Independent run would have made positive statement
Three New Brunswick city council seats are now left uncontested after a party of independent challengers — consisting of two New Brunswick community members and one School of Arts and Sciences senior — announced a sudden withdrawal from the race last week. While we respect the party’s decision to discontinue its run for the seats, we can’t help but feel disappointed that, for yet another year, the incumbent members of the Democratic party will run unopposed.
To us, a full and honest run by members of an outside party — especially when that party consisted of the city’s own residents and students — would have been worth as much as if the party had won at all.
The independent party was composed of New Brunswick community members Charlie Kratovil, 26, and Yolanda Baker, 42, along with School of Arts and Sciences senior Jonathan Coloma, 22. Each member, being either students and/or residents of New Brunswick, would have brought a world of fresh perspectives to a table that has long been devoid of the stuff. Allowing ourselves to a liberal helping of idealism here, we imagine if they had made a successful run for the seats and won, it would have been the first time in a very, very long time that a student or ordinary New Brunswick resident sat at the city’s round table.
Yet it’s no secret that New Brunswick students and community members have been woefully underrepresented in recent years in the latter department. Monthly city council meetings, under ordinary circumstances, rarely attract the kind of attention and participation from students and residents necessary to affect any kind of tangible changes in the community. Admittedly, this trend is largely a result of apathy on the part of students and residents themselves, but nonetheless has been a chronic issue throughout much of the city’s — as well as the University’s — history.
We have, however, witnessed what such participation can do to shape policy and influence events relating to city and University. Last year we saw a tremendous response from the community, including surprising numbers of University students, following a series of shootings that took place throughout the year. The city’s recent decision to install bicycle lanes throughout the city is largely attributable to campaigning done by students and residents last year. It is events like these that remind us of the importance of student and resident involvement in the affairs of city government. More student and resident input is undoubtedly required if decision-making at the hands of city officials is to reflect the needs and wants of the community as a whole. And it is within this vein that a run for the three currently uncontested council seats by these individuals would have been so momentous, and, in our opinion, greatly desired.
Without a challenging party, councilwoman Betsy Garlatti and John A. Anderson of the democratic ticket have been given a free ride, so to speak, into positions whose influence bears heavily on the welfare of the New Brunswick community together with the welfare of our own University community. If successful, this will be Garlatti’s third term at the city council’s table. More importantly, however, it will be another year she will have run unopposed. While we have no serious qualms with the job she and other city council members have done in recent years — and we don’t necessarily have any praise for them, either — a November ballot with more than one party on it would have spoken volumes about student and resident representation in the city’s affairs if that party was itself composed of students and residents.
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