How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Opinion: Ten positive steps Trenton's next mayor can take to get city back on track

On Tuesday, the voters of Trenton will decide who will lead their city for the next four years. I hope the voters make their choice based on an evaluation of which candidate they believe has the ability, the vision and a plan that can reduce crime, improve the school system and address best the root causes of poverty in Trenton. Before presenting what might be a pretty radical agenda for Trenton’s next mayor, I’ll make a few observations about the May 13 elections and the upcoming June 10 runoff:

  • With rare exception, the campaigns were issue-oriented and devoid of personal attacks.
  • More elected officials endorsed candidates this time around than in the last Trenton race for mayor. Elected officials who risked political capital by doing this are to be applauded.
  • The 26 percent voter turnout was appallingly low.
  • The large number of candidates who stepped up was a good sign for Trenton.

Now, here are 10 ideas I believe would be positive steps toward addressing the despair that has for too long consumed Trenton.

  1. End the residency requirement for department heads and the business administrator. Trenton needs to attract the best and brightest young urban talent in the nation by casting a broad recruitment net.
  2. Mount a campaign to secure outside funds for additional police officers to replace some of the police who were jettisoned as a result of budget cuts. Try to recruit as many qualified minorities to fill these slots as possible. Select a police director with a track record of tearing down barriers between the police and the community.
  3. Provide Trenton youth with jobs as an alternative to gangs. The city needs to dramatically expand the scope of meaningful youth employment programs, such as those offered by Isles Inc.
  4. Work hard to get another college to locate in Trenton. It could be a satellite campus or a branch that focuses on public policy, the nonprofit sector or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Inner-city colleges have proven to rejuvenate cities, unlike stadiums, arenas and hotels. A college campus in the downtown area would be a catalyst for changing Trenton. The Thomas Edison College nursing school extension, the Mercer County Community College expansion of its Trenton campus and the nearby presence of The College of New Jersey’s Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement are steps in the right direction.
  5. Launch a targeted advertising effort to encourage more gays and lesbians to move to Trenton. They have been the vanguard of revitalizing urban neighborhoods throughout the nation. Since gay and lesbian couples generally raise fewer children than straight couples, the current deficiencies of the Trenton school district would be less of an issue for them until the school district can be turned around.
  6. Encourage the school district to implement the community school concept. Urge that it partner with highly respected nonprofits to implement this transformational approach that can improve education outcomes and ameliorate poverty — and make a commitment to rigorously evaluate the initiative to ensure that it directly affects and improves students’ academic performance.
  7. Designate someone who would be responsible for linking government services with nonprofit organizations and religious institutions in the city. The goal would be to better coordinate health and human care services and to improve efficiency. This person should also reach out to area and regional foundations to inform them of the city’s and school district’s future plans and programs and to attempt to secure funding for them.
  8. Through a partnership with Princeton, launch an aggressive campaign to lure history buffs to the Trenton/Princeton area. Having just returned from a one-day bus trip to the Gettysburg battlefields, I could see folks being driven by bus to the various historical sites in our area. I think this could be packaged to various niche markets as a terrific weekend trip.
  9. Study whether there would be cost savings and greater efficiency if certain units of Trenton government were consolidated within county government, i.e. the Departments of Housing and Economic Development, Inspection and/or Health and Human Services.
  10. Make it the new mayor’s highest priority to be unrelenting when it comes to pressuring the governor to provide payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) to the city for first-responder and infrastructure support it provides to the state. This could be a percentage of assessed value of real estate it occupies or a simple formula based on square footage. Start by undertaking a financial analysis of the negative consequences the state inflicts on Trenton because it does not provide PILOTs. But the new mayor should not be reluctant to resort to submitting to the governor invoices for police, fire and emergency services rendered and even encourage picketing and other forms of protest to make the point that Trenton desperately needs a governor who is committed to developing, not destroying, our state’s capital.Trenton desperately needs leadership, for a change.