A year ago, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life: I pulled the lever for Tony Mack on election day.* I'm not making excuses, but the write-in option in the booth I used was covered (I had planned write in another name). I stood there for a moment in confusion, staring at the two names, holding a squirming toddler, forgetting I could abstain from that particular unsavory race. To quote my friend, Mr. Clean, "It's like someone comes up to you and says, 'Would you like your left eye poked out, or your right eye poked out?'" I muttered, "Fuck it," under my breath and voted for Tony Mack. I lamented my decision immediately, and wrote about it here, to try to sort it all out.
Tony won by a sizable margin, so the chaos, embarrassment, and — I'll say it — illegal and unethical activity that has taken place since then is not all my fault. But I feel the burden of my poor decision. Today I had an opportunity to atone for my voting sins by joining a few of my fellow Trentonians in signing a letter of intent to recall Mayor Tony Mack.
Recalling an elected official is a very difficult process in the state of New Jersey: it takes time, money**, and requires a huge effort. You can watch a quick video about the recall process (with some festive music!) on Kevin Moriarty's informative blog. Tony Mack walked into a terrible mess courtesy of the previous administration and council, but he had so many opportunities to do things better. Instead, he appointed his friends and family, and gave them raises; he allowed his house to go into foreclosure, but took a loan from a Burlington County "friend" to fix it. He fired a political rival by using the SWAT team. He's the man in charge while time cards are forged, and the Water Works practically melted down. And he hired a heroin addict as his right hand man! These are just some of the things that Tony's done in his first year in office; just some of the things we know about. Tony Mack has screwed up enough so that it shouldn't be too difficult to get 9,860 (and extras for good measure) signatures in 160 days so we can hold a recall election. It does seem a bit daunting right now, though! Citizen campaigns have gone well in recent years and I believe this one will, too. It's also my hope, though far-fetched, that Tony will acknowledge this effort to recall him by stepping down.
Everyone asks, "Who will replace Tony?" I don't know. And, it hurts my head to think about it. We had 10 candidates in the last mayoral election: some of them were decent, and some were downright comical. The bottom line, though, is that there were about 8 too many. Over time, I'm hoping this recall effort will bring Trentonians closer, so we're more engaged with one another, so we can pick the best candidate to replace Tony. We have a difficult process ahead and we need to work together.
* In the interest of full disclosure, I voted for Eric Jackson in the first election. If only he had filled a couple of friggin' potholes, we would not be in this mess right now. Tony Mack and then at-large councilman, Manny Segura, had made it to the run-off election.
** A recall election will cost the taxpayers an estimated $90,000. It is a disturbingly high number, and a lot to ask from an already overtaxed and underserved group of taxpayers. It weighed heavily on me that by joining this group to repent for my voting error, I'd be personally responsible for yet another tax hike. But the thing of it is, as of today, Tony Mack's list of improprieties is so very long. But next week, it will undoubtedly be even longer. He's been paying people who were not even technically employed by the city...and in some cases, paying them overtime. His actions are bankrupting this city. I'm not a big fan of state hand-outs, but Mack is singlehandedly making that aid less likely in the future...without a plan for self-sufficiency in place. Tony Mack is a one-man PR nightmare for the city of Trenton, to the point Trenton has become the punchline of disparaging jokes (more so than any other time in our history).