Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 Primary Municipal Candidates Forum - Election Publication

Asterisk denotes incumbent.
League of Women Voters of Plainfield 
Municipal Candidate Forum

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 
6:30 – 8:30 PM

Emerson Community School
305 Emerson Ave. Plainfield, NJ 07062

Each year, as a service to Plainfield voters, the League of Women Voters of Plainfield hosts a Candidates Forum prior to the fall election. This year, we are pleased to offer a spring forum. The policy for participation in the forum is as follows:

After suggestions from the League of Women Voters of New Jersey (LWVNJ), the League of Women Voters of Plainfield will allow any citizen of Plainfield who is currently on the election ballot or a write-in candidate (who has an active campaign, is being opposed and is expected to receive at least 15% of the vote in the election) to participate in its election programs. All must submit biographical material and answers to the local League's questions to the LWV of Plainfield to be included in the forum and League of Women Voters of Plainfield’s publication.

A candidate who has agreed to take part in the Forum, and later finds out that he or she will not be able to attend, may submit an opening statement of the same length afforded the other candidates. The absent candidate's statement will be read by a member of the Plainfield LWV immediately following the opening statements of the candidates who are present at the Forum.

The time allotted to all candidates for their opening statements is not fixed, but is determined by the LWV Voters Services chairperson, predicated on the number of candidates who will be taking part in the Forum, and the amount of time accorded the LWV for its Forum by the host facility. Information about the amount of time for opening and closing statements, along with all guidelines and rules is given to all the candidates in advance of the Forum.
The Responses to LWV Questions follow the Biographical Sketches.
Biographical Sketches

Councilwoman Diane Toliver
A native of Plainfield, NJ where she attended Plainfield Public Schools. Shortly after graduating from Plainfield High School, she continued to pursue her education at Union County College and Muhlenberg School of Nursing. Afterward, Diane put her entrepreneurial skills to work and became a Cosmetologist, a business owner and manager of her own hair salon for 32 years. As a business owner, Diane developed a sharp mind making sound decisions that lead her with an extremely successful business.

She has a love to see people do well in the community, because of her love and devotion for her community, she dedicated 10 years working the political polls. That transitioned into her becoming a mentee under the late Assemblyman Jerry Green's leadership.
With the desire and motivation of deepening her knowledge of politics, she successfully ran in 2014 and won as a Councilwoman in the 1st Ward in Plainfield where she has been entrusted for 4 years. Diane was inspired by others who paved the way set the boundaries and paid their dues. 

As Councilwoman, Diane has been a great access to the City Council in Plainfield. She has accomplished several goals, here are a few as follow:

1. The Central Ave Fire Department has new male & female bathrooms. It took 91 years to go by for those important renovations to surface. It was a fierce battle, but determination got the job done.
2. She was an advocate for the downtown business owners and sponsored the homeless.
3. She pushed for a new walking trail in Milt Campbell Field, road infrastructure and economic development.

My future goals are to enhance the homeless program, revitalize downtown, participate in the clean sweep initiative, bring back manufacturing to offset property taxes and to foresee in the future a Municipal Complex to eliminate over spending on older buildings.  
I perceive developers will continued their interest in our city. I will focus on more projects and Plainfield becoming one of the elite Cities to live in.

Ashley Davis
As a life-long resident of the City of Plainfield, I have had the opportunity to attend Evergreen Elementary School, Maxson Middle School, and Union County Vocational Technical High School. The lessons I have learned and the experiences I have had in this great city allowed me to attend North Carolina State University, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy, and Rutgers University, where I earned a Master’s in Public Administration. 

Upon my graduation from Rutgers, I was blessed with the opportunity to give back to the community that raised me by working for the City of Plainfield. In addition to working in the Plainfield community, I am also active in many organizations that work to give back and better our community.

I am an active member of the Plainfield Municipal Alliance, an active member of the Mount Olive Baptist Church, and Co-Leader of Girl Scout Troop #40263. I am also an active member of the North Jersey Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Politically, I am a registered Democrat and have voted consistently since I was 18. In addition to my work with the Plainfield Democratic City Committee, I also worked with the North Carolina Democratic Party and Common Cause North Carolina during my undergraduate days.

Councilwoman Joylette E. Mills-Ransome 
A resident of Plainfield for 46 years and a homeowner for 41 years, I am a graduate of Bennett College (BS), Rutgers University (Ed.M.), and Montclair State University (MA in Administration and Supervision). 

As a lifelong educator of science, retired as Director of the Office of Science (Newark Public Schools), I remain engaged in the teaching and learning process. I possess organizational, problem-solving, and human relations skills. I wrote successful grants resulting in an upgrade to the Lord’s Kitchen and a six-week Inquiry-Based Science program for students in grades K-8. 

I serve as the Executive Director of a non-profit. I am a Charter member and past president of CJA Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I volunteered to assist members of our community in need through service in Shiloh’s Food Pantry and Clothes Closet. I served as Voter Services Chair for the League of Women Voters of Plainfield and as a Commissioner of the Housing Authority of Plainfield. 

