For many, it comes to no surprise that NCC students are committed to hard work and change for the community on and off campus. While there is no doubt that many of us can relate to such compliments, one student on campus stands out amongst many in an effort to seek new change for the City of Easton.
Taiba Sultana, a current part-time student at Northampton Community College, has decided to run for Mayor of Easton in hopes of providing a new direction for the community itself. Sultana currently lives on the South Side of Easton and is no amateur to the political spectrum in the Lehigh Valley. If elected, Taiba would be the first Female mayor ever in the City of Easton which has existed long before the American Revolution.
According to her website, she is the Vice-Chair of the Northampton Democratic Party and also a former business owner. She currently faces candidates such as the longtime incumbent Mayor Panto who’s seeking his sixth term in charge of the city of Easton.
Sultana is one of the most recent candidates on the ballot that voiced her support for a more progressive agenda, which has been given resonance since the 2016 Presidential election. According to her website, Sultana has worked over the past few years for greater change in Easton citing a desire to bring in “young people in[to] the political process”.
Some of Taiba’s other concerns, which she is advocating for, includes greater transparency in government spending and ethics, community policing, affordable housing, and equality for the residents of Easton, only to name a few issues. As a woman who immigrated from Pakistan, she finds a great connection with these concerns as she seeks to overcome some of the matters which the city currently faces.
With the recent tension concerning discrimination, which the nation has currently dealt with more over the past few years, Taiba is no exception to the criticism that revolves around her personal background. Many residents of Easton have questioned her candidacy on the premise of her religious beliefs and personal origins.
On the Easton, PA page on Facebook, many have used the platform to voice such criticism. One member questioned Sultana’s legitimacy as a candidate by stating, “It’s their language and behavior that is offensive to American Citizens”. The same individual later mentioned on the post from February 16 that she was concerned with Taiba Sultana’s candidacy because, “we’ve read in the newspapers what has been happening in Europe when Muslims take over!”.
One of the members disgruntledly commented, “oh boy an Islamic!” raising concern of Sultan’s effort to possibly implement Sharia Law. Finally, a different member commented, “ I know not all Muslims are terrorists but the majority are… while some of you accept Muslims into our government, I personally cannot and will not”.
While the discrimination of Mayoral candidate Taiba Sultana has reached a new low, far more individuals on the page were reluctant to reject the comments made by certain individuals. One member eloquently stated, “I wish her much success. And for the hate speech, hate has no home in this town, nor in this group”.
While for many the discrimination remains unacceptable, Taiba herself has made an effort to remain disenchanted by the comments made about her nationality and religion. After interviewing her and bringing up the comments, she remains untouched and continues to persevere her goals to become the next mayor of Easton. In an exclusive interview, NCC student Taiba Sultana talks about more about herself and her candidacy as Mayor of Easton.
First, I’d like to talk about the comments made on Facebook. What do you have to say about the discrimination that you have encountered while running for mayor? Do you have anything to say about those who condemn you for being a Female Muslim seeking to take a role in politics? Well, first let me start by saying that what is happening on Facebook is simply racism and discrimination, it’s nothing more than that. Unfortunately, racism is like a disease and it often has no cure, but we cannot stay silent about this. It’s a big issue here in the United States and around the world. Some politicians have made it easier for people to be racist too. It’s always been an issue, but there are some people in office that have given these people a voice. Just look at what happened in New Zealand, referring to the Christchurch Shooting, it’s a perfect example of White Supremacy. If you look at the shooter’s manifesto, he credits some of these politicians for his actions. Racism is a big issue and we can’t stay silent.
Many people may wonder why they should elect you as the next Mayor of Easton, what kind of political experience do you currently have that’ll help you in order to postulate yourself? Right now, I am currently the Vice-Chair of the Northampton Democratic Party, I am also a committee member of the Easton Democratic Committee where I was also elected to perform this role. I am also an activist, which is where I originally started my career in politics. I’ve also worked with many political campaigns over the past few years and I am also apart of several political action committees. One of them is ‘Emgage’ and the other is Popular Action Committee (PAK).
