By Danielle M. Freire
On this election day, we are bringing the political machinery to the attention. No more business as usual. No more corruption. We want a fairer and more democratic Jersey City – one that prioritizes affordable homes, safer streets and greener infrastructure. Instead of a city where power is less concentrated in the hands of a few, we want a place where new ideas and new leadership are valued.
So I’m running to represent Ward D on the city council. I am an independent, latina and a proud progressive. I believe that true representation requires independent leaders who better reflect the people who live here.
For example, women make up just over half of the population in New Jersey. But we only make up 18% of the state’s mayors and less than a third of the city councils. Although more women have been elected to local office here in recent years, progress has been slow, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics.
In Hudson County the picture is pretty much the same. Women make up only about a third of all city councils and district administrators. Few of these are women of color, although three-quarters of Hudson’s residents are non-white.
This is a question of equity. In order for our democracy to truly represent everyone, we need elected officials who are more like our community. But that’s only half the formula. We also need elected officials who do not sell themselves to special interests that fund their campaigns.
The city had been exploited enough. We need checks and balances and new council members who are not asleep at the wheel. If the elected leadership says that 20% affordable housing is not feasible, we have to push back and ask why. We must work to ensure that people are put above profits.
My professional nonprofit experience has raised millions of dollars for causes that focus on those most directly affected by systemic injustices. My current job is to promote social investment and this has helped grassroots organizations tackle the climate emergency at the neighborhood level across the country.
I set a good example and announced my candidacy during Women’s History Month, emphasizing the empowerment of women and the importance of women-led spaces. We highlighted the work of local artists and entrepreneurs during our campaign and sent a clear and concise message – your gifts are welcome here.
We have emphasized inclusion by using multilingual instructional videos to educate our neighbors about the political process in their mother tongue. We value intersectionality and celebrated our LGBTQIA + family at our very first drag brunch fundraiser. We love diversity and inclusion because this is what democracy really looks like in Jersey City.
We need to channel this energy and encourage more people to get involved in shaping their city for the better. You won’t see our current administration say this. And that’s because they are driving an agenda that we, the humans, are not part of. If you never make people your top priority, they will always come last. We see it clearly. Unfortunately, our current managers do not want any newcomers.
On November 2nd we have a choice. We can choose leaders who hold the city accountable, demand transparency in decision-making, and look to the community rather than opportunists for solutions. We need everyone who makes our city work for us. When you are ready, I am ready.
But that’s bigger than my candidacy. It’s time to get angry and get involved more. If you can, stand up for office in the future without asking for permission. Jersey City will be better for it.
Danielle M. Freire is a candidate for D, Heights Ward Council, Jersey City council seat.
Send letters to the editor and guest columns for The Jersey Journal to [email protected].