Friday, March 17, 2006

Dems Choose Candidates For Council Seats

Incumbent City Council members Rashid Burney and Rayland Van Blake will run on the Democratic Party line in June, Assemblyman and Party Chairman Jerry Green said Friday.

Burney holds the 2nd and 3rd Ward at-large seat and Van Blake represents the 1st Ward.

Burney first served as an appointee and then won the balance of an unexpired term in November. He will be seeking his first full four-year term.

Van Blake won his seat four years ago and is the council member with the most longevity as he seeks re-election.

Green said last month he would make the choice and the Democratic City Committee authorized him to do so. He said only one other city resident, Leslie Graham, submitted a resume. Green said Graham will be given a chance to work with the party and will be considered for future opportunities to run for elective office.

Green said he hoped the selection of Burney and Van Blake would be “the start of the healing process,“ referring to a fractious year in 2005 that saw a major split among Democrats.

Both candidates were backed previously by former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, who lost both the June 2005 primary and a write-in bid in the November general election.

The candidates echoed Green’s hopeful remarks in comments after their selection.

“I feel we have a really great team put together,“ Van Blake said, referring to the “synergies of the cohesion” among council members.

Burney vowed to move the city forward, “saying, “We can do it. I ask you to put the interests of Plainfield first.”

Questioned by committee member Marie Davis on his biggest accomplishments, Van Blake cited a road reconstruction program that would span 15 years and correct neglect over the past 20 years. He also mentioned pool reconstruction and expansion of the Urban Enterprise Zone to include commercial corridors in the East End.

Davis asked Burney to explain his main focus.

Burney said he wants to resolve issues regarding the proposed senior citizens center, add more officers for increased public safety and curtail city costs to prevent tax increases.

The two Democrats and any primary opponents must file petitions by April 10. Any objections to candidates must be filed by April 14.

Green also welcomed attorney Jonathan Williams Friday to explain aspects of so-called “pay-to-play” legislation that will put restrictions on campaign contributions to candidates for elective office.

Williams reviewed several pieces of legislation that attempted to define rules for vendors who might be doing business with governmental entities where elected officials would decide to grant contracts.

The bottom line appeared to be that candidates must be very careful to avoid the appearance of impropriety, but the rules may also be revised in coming years.

The main impact will be that campaign funding will be affected as politicians try to adhere to rules that are in flux.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: election


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