As West Windsor welcomes in our newly elected township council for the start of this next decade, I sincerely wish our newly elected officials—Sonia Gawas, Andrea Mandel and Michael Stevens—the best in their work in public service. However, I remain concerned about this new council’s capacity to govern in a way that reflects the priorities and values of our residents.

During the campaign, my opponents-decided to engage in negative campaigning, claiming that me and my running mates—Alison Miller and Yan Mei Wang—“proudly seek to divide township along partisan lines” in their final mailer.

Their attacks were completely off-target. My goal in running in 2019 was to ensure that our elected officials reflect our residents—the fundamental cornerstone to representative democracy. My goal was to make transparent what is opaque to the average resident.

I’ve been attending town council meetings for three years, and during this time, I’ve seen our Republican ayor and his allies on council (his election slatemates Geevers and Manzari) readily support hardening efforts throughout town–including the controversial move to put armed police officers in our schools, over the concerns of our teens, educators, mental health professionals, and lawyers. I’ve witnessed them drag their feet on common-sense environmental initiatives, like Mayor Marathe’s recent veto of the single-use plastic bag ordinance–despite the broad support for the ordinance within West Windsor, and legal standing from the dozens of NJ municipalities that have passed similar ordinances. I’ve observed the Mayor’s inaction in creating a 2020 Census Complete Count committee for West Windsor, signaling that it isn’t his priority that our growing town–full of immigrants and children–is properly counted and receives the government dollars from formula grants that we deserve.

The idea of non-partisanship suggests that local community is divorced from our state and national dialogue–a clever fiction that has been propagated within West Windsor, to our detriment.

To be clear, our new council has only one minority member, three members with no policy experience, and is 80% Republican. The one registered Democrat, Gawas, went lockstep with the platform of her Republican slatemates, a platform that did not deviate from that of our Republican mayor.

How can a council with little diversity, no Democratic values, and limited policy-making experience represent West Windsor-—a community that is around 50% non-white, that votes over 70% Democrat in state and federal races, and that values education and expertise?

I sincerely hope our new Council will live up to the civic ideals of representative democracy and proactive and informed policy-making. But the odds are not in their favor, and we will need to maintain public scrutiny of their work.

Shin-Yi Lin

Lin was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat on West Windsor council in November.