A few West Orange neighbors asked, “What can we do?” in the wake of Trump’s election. We founded Essex Rising to dedicate ourselves to progressive action from the local level to the federal level. Today, we have more than 1,300 members and are affiliated with several likeminded NJ organizations—including NJ11ForChange, with whom we have worked closely and now support Mikie Sherrill for Congress.
Recognizing that “all politics begins local,” we analyzed whether how our town is run matches up to Essex Rising’s published principles. We concluded West Orange falls short in many ways. It lacks transparency and accountability. It is a top-down system controlled by a few key figures who manipulate what legislation passes, who stands for office, who gets appointed to committees, and who gets jobs and contracts.
This undemocratic system is outdated—like the America of Trump’s imagination that possessed some sort of past “greatness” we lack today. Well, West Orange is not the town it was generations ago, and so we need dynamic, democratic leadership that reflects the outstanding capabilities and rich diversity of our residents today. We just need to let existing greatness rise up and shine. That is why we endorse Cindy Matute-Brown. She embodies our principles, which is also why we appointed to our Steering Committee in June 2017.
Our sitting BOE hired and then renewed—despite community opposition—a divisive Superintendent. After investigations launched by residents exposed irregularities that justified his termination, the BOE allowed him to resign, walking away with more than $130,000 of taxpayers’ money. We demand more accountability from our future BOE. We want teachers and voters integrally engaged in selecting the next Superintendent, and we support these two dedicated educators for BOE.