Jonathan Gibson

Founding Member @NJPDUC - Professor Criminal Justice and Public Policy @JohnJayCollege #unplugthemachine #m4a #greennewdeal he/his

Jonathan Gibson's latest activity
signed Party Line Petition 2020-02-26 20:51:15 -0500

End the Ballot Line in NJ for ALL Primary Elections

To: All County Chairs, Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Coughlin, and Chairman Currie:

New Jersey does not have a functioning democracy in our primary elections. We, the undersigned, are demanding equitable and democratic reform to our ballot structure and the immediate elimination of “The Line” in all N.J. primary elections.

The antiquated structure of New Jersey's ballot does not exist anywhere else in the United States. "The Line," which is controlled by party chairs in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties, gives an advantage to party insiders and incumbents to a degree that is unrivaled in American democracy. The Line unfairly disadvantages progressive insurgents, many of whom are from the marginalized communities who find their current elected official neglecting to represent them. Maintaining The Line fails to meet the needs and reflect the diversity of our state.

A decade worth of evidence proves that The Line rigs the system to protect incumbents. On the current New Jersey legislative map — encompassing 10 years of 540 state legislative primary elections in which an incumbent ran for election in a primary — only one incumbent lost a primary election. In this incumbent’s reelection, they were moved off of their Line. That means over the past decade, The Line has a 100% incumbent protection rate for state Legislative races.

Further, the fate of New Jersey’s elected officials is decided by Party officials who do not represent our electorate. The Democratic County Chair leadership in New Jersey is overwhelmingly white (76%) and male (76%). The Line distorts our democracy and upholds a corrupt system in which elected officials are accountable to Party insiders (and their corporate backers), instead of their constituents.

Many of New Jersey's most dire problems — a deep racial wealth disparity, environmental injustice, our lack of storm preparedness, our regressive taxation systems, unsustainable and irresponsible development — are connected to our lack of representation, and this failure of democracy. For New Jersey to elect leaders committed to justice, racial equity, and transformative change, we need ballot reform.

New Jersey deserves true democracy. We the undersigned demand an end to The Line for ALL primary elections, and that New Jersey transition immediately to a traditional "bubble ballot," the familiar type that is used in nearly every other state in the country.

This petition will be delivered to: All 21 Democratic County Chairs, Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, Lt Governor Sheila Oliver, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Secretary of State Tahesha Way, Assembly Speaker Coughlin, and Chairman Currie.

New Jersey does not have a functioning democracy in our primary elections. Why? Because of something called "The Line."

The antiquated structure of New Jersey's ballot — referred to as "The Line," — does not exist anywhere else in the United States. "The Line" is a practice that allows the Democratic establishment to control which candidates gets preferential placement on the ballot, and creates a visual trick that affects voter decision making, therefore disadvantaging people who do not have the line.

A decade worth of evidence proves that The Line rigs the system to protect incumbents. On the current New Jersey legislative map — encompassing 10 years of 540 state legislative primary elections in which an incumbent ran for election in a primary — only one incumbent lost a primary election. In this incumbent’s reelection, they were moved off of their Line. That means over the past decade, The Line has a 100% incumbent protection rate for state Legislative races.

The Line unfairly disadvantages progressive insurgents, many of whom are from the marginalized communities who find their current elected official neglecting to represent them. New Jersey's most dire problems are connected to our lack of real representation in which elected officials are accountable to Party insiders (and their corporate backers) instead of constituents. In maintaining this status quo, we fail at upholding democracy.

For New Jersey to elect leaders committed to justice, racial equity, and transformative change, we need ballot reform. Tell New Jersey's Democratic Party officials to stand with all of us, and transition immediately to a traditional "bubble ballot," the ballot type used in nearly every other state in the country.

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published About 2019-11-13 14:38:44 -0500

About

The New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County (NJPD-UC) was started by a group of dedicated local community members, former politicians and candidates, and community activists, who see the dangers of the current party boss system in Union County to democracy.

signed We Demand Water Testing 2019-08-27 12:43:37 -0400

Demand for Independent Lead Water Testing in Elizabeth & Union County and Mandatory Lead Pipe Remediation

Stand with Elizabeth, NJ & Union County residents demanding that our elected officials ensure the safety and integrity of our aged lead-based water system. Stand with us for clean, safe, water!!!

