Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres wrapped up his series of six town hall meetings at the School 25 auditorium on Monday evening. His last town hall meeting attracted more than 30 people from the 6th Ward.
Many of the residents complained about potholes in their roadways. Rolon Jose, 63, wanted the mayor to address the badly pockmarked Delaware Avenue.
“The whole street is jacked up,” Jose told Torres. He provided his information to a city employee to address the potholes on Delaware Avenue.
Other residents also complained about potholes in what almost appeared to be a flash back to the last mayoral election.
There were also complaints about the roadwork PSEG has been doing in the South Paterson section. Al Abdelaziz, former city council candidate, worried the utility company will attempt to avoid fully resurfacing some of the freshly surfaced roads it tore through to upgrade underground gas pipes.
Abdelaziz cited West Railway Avenue which, prior to resurfacing late last year, was the worst roadway in the city if not the state. The utility company dug up this roadway, he said.
Torres re-assured him the city’s ordinance requires the utility company to resurface the street curb to curb. Abdelaziz also wondered why there wasn’t better coordination between the utility company and the city.
“In some cases, we couldn’t wait for them because the roads were so bad,” Torres told him. He took questions from residents following a lengthy presentation that highlighted his accomplishments in office over the past three years.
Torres highlighted the millions of dollars in investment occurring in the 6th Ward. Economic development director Ruben Gomez noted disproportionate amount of development projects have been approved for South Paterson.
“I’m encouraged to hear the mayor sing praises for the 6th Ward. We’re glad he’s here to acknowledge it,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, who participated in the town hall meeting.
A centerpiece of Sayegh’s political message for his abortive mayoral bid three years ago and his successful re-election campaign last year was the building and commerce boom in South Paterson.
Some have described the mayor’s town hall meetings as a way to drum up support for his re-election bid next year. Torres, who was indicted on corruption charges two months ago, is expected to face a growing field of challengers next year. That’s if he manages to survive the charges filed against him.
Torres has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has been offered a plea deal that carries a five-year prison sentence, giving up public office, and loss of future pension. He faced some backlash in his first town hall in the Hillcrest section when a longtime resident shouted at him from the audience telling the mayor to resign from office. Since that encounter, Torres has opened subsequent town halls by acknowledging the pending charges against him and telling the audience his legal troubles is not part of the town hall agenda.
Town hall meetings allow elected officials to meet with their constituents to hear their concerns. Sometimes these meetings explode into shouting matches between the elected official and his constituents.
Torres’ message taking his legal troubles off the agenda has made it difficult to gauge the prevailing sentiment about his indictment.