Black community leaders vainly attempt to screen candidates | Paterson Times

Black community leaders vainly attempt to screen candidates


The city’s African-American “elites” met last week in the basement of a church on East 22nd Street to decide on a candidate they can back without letting few members of the Black community entry, according to those who attended.

“It was invite only,” said David Gilmore, a mayoral candidate, who was invited to the private meeting along with Donna Nelson-Ivy, director of the city’s health department, who is running for her boss’s job, according to sources. “Few people that showed up that were not invited were turned away,” said Gilmore.

Ernest Rucker, an activist, and Bilal Hakeem, a council at-large candidate, came out to the Canaan Baptist Church, the meeting’s location, on Thursday evening to observe the proceedings. “The meeting was supposedly a screening,” said Rucker.

The meeting was organized by Benjie Wimberly, an assemblyman, and Shavonda Sumter, an assemblywoman, both somewhat influential personalities in the city’s political scene, to decide who would receive their support for the upcoming mayoral election. “The premise was to come and go through a selection process for determining who they wanted to support for mayor,” said Gilmore. The meeting was to determine who would be best suited to represent the interests of the African-American community and the city itself; that was what he was led to believe, said Gilmore.

The meeting did not remain faithful to its purpose of screening out a viable candidate the entire community can rally behind, said Gilmore. “Somewhere during the meeting it turned into ‘Would I support Jeff Jones’ and I told them ‘No’,” said Gilmore. “When they started to ask me about Jeff, I think the meeting was a bit sour because I would not subscribe to any level of support for an incompetent mayor.”


David Gilmore, a mayoral candidate.

Gilmore said the duo attempted to unsuccessfully convince him to support Jeffery Jones, the city’s incumbent mayor, using a racial argument. “It was a Jeff Jones pep really,” said Gilmore.

Rucker and Hakeem made it inside the church’s basement, but after taking a seat they were told to leave the basement conference room. “Shavonda had gotten very very irate because we’re not on the list, and asked us to leave,” said Rucker. The assemblywoman’s office did not respond to requests for comments via phone and email. “I was asked to leave,” said Hakeem, who was told to remove himself from the basement. Hakeem said he was allowed to remain on the above floor. “I was really taken aback by that, you know,” said Hakeem.

Rucker said it was a Democratic fest with Wimberly attempting to play the role of a political boss from the days of yore. “We worked very hard back in the day to get the political bosses out of Paterson,” said Rucker. When asked why Hakeem was denied entry, Rucker said, although the council at-large candidate is a Democrat he is not in the same circles. “He’s not part of the Paterson Black Democratic Party,” said Rucker. “He’s not part of their inner circle.”

Rucker cited Terrence Love, a Passaic City councilman, who despite being a non-resident, was allowed to attend the meeting. He suggested it was a small group of people attempting to decide who can run and who cannot in a non-partisan city. “How do you deny any Paterson resident from participating in something that you’re calling a screening process for candidates?” asked Rucker.

The city has elections that are supposed to be contested by locals without party candidates; however that is being undermined when a roomful of Democrats decide to handpick a candidate running for mayor, said Gilmore. “We’re supposed to be a non-partisan town,” said Gilmore.


Donna Nelson-Ivy, director of the city’s health department and a mayoral hopeful.

A week prior Jones was vetted during a separate meeting. On Thursday it was the turn of Nelson-Ivy and Gilmore. Rucker said he felt bad for the way Nelson-Ivy was treated at the meeting. “The way they beat up on Donna was unfair,” said Rucker. “They didn’t give her an opportunity to be part of the process.”

Rucker said Nelson-Ivy was asked if Sumter and Wimberly did not support her would she back Jones for a second crack at the city’s highest office. Message was left at Wimberly’s office on Friday seeking comments, he has yet to return the call.

The meeting, which was attended by a number of the city’s political leaders, including Theodore Best, county freeholder; Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large; William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman; and many others – altogether about 25 individuals –, appeared to be a gathering to drum up support for the incumbent, according to Rucker. “This was to gain support for Jeff Jones,” said Rucker.

“King Benjie” should not wield the power of a political boss, said Hakeem.

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  • Dave Gilmore

    The racial divide is a bigger issue than many are willing to acknowledge… This city is in need of a healing and continuing on a racial agenda is not the answer. An anti-Jones vote does not mean anti- Black the record speaks for itself… Listing the failures would just be piling on we all know the storyby now. Attempts must be made toward unity/inclusion, sharing problems and issues in the solution developing process. We will not support 4 more years of gridlock… Period! Let's Save Paterson

    • via

      It is ridiculous to think that any one man can run a city, i believe we are all responsible for the condition of this city , everyone has played a part in the successes and failures of our community. The church cannot always be the body pointing at the wrongs and not acknowledging the rights of the Mayor and any other seated board member , we cannot continue to be so divided about everything . Our children and elderly lives are at stake here. Every Mayor this city has every had has not been perfect and have made many mistakes , but we are so easily distracted by thinking we can do better than the next person. We have to walk a mile in the Mayors shoes before we can speak about the next mile ahead, we think way to much about what and how others should do something.
      It takes a year to learn about the mess that you are left with from the previous seat holder , and how much more time will it take to find out about the hidden deception, come on people get mature already its always the same argument, who can do better , how about am I my brothers keeper,how about you take your mouth off our Mayor and get his back. Where he is weak you should be strong for him . if you prefer him not let your fingers do the talking when you close the curtain .You force us to be divided all the time and we are still fighting each other with our mouth ,opinion and hidden agenda . Pray for yourself first and then present yourself before the lord and will see that you no time to have a verbal fight with anyone. We lack humility still and the Love that we need to cover our brothers wounds.

      • disqus_du2ovVUF9b

        It's about who has this city's best interest at heart… and right now the current mayor isn't showing that at all…. so with that being said… After four years of waiting to see…. He has to go… absolutely..