On Sunday, the doorbell rang; I was trying to get Matty down for a nap, so Glen answered the door. It was Dion Clark, hoping to talk to me about the upcoming municipal election and his desire to be my East Ward representative. Matthew needed me at that time, so Glen, who happened to be in his underwear*, spoke with Dion for a few minutes. Dion started off by handing Glen a letter of endorsement from outgoing East Ward councilman, Gino Melone**, and Glen said, "That's worthless, even as toilet paper." And it promptly wound up in our compost pile with the banana skins and coffee grinds, so that the tree that produced the paper did not die in vain.
I'm not entirely sure, since I was upstairs with the baby, but I think this put off Dion, and he did not come back, even after I sent him a message asking him if we could arrange to talk. I'm sorry for that.
All was not lost, though. The Villa Park Civic Association held a candidates' forum tonight, and Dion was there, so I could hear his answers to the most important questions facing the East Ward. I will give him this: he had one of the best lines of the evening. When asked what the city could do for Trenton's youth, he said, "The city HAS served the youth. The parents need to start serving the youth." He said when he was a kid, he played ball and cards when he was bored. Today, he said, when kids are bored, they go out and rob people.
I was impressed with this answer partially because I was a nerdy, uncoordinated kid who came from a somewhat dysfunctional home. I didn't need a community center. I had books and writing/drawing implements, and cards and TV like every kid has, and I never once assaulted anyone. So, I hate the idea of more clubs and centers for kids, because it's a really superficial answer to a very complex problem. If anything, we need to do more for the parents. Often, teenaged parents. And the "doing" part of this might simply be communicating more effectively. There are programs in place already. For instance, I take Matthew to a (free) music class at St. Francis, where they also offer a boatload of other (free) classes, including a (free) parenting class. So, it's probably a matter of finding out what's already out there, and finding a way to communicate it better, and, more importantly, encouraging people to participate. I have thoughts on that, but I'll save it for some other time.
The other four candidates, Joe Harrison, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Kesner DuFresne, and Errick Wiggins all mentioned building more centers for the kids as a solution to the problems in the city, and in that way, I think they fell down. But hang in there. They made up for it in other areas. Sort of. And, Dion's position on family was really the only thing he said that resonated with me.
I know Dion's passionate about the city, and I really appreciate that. He's smart and committed. But he also refused to answer whether or not he supported the sale of the Trenton Water Works, and he was confrontational with the audience on a couple of occasions, accusing us of not being dedicated because we don't go to city council meetings, and because many people in the room may have voted for the previous regime. Hello, Dion, are you trying to win us over? Many of us can't go to council meetings because we work, or because we're raising small children, or maybe it's just not our bag, and that's okay. Yep, I believe in individual responsibility. And, sure, it is good to be involved. But we elect representatives to represent us at those meetings because we all can't be there. And, by the way, most municipalities have local cable coverage of their meetings, which Trenton has refused; and they also have real reporters covering the meetings so citizens can stay informed. That's how it works in the real world. Maybe someday Trenton will get to that point.
I'm going to continue to focus on the negative. Errick Wiggins. I know it takes an enormous amount of heart and energy to run a campaign. I think he's dedicated, and would really work for the residents in the East Ward. He'd be willing to get his hands dirty, and I really, really like that in a public servant. He's a good person. But his opening sentence contained a double negative, and then several large words that were strung together in a way that didn't make much sense. I want my representative to be able to speak and write well, since there's a lot of speaking and writing involved with an elected position. Sure, everyone slips up here and there, especially when nervous, or under pressure, or on a deadline; and I'm not so uptight to be blind to the power of a double negative or slang like "ain't" when used to emphasize a point or to rally people. But that wasn't the case. I'm pretty sure his language skills are below average. Also, on several occasions, he didn't answer the question, but basically said, "What Verlina said." Or, "What Kesner said." I'm summarizing, but that was the gist. I hate myself for saying that. I'm such a snob. I'm sorry. On the plus side, he's against the sale of any part of the Trenton Water Works. He said, "Water is life," and then something about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and then something about hip hop music. I tried really hard to follow that line of thinking, but couldn't. Again, my apologies, especially if he's reading this.