The water crisis in Flint, Chicago, and Washington, DC show us just how vulnerable our water systems can be and how widespread this issue is. Now local communities that receive water from the Newark water system have questions. Is our water safe?

Our local officials want us to believe the water company, a for-profit organization that is incentivized to prioritize profit. With public health and safety at stake, we cannot. 

Independent information from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection shows that we have reason to be concerned. A simple failure by the water company could spell disaster for our families. This could be happening now; but, if Flint, Washington, Chicago, and Newark tell us anything it is that it will happen - it is just a question of when.

Is deferring the cost today worth failing to insure our families safety in the future?

We say no!

118

of a 500 signature goal

We, the undersigned, demand that the City of Elizabeth offer free independent water testing for lead to every resident of the City of Elizabeth and that this testing must be done by an independent organization without financial or political connection to the City, County, State, or American-Liberty Water.

We further demand that the County of Union offer free independent water testing for lead to every resident of the County of Union who receives part of their water from the Newark water system and that this testing must be done by an independent organization without financial or political connection to the City, County, State, or American-Liberty Water

We further demand that the City of Elizabeth conduct a survey to identify all existing lead-based water service lines in existence in the city and to require remediation, and to offer zero-interest financing to property owners who otherwise could not afford to have lead-based service lines removed due to the cost placed on the property owner.

We further demand that the County of Union conduct a survey to identify all existing lead-based water service lines in existence in the county and to require remediation, and to offer zero-interest financing to property owners who otherwise could not afford to have lead-based service lines removed due to the cost placed on the property owner.

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published Partial Service Line Replacement Elizabeth 2019-08-26 13:26:11 -0400

Due to an Emergency Repair of a Sewer Line, Partial Lead Service Line Replacements Were Conducted on Some Newark Ave. Homes in Elizabeth Without Notice. Partial lead-service line replacement is linked with higher lead levels in homes & across the system.

August 26, 2019
Contact: Jonathan Gibson
6174359690

Elizabeth, NJ — Monday, August 26, 2019 — There has been construction on Newark Ave. in Elizabeth this past week. This work, water-line replacement, was conducted on an emergency basis to accommodate a sewer line replacement. One homeowner on Newark Ave. by Fairmont Ave., who declined to be named, said that he was “not informed in advance of the work,” and that he only found out about the work when “construction workers told him to move his car.”

The homeowner said he wasn’t told anything, “they just tore up the street and sidewalk.” It was confirmed by Liberty-American Water employee Brendan Devlin that the work done stopped at the curb and that existing lead service lines from the curb to the homeowner’s house were not replaced.

What was conducted at this homeowner’s house, and presumably the other homes along Newark Ave. is called a partial lead service line replacement. This is the replacement of a portion of the lateral service line from the water main to the building that is the responsibility of the water company or municipality. This is a process where, generally, a copper line is run from the water main and welded with a remaining portion of lead pipe that serves the building. In this case, plastic lines were installed with a brass connection to the existing lead service line. Sadly, this work does not actually make the home safer from lead contamination – it increases the risk. The new brass coupling connecting the existing lead pipe, through a process called galvanic corrosion, may increase the amount of lead in the water. 

Generally, when service lines are being replaced, homeowners are given the opportunity to replace the portion of the line that is their responsibility. According to the homeowner no such offer was given to him. He stated his concern for his upstairs tenants who have young children.

American-Liberty Water should be offering residents the opportunity to fully replace lead service lines when work like this is being done and should avoid partial lead line replacements. Additionally, given the increased potential for public health consequences, not informing residents of the risks and/or not giving them the option to replace the whole line is a questionable if not potentially negligent practice.

The practice of conducting partial lead service line replacements is concerning given the known risks surrounding partial lead service line replacements. It is even more concerning that American-Liberty Water did not tell the homeowners that there are short-and long-risks, including lead contamination, from the work, or offer full service line replacements to homeowners.

