What I learned from Al Smith’s JSA visit


written by David Schulman
On Thursday, October 27, Al Smith, Republican candidate for Scotch Plains Mayor, talked among the SPFHS’s Junior State America Club (JSA) about what it means to be part of government, and after got to discuss the important issues with the club members. With the Republican Party in civil war on a federal level after many slip ups from their presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump, many of the club members got to decide if they support the party’s mayoral candidate for Scotch Plains.
One of the first things that Smith discussed with the club members was how he was against local government getting health benefits. He believes that the Scotch Plains incumbent mayor, Kevin Glover (D) was using “illegal” benefits that the town provided. Currently, Mayor Glover uses $25,000 of taxpayer money for the health benefits he gets as a member of local government.
The argument against the health benefits for local government is that being an elected official is only a part time job, and most of the officials have jobs outside of local government, and get health benefits from those places, therefore “wasting” taxpayers money. The argument for health benefits for local government is that health benefits encourage people that do not get health benefits in their other job or are unemployed to take a role in elected office. Plus, it is a job run by the government, there should be health benefits for doing a job as single payer healthcare is not a thing in America yet. To sum it up, if our mayor gets health insurance for doing his job, it is not a waste of taxpayer money.
As if health care isn’t already a controversial topic that affects all of us (or our parents), the recently implemented gasoline tax is already being talked about non-stop among politicians. Earlier this month, after much argument on the state level, the gas tax was raised to 23 cents. Smith proposes to eliminate or lower that gas tax in Scotch Plains (which he has no power to do, but we will pretend he can). If he eliminates the tax, it will lower the amount of money going to the town’s trust fund. A pro to eliminating the tax is that it makes gasoline more accessible to people who make little money.
During the meeting, Smith discussed with the club members about gentrifying Route 22. He proposes a Downtown Westfield-like Route 22 for Scotch Plains where diverse businesses thrive and unfortunately the highway will get busier. Smith mentioned to the club members that most of the businesses in Cranford, Fanwood and Westfield get a lot of their profile due to the fact they are next to the train station, and he believes that he can do to the same to Route 22 where recently it has been revealed that Bowcraft, the local amusement park, will be closing down and will be replaced by housing. Additionally, L&P Printing and San Giuliano, two other local businesses have closed down in that Route 22 area and have been discovered by many investors most notably, Wawa.
It makes sense that Smith wants to expand business in a town known for being quiet, but that can have it’s downsides. Those who live north of Route 22 will struggle even more to get out of their neighborhoods, especially the youth who may want to explore their neighborhood, but with more cars and traffic to deal with, it can certainly make being a kid difficult. Poets will not be a safe neighborhood after gentrification.