By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s two Democratic council candidates have decided to skip the traditional West Side Community Group forum scheduled for this month.
Instead, John Jackson and incumbent Angela Mirandi are expected to participate only in a virtual League of Women Voters’ event the same week, a choice their Republican opponents criticized Tuesday.
Mark Taylor, center left, and Jonathan Maciel Penney, right, at West Side Community Group forums in 2017 and 2019, respectively. (Click to enlarge.)
Running on the Democratic ticket for two seats on the council are Jackson, who unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Charter Study Commission a year ago, and running mate Mirandi, who was appointed to her seat in February, replacing Erik Yngstrom after he resigned.
On Tuesday, the West Side Community Group announced that its 27th annual candidates forum will be held Wednesday, October 19 at Triumph Brewing Company.
Meantime, the League of Women Voters of Monmouth County is planning its own candidates’ night, to be held online only, but has not formally announced a date.
Shortly before the WSCG announcement of its event was emailed to local media, Taylor and Penney put out a statement to “denounce” Jackson’s decision not to attend that event.
“I agree that a Candidates’ Night is a great idea and beneficial to the voters,” Jackson told WSCG organizer and moderator Amy Goldsmith, in an email released by Taylor and Penney. “For that reason, I have accepted an invite for the same from the League of Women Voters.”
Mirandi declined the invitation separately, Goldsmith told redbankgreen.
The issue swiftly generated dueling campaign statements.
From Taylor and Penney:
Council candidates Mark Taylor and Jonathan Maciel Penney denounce opponent John Jackson for his decision not to participate in the 27th Annual Red Bank Candidates Night, an event that is held each year and is regularly attended by candidates of all parties, to be moderated by Amy Goldsmith.
“We are committed to the democratic process and debating our opponents in any forum,” said Taylor and Penney. “That is why we responded affirmatively for both the Annual Red Bank Candidates Night, an in-person event and tradition, as well as a League of Women Voters Forum that is proposed to be virtual.”
Sadly, candidate John Jackson already sent the attached e-mail refusing to participate in the Annual Red Bank Candidates Night, an in-person event that has been hosted for 26 years. It is presumed that his running mate Angela Mirandi similarly declines to participate.
“John Jackson and Angela Mirandi cannot argue they are qualified to serve on council if they are unwilling to show up for the only in-person debate that has been proposed, especially one that is a long standing Red Bank tradition,” said Taylor and Penney.
Taylor and Penney have confirmed their availability to participate in the Annual Red Bank Candidates Night on October 20, 2022 and with the League of Women Voters on October 22, 2022.[Taylor and Penney later clarified that they had confirmed to the WSCG that they were available on October 19, the date subsequently chosen for that event.]
The conservatives have pulled another page from their Trump playbook. Their press release was laughable, their mailer more so, not for its lack of originality (an idea lifted from a paper that promotes them), but for its sheer hypocrisy, given their records:
That Penney would have the nerve to put “zero record” on his mailer is ludicrous. He has run FOUR times in as many years—while Municipal Chair—to no success. Admittedly, they weren’t all “losses.” He did withdraw at least 2 times, so they weren’t so much losses as surrender.
As for Taylor, many know of his incompetence as President of the Red Bank Borough Educational Foundation. Under his watch, former Councilman Hazim Yassin allegedly stole funds (for which he’s been prosecuted by Monmouth County). Taylor’s lack of oversight not only hurt children in need of those funds but shows he has a blind spot when it comes to his responsibilities. His actions were negligent at best, suspicious at worst.
As for their prosaic campaign line about “Chaos”—we don’t want it. Yet they perpetuate it with blatantly false attacks in the mail and press. The fact is, since Mirandi’s instatement, our council has operated with civility and gotten things done. Councilwoman Mirandi took control of the budget and yielded the smallest municipal tax increase in 6 years (not including the BOE, a separate assessment).
Another critical point about their “platform”—they don’t have one. The non-partisan issue will be decided by the voters. They’ve offered no plan for our town. Angela and I have a vision to move Red Bank forward. We want development to align with the Master Plan and curb over-development; continue the fiscal responsibility that Angela has demonstrated; and improve quality of life by addressing essential safety concerns.
As to their other false claims, I was not “handed” the nomination. After Yngstrom’s resignation, I submitted a letter of intent to the chair for the spot (Angela was subsequently confirmed). Then I was nominated by a 14 out of 18 vote of the Municipal Committee (the very same body that took over after the primary).
To their challenge about nonpartisan (on a partisan attack piece), I reply with my same position since early this year: I support non-partisan elections. However, I would like to see any legal/permissible allowance for fair campaign finance practices. The Charter Study Commission (including Taylor), in one of their presentations, stated a reason for non-partisan was to avoid Unaffiliated from being disenfranchised. I agree; but if a “non-partisan” candidate gets support from their party connections, while Unaffiliated cannot, it’s “non-partisan” in name only. “Non-partisan” shouldn’t end when someone’s name goes on the ballot—they’re entitled to a fair chance to win.
My hope is that people will see the Democratic candidates for who we are—in our own words and through our own actions. Unlike these Trump copycats, our words and actions don’t speak to chaos, but they do speak volumes.
Jackson said he was speaking only for himself in his remarks. Mirandi did not reply to a redbankgreen email for comment.
“I would encourage all council candidates to participate in both events given that the format is very different and the questions asked may be varied,” Goldsmith told redbankgreen by email. “An informed electorate is one of the most important elements of making ‘small d’ democracy work for the benefit of all.”
The WSCG event has traditionally been held at the River Street Commons, a senior citizen’s apartment complex. But the COVID-19 pandemic led to cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 editions. This year’s event is being held at Triumph out of “an abundance of caution for the seniors,” Goldsmith told the candidates in an email.
Unaffiliated with Jackson and Mirandi but running as a Democrat for mayor is political newcomer Billy Portman. He is unchallenged to succeed Pasquale Menna, who was squeezed out from making a primary run after 16 years in the borough’s top elected position.
League of Women Voters spokeswoman Marianne Kligman told redbankgreen that all four council candidates “said they were interested in participating” in its event, and that the organization was “trying to find a mutually agreeable date.” Because the mayoral race is uncontested, the event will only feature council contenders, she said.
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