The Importance of Being Earnest: At-Large Candidates Face Off in Paulus Hook

All photos: Steve Gold

On Thursday, more than 50 people filled the Our Lady of Czestochowa Meeting Hall in the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City for an At-Large City Council candidates forum sponsored by the Historic Paulus Hook Association (HPHA). It was the third in a series of HPHA candidate forums.

The eight candidates that participated included Emilio DeLia and Andrew Hubsch from Dan Levin’s One Jersey City ticket; Joseph Cassidy, Betty Outlaw and Lori Serrano from Lou Manzo’s slate; Ronnie Greco and Frank Scalcione from Harvey Smith’s team (Noemi Velazquez was absent); and Abdul Malik from Phil Webb’s ticket. Independent candidate Marie Day did not attend, and the entire Team Healy At-Large contingent — Peter Brennan, Willie Flood and Mariano Vega — were noticeably absent.

Each candidate was given one minute for an introduction. Due to the time constraint, only a single candidate per slate was permitted to answer each question. The questions were asked by members of the audience.

The audience questions mirrored some of the concerns of Downtown residents, and included the looming property tax revaluation, dual job holding (double-dipping) and improving public schools. Ward E councilman and candidate Steven Fulop got to reverse roles at the forum by asking a question rather than having to answer one. He asked candidates to identify the major challenges facing constituents.

The candidates agreed that a revaluation would be painful, but offered few specific suggestions for lessening the burden. In addition, most candidates expressed their opposition to double-dipping.

Lori Serrano added that providing cars to public employees for personal use should be banned. Abdul Malik and Emilio DeLia stressed lack of accountability in government as a major problem. Dealing with problems of families and seniors, and encouraging young people to finish school were Betty Outlaw’s key platform points.

The final question also served as the closing statement since time was running out. It was noted by the audience member that there was a high degree of similarity among the candidates’ positions. What will each candidate bring as an individual to the position as council member? With the exception of Joseph Cassidy, who touted that his experience as a police officer would make hime “eyes and ears of public safety,” the candidates expressed their earnestness, and to be responsive to their constituents, but did not emphasize their qualifications.

“Before I came to the meeting I didn’t have a clear decisive position on who I was going to be voting for,” Paulus Hook resident Kirsten Greene said after the forum. “After hearing them speak tonight I at least narrowed it down to four or five but I have not decided yet.”

Forum moderator and President of the HPHA president Jennifer Wagner said the evening was a success.

“We had great participation both by our candidates and by our membership,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know the candidates’ names, let alone their positions. Our goal was voter education and to increase participation and we got positive feedback as people were leaving.”

Steve Gold contributed to this report.

Jon Whiten

co-founded the Jersey City Independent. He is currently the Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective.