I tossed a relatively gentle razz at my East Ward council hopefuls last week because none of them had been by, at least not while I was here. Since then, we've heard from three of them in some form or another: Joe Harrison, Dion Clark, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson. I appreciate that they're reading this, and want to touch base with me, especially since I'm the sole vote in the household — my husband is Canadian, and our son isn't even 2 yet.
Let me say up front, I'm not 100% decided yet. I'm sorry about that. But, I've been giving these three candidates a bit of my consideration, and I've been leaning toward Joe. It has nothing to do with skin color, though I know how it looks — the white chick supporting the white guy — but it's because he's really angry, and ready to shake things up, and city hall needs a good shaking. Also, he seems to me to be the most independent thinker of the group. If he's elected, my guess is that there will be far fewer "ayes" on every single resolution, and, if we're unlucky to encounter it again, the mayor's lame-brained late budgets and lawsuits against the citizens, and so forth. I'm tired of the same-old same old. It hasn't worked for the last 20 years.
But, there's still a few days to go, and maybe there's time to convince me otherwise. After all, I admire Dion's devotion to the city, and in particular, his neighborhood. Verlina is an excellent communicator, and her professional experience can help the city move forward. Who knows what other skills the other candidates have? It's friggin' late to hear their thoughts one-on-one, but it's only too late if the election has passed. I want to make the most informed decision I can possibly make, so I'm planning to go to Villa Park's candidate forum on Wednesday night, just in case the other three candidates can't make the rounds before the election.
Another reason why I'm not 100% committed to one candidate is today's news that 5 of the 6 East Ward candidates didn't even take the time to participate in FixTrenton's budget survey.* I hear it took less time to fill it out than one visit with a voter. This is really distressing to me because council hopefuls should want to build trust with their possible constituents, and their neighbors. I'm not a political expert, but it just seems to me that questionnaires like this make the whole process of campaigning easier. After all, a group of thoughtful, educated Trenton residents spent many hours developing the survey for the candidates. It seems insulting and condescending to not respect the work that went into developing the questionnaire, to not bother to take a few minutes to answer these questions. Simply taking the time to share in the process would have fostered some trust and dialogue between citizens and candidate. Isn't that what this whole season is about?
To play devil's advocate briefly, in the East, we have several neighborhoods that are so far gone, and the good neighborhoods are nowhere near as stable (or upscale) as ones in other wards. By and large, we're rougher and tougher, more down and out; some areas (like Walnut Avenue) will probably not improve any time soon just because we elect a councilperson with a solid grasp of finances. We have more quality of life issues, like break-ins and thefts and assaults and drug dealing** and those problems can take our focus away from the big picture. It's hard to see the effects of the governor's budget cuts when all the kids in your vicinity have dropped out of school anyway, and all the windows near you are boarded up. When there are scary knuckleheads just outside the window willing to kill you and your children if you even look like you might be talking to the police, does the thought of the unbalanced budget even enter your mind?
But those blighted areas will never improve if our elected officials don't start thinking about the whole picture, which includes a realistic approach to the allocation of money in this city. Everything is connected.
So, I'm wondering, if the FixTrenton budget committee has the time to process late-received questionnaires, will the 5 East Ward candidates fill it out before the election? My vote isn't 100% dependent on how well they score, as long as it's apparent they have strengths in other areas and are willing to work as a team on the fiscal mess in Trenton. But if these people can't make the time to participate in a grass-roots, citizen-led initiative, maybe they won't be too responsive if elected? We've had enough of that.
* Verlina Reynolds-Jackson is the only candidate in the East who took the time to fill out the questionnaire.
** Based on stats from TPD handed out at East Ward CPAC meetings.