Council candidates plan to work through city crime, education
As Election Day approaches, candidates for New Brunswick City Council are looking for ways to solve some of the city’s most pressing issues concerning education and crime.
Councilman Glenn J. Fleming, Councilwoman Elizabeth Garlatti and city resident John Anderson are running unopposed in the November election for the three open seats on the council, said Fleming, a lifelong New Brunswick resident and teacher at Hamilton West High School.
Fleming said the New Brunswick City Council essentially acts as the legislative arm of the city government, and is responsible for passing resolutions as well as voting on various laws.
Fleming said he often hears criticism of the gap in representation between the council members and residents, but insists that many of those in office have lived in New Brunswick all of their lives and continue to hold positions within the community.
Anderson, who was born and raised in New Brunswick, agreed and said city council members should be looked at as neighbors instead of politicians.
“I don’t have goals beyond [city council],” Anderson said. “ I think that I am just representing the people of New Brunswick, just trying to get some things done and bring some fresh ideas and fresh faces.”
Fleming, who currently holds a temporary position on the New Brunswick City Council, said officials have been put under pressure to solve the city’s education issues.
Much of the criticism surrounding public schools in New Brunswick are based on faulty statistics, Fleming said, like the 59 percent high school graduation rate the state determined for the city.
“You have to look at the formula that they are measuring the graduation rate with,” he said. “We live in a transient district where people move in and out. Right now, they measure students who start in ninth grade and when they leave — something that happens often — their number is still counted.”
Some residents have pointed to the Board of Education as one of the problems, Fleming said. While every other district in Middlesex County holds elections to elect members to the board, New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill personally appoints the board members.
Fleming said he is afraid the public would elect officials to the board based on their own personal agendas, which could result in a board that has very different backgrounds and personalities, he said.
When there are problems with the Board of Education, Fleming said, they are easier to address if the mayor has appointed its members.
“With an appointed school board, if you do not like the school board, just get rid of the mayor,” he said.
Russell Marchetta, city spokesperson, said the option to hold elections for the school board has been voted down four times within the last 20 years by New Brunswick residents, a trend he believes stems from the consensus that the mayor is more involved in the appointment process than New Brunswick residents.
“The mayor meets these people extensively,” Marchetta said. “He talks to them and talks to other people that know them.”
Anderson said council members would also have to deal with the crime rates in the city, adding that city officials needed to work closely with the police in the future.
“One crime is one too many,” Anderson said. “We need to make sure that the police presence is around to try and prevent things from happening in the first place.”
Yet Fleming said it is also important to understand that the situation is too complicated to be solved simply by increasing the police force.
“When you increase police presence, people say, ‘there are too many cops in the neighborhood right now,’” he said.
Instead, Fleming said he hopes to improve the “community policing,” and hopes residents will work closer with the police to report crimes they see instead of blaming the city.
“People are trying to just turn over stones and look for corruption everywhere,” he said. “People have to work together and look for solutions so that it doesn’t happen again.”
University students who live in New Brunswick are eligible to vote in the upcoming city council elections Nov. 6, and Anderson said he expects them to play an important role in November.
“I think that many of the students have a concern,” Anderson said. “At the last city council meeting ... [students] brought up some new ideas.”