PATERSON – Ward races will dominate the polling places tomorrow on Election Day, and one person who will watch the results come in but does not expect any surprises is At-Large Councilman Jeffrey Jones.
Jones already has his sights on 2010, and whatever happens Tuesday will not interfere with his plans.
"I have every intention of running for mayor," says Jones, a 50-year old native Patersonian who was first elected to the council in 1996.
The rise of the Dominican American Organization of New Jersey, including its outright repudiation of Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres’s fellow Puerto Rican candidates in wards 2 and 5, has the longer term potential of weakening Paterson’s Latino alliance.
Although that dynamic threatens Torres and plays to the advantage of Jones, an African-American, the councilman refuses to acknowledge Dominican victories over Puerto Ricans on Tuesday as victories of consequence.
If Tavarez beats incumbent Councilman Juan Torres in the 5th ward, for example, he will still need to prove himself on the council for Jones to determine whether his presence on the governing body is good for Paterson.
"Is it victory if a person doesn’t work with the council to bring a better, broader perspective?" asks Jones, a professor of political science at William Paterson University. "If the answer is no, it doesn’t help me.
"There is no advantage to hatred in schools and on city streets, among churches, and the elderly and in dysfunctional government," he adds. "There’s no advantage. I served in the Marine Corps, where I didn’t have the luxury of picking who was going to protect my flanks. They were Marines. They were all green. I refuse to play or participate in that other stuff."
The councilman’s problem with Torres is he says the mayor is trying to kick-start Paterson’s growth by turning every empty lot into a dollar sign, and championing tax abatements for business while constituents lose their homes to foreclosure.
He calls Torres a "developer’s developer."
Jones also believes the mayor’s particular brand of cronyism has further divided the city along racial lines,
If elected mayor, the at-large councilman says he would serve beyond ethical reproach.
"What happened in Passaic is a great example of what is happening in our cities," says Jones, referring to former Passaic Mayor Sammy Rivera’s arrest last year on corruption charges, his initial denial, and then his plea of guilty last week to extortion.
"It’s not clear why so many people love Sammy Rivera, but they found something to love," says Jones of a city that held onto its bad boy mayor after his arrest, all the way up until his resignation last Friday afternoon on the day he pleaded guilty.
"My surprise comes in the fact that months ago, the federal government said ‘we found you to be guilty’ and he denied it," Jones says. "No one spoke to the question of truth when he subsequently made a deal. We seem confused between love for our communities and families, and what’s best for us."