2 Perth Amboy Council Members Decide Not To Run

PERTH AMBOY — Two City Council members will be sitting out the election rather than putting their names back on the ballot.

Kenneth Balut and Fernando Gonzalez will not be seeking second terms while their 2008 running mate, Mayor Wilda Diaz, seems blissfully ignorant of her own shortcomings as she prepares to face a raft of opposition in the upcoming election.

Gonzalez, the city’s first Latino elected official, is leaving the City Council at the end of his 36th year of public service. Balut, who retired from the Police Department prior to his election, says he accomplished his principle goal when his team ousted former Mayor Joe Vas.

At least six challengers have come forward to fill the gaping leadership void created by Diaz, who possibly remains naïve enough not to know there is one.
Although a recent poll showed that a majority of the city’s voters would rather keep Diaz than bring back Vas, fully 26 percent said they would prefer to restore the convicted criminal to power and another 16 percent of those responding were unsure.

Diaz raised taxes four times in as many years while her assessor handed out seemingly arbitrary reductions to homeowners that cut some tax bills by seven to 15 percent, while leaving other taxpayers on the hook for levies based on two or three times as much as their property is worth.

She endorsed Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s scheme to strangle local government services and his plan to abolish the state’s affordable housing program, which was established after civil rights groups prevailed in a long legal battle ultimately settled by the state Supreme Court.

Balut spent 25 years as a Perth Amboy police officer before being elected to the City Council in 2008. He earned a service commendation for apprehending a gunman in the act of committing armed robbery, and led the Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 13 for eight years.

As a school board member, Gonzalez led efforts to bring bilingual education into the public schools in the 1970s. He also helped the Education Law Center bring several cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court, which ultimately resulted in the Abbott decision that greatly expanded state funding for New Jersey’s poorest school districts. Gonzalez also served as chairman of the Perth Amboy Housing Authority.

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