Friday, November 03, 2006

2006 Council race - Courier - Endorsement: Burney, Johnson, Dowe

Published in the Courier News, Friday, November 3, 2006

[Editorial - endorsements: Burney, Johnson, Dowe]
New faces join Burney among picks in Plainfield

Plainfield voters will see a variety of familiar names on the City Council ballot this election in three races, even though in some cases the party label they carry will be different from what people remember.

  • Second and Third wards At-Large. Incumbent Democrat Rashid Burney faces Angela Perun, a former Democrat now running as a Republican. It's a shame voters can't pick both of them.

    It's been more than 20 years since Perun served in the state Assembly. It's been nearly 30 years since she began her first term on the Plainfield City Council in 1978. But she has lost none of the feisty independence she demonstrated decades ago.

    She has the misfortune, however, of facing arguably the best of Plainfield's council members. Burney is a hard-working visionary with the ability to approach the city's problems thoughtfully and from many angles. He has proven to be a leader, spearheading initiatives for new domestic partnership regulations and sex-offender residency restrictions. And he produces the research to support his views, as with a recent effort to evaluate government spending patterns in other communities to better gauge the city's budget inefficiencies.

    Perun would be a good addition to the City Council, but not at the expense of Burney. He has earned re-election and wins our endorsement.

  • First Ward. Rayland Van Blake is the incumbent, but a quiet one. His absence from recent debates suggests he lacks either the time or the commitment to provide the attention the First Ward deserves.

    Van Blake acknowledges the difficulty of balancing his family life, career as a financial consultant and his aspirations as an actor with the demands of city government. But he says that hasn't changed since he was first elected four years ago, and that he is proud of the accomplishments of his first term, including efforts to secure more than a million dollars in funding to renovate public pools at Rushmore Playground and Seidler Field.

    Still, there's an undeniable sense of Van Blake as an ambitious young man with dreams that lie beyond the city -- admirable, but something that won't necessarily benefit First Ward residents.

    His Republican opponent, Arlington Johnson, is a behavioral therapist and a youth coordinator in Bergen County. His experience in dealing with young people could be very valuable as the city continues to seek solutions to crime and drug problems that have long been an issue in the city's West End. Johnson is our recommendation in the First Ward.

  • At-Large. Democrat Harold Gibson, who was appointed to the seat of the late Ray Blanco, brings more than five decades of experience in public service and law enforcement. A former Newark police officer, Gibson has since served in various capacities, including as director of public safety in Plainfield (where he doubled as city administrator for a time) and Union County (where he also served as deputy county manager), and as chief of detectives for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. That law enforcement experience could be a valuable resource for a community continuing to develop more effective crime-fighting techniques.

    Democrat-turned-Republican Deborah Dowe offers a long history of civic involvement and an extensive list of volunteer activities in the city, coupled with a passionate vitality.

    Also appearing on the ballot for an at-large seat is Independent Robert Edwards, a volunteer for the city's Citizen's Campaign promoting resident involvement in government.

    Gibson would be a comfortable fit for the City Council. But Dowe would bring a fresher viewpoint, enthusiasm and more inclination to rock the boat when necessary. Dowe receives our endorsement.

  • Link to online story.

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    About Me

    Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.