Here’s why we enthusiastically endorse Kevin Norris for Mercer County Commissioner:
The “County Line” in primary election ballots: Being placed in a preferential ballot position unfairly benefits some candidates and disadvantages others. Recognizing the outsize influence of the “county line” primary election ballots on the outcomes of elections, and the considerable voter confusion that they cause, I will therefore advocate for an “Office Bloc” ballot as is used in every other state and in some counties in NJ (see http://ggcnj.org/resolution for more information).
Comment: The County Line is an inherently undemocratic and unfair process. New Jersey is the only state that utilizes that system for our primary ballots. Because of this, studies suggest those who get the County Line, start with a 35% advantage. A State incumbent with the line has not lost a primary election since 2009. A Congressional incumbent hasn’t lost with the line since the 1950s. This happens routinely in other states. Because of this system, a lot of our races go unopposed. The County Line effectively makes the primary useless and thus strips thousands of democratic registered voters of their voices. I feel the County Conventions are important, and the endorsement process should count for something, but it should not decide an election. If elected County Commissioner, I’d love to explore what could remedy this issue and help implement a more democratic process on a county level.
Contract Vetting: I will rigorously review all county contracts to make sure they reflect fiscal responsibility and the values of constituents.
Pay to Play: I will not exchange professional service contracts for donations to my campaign or the campaigns of my friends/allies. When possible, I will open contracts up for a competitive bidding process, instead of automatically renewing last year’s contract.
Ethics Reform: I support ethics reforms that would require broader disclosure of financial information (e.g., investments) by candidates for county commissioner, as a means for regulating campaigns and limiting corruption.
Professionalism: I will commit my time and energy to full length meetings that make information accessible to the public. I will not support rushing through an abbreviated consent agenda.
Meeting location and accessibility: I support using technology to make meeting attendance more accessible for residents, both publicly in person and via live-streaming of meetings (e.g., zoom) or other remote attendance options.
Comment: Utilizing technology to assist in public attendance is always important, especially as we are still in the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people are still not comfortable attending in-person meetings. Even without a pandemic, using technology, such as Zoom, as an option for people to attend will make it easier for people in our communities to more easily be participating constituents. For groups like the elderly or working-class families with children, attending in-person meetings at 6 pm might be difficult. Technology can help improve access for these people whose voices should not be excluded due to schedule issues or life circumstances.
Meeting Structure: I believe that county commissioners should hear from the public that they represent, and therefore I will not limit public comment beyond reasonable rules that make it possible for all who want to contribute, to do so (e.g., no more than 3 minutes per speaker). When possible, I will be responsive to public input.
Information reporting: I support easily accessible online meeting agendas and minutes. I support user-friendly budgets so residents can easily see how public funds are allocated. I support user friendly agendas that include explainers about resolutions being voted on.
Responsible County Administration & Oversight: I will work to ensure that the county entities and public services I oversee (such as libraries, parks, technical schools, community colleges, correction facilities, and infrastructure) are safe, professionally staffed, and appropriately funded.
Comment: Yes, this is the core responsibility of a County Commissioner. I also vow to make sure county services that should be centering and uplifting vulnerable communities are more robustly funded. Services such as Mercer Child Care Services, our Housing Office, our Homeless Services, and our Office on Aging are examples of areas I think we can prioritize more. I intend to pay these services more attention.
Appointments to Boards, Authorities and Commissions: I will appoint people with diverse perspectives to boards, authorities and committees, opening up government for greater participation, rather than selecting the well-connected. Because new ideas and voices are important, I will seek out new residents to fill these board positions and strive for diversity that represents constituents (e.g., in terms of gender and race), rather than having the same individuals serve for decades.
More information about Kevin Norris:
Date of Birth: 10/19/1989
Current Occupation: Public school teacher
Education: West Virginia University- History and Criminology BA 2012
Rutgers University- Secondary Education in Social Studies MEd 2014
Public/party service: I have been a public school Social Studies teacher for eight years in New Jersey. I was recognized as a Governor’s Educator of the Year Program winner in my district for the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to teaching, I instruct several after-school academic clubs and am a youth sports coach. In my free time, I am an activist and organizer with the local progressive group Our Revolution Trenton Mercer as its Membership Chair. In this capacity, I have helped organize events such as food drives, attendance at local Civil Rights marches, rallies in support of Congressional legislation, in addition to taking many other actions. I also served for one year on the East Windsor Economic Development Committee.