April 23, 2019 | 67° F

Cahill begins sixth term as New Brunswick mayor

Jim Cahill, running unopposed as the incumbent candidate in New Brunswick's mayoral race, will spend his sixth term in office serving the people of the city following yesterday's election.

After winning the June 8 primary — the only contested primary in the county, in which Democratic challenger Patricia Bombelyn did not secure enough votes to have her name on the ballot — Cahill was unofficially assured another four years as mayor of New Brunswick.

"A New Brunswick leader needs to be somebody who can identify those problems, tackle them, not just talk about them, but make things happen to improve them," Cahill said in April after he had announced plans to run again in his 20th year of service. "I can tell you that under my leadership as mayor of New Brunswick, our city has transformed from a city of decay and flight."

Forty-year New Brunswick resident Chicago, 60, who legally changed his name to just that, said he could find nothing negative to say about Cahill's performance in changing the city for the better during his time as New Brunswick's leader.

"New Brunswick was ready to close down," he said. "All the stores were vacant. It was an inner city like Camden. Now we have skyscrapers, employment [and] the lowest taxes in Middlesex County."

In terms of parks, recreation and public services in general, the quality of what is offered in New Brunswick exceeds their counterparts in other cities, Chicago said. The city also provides a welcoming community for those new to the country.

"The Mexican community that came here, we don't throw them out, we don't shun them," he said.

Although the city has challenges it must face, Cahill finds ways to deal with them, rendering complaints about his performance futile, Chicago said.

"Anybody can throw mud on the wall, but it has to stick for it to have merit," he said.

Still there are some who say they are unsatisfied with the actions, or lack thereof, Cahill has taken in the past.

Amina Benmoussa, who moved into a house in the city five years ago, said she plans to move elsewhere soon, as New Brunswick does not offer the kinds of programs and services she would like to see available to her sons, one of whom is a special needs child.

"For kids, they don't have anything here," Benmoussa said. "That's why they go out and learn things they shouldn't."

Benmoussa said the absence of engaging after-school programs or a youth center, like a YMCA, in New Brunswick takes away from the benefits of living in the city, and when young people do not have access to such programs, the community as a whole can fall victim to criminal activity.

Benmoussa did not feel compelled to go out to the polls yesterday to support local officials and expressed concern that those who hold public office in New Brunswick are too disconnected from the city's residents.

"Send people to talk to us," she said.

Franklin resident Herminio Ramos, 66, who first came to New Brunswick from Puerto Rico when he was 17 years old, agrees with Cahill's idea that the city has changed — but not necessarily all for the better.

Ramos occasionally makes trips back to the city and said sanitation and immigration are two major problems.

"It used to be clean. Now it's filthy," Ramos said.

Although Ramos did not know much about Cahill himself, he said he does not expect conditions in the city to improve.

"New Brunswick is going to get worse," he said.

Colleen Roache

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