“Mr. Sayegh, you’ve caused some stir with this endorsement from the Democratic Party,” asked Maria Teresa Feliciano during the city clerk’s mayoral candidate forum Wednesday evening. “How are you planning to run to bring together the Democrats who feel disenfranchised?”
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman and former school board member, responded, “I’m proud that Bill Pascrell endorsed me. He’s probably the best fighter we have here in this city; everyday he rolls up his sleeves and he goes down to Washington to make sure Paterson gets the resources it needs.”
Sayegh said his line of communication with Bill Pascrell, congressman representing New Jersey’s 9th District, will allow him to develop a shared vision of the Great Falls National Park. “I want to work with the congressman to make sure the Great Falls National Park is as vital as it could be with cafes, restaurants,” said Sayegh.
Sayegh, who serves as the city council president, repeatedly cited the various endorsements he has received from high ranking party officials.
“I’m proud of Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly’s endorsement,” said Sayegh, who mentioned the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, a developers’ incentive program, that was sponsored by Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter, both representing the state’s 35th Legislative District which includes the city.
“On the state level they adopted the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, and we opted in by a 9-0 vote, the city council said we want to be an economic growth zone to get investors to finally come into the city and make a significant investment,” said Sayegh.
The council president, who has been in recent weeks shifting his campaign from one about economic development to focus more on crime and public safety, said his anti-crime plan has been endorsed by Richard Berdnik, the Passaic County Sheriff.
Aslon Goow, former 2nd Ward councilman, questioned the value of the sheriff’s endorsement, saying it would make more sense had the city’s police department endorsed his plan. “If anybody should be endorsing anybody’s public safety plan it should be the Paterson Police Department,” said Goow.
Several members of the police departments were consulted to create the public safety plan, said Sayegh. “In fact, I got feed back from cops on the street,” said Sayegh.
Jose “Joey” Torres, former two-term mayor, characterized Sayegh’s fresh push on the public safety issue as, “Johnny come late to position on crime,” after the council president said the former mayor was “soft on crime.”
Sayegh said his plan calls for the restoration of the street crimes unit to clear corners and double the size of the city’s narcotics unit to curb drug proliferation. The council president suggested the endorsement signifies his ability to work with federal, state, and county officials to address city issues.
Feliciano’s question went unanswered.