###

New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County (NJPD-UC) is a New Jersey non-profit organization which advocates for a progressive policy agenda and for transparency and ethics in government.

For more information, press only:

Jonathan Lee Gibson
Founding Member, NJPD-UC
jonathan@njprogressives.com

Danielle Fienberg
Founding Member, NJPD-UC
danielle@njprogressives.com

For more information on New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County:

Website: union.njprogresssives.com
Phone: 908.490.6369

published Elizabeth Water 2019-08-21 17:06:49 -0400

New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County Call on Union County and Elizabeth Officials to Ensure Local Communities are Protected from Lead and Potential Fallout from Newark Water Crisis.

August 21, 2019
Contact: Danielle Fienberg
4153124543

PARA LEER ESTE COMUNICADO DE PRENSA EN ESPAÑOL, HAGA CLIC AQUÍ.

Elizabeth, NJ — Wednesday, August 21, 2019 Without a doubt, people in communities across the nation are looking at Newark, NJ, and wondering if their community is next. For residents of some Union County municipalities, that question is a probable yes.

“The Newark water crisis is worse for New Jersey and the communities surrounding Newark than we realize,” says Danielle Fienberg, one of the ten Founding Members of New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County. Fienberg added, “If we are to believe American-Liberty Water, Elizabeth gets, depending on who you speak with, between 5-10% of our water from Newark. When we inspected the records received from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) under an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, in reality, the capacity is up to 50% of our water supply. Based on millions of gallons per day (MGD) flow rates reported in these documents it is likely that Elizabeth receives upwards of forty-percent of its water from the Newark Water system.”

Why is this a problem?  When water with failed corrosion controls comingles with other sources with otherwise functioning corrosion control, the blended water’s corrosion controls can become ineffective. This process of corrosion control ensures that old lead-based pipes installed in our water infrastructure prior to a ban in 1987 (along with various other plumbing components dating from as late as 2014) have a special coating, called a scale, that creates a physical barrier between the lead and the water. This control is what failed in Newark. Based on information available from American-Liberty Water, made public by local and State government sources, and from documents received under OPRA, it is likely that corrosion control measures have failed in Elizabeth, and in other municipalities that receive some or all of their water from the Newark system.

The Beginning: Researching the Problem & The Elizabeth Board of Education Lead Testing Results

“I wasn’t sure what to do with my worries over the water in Elizabeth, but my preliminary research had alarm bells ringing. A mutual friend introduced me to Jonathan Gibson, an Elizabeth homeowner, activist, and former political candidate. Gibson listened to my concerns and said he would look into it,” stated Fienberg.

Gibson was unsure that there was an issue and while the data suggested that there may be a problem, the extent of it was hard to ascertain. “For me, the first warning sign was the Elizabeth School Board and their published lead tests [1] that Danielle had shown me,” Gibson recounts. He started to discuss this with a neighbor, a former candidate for the Elizabeth Board of Education and inquired if there were any other warning signs. “I was told that there were schools that were giving students bottled water and were possibly using bottled water for cooking and other needs,” says Gibson. The Elizabeth Board of Education had stated publicly that they were not going to retest any school until legally obligated. That, together with the published test results, and the use of bottled water, raised Gibson’s suspicion.

Intent on convincing Gibson of her fears, Fienberg took Gibson to the July 17 Newark Water Coalition public meeting.

Conversation with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Erik Olsen of the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC)

On July 17, 2019, Gibson and Fienberg had an opportunity to meet with and ask questions of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Flint, MI and Erik Olsen, who was representing the NRDC at the Newark Water Coalition community meeting.

Gibson asked Dr. Hanna-Attisha, “With school district tests that were high, in one case 6740ppb, with Elizabeth having a capacity to get fifty-percent of its water from Newark, and records indicating we are getting an average of forty-percent of our water from Newark, should we be worried?” Gibson recounts that Dr. Hanna-Attisha said, “It would make sense that there would be a problem.”

“I wasn't sure there was a problem in Elizabeth,” says Gibson, “but after talking to Dr. Hanna-Attisha, I was convinced Elizabeth likely had a problem.” It was just how sizable the problem could be.

