East Ward Council Candidate Responses

There are five candidates for the East Ward city council position. In alphabetical order, these are Zane Dion Clark, Jr., Kesner Dufresne, Jr., Joseph A. Harrison, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Errick Wiggins.  After each question, the responses of each candidate are provided.

  1. The City Council is a legislative body with investigative powers. What do you see as the role of the City Council in advancing the economic, educational and cultural success of Trenton? Go to Question 1
  2. How will your role as a Council member elected to represent a Ward of Trenton be reflected in your service on the Council? What do you see as the critical responsibilities and duties in representing your Ward? Go to Question 2
  3. Department heads are appointed by the Mayor “with the advice and consent of Council.” What do you see as the role of the City Council in evaluating and voting on department heads and other officials proposed by the Mayor? Go to Question 3
  4. Some City of Trenton departments and services are seen as effective, while others are viewed as creating obstacles to progress. What two current City of Trenton departments or services do you believe are working well, and what two departments or services most need to be improved? What specific actions will you push for the City Council taking to improve underperforming departments or services? Go to Question 4
  5. A healthy city must be able to meet the needs of its citizens while balancing its budget. Trenton has many assets and a resilient population, but it still relies on the state for almost 75% of its operating budget revenue. What specific steps should the City Council take to increase revenues and to reduce expenditures? What will be the combined benefits of these actions? Go to Question 5
  6. Many successful cities use history, arts and cultural opportunities to capture the spirit of the community and create vibrant places to live. As a Council member, what three specific steps will you take to support and market Trenton’s history, arts and cultural diversity both in our neighborhoods and downtown? Go to Question 6
  7. Trenton is a remarkably diverse city, with many different neighborhoods, blocks and organizations. As a Council member, what will you do to foster and promote citizen action and efforts on the local and neighborhood level? What are examples of citizen-lead efforts you would support, and what would you do to support them? Go to Question 7
  8. Many successful individuals have passed through the Trenton educational system, but we still have low student achievement levels, high dropout rates and a poor community image. What can the City Council do, and more importantly what should the City Council do, to improve our schools and increase the number of students that succeed? Go to Question 8
  9. Civic engagement requires open and honest sharing of information between those elected to serve in government and those who elected them. What will you do to make the City Council more accessible, transparent and responsive to citizens? Go to Question 9

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Question 1
 

The City Council is a legislative body with investigative powers. What do you see as the role of the City Council in advancing the economic, educational and cultural success of Trenton?

Clark – Question 1: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 1: The role of council as a legislative body advancing the economic, educational and cultural success of Trenton requires creating a body of ordinances that preserves and enhances the quality of life for its’ residents while providing a safe and pleasant experience for guests without compromising the character of the state’s capital.  Advocate the investigation of any tax payer funded activity that does not serve the best interest of our citizenry.

Harrison – Question 1: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 1: City Council is the neck that can turn the head of the city in the right direction.  Economic Development starts with listening to the community needs.  City Council has ability to enforce and create new ordinances that support economic development partnerships that will benefit local residents and businesses.  We must prepare Trenton businesses and residents to do business within the City of Trenton or internationally.

Learning is a life long process that begins at home. We are so happy when the baby takes her first steps and proud when she marches across the stage to accept her diploma.  I am committed to working with residents and the school administration to increase percentage of successful graduates.

Trenton is ready for a thriving arts and cultural district.  I look forward to stimulating our local economy for many years while also providing services to meet varied cultural, entertainment, and recreational interests of our residents.

Wiggins – Question 1: Staying informed of economic changes, adapt to those changes towards building revenue. In educational advancement, entertain ideas that stimulate learning by using fresh ideas that empower while educating within the scope of vision for future growth. The cultural component can and will involve education through cultural understanding that will improve diverse communication scenarios by creating and maintaining dialogue of a specific nature relevant to diverse cultures.

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Question 2
 

How will your role as a Council member elected to represent a Ward of Trenton be reflected in your service on the Council? What do you see as the critical responsibilities and duties in representing your Ward?

Clark – Question 2: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 2: My role as a council member elected to represent the East Ward of Trenton is to reflect the desires and interests of my constituents.  I will make myself available to neighbors in the ward to listening to their concerns and partnering with them to bring those concerns to council to be addressed collectively by my fellow council members through enforcement of existing ordinances or by creating new ones.