On to Kesner Dufesne. By far, he's got one of the coolest names around. I like the way it sounds. And he's good at math, since he's a financial planner. I have no idea why he didn't answer the FixTrenton budget questionnaire (a strike against him, in my estimation, but one I forgave quickly as he began speaking), because I think he might be good with the city's wallet. He had a couple logical ideas to help get the finances in order; he's against the sale of the Water Works, too.
Kesner's comfort in front of the audience, his empathetic style of communication, and his desire to help the city's kids, put him back in the running for me, even though he said stuff about building more community centers for the kids. Ugh. There ARE opportunities here in Trenton for kids, (including cards and ball with family and friends, like Dion said) but those resources are getting squandered. The kids are way too flickity-fly to hang out at the centers, but that's probably just a defense mechanism they've devised to protect themselves from years of hurt, because their parents don't know about the centers, or don't care enough to find out more. The existing centers that have closed have done so perhaps in part due to lack of funding, but more likely because they were underutilized. Plus, everyone needs to remember, our finances are disastrous. Prattling on about building new youth centers is a waste of time because it's not going to happen anytime soon. Sheesh.
Just as quickly as Kesner put himself in my top 3 candidates, he dropped out. Once, while another candidate was speaking, he began milling about in the kitchen area (in plain view), behind the table of candidates. Maybe he was thirsty, or wanted a cupcake (they did look yummy), or wanted to shoot the breeze with some of the people who were back there. I don't know. The forum was well-structured, and a grown, healthy man — especially a candidate for office — should be able to sit still and listen for less than two hours. Furthermore, at-large write-in hopeful, Jim Carlucci, stopped by. The officers of the VPCA allowed Jim to speak, as they had allowed other at-large candidates who attended their functions. In the format of the forum, Jim was given three minutes to introduce himself and his platform. Period. At that moment, nothing was more important than Kesner's need to get his coffee cup into the trash can behind Jim, so he got up, and walked across the room while Jim was speaking. Another minute into Jim's statement, Kesner interrupted Jim. I'll be honest: I didn't hear what Kesner said. But it doesn't matter. No one else was interrupted. Can Kesner sit through long, regular, and far more boring, council meetings? Can he listen to his colleagues, or god forbid, some random citizen, during the public portion of a meeting who is bitching about something inane? I'm not so sure.
Both Verlina and Joe, to me, were the strongest candidates. They both had some good ideas, and have experience and strengths and a lot of ideas that can succeed, if implemented. I think they'd both work well with their colleagues on council, and will be accessible to their constituents. They'll strive to undo much of the damage that's been done by the Palmer administration, and their efforts will foster a more hopeful city. Since I seem to focus on the negative, I don't have much more to say about either of them. I'd be pleased if either of them wins.
* Joe Harrison stopped by on Saturday night and Glen answered the door in his underwear then, as well. Generally, this is a good thing in our neighborhood: it has deterred the Jehovah people, and landscape entrepreneurs, and to a small degree, the alarm salesmen, who plague our neighborhood. There are about as many candidates for office this year, as there are roving salvation/yardwork/alarm salespeople, but unlike the salespeople, I appreciate the intentions of the political hopefuls, and feel badly about the underwear treatment. It just comes with the territory. Sorry.
** The problem with Gino is that at one point he cared, but then he didn't. I saw a lot of Gino in 2006, and he even called on Glen to help him hand out flyers, which Glen did (fully clothed; a big deal for Glen). Gino was reelected, and said, "Thanks. And, oh yeah, buh-bye." I reached out to him a few times in the last few years about some serious quality of life issues, and I never heard back. I think Gino checked out awhile ago, even giving up on his relatively decent Trenton neighborhood, Villa Park. On the other hand, Dion Clark will continue to fight for his blighted neighborhood in Wilbur. Walnut Avenue has improved in the few years, at least on the end where Dion lives (and, many ruined homes on the lower blocks were finally razed, which is also an improvement of a different kind), and I believe Dion can take the credit for that. Compare and contrast that to Melrose Avenue, which may not be as nice as it was a few years ago, and perhaps that's because Gino has given up. I admire Dion for his strength and character, especially since his body requires dialysis a few times a week; but why he'd take an endorsement from a guy who, in contrast, is weak, is beyond me.