At the same meeting, Fienberg and Gibson looked at a map of Newark and its neighborhoods with an overlay of Newark’s affected water systems attended by Erik Olsen, Senior Director, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program at the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). Olsen explained to Fienberg and Gibson how the Newark water system is comprised of two reservoirs, the Pequonnock and the Wanaque and how the corrosion controls had definitively failed in the areas serviced by the Pequonnock system. However, due to the blending of water between the Pequonnock, with its failed controls, and the Wanaque, the Newark Water Coalition saw elevated levels in the East Ward/Ironbound district despite the area being serviced predominantly by the Wanaque system.

“My fears were confirmed,” Gibson recounts, “I knew we got about forty-percent of our water from Newark, where these protective systems had failed. But according to the conversations we had with Dr. Hanna-Attisha and Mr. Olsen we learned that comingling the Newark source water with the rest of the water in Elizabeth would likely affect Elizabeth’s water.” The question remains how and how badly Elizabeth and other Union County towns that recieve part of their water from the Newark system are affected.

Information Obtained from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

In July, Gibson and Fienberg worked with local attorney CJ Griffin of Pashman Stien to craft an Open Public Records Act request for records regarding the Elizabeth water system, testing sites, and other information that local officials and American-Liberty Water were not providing.

“It was the first OPRA request I had sent to a New Jersey governing body that was answered in full and without challenge,” says Gibson, “it was refreshing to have a government entity do what was right without qualm.” [2]

The first thing noticed when comparing water testing sites from the official sampling list for American-Liberty Water, the unique identifiers only go back a few years. With that, the data can only be analyzed from 2017 to the present.

Fienberg and Gibson noted that site PBCU63, a house in the Elmora neighborhood of Elizabeth, had a lead level of 176ppb in 2018. It has not been retested as required under the Lead and Copper Rule in 2019 by American-Liberty Water.

In 2018, two samples tested higher than the EPA action level of 15ppb in Elizabeth, PBCU63 at 176ppb and PBCU141 at 20ppb. Another, PBCU19, came close at 13ppb. Altogether, 54-homes were sampled in the entirety of the City of Elizabeth. Of those, 22-homes (41% of the total sample) had a detectable level of lead.

On August 13, 2019, the City of Elizabeth posted a notice on the city website. Gibson and Fienberg claim that notice misrepresented the facts to residents. The statement, which Gibson posits was written by American-Liberty Water and not City of Elizabeth officials, claims, “In fact, no lead was detected in any of the samples collected in the City of Elizabeth this year.”

“This is simply a lie,” says Gibson. “Just look at the State of New Jersey’s Drinking Water Watch website where the State makes these test results public.”

Gibson is correct. A cursory look at this year’s test results for lead in Elizabeth on the States' website shows that nine sites had detectable lead levels out of 44-samples. Fienberg says, “To claim that there is no lead detected when in fact lead was detected in twenty-percent of the samples is simply untrue.” [3]

“What the statement should have said is that ‘testing so far this year has not found any samples that exceed the EPA action level of 15ppb,'" states Fienberg, "and, it should have warned the public that regardless of the action level set by the EPA ‘no level of lead is safe’ for human consumption.”

Previous years testing in Elizabeth have seen high levels as well. Every year since 1992 and 1993, where testing results are available, have had levels higher than the EPA action limit (47ppb and 24ppb in 2012, 102ppb and 29ppb in 2011, 28ppb in 2008, and 32ppb, and 15ppb in 2005).

Gibson is questioning what American-Liberty Water is doing. According to Gibson and Fienberg, based on available records and accounts from long-term residents of Elizabeth, the City contracted with American-Liberty Water in the early 1990s. Reviews of the violations for the Elizabeth water system show that there were severe lead violations in both 1992 and 1993, around the time that American-Liberty Water took over the system.

“What I want to know is how, when we have serious violations for lead and other heavy metals from 1988 to 1993 and then, all of a sudden, none? How does that happen? Is it a function of dropping testing sites year over year?” Gibson inquires.

