Dafis: Herman is a Vote for Balanced Leadership, Unity and Innovation

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Three candidates are running for two Maplewood Township Committee seats in 2024: incumbents Nancy Adams and Jamaine Cripe, and Malia Herman. The primary election is on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. The general election takes place on Tuesday, November 5, 2024. Read all of our Election Coverage here.

In this year’s contested local Democratic Primary – on June 4 – a vote for Malia Herman for Maplewood Township Committee is a vote for balanced leadership, unity, compromise, greater inclusion, and innovation.

As a former mayor and existing member of Maplewood’s governing body – the Township Committee – serving my third term, I enthusiastically and wholeheartedly endorse non-incumbent Malia Herman this election cycle.  If elected to serve, Malia (rhymes with Maria) will undoubtedly be an effective and successful agent of our community’s long-term health & wellness, evolution, and strength. I see her bringing compromise and balance to our decisions and prioritizing community unity over pure advocacy at a time of division and acrimony even here at home.

The Township Committee (TC) is composed of five members duly elected to serve three-year terms that are staggered, so that each year one or two seats are on the ballot.  This year two seats are on the ballot.  Malia is running for one of them.  Voters have the choice of three women running for the two seats: two incumbents and Malia, at a historic time when the Maplewood Township Committee is composed of a majority of women.  Voters may vote for two or for just one candidate.

In a Township Committee form of government – one of the oldest in the nation – the Committee holds the power, not any one member.  Like any other committee or board, at an annual reorganization, the Township Committee by majority vote appoints one of its five members to serve as Mayor for the year and another to serve as Deputy Mayor for the same year.  Accordingly, in this election, incumbents Nancy Adams (who was appointed Mayor by the TC in January this year) and Jamaine Cripe (who was appointed Deputy by the TC in January) are running to become re-elected members of the TC; should they be re-elected, their current leadership titles will still be subject to the Committee’s reorganization and majority vote in January 2025.  In other words, voters in this election aren’t determining the mayor or deputy mayor, and those who feel inclined to vote for Malia shouldn’t be led to believe that they would be voting against the current mayor or deputy mayor.

Working mom Malia who is multi ethnic, a woman of color, and of upbringing deeply rooted in community service, has long demonstrated her commitment to our community’s success, to unity and inclusion in her volunteer work & advocacy in a myriad of issues.  For instance, she’s advocated for sensible gun safety laws (starting our local Moms Demand Action Chapter with other moms who demanded action), for special needs & neuro/sensory divergent inclusion (as leader of the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee & by helping us acquire the Sensory Activation Vehicle we now use in our recreational programming and during other events), for equitable access to the community pool via reduced fees, free days, swim lessons and water safety (as a longtime Pool Committee volunteer), for improvements to our fields to allow for reliable and accessible sports opportunity and recreational mobility for all ages, and for a new vision in town wide circulation & mobility inclusive of dedicated bike lanes, complete streets, enhanced & safer pedestrian crossings.  Her approach has been collaborative, thoughtful, insightful, empathic. Her agenda is the community’s agenda.  She’s been endorsed by a great diversity of stakeholders including community advocates, teachers and school administrators, neighbors, electeds (past and current), working parents all over Maplewood (who represent the largest constituency in our town currently), and even by our youth.  All of them underscore the same about her:  she’s balanced, thoughtful, collaborative, kind, and willing to think outside of the box.  These intrinsic qualities are necessary right now as we grapple with how to foster community unity and to resolve longstanding unresolved issues in Maplewood.

In the face of fear mongering that she’s the anti-climate candidate, Malia has continued to voice her ideas for much needed field improvements that include equity in field access, progressive fees where appropriate, expanded maintenance, acquiring vacant spaces or parking lots for outdoor recreation, and engaging in shared services and regional partnerships. Her vision does NOT include turfing DeHart or our other parks.  She supported the artificial turf proposal for the high school’s athletic field known as Ritzer, as did the majority of the two governing bodies in Maplewood/South Orange, the Board of Education, Board of School Estimate, and the community at large, including all those students to whom we promised the improved field many years ago and whom we completely let down in the end, again.  In public comments, Malia called for compromise and balance.

As a woman of color deeply rooted in community service – there are two women of color running for TC in this election, not one – Malia has supported our local racial justice and mutual aid groups.  As a humanitarian, she maintains her support for the end of the war and of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while continuing to raise awareness of rising antisemitism here at home – balance.

In response to those who maintain that we’re not built for complete streets, she has voiced her support for a new circulation and mobility policy, a more holistic approach to pedestrian safety, as our new Master Plan recommends. Pedestrians being struck by cars and speeding throughout town make this a critical issue that requires immediate and direct resolution.

In response to local anxieties about forthcoming redevelopment, she’s called for a balanced approach that serves unmet needs and complies with new laws while addressing local concerns.  Again, compromise.

The rhetoric surrounding these issues has divided us resulting in acrimony.  Some voters feel alienated and not represented.  We need unity.

Beyond the issues themselves, Malia has been a strong Democratic agent in election after election, getting out the vote for Democrats up and down the ballot, working on campaigns, and building strong relationships with elected officials everywhere. This is a big part of serving on the TC, as those relationships are critical in moving our local kitchen sink issues forward, in getting access to grants and other necessary resources, in having a seat at the table in Trenton and in DC.  She is keenly aware of the “politics,” and as a former DC correspondent, adept at navigating them.

I’ve been observing Malia speaking to voters during the campaign. She’s truly sincere about her run and open to alternate opinions or approaches. She doesn’t shy from being challenged. She’s a strong voice for working moms and dads in Maplewood, and for our neurodivergent/disabled residents and their families in particular who are far less represented. We need these underrepresented voices on the governing body.

Whether you’re voting by mail or early in person (starting this week on May 29) or on Election Day on June 4, 2024, vote for balanced and unifying leadership, vote for greater inclusion, VOTE for MALIA.

Dean Dafis, Esq., he him his
Current Township Committee Member; former Mayor


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