As you head to the polls

On Tuesday May 9th, South Orange residents cast their votes in the Board of Trustees election. When I went to pick up my candidate information packet, the only qualifications to run were one year of residency in South Orange as well as being a citizen. That meant our Founders valued one thing above all, a love for South Orange. It didn’t even take me that long to fall in love with the town.  I doubt it took you that long either.

I ran because I could not allow another election to be uncontested. I ran because I believe that running as a slate in a non-partisan election is not truly democratic, and is a disservice to the residents who want the best for their town. I ran because I started asking questions about why it is so hard for businesses to thrive in South Orange. I ran because as I started looking for answers they weren’t easy to find, with missing minutes and agendas from the Board of Trustees and the committee meetings. I ran because I saw a Board that didn’t represent the true diversity of the town, and certainly did not have a diversity of thought. I ran because many of us feel the Board operated in an echo chamber.  I ran because I have a vision of South Orange, with a successful retail corridor and downtown, an inclusive community and government, and innovative government to push us forwards. I ran because I see South Orange as it can and should be… distinct, innovative, and thriving. I ran because I don’t think we should have to wait to see that vision realized.

Now it’s time for you, the voters to do your part. Put me to work.  I bring solutions. I believe in ideals grounded in practical applications. I know we can utilize zoning and negotiate better deals. I know we can court a good mix of high end and low end retail and restaurants that will succeed in our vacant retail spaces. I have the expertise to guide us there and I won’t sell us short.  

My independent voice will force innovation by breaking up group think. The other candidates don’t have regular access to the parts of the community I have access to; including the young families moving into the community who plan to be here for the next 30 years or more. I will ask questions to make our development better, such as "Why don’t we have Uber/Lyft/taxi pull offs as a requirement for traffic variances if we want to be a walking town?" I think the answer is simple, because the conversations haven’t been pushed by new ideas to be innovative enough.

I will demand actual transparency and accountability. Accountability based on SMART goals for each department and Trustee that the community can grade us against. Transparency based on agendas and minutes that are public, clear, and produced on the website in a consistent and timely fashion that allows residents the chance to be involved. I want to increase our democratic process and move our non-partisan elections to November. I will be there to represent you and your vision, and I hope that you hold me accountable to my promises to you.

I’ve read the promises the two incumbents seeking re-election made 4 years ago. I see glaring areas in which they missed the mark, on transparency, on filling the downtown, and on using new ordinances to encourage landlords to fill their vacant storefronts. We were told there would be more townhall meetings and more effective uses of technology to include residents. We were told there would be less vacant storefronts, and ordinances to encourage them to be filled. These are the issues that have resonated with those residents I’ve been meeting with, because they haven’t seen the change and progress they expected in the last few years. Feel free to look for yourself and decide if my opponents really delivered on their promises they made to you four years ago:

Campaign Promises from Walter Clarke and Steve Schnall in 2013

The voters I’ve talked to, who want to see a change, understand something fundamental about how humans work in teams. The best work, the most innovative work, comes when there is some catalyst and divergence that then coalesces into a solid view that is greater than the sum of its parts. I will be your catalyst on the Board of Trustees.

So make the time. Don’t forget to vote on May 9th for Nureed Saeed, Line A. We all want results; and I want to get to work getting them for all of us.

P.S. Thanks to each and every one of you whose shared your concerns with me.