Attempts to Work with the City of Elizabeth

In May of 2019, Fienberg spoke to the Elizabeth City Council about her concerns regarding the water and provided a folder of information to the council. Two weeks later, Fienberg, having not heard from the councilmembers, returned to the Elizabeth Council meeting to ask if anything had been done to address her concerns. She was given the same public reports that American-Liberty Water provides on their website and told there was no problem. They instructed Fienberg to reach out to Mark Colicchio, Health Officer for the City of Elizabeth, if she had more question.

Fienberg spoke with Colicchio, providing the same information, and was told again there were no problems.

On August 14, 2019, Gibson and Fienberg went to visit Colicchio in his office. Having done more research over the course of a month, the data supported that there were red flags with the water worth investigating. Still, they hoped that American Liberty Water's affirmations would hold up to scrutiny despite further testing. Colicchio said several times, “Our water company is great, we have had no issues with them.”

Gibson recounts that when pressed for specifics about the contract between the city and American-Liberty Water, Colicchio claimed he did not know and had never seen the contract. Further, when asked pointed questions about the high lead samples in the school district's water, Colicchio said he was not aware of those tests, depite having spoken at an Elizabeth School Board meeting regarding this very issue in August, 2016. 

“As the person Mayor Bollwage’s administration puts forth as the administrations designated employee with regard to public concerns about the water, to only have vague talking point like, ‘we have a great relationship with Liberty’ and ‘we have never had a problem’ and ‘the water is safe and there is no reason not to trust Liberty’ is unacceptable. It's beyond unacceptable when that person, who is charged with answering these questions, is asked for specifics, and has nothing! When given the data, he does not respond beyond the talking points. This sounds like an administration that doesn't want to acknowledge that there might be a problem,” says Gibson.

“It's not like we were saying we wanted to ring the bell loudly, we just wanted to know why there were discrepancies in the publicly available information. It raised questions, and those questions were important enough to raise alarm. After my experiences in Newark, where my son was lead poisoned by the water, I have every right to know if the water here in Elizabeth is safe,” Fienberg says.

Gibson continues, “When the water company seemingly fails to retest homes that are part of their testing program and which show high lead levels year over year, I start to ask the question is American-Liberty Water attempting to skew the data to make the situation look better than it actually is? When the true figure of how much water we are getting from the Newark Water system is blured; when these questions get unanswered or answered by officials simply saying, ‘they have never had a problem with American-Liberty Water;’ or, when the only answer you get is to be told that, in the face of alarming data, you have ‘nothing to worry about’ … well, the only thing I can say is that these defenses sounds a lot like what the officials in Flint, Chicago, Washington, DC, and now Newark all said before the truth came out. The government and elected officials are incentivized by a corrupt system to ignore the problem and only do something when they absolutely have to.”

According to an EPA presentation authored by Natalie Cannon US EPA Region 8, and available online, a Tier 1 site is "a single family structure[] that contains copper pipes with lead solder installed between 1983 and 1988, or contain lead pipes and/or serviced by a lead service line." It is also worth noting that American-Liberty Water is testing multi-family homes outside of this parameter as defined by this EPA document since a large quantity of the tested sites are multi-family homes. [4]

Conversation with Miguel Del Toral & the EPA

On August 19, 2019, Miguel Del Toral, Regulations Manager at the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 5, returned Fienberg’s phone call. Del Toral spoke with Fienberg at length and confirmed that the concerns Fienberg and Gibson have regarding the water are accurately rooted in science. In short, what we know is concerning. Del Toral put Fienberg and Gibson in touch with the local EPA Region 2 officials and discussions between Fienberg, Gibson, and the EPA are continuing.

Elizabeth and Union County Residents Served by American or American-Liberty Water that Purchase Water from the Newark Water System Deserve to Know if Their Water is Safe

New Jersey Progressive Democrats of New Jersey call on Elizabeth, Union County, and the State of New Jersey’s governments to do mass-independent testing of the Elizabeth municipal system to ensure public safety.

“Our children should not be the canaries in the coal mine. Their blood lead levels should not be the red flag; they should not replace proactive public policy meant to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” says Fienberg.

###

New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County (NJPD-UC) is a New Jersey non-profit organization which advocates for a progressive policy agenda and for transparency and ethics in government.

