With the next mayoral campaign season just months away, mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is hosting a series of town hall meetings throughout the city. Six meetings have been scheduled in each of the six wards to discuss current and upcoming initiatives focused on infrastructure, public safety, and economic development and other subjects.
Some of Torres’ opponents pounced on him for scheduling the town hall meetings so close to the 2018 mayoral campaign. Candidates will be picking up petitions to run for mayor and three at-large council seats towards the end of this year.
“It appears to be politically motivated just by the timing,” said Chauncey Brown III, who declared his intention to run for the city’s highest office next year. “It’s a shame now he wants to talk issues at this time when it’s a year before the election.” He said he is still undecided whether he will attend any of the mayor’s town halls.
“The election would be the last thing on his mind, I’d think, at this moment,” remarked Pedro Rodriguez, who has said he plans to run next year. “He should put all his energy and effort into saving his personal life. He should be out of politics, period.”
Pedro referenced the corruption charges against Torres. Torres is accused of theft for allegedly using public works employees to handle a private warehouse renovation project at a facility leased by his daughter and nephew.
Torres has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
“It’s always refreshing to see the mayor wanting to interact with residents,” said councilman Andre Sayegh, who finished second place in 2014 and is likely to run next year.
Torres’ office said the mayor has held town hall meetings in his current term and in his past two terms as mayor.
There was little interaction between residents and their mayor in the last series of town halls Torres hosted. For example, the first of his town hall meeting in early 2015 was held at School 25. The school was packed. Torres did not take any questions from residents.
Attendees to town halls typically get a chance to voice their opinions and question their elected officials.
Sayegh, Rodriguez, and Brown suggested Torres take questions from residents.
“He’s going to have to face the music. There may be constituents who are not pleased with what they have seen or read,” said Sayegh.
Torres has announced his bid for re-election last July. The list of candidates for mayor has been growing. Councilman Alex Mendez, who recently sold his transportation company, has announced his run for mayor.
Former public safety director Glenn Brown and school board member Manny Martinez have formed committees to possibly run next year. There’s also mention of councilmen Michael Jackson and William McKoy as possible candidates.
Sayegh said he plans to participate in Torres’ town hall at School 25. Rodriguez plans to attend the town hall at School 26.
The city has been mailing out flyers to residents of each of the wards to encourage turnout. The first town hall is scheduled for Wednesday. All town halls start at 5 p.m.
- Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 at School 27 (250 Richmond Avenue; 2nd Ward)
- Thursday, May 11th, 2017 at School 26 (1 East 32nd Street; 3rd Ward)
- Monday, May 15th, 2017 at Rosa Parks High School (418 12th Avenue; 4th Ward)
- Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 at Martin Luther King School (851 East 28th Street; 5th Ward)
- Thursday, May 18th, 2017 at School 28 (200 Presidential Boulevard; 1st Ward)
- Monday, May 22nd, 2017 at School 25 (287 Trenton Avenue; 6th Ward).