Joint Effort Safe Streets gathers local officials to discuss 2020 general election

With the general election just three months away, Mercer County officials gathered virtually to deliver remarks about the importance of the 2020 election.

The event on Aug. 8 was part of week of programming organized by Joint Effort Princeton Witherspoon-Jackson Safe Streets. Joint Effort Safe Streets organizes an annual summer program that celebrates the history of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood in Princeton and Black families.

In addition to remarks, a Candidates Forum was also held for Princeton Council and Board of Education candidates seeking support for the upcoming election.

Joint Effort Safe Streets Program Coordinator John Bailey said the Zoom conversation would spotlight why Black lives, Black minds, Black communities and the Black vote matters. He went on to guide conversation as moderator for the day’s event.

“These conversations are a way for Black citizens and concerned citizens throughout Mercer County to hear different points of view and engage in discussions around issues and hot topics important to all of us,” Bailey said in his opening remarks. “This morning meeting is also an opportunity to bring together county elected officials and community leadership to speak on why the 2020 election is so important, as well as, host a candidate’s forum for candidates seeking support.”

The virtual program speakers included Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset), Mercer County Freeholders, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, and Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora.

In referencing the 2020 election, Coleman said many issues are on the table for this election cycle which include women’s health, removing all impediments to voting, and making communities safer.

“We need to have that serious conversation about race and we need to look at race and reconciliation. We need to look at recompense and responsibility,” she said. “What’s on the table? Access to healthcare is on the table, access to education, whether their will be housing available throughout our communities, and how we eliminate poverty. This is a time where we are going to encounter such impediments to getting the vote out. We have to be smart, strategic and walking with one another.”

Coleman also spoke to the importance of filling out the 2020 Census for residents.

“We cannot forget that the census is vitally important to the manifestation of the things we work for. If we do not get people to answer the census then we do not have the validation of what resources, how much resources and what should be supported or prioritized in each and every one of our communities,” she added. “We also stand the possibility of losing federal representation. Not only can you lose a member of Congress if you do not answer the census, you can also end up rearranging where your district lines are.”

Andrew Koontz, chair of the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders, said the upcoming general election is so important because 2020 is a crisis year.

“Like we have not seen since probably 1968. A lot of issues around 1968 are still with us today in 2020. But 2020 has added a couple of other wrinkles,” he added. “A global pandemic that the United States is not handling very well and an incompetent and even corrupt administration in the White House like we haven’t seen since Warren Harding.”

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert called for exceptional leadership during this current moment.

“We have the opposite in the White House. It is essential that we use this election to reset the course. Because everything is up in the air right now we have the opportunity to rethink so many of the structures in our country,” Lempert said. “How do we rebuild in a way where we are all healthier and the environment is more sustainable, where our economy is stronger and fairer, and have a society that is more equitable?”

The Candidates Forum featured Democrat Mark Freda candidate for Mayor of Princeton; Princeton Councilman David Cohen Councilwoman Leticia Fraga, who both are seeking re-election; and Princeton Board of Education candidates Karen Lemon and Adam Bierman. Lempert is not running for re-election.

The candidates made remarks about the upcoming election, their vision and how they would serve if elected.

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