Mercer County Commissioner Candidates Argue For More Arts and Unity, Post-Covid

Republican candidates for Mercer County Commissioner – Joseph Stillwell, Volodymyr Machevus, Michel Hurtado, are challenging their county’s current Commissioner Board on their lack of action regarding budgeting, arts and building unity throughout New Jersey’s capital county.

Candidates Stillwell, Machevus and Hurtado stated the following:

“The United States is known as the land of opportunity across the world and is renowned for opening its doors to the world’s best and brightest. Mercer County, NJ is no different and it is one of New Jersey’s most diverse counties. From the large, family-oriented Italian American festival in Mercer County Park to the popular, edgy Art All Night event in Trenton, great public events such as have helped us celebrate the unique diversity and talents that we have in Mercer County.

However, there is a current lack of leadership and vision when it comes to the promotion of current cultural events and the creation of new ones for our county. As we continue our fight against Covid-19, a new beginning must come – one in which we better highlight and market our county’s unique diversity while creating new growth opportunities via our arts community. Right now, our current Board of Commissioners is not doing enough to make that happen. That is why change is so necessary.

Our current Mercer County Board of Commissioners should act as a check on the County Administration when it comes to its budget and how money is appropriated and prioritized. A perfect example of their lack of action is Mercer County’s purchase of Hopewell Valley Golf and Country Club for $1.9 million dollars last year – a project which will benefit very few residents and that is currently requiring a massive amount of repair expenditures that we do not have. If that money was instead earmarked for arts programming development, cultural events and training programs for budding graphic and digital entrepreneurs – we would have invested in much of Mercer County’s youth and its future. Promotion of arts and culture is not an issue mired in controversy, but it is an issue mired in a lack of support and vision from our current Board of Commissioners.

Mercer County’s government should more strongly highlight the importance of our cultural diversity by exploring new ways to draw attention to our growing ethnic populations such as our fast-growing South Asian and Eastern European communities. By promoting cultural diversity through art, festivals, concerts, etc., our various municipalities allow themselves the opportunity to connect with one another, learn about each other’s culture, and demonstrably reveal the unity that our collective neighborhoods and towns have. This is exactly the kind of unity that helps us get through such an unfortunate time as the pandemic. As this past year or so has shown us so well, we really are all in the same boat and must stick together in good and bad times. However, that type of cohesion comes only from continual social connection and shared experiences. This could be done by creating an expansive, new cultural experience with an inclusive county festival of all ethnicities sponsored at Mercer County Park.

In Mercer County’s post-Covid return to normalcy, we must forge a new path which encourages us to celebrate our county’s cultural richness – which was already needing to be expanded upon. Art All Night was a prime example of the general community coming together, as in some years up to 30,000 attendees celebrated what our county’s artists have to offer. This event was and is a shining example of how we must find new avenues to build up Mercer as New Jersey’s capital county of art.

In addition, for years the Italian American Festival has been hosted in Mercer and our government should never create circumstances for that great institutions to ever want to leave our county. Mercer County’s government is an entity that affects each of our lives and having it instill new arts programs would create tangible results with real community investments.

As County Commissioner candidates, we strongly suggest that a public-private partnership must be made which would provide grants to attract more artists and entertainment companies to Mercer. Unlike arts and entertainment projects like the long ago-failed Manex Entertainment complex, smaller startups are the better way to go. Our county government should focus on creating more opportunities to learn about the new cultures that are becoming a bigger part of Mercer County.

Mercer County, along with thousands of counties across the country, is on a long-term path of easing itself back into a renewed sense of normalcy. This does not mean we should just settle for what existed before Covid-19. There is so much untapped potential in Mercer County, we cannot even genuinely estimate it. What we can do is create and foster an environment where that potential flourishes. From its people to its leaders, Mercer County can become a cultural hub of New Jersey and an example to the nation.

As candidates for County Commissioner and Mercer County residents, we will always make promotion and expansion of arts and culture a priority for Mercer County. New thinking, a positive attitude and a full embrace of change comes to the Mercer County Board of Commissioners. Mercer County has a rendezvous with destiny and as President Kennedy said long ago, “the poet and the politician have this in common: their greatness depends on the courage with which they face the challenge of life.” We are ready for this challenge and to lead in Mercer County.”

– Joseph Stillwell, Volodymyr Machevus and Michel Hurtado are Republican candidates for Mercer County Commissioner on the “Mercer Republicans United” slate in column E for the June 8th Primary. Please visit www.SMHForMercer.com to learn more information about their Republican County Commissioners campaign.

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