One of the more essential questions to ask is why exactly are you running to become the next mayor of Easton? What are your main concerns? First of all, I never imagined running for mayor, but I would quote Alexandria Ocasio Cortez when she said, “society does not accept working class families in political office”, which is true. They only accept the rich families; they think if she or he is a middle class person, then they can’t run for office. I experienced this back in 2017 when I ran for City Council. All of the party bosses and the ‘establishment’ tried to take me off the ballot. They took me to the courts and challenged me because they believed that I was misrepresenting my residency in Easton. I also believe that as a city we need to reflect on where we come from and where to go as we shape the future. I also am aware of the resources which the city has and I think we need to use those resources to shape the city as it has been neglected on certain aspects over the years. To achieve any progress, collaboration is also essential. We need to work with the people of our community to take on some of the issues that matter to us like affordable housing, the health of small businesses, civil engagement, and government accountability which is very important for me. Right now, there’s no transparency in our government. If you look at the budget, it’s vague on how we use our money. It’s expenses are only categorized under labels such as ‘revenue’, ‘expenses’, etc. Why don’t we know specifically on where that money is being utilized as taxpayers? I’ve looked at all of our budgets and there’s nothing to hold political officers accountable for. Other factors like the health and safety of our community matters and all of these demands require efforts. But I am here, ready to dedicate all of my effort to help deal with these issues.
I want to touch back on something that you mentioned before which was about the safety of the City of Easton. What are some of your personal observations about what needs to be done make it a safer city? That’s an excellent question. One of my many concerns is policing. I believe that there are certain issues where community policing is needed for the people. Our police do a good job, but we need to be careful about the possibility of an overreach from authorities. Community policing helps create contact with local residents where someone can report the issues which they face to someone that cares and then, the community can find a way to deal with these issues. For example, for certain issues in the community, we should communicate these matters and find resolutions rather than sending anyone into prison only because of the color of their skin or because they were carrying a small amount of marijuana.
Does that mean that you’d be in favor of decriminalizing marijuana in Easton? I do believe that we need to fix this. It should be legal for someone to carry a small amount of marijuana, whether they carry a medical ID or not. Furthermore, I think for other offenses, we should reduce the punishment for breaking these laws. According to many statistics, the Lehigh Valley’s arrest for marijuana charges are higher than many other states as well as the state average here in Pennsylvania. There should be no reason why many of these charges should end up in an arrest.
You’ve mentioned before that you dislike the fact that Mayor is currently looking for his fourth consecutive term in office and his overall sixth term. With that being said, do you believe that we need term limits? “If you check my website, I mention that the first thing that I am going to do is set the term limit to no more than two terms in office. Elected officials should not make of this a career. That’s why elected officials often do not work for the people because instead, they want to be in office forever where they hold on to their power.”
Do you have any other goals as mayor? “Of course I have other goals. One which comes to mind is to help tenants by giving them a stronger voice and engagement in the city, where they are often forgotten. Senior citizens are also facing issues with transportation and other struggles which they cannot find resolutions to. I’d like to also see a city where immigrants are valued and can meaningfully help to engage in the political process by giving them a voice. Finally, we need to address the issue of affordable housing and as you can see, the price of rent has raised exponentially over the past years. It becomes harder for longtime residents to often afford these prices, and we are not doing enough to ensure that they can have a place to live in Easton rather than kicking them out.”
As a student here at NCC, do you think that the college has provided with anything that might help you as mayor? And furthermore, have you received any support from anyone on campus? “I’ll admit that as a part time student, the education I’m getting here is helping me shape my knowledge and personality. I also must acknowledge that many of the faculty members, especially my professors, have commented to my candidacy and have showed me great support which is nice to have. I’ve had one professor come to me and ask if there’s any help I need with my election and I’m flattered that many faculty members are willing to help out their students.”
Any other final comments that you’d like to make, especially to the young students of NCC? “My final comment, which is dedicated especially to the students and younger adults here on campus. “I want to make it clear that leadership is not a matter of mind, but a matter of heart. When you are able to feel the pain of your people, then you are able to diagnose it and then treat it. My personal hope also for the future is to see more young people behind a podium, speaking up, and running for office with passion.” We need balance and the younger people of America need to speak and make themselves heard in order to find justice.”