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Linden is one of those places, and, yes, Edison’s another, and maybe Trenton, and perhaps Philllipsburg, by the looks of it, and Dover, and Elmwood Park, and okay, yes, presumably Paterson, where if you blink you can get your head blown off politically. There are others, but Linden certainly stands out, which Councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby – a salon owner and hair stylist turned bareknuckle local politics brawler – notes in her new book due out this month.
The title – Plantation Politics – doesn’t exactly suggest an enlightened condition on the ground over there in the Union County town, infamously divided between Mayor Derek Armstead and state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22).
So how does it all add up for Cosby?
“My view about local politics is that nobody should be blindlingly loyal,” the 5th Ward Councilwoman – reelected last month to a fourth term – told InsiderNJ. “There could be temporary alliances based on their interests, but that’s about it.”
Really that rosy?
“It’s all a game,” Cosby said of politics. “Politics is more power struggling than progress.”
The trick is to stay focused on the goal, she said, which is serving the interests of the people who installed her, and maintaining a certain pragmaticism about the business.
“All politicians are not corrupt,” she said. “I don’t trust anyone and I stay focused on my goal. Our job is to provide oversight with the management we have. Not all people are political but politics is a necessary evil. People take for granted what’s popular as opposed to what’s true.”
And though she acknowledges that “I might look crazy” advocating for certain public positions, “I go by what the facts are.”
The town is a political wazone defined by the massive political minefields of Scutari and Armstead. Cosby said she has learned how to tread within the wheelhouses of those two personages. “They wanted an investigation against Scutari and I voted no because I didn’t think they [the mayor’s local allies] were qualified to undertake such an investigation,” she said. “They wanted to send it to real authorities and I voted yes on that.
“I try to stay neutral,” she added, “and I try to vote on what I know.”
Still, even in the best of circumstances, political shackles inevitably intrude on the terrain.
“We have plantation politics in Linden,” Cosby said. “Everybody can’t be powerful.”
What about at the state level?
She’s not sufficiently wired in there to have an opinion, she said, although she backed Phil Murphy for governor and later ran into him and said he failed to recognize her. “I campaigned for him and once he got elected he forgot what I looked like,” said the councilwoman, who had tried asking him about a hair stylist enforcement board appointment.
After losing a mayoral bid last year to Armstead, she thought about retiring from the council.
“I have an ego but I’m not an egomaniac,” said the councilwoman.
But mulling it over as she wrote Plantation Politics, she decided to keep going.
“At the end, follow your calling,” Cosby said. “Leaders have to give people a reason to rally around. We don’t have too many leaders at the local level. We have everybody wants to be in charge, and although I’m disruptive, I’m more of a servant type.”
Cosby has a formal book launch for her book planned in Elizabeth on Dec. 12th. She has a scheduled Dec. 14th reception at the Linden Public Library from 10 a.m. to noon. The book costs $20 at the event or $15 plus postage and handling and can be obtained by contacting Cosby at firstname.lastname@example.org.