► Hossein Zolfaghari (Independent)
Hossein Zolfaghari is a candidate for Montgomery Township Committee. He is a student, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marine biology with a minor in Spanish at Rutgers University. He lives with parents, Ali and Shabnam, and his sister Hadieh.
Why run as an Independent?
I am running as an Independent candidate because I believe the township committee should be focused on the issues in our community. Using political party labels unnecessarily over complicates our local government and takes the attention away from our community goals.
Political party leaders use pressure to influence the decisions of elected officials. There is an example of this behavior in our own township committee.
Following the 2019 election, upon hearing one of the Democrat committee members would not be voting yes for the current mayor, that representative was told by the Montgomery Democratic Party leadership that she must vote “yes” or not even show up to the rearrangement meeting.
This sort of pressure on our elected officials is dangerous for representative democracy. As an Independent representative that has no ties to the major parties, I will be free to make decisions in the best interests of Montgomery and our community.
There are also large inconsistencies of political party values between the local, state, and national levels. For example, in Montgomery, in the past decade, Republican-led township committees have preserved significantly more open space than their Democrat counterparts.
This is opposite of the values of the two parties at the national level.
As an Independent, I intend to represent solely the views and needs of my constituents: the people of Montgomery township.
What are the three top issues in Montgomery Township?
1. Environmental Protection.
A huge issue that must be addressed immediately is the elimination of plastic bags in Montgomery. Over 30 other New Jersey towns have established laws regarding plastic bag regulation and Montgomery is still far behind. I will also work to reduce single use plastics and significantly limit harmful pesticides and quarry runoff that end up in our waterways and private properties. It’s our responsibility to work with residents and local businesses towards a more environmentally conscious Montgomery and a healthier environment from which everyone can benefit.
2. Environmental Education.
My plan is to create an organic community garden in Skillman Park. The community garden will give students, senior citizens, residents without adequate space or deer-proofing, and any other Montgomery residents the opportunity to learn about organic gardening and grow their own produce with access to necessary equipment and compost. The garden would promote community interactions and outdoor recreation as well as create volunteer opportunities for students. Nearby schools would also be able to use the community garden as a unique educational destination.
3. Environmental Preservation
Open space preservation and keeping our local ecosystem healthy is a big priority. This includes developing a more effective plan to manage the excessive deer population that is a hazard to drivers and detrimental for our native forests. By preserving more open space and reforesting these areas, we can seriously improve the health of our local environment while reducing our township carbon footprint.
Why are you running for township committee?
I want the privilege to serve my community. I care for Montgomery and the wonderful people who live here and I want to step up and represent our greatest values.
Secondly, the current elected leaders are not fully representing our biggest concerns as a community, the most important being environmental protection and preservation.
What do you love most about Montgomery?
I love the pride the community has for our town. We have a great school system, beautiful parks and preserved lands, and a diverse, multicultural community. Our residents care about our town. We come together to help each other and reach our goals. It’s our community’s passion for taking care of and improving Montgomery that inspires me.
Why vote for you?
I am a young, passionate candidate who grew up in Montgomery and cares deeply about our town. My science background allows me to fight for the environmental values that so many of our community members share but go largely unrepresented. Currently, our township committee is composed of five representatives of similar age and profession. My fresh perspectives will allow for a more well-rounded township committee that more accurately represents our community goals. ■