Let­ter to the edi­tor

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - OPINION -

Like a bolt of light­ning I re­cently came to the re­al­iza­tion that the Can­di­date fo­rum spon­sored by the Hughes Foun­da­tion (https://stock­ton.edu/hughes-cen­ter/ in­dex.html) at our state univer­sity, Stock­ton, is an un­demo­cratic event which is ul­ti­mately serv­ing an un­sus­tain­able sta­tus quo. For many elec­tion cy­cles in­vi­ta­tions have been given to only the 2 cor­po­rate party politi­cians. In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates whose names are on the Novem­ber 2nd Con­gres­sional bal­lot have been barred. Their mis­sion state­ment is made mean­ing­less by their ac­tions:

“The Wil­liam J. Hughes Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy at Stock­ton Univer­sity serves as a cat­a­lyst for re­search on pub­lic pol­icy and eco­nomic is­sues fac­ing south­ern New Jersey. The Cen­ter pro­vides a fo­rum for pub­lic dis­cus­sion of pol­icy is­sues to en­gage cit­i­zens and pol­icy mak­ers, frame pol­icy is­sues in a man­ner that en­cour­ages broader civic en­gage­ment, and strengthen the voice of South­ern New Jersey in pub­lic de­bate. The Cen­ter en­joys broad re­gional sup­port em­bod­ied in an Ad­vi­sory Board of prom­i­nent cit­i­zens through­out the re­gion.

The Cen­ter also spon­sors re­search projects de­signed to ed­u­cate New Jersey res­i­dents and pol­icy mak­ers about our en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sources, com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and ci­ti­zen en­gage­ment. These projects in­cor­po­rate the ex­per­tise of fac­ulty lead­ers at Stock­ton Univer­sity in col­lab­o­ra­tion with mem­bers of the Hughes Cen­ter to in­spire broader ci­ti­zen en­gage­ment and more ef­fec­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in pub­lic pol­icy mat­ters. The Hughes Cen­ter wel­comes op­por­tu­ni­ties to col­lab­o­rate with or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als who lead sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives or wish to en­gage in a part­ner­ship.”

It is ar­ro­gance for the Hughes Foun­da­tion to be­lieve that they have the right to be the de­cider as to who can par­tic­i­pate, and worse still our State Univer­sity Stock­ton is serv­ing as an ac­com­plice.

The 2 cri­te­ria for In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates to be in­vited give a false ve­neer of le­git­i­macy.

1. They must have $7,000 in their cam­paign ac­count with re­ceipts show­ing that $5,600 has been spent.

2. They must poll at least 7% on a sur­vey the Hughes Foun­da­tion spon­sors be­fore the de­bate. Re­cently the Di­rec­tor of the Foun­da­tion sent me an email re­quest­ing a pho­netic spell­ing of my name so the sur­vey callers can clearly pro­nounce it. It is al­most flat­ter­ing that the Di­rec­tor thinks me so in­no­cent and naïve that this could con­vince me that this mean­ing­less sur­vey has mean­ing.

What mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion could pos­si­bly emerge from such a rigged de­bate be­tween the 2 cor­po­rate party politi­cians? Cer­tainly, there will be no sparks fly­ing re­gard­ing the big­gest prob­lem threat­en­ing our Democ­racy ...the ob­scene amounts of spe­cial in­ter­est cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. For both cor­po­rate par­ties amass­ing money is their ob­jec­tive and lifeblood. They get the money and the spe­cial in­ter­ests get served. The people are de­nied Medi­care For All which is a ma­jor pri­or­ity in my cam­paign.

We see a nearly $700 bil­lion 2018 Defense bud­get sup­ported by 117 Con­gres­sional Democrats and all but 18 Repub­li­cans on the ba­sis of lob­by­ist money. Clean wa­ter and Clean Air are at risk to spe­cial in­ter­ests. Gun mad­ness with 96 Amer­i­cans dy­ing each day from gun vi­o­lence is pro­tected by the NRA lobby. Ev­ery­thing in the pub­lic in­ter­est is threat­ened by big money buy­ing po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence with the 2 cor­po­rate par­ties be­ing the mid­dle men & women.

Is it a crim­i­nal of­fense for a le­git­i­mate can­di­date to claim their place in this de­bate?

Are the 2 re­quire­ments set by the Foun­da­tion le­git­i­mate or bo­gus?

Does the Foun­da­tion have a le­git­i­mate right to pro­claim them­selves as the ul­ti­mate ar­biter of what is le­git­i­mate speech? How does this ac­tion square with the Mis­sion state­ment of the Foun­da­tion?

The only thing that is cer­tain is my le­git­i­macy as a can­di­date for the 2nd Con­gres­sional dis­trict. I ful­filled all the elec­tion re­quire­ments to qual­ify for my name to be on the bal­lot. That should be the only cri­te­ria for par­tic­i­pat­ing in this de­bate on 10/10/2018. — Steven Fenichel, 2nd Con­gres­sional Can­di­date

Send your let­ters to the edi­tor for pub­li­ca­tion to Let­ters@Tren­to­nian.com.

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