Mayoral Candidate Lewis Spears: Jersey City’s Unexpected Contender

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Lewis Spears, a Jersey City native. Photo from spearsforjerseycity.com.

Nicholas Felix, Features Editor

Mayor Steven M. Fulop is pursuing his third mayoral term, but his opponent, Lewis Spears, has answered the people’s call for change. In my perspective, Fulop has failed the city as a leader. In my opinion, he has used the city too often as a platform to boost his chances for higher political opportunities. I feel like he cares more about the wealthier areas of the city than those that are struggling.

I don’t live in Jersey City, but I go to school here and I care about the city’s future. That’s why I’m supporting Spears for mayor. Researching and interviewing Spears showed me he genuinely cares for the community. For example, he talks about issues like affordable housing.

Spears launched his campaign in May, yet in that short time, he has solidified himself as a legitimate contender in the mayoral race. Through his empathy, charismatic demeanor, and support from the people who believe in him, it has made him a sturdy competitor.

Spears has the educational experience to carry himself in this election; with pedagogy, policymaking training from Rutgers, Harvard, and an Urban Studies degree from NJCU. He has also gained good experience as a youth administrator. It’s clear that Spears is well versed in people skills and organizational leadership. A testament to his devotion to the future of children is his nonprofit organization “Kismet Kings,” an educational support program that offers tutoring and mentorships to young adults in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The linchpin to Spears campaign is his initiative known as the Safety, Training & Education, Accessibility & Affordability, and Yours (STAY) policy. To summarize this plan, it’s a proactive community-based approach to bringing together people of all classes and ages in decision-making where no voice is left unheard.

An effective leader needs more than just resources and good education, they need to be transparent in order to maintain the people’s support and trust. Without transparency, confusion spreads, then doubt, and soon leadership is questioned. Once these factors come together, the community soon recognizes that changes are needed. Right now, that change is new leadership in Jersey City.

Fulop may have earned his two terms, but his work has only been focused on the wealthier class while neglecting the working and lower-waged classes.

So far, the top four problems Fulop has yet to fully address:
• Issues facing the local school distict
• taxes
• high rents
• over development of real estate

These issues are all weighing on longtime residents and have made it more difficult for some new residents. Maybe it’s time for a new leader. Lewis Spears for born and raised in Jersey City and he’s here to stay and be one with the community.

Interview

During a recent interview with Spears, I asked him what his top priorities will be if he wins the election.

Spears’ general concern is that people’s voices are heard. He said he will focus on infrastructure, especially gentrification. The gentrification process is basically developers (often with the help of city government) remodeling neighborhoods, especially in lower-income areas, and hiking up the prices. He also wants to improve overall safety in the city and increase training and education for first responders.

I also asked Spears how he will tackle the social and economic effects on the city as the pandemic continues.

Spears said, “The pandemic has exposed a lot of injustices in our society today.” He explained those injustices as the number of independent businesses that were forced to close, the fact that there is not enough access to healthcare, that schools have been struggling to assist their students, and that some people lost their homes from the loss of jobs. Spears plans to intensify care for the community and be sure no one is left out. He is strongly focused on the people’s collective perspectives, which will make the city stronger.

The next question I asked him was why he decided to run for mayor and if there were things that he felt the current mayor wasn’t delivering.

He said Fulop should have been more open and transparent with the community but wasn’t. Fulop has let overdevelopment run unchecked throughout the city, which has increased the prices of surrounding neighborhoods. He said, “Current residents are already struggling.” Spears also said that it seems Fulop been on the side of the rich rather than the people who don’t need another Starbucks.

I asked Spears how he would help this city’s school system, including NJCU since Spears is an alumnus of the university.

Spears said he wants to support shared services among schools. Bringing together the collaborative resources of school security, public works, community organizations and to create smooth partnerships. Spears said that since NJCU is a state school, it is out of the jurisdiction of the mayor, but he can still give it support. As a fellow NJCU student, he’s a strong believer in fair-quality education and said that young people deserve the chance to experience those advantages NJCU can deliver on.

I followed this up by asking Spears how he would change Jersey City to feel more inclusive.

Spears explained that Jersey City is one of the most beautiful cities, the second most diverse in the country. Spears plans to make Jersey City the topmost diverse and beneficial for all citizens of every ethnicity and class. This comes back to fixing this city’s infrastructure, enhancing educational resources, and support services such as tutoring. In addition to ensuring city streets and parks are fixed up, and safe to walk through at any time.

The last question I asked Spears was how he will help current residents struggling with high amounts of taxes, rent, and mortgages.

Spears gave three solutions he has for this issue. He said, “To include Affordable housing zones, 20 percent incomes to lower the current amounts with the help of NACA which is Neighborhoods Assistance Corporation of America.” Next is to implement rent-to-own programs which eases residents’ struggles to afford good homes no matter where they are in the city. The final initiative is the Workforce Grants for hardworking citizens who are responsible in protecting the future and wellbeing of our city.

A city doesn’t have to be expensive to be a good place to live and you don’t have to be rich to make a change in society. I support Spears because he exemplifies community solidarity, passion, and equality for Jersey City as a whole community.