Gov candidate Johnson talks policing, school choice, ethics reform in Jersey City

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With the primary election days away, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Johnson spoke about community policing, school choice and statewide ethics reform during an appearance in Jersey City yesterday.

The event, which took place at the Claremont-Lafayette United Presbyterian Church, was organized by Jersey City Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden, who said it was important for voters to hear from a gubernatorial candidate besides Phil Murphy.

“When you’re looking at a candidate, and when you’re looking at and individual whose running for office, you’re not supposed to be so duped where you’re just, you just go right down the line,” said Gadsden.

“You have to pause for a minute and actually have to be educated enough on the issues that that candidate is addressing. Now, I don’t think Phil Murphy’s evil, but I do know that his background and the agenda that is set.”

Johnson, a former U.S. Treasury Department official and federal prosecutor, spoke about how to improve relationships between local police and the members of their community.

“Policies that envision law enforcement as warriors going into communities: that doesn’t work. It really hasn’t worked to make all of us safer. We moved to a point of guardianship, and some people talk about community policing, but community policing is a broad term,” he began.

“When I think about it, first, it’s the mindset. Alright? You change the mind, you change the man,” going on to explain that a guardianship mindset will make residents feel comfortable in telling police where hot spots are – ultimately making communities safer.

During a question and answer session with the crowd, Johnson said that investing in infrastructure would be key to creating jobs in this state.

When asked about his position on school choice, Johnson said he only supports charter schools in specific circumstances.

“My position is this: I am against vouchers, I’m not opposed to charter schools, but my preference is public schools. I’ve called for cause and expansion of charter schools and I’ve done it for two different reasons,” stated Johnson.

“One is that when charter schools were first proposed, they were viewed as a latter choice, an incubator of ideas that will be transferred over to the public school. That hasn’t happened very often,” though later added that charter schools are sometimes the only option.

Finally, addressing his top priorities if elected governor, Johnson emphasized hiring the most qualified personnel possible in his administration, as well as implementing statewide ethics reform – a topic he elaborated on with Hudson County View.

“In terms of ethics reform, I would want to bring transparency to government, much of which I can do with the signing of an executive order that would open up meetings, that would make sure there are very few, if none at all, no bid contracts that would bring the people into government by shining a light on government activities,” he said.

The underdog candidate also said he plans on legalizing marijuana to boost the economy and to ease the overcrowding in jails, as well as to take an in-depth look at prisoner re-entry and rehabilitation.

Johnson faces a tough matchup on Tuesday, where Murphy is a heavy favorite and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) and state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) are also among those seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.