I see advocating for timely and adequate delivery of essential services (i.e. street cleaning, trash collection and police responsiveness) and addressing quality of life concerns (i.e. neighbor relations, noise pollution, decent / safe public recreational areas like parks and schools / community centers)as my critical responsibilities and duties in representing my ward.

Harrison – Question 2: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 2: As your East Ward City Councilwoman, it is my responsibility to listen to your concerns and work together on your behalf to resolve and increase the quality of life on each street from Wilbur Section, Villa Park, to Chambersburg and all streets in between.    There are at five schools in East Trenton.  I will continue encourage administrators and teachers to develop positive relationships with parents and the community.  School doors swing on welcome hinges especially for annual concerts, plays, and athletic events.  When parents, families and members of the community are involved with schools, all children benefit. Adult participation sends the message that school is important and the work children do there is worthy of your attention.  Hope to see you at the next program.

Wiggins – Question 2: By keeping a listening ear and open mind towards establishing “TEAMWORK” of other council members that understand and work for the people, compared to personal agendas of advancement. Responding and resolving resident concerns with feasible resolutions that can be incorporated in other wards that show council members as a unit concerned and working with Trenton residents.

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Question 3
 

Department heads are appointed by the Mayor “with the advice and consent of Council.” What do you see as the role of the City Council in evaluating and voting on department heads and other officials proposed by the Mayor?

Clark – Question 3: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 3: The role of city council in evaluating and voting on department heads and other officials proposed by the Mayor demands an understanding of the requisite qualifications for such appointments in compliance with city ordinance, such as residency, and ensuring that appointments align with the needs of the city in a responsible manner.

Harrison – Question 3: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 3: As the City of Trenton gets more and more competitive, the appointee’s of the Mayor have to be developed, trained and motivated to exceed their own expectations.  City Council members are advocates for the people and businesses that live, work, and play in the City of Trenton. Consequently, a good City Council performs a constant balancing act to meet both needs successfully.  I will utilize my 10+ years of experience as Job Developer to evaluate potential appointee’s qualification not friendships to ensure the best qualified person is appointed.  I am committed to govern with integrity and fiscal responsibility.

Wiggins – Question 3: Making sure that referred candidates are truly visionaries, and have the ability to be open minded to new adaptable ideas towards making progress in their department and how it relates to the whole city making progress.

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Question 4
 

Some City of Trenton departments and services are seen as effective, while others are viewed as creating obstacles to progress. What two current City of Trenton departments or services do you believe are working well, and what two departments or services most need to be improved? What specific actions will you push for the City Council taking to improve underperforming departments or services?

Clark – Question 4: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 4: Without placing blame on any department’s effectiveness and acting within the role of legislator or policy maker, I would advocate, with the cooperation of fellow council members, a fair process of evaluation and accountability that calls all departments to maintain high standards of care in maintaining the welfare of the city. We must make sure we hire qualified individuals that posses a strong sense of integrity and work ethic.

Harrison – Question 4: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 4: Working well:

Office of Aging

Recreation

Needs improving:

Domestic and Sexual Violence in Trenton affects all of us.  It is a problem when women and men think its ok to push, pull, or punch or verbally assault you to get your attention.  We wouldn’t allow a stranger to treat you so poorly, so why is it ok for your friends to disrespect you.  I will continue to support and forge alliances with community-organizations to educate, prevent assaults and refuse to accept violence as a cultural norm.  Love doesn’t hurt.

Housing Inspector

“I called to make a complaint about my tenant/landlord/neighbor not maintaining their property.”  I will continue to advocate on quality of life issues for tenants, landlords, and neighbors.  As a community we can bring our concerns and issues to community affairs officers, sergeants, lieutenants, and housing inspectors at monthly community meeting and request the dispositions of each complaint monthly until the issue is resolved.

Wiggins – Question 4: Without partisan and the current economic state of the city making comparison of good and bad reflects only on those departments, if one side is weak – then they all are weak, if one side is strong then they all should be strong. Real progress happens when all move in the same direction without malice. I will lead a effort to establish cross departmental communication to ensure all departments operate at the highest standards possible.

