 to lead the struggle black representation and to improve the city. My father, Ernest Thompson, was one of its founders. He told the story of this effort in his book, Homeboy Came to Orange: A Story of People's Power. One of CRG's early accomplishments was to lay out a 7-point plan for making a better city. That plan addressed: 1) redevelopment and relocation, 2) unemployment, 3) freeway (Route 280 which then on the drawing boards and now runs through the middle of town), 4) school system, 5) civil rights, 6) recreation and juvenile delinquency, and 7)representative government. Citizens for Responsible Government used this outline to pose questions to 5 of the 6 citizens running for office. The candidates were articulate and serious. They gave very thoughtful answers. The questions addressed different areas of concern, taking the listeners through the key issues of running a city honestly and effectively. The lively, engaged audience paid keen attention -- you could have heard a pin drop for most of the two hour meeting. The Appian Way is a remarkably welcoming site. CRG is to be congratulated for organizing a meeting that helped us all understand how a city is governed while learning about the strategies that the candidates would use. It was a serious day that ended with great hope for the future of the city.