As a member of the City Council since January, I have worked with several department Directors who exhibit professionalism and expertise in their area. I would like to continue to support their efforts in addressing quality of life issues for all Plainfield residents.

Cameron Cox
  • Lifelong Plainfield resident
  • Alumnus of Plainfield High School – Class of 2000
  • Masters of Public Administration degree
  • Retired Police Officer certified in multiple F.E.M.A planning protocols & disciplines
  • Plainfield Public Schools: Board Member & Vice-President
  • Past Director of Membership – Plainfield Boys & Girls Club
  • Vice-President & Co-Founder: M.Y.C.I.R.C.L.E (Men & Youth Cultivating Integrity & Restoring Community Life & Education) – est. 2014
  • Member of one of the Founding Families of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (est. 1903)
  League Questions and Responses
1. Describe your Ward as you know it and explain how you will serve its constituencies?
2. How will you uphold the checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches?
3. What do you feel can be done at the municipal level for our changing demographics?
City Council Candidates - Responses - 1st Ward

Councilwoman Diane Toliver

1. The 1st Ward is very unique, the citizens are close knit, neighborly and look out for each other and inform their neighbors on anything going on in their neighborhood. They are homeowners from the heart, it was not easy for some to acquire a home.

I reach out to my constituents on a daily basis, I supply as many citizens with my City Cards as I can, and let them know I'm focus on what count, THE PEOPLE. They can call upon me day or night and I don't stop until I get their problem resolve. I pass through different areas of the 1st ward and see if I see a potential problem, then I report it to the Administration.  Appointments with the administration and citizens are necessary to get problems resolve sometime, that's why I constantly invite citizen to the Council meeting so they can be heard by the Governing body and the Administration. I'm always aware of my surroundings to eliminate a problem before it gets out of hand. Sometimes I will leave a message for a constituent first to see if we can resolve an issue.

2. My checks and balances come from follow ups, emails, phone calls and face to face conversation. I believe accountability for myself and my action come first. First and far most, I do my research to see if I agree with the executive branch and what the effects will be on the community. However, if I need to vote NO on the agenda I do so, to avoid a negative impact on my behalf.

I feel free to make decision for my constituents because they voted me into office to be their spokesman. There are times I may disagree with my constituent because at that moment they do not have all the facts concerning an issue. My job is to inform them with information for clarity. I have experience an explanation goes a long way with constituents and the executive branches.

3. Demographics as we have known it is changing rapidly in the City of Plainfield, the change has affected schools, homeowners, businesses and day to day operations.  The administration has reach out by starting a new program for City ID's. Also, the schools have extra programs to enhance the language barrier for students as well as the parents. Another example, City Council approved audio to translate for citizens that are not bi-lingual. We encourage Citizen to come to Council meeting and get involved and express their concerns. Our younger population are starting families earlier and the aging are living longer. As a community we have to protect the aging from abuse and crimes. Our young adults are dying at a disturbing and alarming rate with the drug epidemic. Lastly, we need to concentrate on jobs for the youth, and determine the change in the population why has it affected our business district. Also, we need to look at how we can transform the low-income families, and the homeless to become vibrant productive citizens. The veterans in our City should be top priority, along with stabilizing the mentally challenge population. We as a society have to get back to honoring the family and our City if we want a positive turn around.

Ashley Davis

1. The First Ward is the most diverse and complex ward in the City of Plainfield.  Geographically, the First Ward is home to numerous city parks, several business districts, including our downtown, various apartment complexes, and many single and multifamily homes. The population is just as diverse as its geography. While the First Ward is home to many lifelong Plainfield residents, it is also seen as an appealing destination to many of the city’s new residents because of its proximity to Route 22, Interstate 78, and Plainfield’s two train stations, which provide convenient access to Newark and New York City. The First Ward is also made of up residents from various countries who speak many languages, the main two being English and Spanish. I truly believe that to effectively serve constituents, one must be willing to meet them where they are. This starts with ensuring that all the First Ward residents know who I am. I would develop a strategy to introduce myself to all residents of the First Ward. Another effective way of serving the constituents of the First Ward is by getting out and talking to them. I would also serve my constituents by hosting town hall meetings periodically to hear the issues and concerns residents may have, especially those residents who are unable to attend City Council meetings. In addition, I would communicate with them through social media platforms. Ultimately, though, I feel that the best way to serve constituents is to make a real effort to keep them informed and engaged.


2. I would uphold the checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches by asking questions, which helps to provide clarity. Another way to uphold the checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches is to carefully review and understand the budget to ensure that the resources provided by the council are used appropriately. The council cannot get involved in administrative or day-to-day functions of the city, but through serving as liaisons to various city agencies, as well as serving on council committees, the council will provide the necessary checks and balances that are part of any effective democracy.


