I live in the East Ward, and therefore, my opinions on the goings on of the South Ward may seem irrelevant. No matter. I'm going to offer them anyway: there are only three serious contenders for the council seat vacated by Jim Coston.
In the world outside of Trenton, Paul Harris would not be a serious contender for the open council seat in his ward, but this IS Trenton, where things do not always, or often, make sense. He's received some important endorsements, and to his credit, Paul has an ability to communicate well, and I admire his persistence. He is clearly the most interesting and complicated candidate, which — I'll say this up front — is by no means an endorsement, even if I use more words and space to explain him.
A few weeks ago, someone — not Carlos Avila, who is running against Paul Harris for the open council seat — logged onto the Trentonian's comment section on their website, posed as Carlos Avila, and made some racist comments. Oddly, The Trentonian, considering the plethora of shockingly depraved comments that go unchecked every day, traced the IP address. It was discovered that the comments made by El Carlos Falso came from Paul Harris's computer. Paul quickly blamed his campaign worker, much the same way Ashley Simpson did a jig and blamed her band after her botched Saturday Night Live performance a few years ago. Of course, I think Paul's story — like Ashley's — is fishy. Campaign worker? Who was immediately dismissed? My ASS. I'm not terribly surprised, because Paul has also engaged in questionable antics on the TrentonSpeaks website, namely, posting, and then deleting, a load of inflammatory commentary he posted himself.
I'm not dismissing Paul's — err, his campaign worker's — behavior, because posing as your rival and posting racist comments is pretty deplorable, but I can't get totally lathered up about this, because the comment section of the Trentonian's website is a total cesspool of racism, sexism, and pure, undirected hatred, with the bulk of the regulars having, at most, a second grade education. Whoever thought the comment section of any online news outlet would be an area of intelligent debate must be bitterly disappointed, because no one with half a brain could take anything said on any of those sites seriously, and remember, we're talking about the Trentonian. I mean, this is the same paper with the hate-filled "Back Talk" column, the Page Six Whore, and (in my opinion) a racist, albeit award-winning columnist. Besides, there are probably 100 people a day who should be arrested for what they write on the Trentonian's site, with people posing as other people ALL THE DAMN TIME, because of the free-for-all way the geniuses at The Trentonian decided to run their comment section. Frankly, it makes no sense to me they'd trace the IP address of some obviously idiotic political comments, when there's probably not a single registered voter (or anyone else) who takes that drivel seriously. Still, shame on Paul.
If I put this incident aside, which is difficult, I see an underdog — a newcomer who rents — who seems to care about the city's biggest problems. He seems absolutely intolerant of crime and quality of life issues, and that impresses me. He's intelligent, well-spoken, and also immature, kind of emotionally disengaged from the other humans, and completely in love with his own reflection (make sure you get your collar up perfectly, Paul).
Paul Harris and council president Paul Pintella have a contentious history. Despite this, I see Harris as part of the same-old, same-old crew, which Pintella belongs to, too. He's too easily wooed by those with power and money, and that's just kinda yucky.
Despite all of this, if Paul wins, I wouldn't be THAT upset. After all, the position is for just for a few months. Maybe, he'll prove me wrong, which would be ideal. But mostly, if Paul wins, I'm hoping for some epic feuds between him and the Idiot Prince Pintella. If that's not a reason to attend council meetings regularly, I don't know what is.
In American congressional history, 7 women in the Senate and 35 in the House have assumed their seats through the deaths of their husbands. This trend is called the Widow's Mandate, and has also occurred in other areas of politics. But what happens if the politician is only dead to us, and is moving, along with his living wife, to Waco, Texas, and the intended successor is a dude? Well, then, Carlos Avila is appointed to finish the term! At least, that's what could have happened in the South Ward had The People not freaked the hell out. An appointment is less than ideal, but historically, those appointed to the unexpired term do no harm, since presumably, they share attitudes and philosophies with the elected-but-now-gone. I don't see it as an affront to American democracy, even if the practice of an appointment is a bit old-fashioned. It doesn't bother me one bit that Jim Coston, prior to his departure, wanted Carlos to finish the last few months of his term; it IS just a few months, after all; and while it boggles my mind that Coston couldn't have just hung on until May, what's done is done. Jim, one of the only members of council with a consistent backbone and brain, trusted Carlos enough to suggest he continue his good work, and maybe it's stupid or unamerican for me to admit this, but the Widow's Mandate-style appointment of Carlos really was good enough for me. But now that there's an election looming, and I've had a chance to get to know a bit more about Carlos, I still can't complain. He is young, and maybe naïve, and his expectations might be a bit off-base for what the position actually entails, I do think he's more than capable of finishing Coston's term and serving his ward effectively. This will allow him to find his own footing so that he could run for a full term in the near future. This is a great opportunity for Carlos, and it could be good for the South Ward, as well.
If one of the two guys above wins the South Ward seat, honestly, I can't be too upset because I think The Paul Show will be "must-see," and I think Carlos will do his very best. And the position is just for a few months. And I don't live in the South Ward, anyway. There's another election in May, so if whoever wins blows it — or not! — we will have to endure all of this crap again (thanks, Jim!). In the best case scenario, it makes the most sense to get someone in that seat who knows the ropes, who isn't full of ego, or horseshit, to help get this city back on track, and right away, because Trenton is a disaster, thanks to years of mismanagement and neglect. Pat Stewart, a long-time resident of the city, successful career woman, and community activist, has the right blend of experience, toughness, insight, and love of Trenton, to finish out Coston's term, and hopefully, she can go on to win a full-term seat of her own in May. She isn't a politician, yet her years of attending council meetings and appointments on various boards have taught her how the system works. She often does not agree with the Powers-That-Be, but she seems to have a good working relationship with that entity, and everyone else in the city. She's able to do that without making the mistake of trying to please everyone: she's simply respectful and dignified. If you have a question about Trenton, Pat can either answer it or direct you to the person who can. She has the smarts to know the important issues facing Trenton and her ward, and the ability to get us back on track. I love her no bullshit attitude, and the fact that she's willing and capable of putting aside her own opinions to better represent the whole. She is not running to launch a career in politics: she has seen what those sorts of people have done to the city, and I hope she can clean up their mess.
An aside, but an important one: Pat lost her husband too soon, forcing her to raise her son in Trenton alone. Not only has Pat been able to manage single motherhood and a career in city where many can't handle just one of those things, she excelled at it. And her success in raising her son is an inspiration to me, as a mother of a little boy in a tough city, myself. Nick has grown into a fine man, and it's because Pat has her head on straight, and is able to navigate through adversity. Her ability to prioritize shows that she's more than capable of holding a council seat to help our city through this adverse period. Besides, Pat Stewart knows the mayor, but if her son, Nick, were pulled over by the police, I'd bet good money he wouldn't call his mom at the scene to bail him out, and I'd bet even more, she wouldn't show up and berate the officers. And, that's the way it should be.
Trenton needs Pat Stewart.