Friday, March 27, 2009

Whither the Fourth Ward Race?

Random image: Mousie apprehends a feather duster, declares, "Tastes like chicken."

OK, so now we know parts of two slates, Green and Robinson-Briggs vs. Mapp and Smiley. But what of the Fourth Ward seat?

All shall be revealed by 4 p.m. April 6, when candidates must file for local seats including District 22 Assembly, mayor, council and City Committee. Will there be a three-way mayoral race? Will Bridget Rivers file for the Fourth Ward seat? Will battling Democrats file slates including freeholder candidates and more?

I am tempted to take a lesson from Mousie, who thinks in very small increments. His policy concerns center on the contents of his food dish - dry or wet? His platform is simple: I am the cat and you are my minion. Agreed?

But seriously folks, in thinking of the Fourth Ward, this part of the city has been shortchanged by circumstances such as the failure of the Schools Construction Corporation, which was in the process of acquiring properties to carry out plans for a new middle school between Grant and Plainfield avenues when it ran out of money. That plan was linked to a neighborhood revitalization project covering a huge portion of the city, which then also failed.

The Fourth Ward was supposed to receive development anchored by a national chain supermarket, another dream deferred. And so far, the notion of transportation hubs around the former Clinton and Grant Avenue railroad stations is still a notion.

While there are many very nice blocks and neighborhoods in the West End, the Fourth Ward still bears the stigma of poverty and crime in many people's minds. Increases in voter registration have not led to empowerment of citizens and voting districts have been lost due to poor turnout.

A Fourth Ward councilperson with energy and conviction might be able to inspire a new outlook for his or her constituents and bring a new image to this corner of the city. It is a challenge worthy of someone's sincere attention.

Fourth Ward residents should pay attention on April 6 to who files for the office and between now and the June 2 primary should press for details on exactly how the candidates plan to uplift this very worthy but largely neglected ward.

--Bernice Paglia


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