For more information, press only:

Jonathan Lee Gibson
Founding Member, NJPD-UC
jonathan@njprogressives.com

Danielle Fienberg
Founding Member, NJPD-UC
danielle@njprogressives.com

For more information on New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County:

Website: union.njprogresssives.com
Phone: 908.490.6369

 

Sources Cited:

[1] For the EPS School District test results see: https://www.epsnj.org/domain/2999

[2] For copies of the records obtained via OPRA from the NJ DEP please email jonathan@njprogressives.com with your request.

[3] For records of the tests done in the Elizabeth water system see: https://www9.state.nj.us/DEP_WaterWatch_public/JSP/WSDetail.jsp?tinwsys=758

[4] Link to EPA presentation with definition of Tier 1 site: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/LCR_Presentation.pdf

published Water Quality (Lead) in Issues 2019-08-19 14:19:54 -0400

Water Quality (Lead)

Access to clean water is a human right. With the multitude of failiures within our water infrastructure across the nation and at home, it seems as though this right is not guaranted. There are many issues in regards to water safety, ranging from chemicals that cause cancer to inadequate purification leaving unsafe levels of bacteria. However, the greatest and most damaging issue is lead (Pb).

Answer

The science behind safe drinking water is deceptively simple and yet complex to manage. For water to be potable—safe to drink—it has to go from a source like a river, lake, or reservoir, through a treatment process, then through a series of mains, lines, and pipes to our taps.

Typically, the source water is free of heavy metal contaminants but not of biological contaminants, among other things. Think of your typical river or lake, and if you’d like to take a drink from the shore!

The next step in the process is a treatment facility. First, the water is filtered, removing sediment and other filterable contaminants. Next is chemical treatment, where it gets complicated. Water engineers have the important and delicate job of balancing cleaning the water, not making us ill from those chemicals, and managing the corrosivity of the water so that it doesn’t become contaminated from our aged municipal infrastructures.

The lead comes into our water, not from the source water, but between treatment the tap in your home. Some of the chemicals that water treatment facilities use to make the water safe for use to drink need balanced in such a way to prevent lead from entering the water in your home. Many municipalities fail or are unable to manage this and outsource this management to for-profit water companies.

The problem with the Newark water system, a problem that will run downstream to other communities, is caused by inadequate chemical controls that were supposed to protect us and our water infrastructure. This is not a problem unique to Newark, but municipalities in Union and Essex counties who have been buying water from the Newark system are at a higher risk of ineffective chemical controls and increased lead and heavy metal content in their drinking water.

No amount of lead is safe, however, the EPA has set a limit of 15 parts per billion—not as a safe amount, but rather as a level at which action has to be taken. Older homes are served by Lead Service Lines, but even in homes built as recently as 2014, lead was used in fixtures ranging from faucets to valves.

published Forum 2019-08-10 10:02:49 -0400
followed Issues 2019-08-10 10:08:22 -0400

Issues

Political issues are what define a movement. In the 1910's it was Women's Suffrage. In the 1930's in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash it was the New Deal reforms of Roosevelt. In the 1960's it was Civil Rights. In the 1970's it was Women's reproductive rights, the ERA, and the anti-war movement. In the 1990's and 2000's it was LBGTQIA+ rights. Issues are what define our political struggle to be a more perfect union. They are serious issues worthy of serious debate.

Without progressive leadership none of these landmark issues would every have made the United States a more perfect union. The only way we will continue to become a more perfect union is with an organized progressive movement in politics.

Here are some of the issues that define New Jersey Progressive Democrats of Union County, the future we envision, and the issues we are actively organizing around.

published Corruption in Government in Issues 2019-08-10 09:35:56 -0400

Corruption in Government

Our founders knew well that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. One reason why local and state government has been failing the people is simply summarized with one word: corruption.

Our political leaders, some in the county Democratic Party, some the Mayors and council-people of our municipal governments, are part of a larger cabal of corrupt cronies who do not have the publics best interests at heart.

Answer

Corruption is not easy to defeat but the first step to bringing down a corrupt undemocratic system is upsetting the existing power structures and ensuring that there is a check on the unbridled power of the Union County Democratic Committee Chairperson.

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