Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Barksdale, Abdul-Haqq Lead BOE Winners

Patricia Barksdale and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq overcame a last-minute, anonymous smear campaign to emerge as the top vote-getters in the school board election.

The two were among seven contenders and ran as a two-person slate. Three three-year terms were up for election and the third seat was claimed by incumbent Lisa Logan-Leach, who ran on a slate with Reno B. Wilkins and Claudette Lovely-Brown.

Nan Anderson and David Graves ran independently, although Graves, Barksdale and Abdul-Haqq were endorsed by the New Democrats organization headed by Freeholder and former Plainfield Councilman Adrian Mapp.

Unofficial results Tuesday show Barksdale leading with 1,034 votes, followed by Abdul-Haqq with 808. Logan-Leach received 683 votes. Lovely-Brown had 658 votes, trailed by Wilkins with 455, Graves with 423 and Anderson with 277.

The turnout was about 8 percent, according to the City Clerk‘s office.
Results must be certified by Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi before becoming official.

This writer voted near closing of the polls and was number 38 out of more than 600 registered voters in Ward 2, District 1.

Although Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green declared hands-off the board election for the party, a well-orchestrated campaign with official headquarters, glossy mailings and numerous campaign events seemed to indicate more than just some individuals backing the slate of Logan-Leach, Wilkins and Lovely-Brown.

Abdul-Haqq and Barksdale benefited from a fundraiser at the home of former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams and later received the blessing of the New Democrats, formerly headed by McWilliams in opposition to Green’s regular Democratic Organization.

Thus the school board election seemed to perpetuate the battle between the New Democrats and the Regular Democratic Organization.

Whatever the political meaning, Abdul-Haqq was just pleased at the outcome, despite an anonymous, last-minute flier that tried to blame numerous school board woes on Barksdale alone and branded Abdul-Haqq as a convicted felon.

After the vote tally, Abdul-Haqq said, “I think people want to see a better form of politics. We tried to deal with the issues. We didn‘t try to resort to dirty, lowdown politics.”

Barksdale said her goal is “to certainly continue to inspire our young people toward success.”

She said the board will further need to “engage people and the community” in education.

As for the success of Abdul-Haqq, she said, “It’s just great to have an additional person on board who has a history of commitment to kids, education and the community.”

Over the next three years, the school board will face issues such as increased grumbling statewide about Abbott district funding. Plainfield’s school tax levy has remained the same for a decade or so - about $18 million in local taxes out of a budget that this year will surpass $147 million. in many suburban districts, local property taxes pay around 90 percent of school costs.

The district also has not regained the certification it lost nearly two decades ago.

The board will also face thorny issues about school construction caused by the failure of the New Jersey Schools Construction Corp. to carry out plans for new buildings. Plainfield lost out on having a new middle school and other plans are in limbo. Coincidentally, the Planning Board will hear an application Thursday (April 20, 2006) on the agency’s long range facilities plan. The board meets at 8 p.m. in City Hall Library.

The school board will reorganize soon, picking a new president and making other changes as necessary.

--Bernice Paglia


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