I was critical of Kesner Dufresne, one of the candidates vying for the East Ward council seat, last week after the Villa Park candidates' forum. Kesner reached out to me, and we had a friendly exchange. The reason why I was so critical after the candidates forum is because Kesner walked around while other candidates spoke. Despite that, I think Kesner's financial background and compassion make him an attractive option for council. I haven't definitively made up my mind about the election yet, but Kesner is a great speaker and full of ideas for the city, and because his abilities might just outweigh any of his weaknesses (which perhaps were just a one time deal at the forum last week, I hope), I wanted to give him a chance to rebut what I wrote about him and/or elaborate on some of his ideas for the city. So, bear with me; I've never done this before. The following is a guest piece from Kesner Dufresne:
As a homeowner and business owner in Trenton, I share many views with my neighbors as to why the city remains in its current condition. With any organization or entity that unsuccessfully fulfills its obligations, leadership must be held accountable. As a Certified Financial Planner, I help my clients plan for their future. I believe my skill set and experience makes me the best candidate to lead Trenton, specifically the East Ward, into the future.
I currently serve as Commissioner of Trenton Housing Authority and I am a dedicated member of the following organizations: Mercer County Community College Foundation, Trenton Kappa Foundation, Trenton Fortitude Corporation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters Mercer County, Trenton Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. I have a degree in economics from Seton Hall University and certification in financial planning and financial consulting from The American College.
As your candidate for East Ward Council, I offer the following solutions as a start to address the city’s needs:
I support a wage tax of 2% for non-residents. The revenue generated from this tax on roughly 30,000 employees that enter Trenton for work could potentially create a $30-40 million new revenue stream annually. In conjunction, I would support a parking tax which could generate an additional $10-15 million annually. I am in favor of eliminating or putting a stay on overtime which would generate substantial savings in the range of $5-10 million annually.
Specific steps the city council should take to increase revenues and reduce expenditures include an analysis that reduces duplication of services, reduction/elimination of non-core (non-essential) functions, attracting/growing industry, promoting entrepreneurship through incentives, increasing the balance sheet through municipal financing, strengthening business associations and fostering a pro-business environment where appropriate that draws corporate investment and create employment for Trenton residents.
I also believe a need to promote the arts. This will require an assessment of existing partnerships with societies and organizations that promote the arts in our city and discussing their needs and how the city can support their initiatives. I also believe building partnerships with the various ethnic groups and their respective organizations to promote an environment that allows them to celebrate their cultures in a way that enriches the entire city (i.e. festivals, parades and other programs). I am in favor of identifying and strengthening an arts’ district that attracts not just local interest but foreign interest in the form of grants and tourism.
I believe in planning for the long term and short term needs of the city of Trenton with appropriate analysis that produces responsible action and practices that improves the city’s finances. I will also look to other cities for ideas on how to balance the budget. We can ill afford irresponsible and hasty decision making in this area.
In creating more revenues to support the enforcement of city’s housing code, I would support an increase in occupancy fees for absentee landlords.
Without placing blame on any department’s effectiveness and acting within the role of legislator or policy maker, I would advocate, with the cooperation of fellow council members, a fair process of evaluation and accountability that calls all departments to maintain high standards of care in maintaining the welfare of the city.
As a council member, I would work with fellow council members and civic associations (i.e. TCCA, et al) that represent the respective neighborhoods to identify any problems with absentee landlords and neglected buildings; in addition, we would work on increasing budget allocations to support these community organizations that would proactively meet the needs of their respective neighborhoods.
Trenton is one of the largest “landlords” with many abandoned, condemned or vacant properties. I would work with fellow members on council to set and enforce standards for maintaining these properties and bringing them to market so that neighborhoods improve their value and flourish. We must lead by example the standards in which we would apply to absentee landlords
As a council member, I would work with fellow members of council, department of police and mayor’s office to improve partnerships with state troopers and neighboring towns in sharing resources that will help protect our neighborhoods. I would work with council and mayor’s office to improve residency requirements that better align police and firefighters with the interest of neighbors they are called to protect.
I would work with fellow council members and civic associations (i.e. TCCA, et al) that represent the respective neighborhoods in the media to identify solutions to address crime prevention. I support volunteer associations (i.e. Neighborhood Watch Program, volunteer rescue squad, etc.) that would assist in this regard. I would look to foster partnerships with organizations (i.e. non-profit organizations, churches, fraternities, sororities, corporations, etc.) to provide more community centers to keep children engaged and off the streets after school.
In protecting our neighborhoods, all stakeholders must engage in the process that strengthens our communication, builds unity and aggressively deal with those who would seek to threaten the safety of our community.
In summary, upon getting elected, my goals for the East Ward would include creating more community centers for our youth, vocation programs for our students, job creation, and a stronger business community. I believe in Trenton’s potential. As evidenced by my community involvement, I am committed to serve the East Ward as its next councilman.
If you believe as I do that it’s time for change, please vote line #3 for Kesner Dufresne for East Ward council Tuesday May 11, 2010 as your candidate for change!
Thank you and God bless Trenton.
— Kesner Dufresne