Response to Candidate Questionnaire by David Belasco
South Orange Board of Trustees Election
May 10, 2005
Response by Candidate for South Orange Board of Trustees:
to South Mountain Peace Action Candidate Questionnaire
contact David Belasco at (click to email)
(no other candidate responses have been received thus far.)
QUESTION #1 Over the past two years, federal spending on the war and occupation of Iraq has cost South Orange and Maplewood taxpayers an estimated $62.5 million. The cost to South Orange has been about $27.6 million, the cost to Maplewood, about $34.9 million.
Given local tax burdens and shortfalls in state and federal assistance, should a Trustee or Township Committee member address this issue with constituents and with our Congressional delegation and President? How would you do this?
REPLY BY DAVID BELASCO:
Thanks again for your questionnaire, and the accompanying material.
When the President began laying the ground work for the military action in Iraq, I joined those people across the political spectrum who feared that going into Iraq at that point might actually make us less secure, would likely bring grief to our military personnel and could leave the people of Iraq only marginally better off than they were. So, in February of 2003, I joined Barbara and a friend from Germany at the march and rally in New York, hoping that a huge turn out would catch the attention of the President.
Barbara and I still have a South Mountain Peace Action "BE ABOUT PEACE" sign on our lawn.
The news from Iraq over the last few weeks just reinforces my initial doubts. The bombings continue, as we still seem unable to provide properly armored vehicles for our military, or to protect the Iraqi citizens we came to help. So, if I am elected to the South Orange Board of Trustees, you will find a sympathetic ear in your efforts to pass this prize along to the UN, or for that matter, NATO, or any other group that will take on the responsibility. As to your specific questions:
(1) The cost of the war: We are borrowing at the federal level to finance the war and to finance huge tax cuts at the same time. The economy is currently showing signs of slowing down, possibly as a result of the growing deficits. And, our children and grandchildren are going to eventually have to pay off the loans that are financing the war and the tax cuts, perhaps, at the same time they are also having to make up the Social Security short fall.
To the extent that the election last November was a referendum on the war, and how we are financing it, the vast majority of the voters in South Orange showed they understand the issues. Fortunately, our Congressional delegation also seems to understand the future economic problems the war and our growing deficits will cause.
As a trustee, I can set a good example of fiscal responsibility at the local level, and I can provide support for current and future public officials at all levels who advocate fiscal responsibility. I intend to make communication with my constituents a key part of my service as a trustee, through visits to local groups, my website, and regular office hours. I can use these means of communication not only to learn of my constituents concerns, but also to communicate my concerns to them, including my concerns about the impact of national and state economic policies on the financial health of our community.
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QUESTION #2 In this era of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act, do you think a Trustee or Township Committee member has a responsibility to protect First Amendment and privacy rights of our residents, as well as to assure a safe and secure environment? How would you do this?
REPLY BY DAVID BELASCO:
(2) Constitutional protections: The trustees take an oath of office to uphold the Constitutions of New Jersey and the United States. So, protecting first amendment rights and the right to privacy come with the job. As an attorney, I also have a similar responsibility. As a general matter, a good legislator should review every piece of legislation thoroughly, and this includes its impact on the rights of citizens. Interestingly, at several candidates' forums, questions have been asked about our attitudes toward protecting basic rights, and every candidate for trustee has given a strong and clear signal that he or she respects our fundamental rights.
With particular regard to homeland security, the trustees must work to maintain adequate local police protection, and lobby for a fair share of homeland security money. We must also use our platform to lobby against the notion that true security requires sacrificing personal liberties. Anyone who watched the Kean Committee hearings, or read its report, knows that real security comes from our being smarter, more imaginative and better organized. That requires a free and open society.
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QUESTION #3 How do you see your role as a Trustee or Township Committee member with regard to activities in the community which seek peaceful alternatives to war, such as those organized by South Mountain Peace Action?
REPLY BY DAVID BELASCO:
(3) Role of trustees in promoting peaceful alternatives to war: As noted above, I intend to make communication with my constituents a key part of my service as a trustee, through visits to local groups, my website, and regular office hours. I can use these means of communication to learn of my constituents concerns, and to channel public input into public policy. I would be interested in hearing from all groups in the community to help me do a better job, and want to participate in worthwhile community actives including those organized by South Mountain Peace Action.
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QUESTION #4 Please discuss any additional ways that you believe the issues of war, military spending and national security impact our communities, and how you believe a Trustee or Township Committee member should address them.
REPLY BY DAVID BELASCO:
(4) Wars, military spending and national security: Wars, military spending and national security have dominated all our lives. America has been involved in a major hot or cold war every decade of my life. Sometimes we have had no choice, but often we have blundered into war, or failed to take smart steps early on that would have eliminated the need to go to war. I think the fundamental way we must all address these issues, and it isn't uniquely a responsibility of public officials, is to make sure America has the best educated kids in the world. Not just calculus and computers, but history, politics and the ability to sort out facts from propaganda. We need kids who read newspapers, watch and listen to the news, who can think and reason and who know how to learn from our mistakes. We can start right here in our own communities be supporting our schools. South Orange must work with the Board of Education to make sure our schools and students are the best they can be.