Councilwoman Gloria Taylor likes to preach about "pragmatic politics," that is, being able to muster the necessary votes to get things done. On the seven-member City Council, that means being able to "count to four," as her late husband, Mayor Richard L. Taylor, so often said. On the nine-member school board, it means being able to count to five, as we saw in the 5-4 votes to choose leaders for the year ahead.
Over the past 30 years, I have seen pragmatic politics used to show power, to control outcomes, to punish the opposition and occasionally to advance heartfelt goals for the city. Whether in appointed or elected governmental seats, some individuals may be loyal simply to save patronage jobs. I call these folks "place-holders" who don't contribute much except a sure "yes" or "no" vote at the expected time.
Others who serve may vote only after careful consideration of the matter at hand and will often explain their decisions for the record.
A political leader therefore may take either a "who's your daddy" approach or may appeal to a shared vision of what's best for the city. When I talk with certain longtime observers of the Plainfield scene, they laugh at my naivety in even thinking the latter is a motivation. Maybe I should be more cynical, but I seem to have - what is that thing with the feathers? - um, hope that it's not always all about greed.
The current mayor seems to realize that hope without some degree of power is by and large a bird-brained concept. So far, he and his supporters have gained control of the Democratic City Committee and he can count to five like-minded individuals on the school board. It was amusing in February to see the reaction when Second & Third Ward at-large Councilwoman Rebecca Williams filed to run for the Citywide at-large seat. Speculation immediately arose that it augured a plot for the mayor to be able to count to four on the council by January 2017.
Williams is running on the Democratic Party line with Third Ward candidate Charles McRae. Incumbent Citywide at-large Councilwoman Tracey Brown is running for re-election on a ticket with Alma Blanco for Third Ward in the June 7 Democratic primary contest. No Republicans filed.
Now that the controversial school board election is over, the primary race is heating up. On Facebook, someone named Tracey Jones posted no less than six attacks on Williams and McRae Thursday.
Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi has posted the candidate lists for president, House of Representatives, Union County freeholders and local races. In Plainfield, Republicans are outnumbered 13 to one by Democrats and even though this is the year for Republicans to reorganize, only eight filed to fill a possible 68 committee seats.
Winners of the Democratic primary contests for City Council will be on the November 8 ballot, along with any independents who file on June 7. Whatever your view of politics, make sure you vote on June 7 and mark your calendar for the Nov. 8 general election.