3. At the municipal level, there must be deliberate efforts to the engage residents of Plainfield. This includes, but is not limited to, having information in multiple languages, at the very least in English and Spanish. There is an ever-growing Latino population in the City of Plainfield. By not having information about city resources available in dual languages, a large segment of the population remains disengaged and uninformed. We must make sure every resident becomes engaged and informed about what Plainfield has to offer, and that can begin by simply reminding residents of who their elected officials are.  When people know who represents them, they begin to feel connected to the larger community because they know who to reach out to. I think that partnering with our large and ethnically diverse business community, as well as with our school system, can be of great help in this regard. Also, at the municipal level, we must begin to engage our youth and young adults. With all of the new development coming to Plainfield, it will be primarily young adults, both ethnically and racially diverse, who will be moving here to occupy the housing. Therefore, we must make sure that we are able to show these new residents that Plainfield has many wonderful amenities, such as our parks, restaurants, and arts and cultural activities, to attract them to live, work, and play here.

City Council Candidates - Responses - 2nd and 3rd Wards At-large

Councilwoman Joylette E. Mills-Ransome

1. Wards 2 and 3, as does all Wards in Plainfield, have diverse populations of people who deserve a safe and healthy quality of life.  The children can benefit from recreational programs supported by the Council such as basketball, arts & crafts, swimming, Lego robotics and summer camp.  The seniors can find many activities at the Senior Center including millinery, quilting, sewing, dance instruction, and a fitness program with state-of-the-art exercise equipment.  As a member of the Council, I am for continued support of the Plainfield Public Library.  The Library offers a tremendous range of cultural and educational programs, events, and learning experiences for all ages in our diverse population.  I will continue to work with the Administration on constituent concerns.  Some of the major concerns I have concentrated on are Code Enforcement, abandoned homes cleanup and location of owners, and illegal rooming houses.  Above all I will continue to listen and to respond to telephone calls and emails from my constituents and make every effort to bring resolution.  I will listen, and I will act. 


2. I can uphold the checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches because once appointed, I made the effort to ensure what I had learned years ago about separation of powers was still intact.  The executive branch, the administration, initiates resolutions or ordinances following a line of approval – Department Director – City Administrator – Council President – for placement of items on the agenda for Council Consideration.  The Administration also runs the day to day operation.  The City Council represents the legislative branch.  Once the Council President has approved placement on the agenda of the items the administration has presented, the Council receives the agenda items with backup information on the Friday before the Agenda Fixing session.  At this session the Council makes the decision on items that will go to the Regular Meeting agenda for Council Action.  Some items in the agenda fixing session are moved by consensus to the regular meeting agenda.


3. Plainfield has formally established itself as a Welcoming City.  All groups that live here must be given a seat at the table whether this is through civic, political or social affairs of the City.  Anytime there is an opening on a Board or a Commission, everyone interested should be provided the opportunity to apply to become a member of Board or Commission of interest.  We must embrace all and welcome and encourage participation.  As a City we have made municipal IDs available for those unable to get them elsewhere.  Our correspondence is available in both Spanish and English.  We have a translator at all council meetings.  We partner with Latino organizations such as PACHA.  We have co-sponsored flag raisings for LGBTQ, Latino, Jamaican communities.  We are still working to improve and solicit input.


Cameron Cox

1. 2nd & 3rd Wards of Plainfield are the southern portion of our GREAT Queen City, and also the sections of our city where I grew up and help raise me to be who I am today.  Within its boundaries you will find a representation of every ethnic, socio-economical, commercial/business, and housing demographic that our city has to offer.  As a council member, I would service not only the residents of the 2nd & 3rd wards, but ALL the residents of our great city by supplying outstanding constituent services.  I would provide services that many elected officials have forgotten and left by the waist-side, being that of ACCESS.  I would not only continually engage constituents, but also constantly provide opportunities for discussion which would allow for me to better service their true needs and concerns.  I would provide access through opportunities like quarterly meetings for my constituents to express and discuss with me, their ever-evolving community concerns, as opposed to only receiving insight from a select few and claiming that my decision making is in the best interest of my entire body of constituents. 


2. While it is extremely important to have fluid collaboration between the Mayor and City Council, it is inherently the duty of the council to assure that they do not act as a rubber stamp for the agenda of our executive branch.  To assure the checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches, I would ensure to ask the difficult questions which will lead to more transparent city government operations.  This transparency can be better accomplished through the proper flow of adequate information within governmental operations and eliminating the perception that our local government will just do whatever they want, without the community’s involvement or engagement.


3. With our ever-changing city demographics of Millennials leaving and or no longer staying in the city that raised them, and our Sage Seniors being forced to take drastic measures due in part to their property taxes and PMUA cost, our city government needs to change some of the say they have been doing business as usual for the last few years.  I believe that now more than ever, it is of the utmost importance that we elect individuals who can not only directly speak to these issues, but also help to bridge this ever-growing divide.