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Campaign Forum ’98 More Campaign News on Page 20
SP Candidates Forum Canceled After Parties
Fail to Reach Accord By JEANNE WHITNEY
Specially Written for The Times
SCOTCH PLAINS In a press conference held last Friday on the steps of the Scotch Plains Township Municipal Building, the Republican candidates for Scotch Plains Township Council criticized the Westfield Area League of Women Voters for what they called trying to “over-manage a debate” and “screening” written questions during the debate.
A traditionally League-sponsored debate among council candidates was canceled when the Democratic and Republican parties could not agree on a format for the questioning. Evidently, Conservative party candidate Frank Festa did not object to the proposed format.
The Republican candidates claimed that a last minute change in the rules by the League required that questions would be submitted in writing and screened by the moderator.
Margaret Walker, Vice President and Voter Service Director of the local League admitted that “the rules were not the same as last year.”
However, she said the proposed format for the debate was one the League used at other times.
“This change came as a total surprise and was counter to everything the Republican campaign had been discussing with the League and with the history of the debate,” Mayor and Campaign Co-Chairman Joan Papen claimed.
According to Mrs. Walker, the Democratic candidates asked the League to use written questions from
the audience for the debate and Mrs. Walker passed this on to the Republican candidates, in writing.
She said the Republican candidates rejected the format and the Democratic candidates held firm in their preference for written questions – neither would concede their position.
Mayor Papen stated that, “When residents come to council meetings, we are not able to screen their questions, no matter how hard hitting or critical they may be. We feel it is important for the voters to see how candidates handle themselves under these same sorts of conditions.”
Democratic candidate Geri Morgan Samuel defended the request to the League, saying, “We wanted written questions rather than questions from the floor. Otherwise, it’s not a debate.”
“We’re interested in a debate about the issues, not a personal character assassination,” she said.
Mrs. Morgan Samuel pointed to a previous campaign forum in the township where she said a debate of the issues was hampered by audience questions that veered off into the personal.
Republican candidate for council Gail Iammatteo, who is Chairwoman of the township Board of Adjustment, agreed they preferred fielding questions from the floor, saying, “We answer tough questions from the public [on the Board.] It’s not always easy. But we do it.”
Mayor Papen added, “We want to make it very clear...we disagreed with the rules because we really wanted to have a debate.”
CHECKING OUT TOWN ROADS...Republican Westfield Second Ward Councilman James J. Gruba is shown inspecting Gallows Hill Road. This street is heavily traveled and is used by many motorists as a shortcut to Cranford and Garwood, thus, by-passing the busy Westfield downtown streets. Mr. Gruba said this heavy traffic causes more rapid deterioration of this street which is presently in a state of disrepair. Councilman Gruba has pledged his strongest efforts to allocate funds, not only for this street repair, but also for other streets in the Second Ward in need of repair and improvement. Mr. Gruba is seeking reelection to the council.
Mr. Stoner Cites Common Concerns of Road Repair, Traffic Safety in 2nd Ward
WESTFIELD Second Ward Democratic Town Council Candidate Joe Stoner, visiting with residents throughout the ward he seeks to represent, is hearing a common concern shared by his constituents: the condition of local roads and traffic safety.
“These two important elements of town life often preoccupy us,” said Mr. Stoner recently. “We all worry about the potholes on our streets that seem to have been there forever and the cars that come rocketing by us well in excess of the speed limit. I hear the same complaint from countless neighbors.”
“’When are they going to fix my street?’ and ‘Why don’t they do something about drivers who treat my street like a race track?’”
“In fact, a great deal of work is being done to improve our town streets,” said Mr. Stoner.
He noted that town officials, working with Mayor Thomas C. Jardim, the Public Works Committee and the Town Council, have carried out an assessment of roadways and has put in place a comprehensive 10year, $5 million road improvement plan that will give the town a more orderly, systematic approach to road repair.
“As with many public issues, a large part of the problem is a matter of communication I hope to work with the Mayor, fellow Councilmen and the Public Works Department to keep our residents better informed
about what, where and when road repairs will be done,” the candidate stated.
“As for traffic safety,” Mr. Stoner continued, “we all have to work together to solve these safety issues. Here, too, communication and education are key elements in solving traffic safety problems. We have a very fine organization in town, BRAKES, that works to educate drivers about better, more orderly driving, habits. I hope to work with them and to promote their efforts.”
“Communication, cooperation and patient persistence are also important to solving these problems. If there is a traffic sign that is obscured, or an area where we need better speed limit enforcement, I hope my constituents won’t hesitate to seek my help as their Town Councilman,” said Mr. Stoner.
“I can’t promise to put a stop sign or a cop at every corner,” he continued, “but I can promise to work with constituents to seek solutions. And maybe the most important thing I can do is to keep them well-informed about what is being done,” he stated.
Mr. Stoner invites ward residents to contact him with their ideas and suggestions at (908) 232-8334.
Election Information Available On Internet From Voters League
The League of Women Voters of New Jersey has made it possible for the public to access information on the 1998 November elections on the Internet.
By accessing the Internet address, www.lwvnj.org, citizens can find comprehensive information on candidates, debates, ballot issues, as well as suggested questions to ask of the candidates at debates.
For individuals who do not have access to the Internet, this service is provided at public libraries.
The League of Women Voters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose purpose is to promote political
responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government. Membership is open to anyone of voting age. The Westfield Area League encompasses Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood and Mountainside.
For program and membership information, please call (908) 654-8628 or visit westfieldnj.com/lwv on the Internet.