"Hey, how about Election Night, eh?" — Mister Clean
I don't care if Gino Melone is black or white, Irish or Italian, gay or straight, or republican or democrat: those words don't reveal anything about his character or ability to serve the public. Gino Melone was the councilman in my ward in Trenton for nearly the whole time we've lived here. He lives a few blocks from us; he's been to my house once; I've talked to him on the phone a few times; we've sat through long meetings with him; we see him around.
I am a Johnny-Come-Lately and because of that, when I look at Gino, I don't see him sentimentally: he wasn't my brother's schoolmate, for instance, or the kid next door. He was the councilman who sat in my living room who said so many impressive things, and as a result, I voted for him in 2006. I truly thought it was the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship. Because he earned my trust and vote, after the election, I contacted him on a few occasions about the nuisance properties on my block; I contacted him repeatedly because our corner — just a mere 4 or 5 blocks from his home — is a magnet for car accidents. I never expected him to press a magic button to solve my problems, but I did expect a response. He drank my coffee and ate my cookies and said all the right things, but I never heard from him again.
It's one thing to be singly ignored by your council representative (maybe I'm a pain in the ass?), but it's another entirely when he (or she) begins voting with utter disregard for his (or her) constituents. Sure, I know my opinions aren't shared by all of my neighbors: we're all not going to agree on everything. But, it became clear in Gino's last term that catering to a despotic — yet well-connected — mayor who didn't even live in the city was more important than doing what was right for the people who voted for him. And then he didn't even answer our calls or emails when we asked him about it. Gino had forsaken the people who nurtured his career in politics here in the hood, and intended to be installed as our next county clerk.
Would the conservatives of Mercer County vote the party line? Were they paying attention to Gino's track record in the city, where he was Doug Palmer's lap dog, and allegedly a democrat?
Trenton's East Ward has not been thriving, and while Gino can't be held entirely accountable, he did little to improve life here while he was in office. Take a look at the scads of once stunning, now decaying, homes along Greenwood Avenue, all within the East Ward, to see how far we've fallen. Despite the nagging issues that compromise our quality of life, I'm sure there are quite a few here on the East side who remember Gino as a kid and voted for him to be our next county clerk for that reason alone, even though his inaction on council did little to honor the good old days. Outside the ward (and maybe within), a few thousand people voted for him only because his name was in the republican column, even though that term doesn't erase his spinelessness on Trenton's City Council, and impotence (or lack of care?) to improve his own neighborhood. I passed him on my way in to vote on Tuesday, and wished him luck. All the same, I'm glad the voters of Mercer County elected someone else.
Gino is still young enough that maybe he'll learn that he can't say one thing and do another, at least not so often; he can't expect to lead and then not respond to the needs of the people. If he's learned some lessons this year, maybe he'll run again in a few years, and the results will be different.