Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who Is Christian Estevez?

At the Aug. 4 Plainfield Democratic City Committee meeting, Chairman Jerry Green said he received three resumes for the City Council vacancy caused by the untimely death of Ray Blanco. One person, Julie Jerome, was not able to appear, but Harold Gibson and Christian Estevez gave speeches regarding their wish to serve.

Gibson’s remarks detailed what a lot of people already knew. He is the brother of former Newark Mayor Ken Gibson, he served 22 years in the Newark Police Department, he served in past Plainfield administrations in several roles and now he is the Union County public safety director. In all, Gibson, 72, claims 50 years of public service. Informally, many know “Hatch” as a splendid cook, a jazz lover and as he said at the meeting, a person “dedicated to the city.”

On the other hand, Christian Estevez is not known to many.

But as he detailed his personal history, his Plainfield ties were significant.

Estevez said he is a Plainfield native who was a teen volunteer at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and who early on developed a strong sense of social justice. He did community service while in college and later worked on Ray Blanco’s political campaigns.

His labor studies led to work with the AFL-CIO to recruit and train women and minorities to attain high-paying construction jobs and he also advocated for unions to include Plainfield in job opportunities.

Estevez said many of his family members came here from the Dominican Republic and bought homesin Plainfield.

Calling himself a “proud Democrat,” Estevez said he would work with Green “to make the city successful.”

He declared himself not only Hispanic, but “a proud Plainfielder, a union leader and an activist.”

Estevez said he worked in campaigns at all levels, including that of Gov. Jon Corzine.

He said Blanco called him often to get his help and support for efforts to reduce crime, support economic development and increase youth empowerment.

Green said, “Everything Chris said is true,” but he said while the nominee had done a “tremendous job at the state level,” Green wanted to make it clear that the effort starts “at home.”

“I’m offering an olive branch to you or anyone else at that level,” Green said.

After Gibson spoke, a slate naming Gibson, Hattie Williams and Sylvester Palin was put up for a vote and passed, effectively excluding Estevez. Other slates including Estevez were not considered.

Next week, the City Council will choose one as a replacement for Ray Blanco, even though many feel he is irreplaceable.

A city faction that feels that Blanco’s successor must be Latino may protest the slate excluding Estevez, even though Green offered a “farm team” approach to political entree.

Letters to the Courier News have already protested the process. The play-out next week may pit party loyalists against those who feel there is a need for progressive change.

The City Council agenda session is 7:30 p.m. Monday (Aug. 21, 2006) at City Hall Library and the regular meeting is Wednesday (Aug. 23, 2006) in Municipal Court.

--Bernice Paglia


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