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Question 5
 

A healthy city must be able to meet the needs of its citizens while balancing its budget. Trenton has many assets and a resilient population, but it still relies on the state for almost 75% of its operating budget revenue. What specific steps should the City Council take to increase revenues and to reduce expenditures? What will be the combined benefits of these actions?

Clark – Question 5: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 5: Specific steps the city council should take to increase revenues and reduce expenditures include an analysis that reduces duplication of services, reduction / elimination of non-core (non essential) functions, attracting / growing industry, promoting entrepreneurship through incentives, strengthening business associations and fostering a pro-business environment where appropriate that draws corporate investment and create employment for Trenton residents.

Harrison – Question 5: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 5: The community is ready for action.  We know the challenges associated with blight and abandoned houses.  The Mayor and City Council have to work together to bring projects to the city that will support community involvement and economic development that will benefit Trenton residents.  One way Mayor and City Council can put properties back on the tax roles is by selling city owned properties.  The Department of Economic Opportunity as the ability to create Deal Clinic’s similar to NJ Redevelopment Authority on a local level.  Deal Clinic can transform your dreams of owning a home into a reality by partnering with local contractors and local finance agencies to taking necessary actions to purchase a home.  The goal is to provide strategic insight, direction, help removing barriers, and make recommendations so participants can successfully gut and rehab their new home at a fraction of the cost for a new modular home.

Wiggins – Question 5: As stated in the question, if 75% of city revenue is state aid and these assets are being cut, all state buildings need to be obligated towards how alternative methods of revenue can be generated for the city by the installing of solar panels to power all state buildings and schools with the inclusion of county and municipal buildings to free up resources that can be used elsewhere, keeping many contracted jobs “in-house” these are some ideas that combined can employ city residents and/or introduce them to diverse career opportunities.

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Question 6
 

Many successful cities use history, arts and cultural opportunities to capture the spirit of the community and create vibrant places to live. As a Council member, what three specific steps will you take to support and market Trenton’s history, arts and cultural diversity both in our neighborhoods and downtown?

Clark – Question 6: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 6: Three specific steps necessary to promote the arts requires an assessment of existing partnerships with societies and organizations that promote the arts in our city and discussing their needs and how the city can support their initiatives; also building partnerships with the various ethnic groups and their respective organizations to promote an environment that allows them to celebrate their cultures in a way that enriches the entire city (i.e. festivals, parades and other programs); identifying and strengthening an arts’ district that attracts not just local interest but foreign interest in the form of grants and tourism.

Harrison – Question 6: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 6:

1.         There is always some type of cultural activities going on in the City of Trenton.  As your East Ward City Councilwoman, I will continue to promote new exhibits, arts and cultural activities through civic associations, churches, schools, city, county and statewide through various types of media.

2.         Support and encourage all Trenton School Public Schools to visit the State Museum, State House and also Make a Law, at a mock-legislative session exercise, facilitated by staff of the Office of Legislative Services learn about the legislative process and their representatives who work for us.

3.         Trenton Downtown Association is the meeting point before, during and after the show.  As a member of City Council we have to promote the city at all times where ever we go.  We have the ability and resources to host any event big or small.  Let Trenton host your next event!

Wiggins – Question 6: By implementing a format on the History of Trenton in afterschool programs and even school curriculum itself within the school district of the city through informal fun activities that gain attention in establishing family dialogue, In regards to Arts and Culture these two are partners in understanding the diversity within Trenton neighborhoods and communities by the education behind the arts of diverse ethnicities.

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Question 7
 

Trenton is a remarkably diverse city, with many different neighborhoods, blocks and organizations. As a Council member, what will you do to foster and promote citizen action and efforts on the local and neighborhood level? What are examples of citizen-lead efforts you would support, and what would you do to support them?

Clark – Question 7: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 7: As a council member, I would work with fellow council members to make meetings and agendas open to the public, including civic associations (i.e. TCCA, et al) that represents the respective neighborhoods in the media; in addition, we would work on increasing budget allocations to support community organizations that would proactively meet the needs of their respective neighborhoods.

Harrison – Question 7: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 7: As your East Ward Councilwoman, I will be the catalyst for supporting neighborhood watch programs and community programs for youth.  The Police and Recreation Department have done an excellent job funding programs that are successful even when funding is cut in half.  I will work with the community, administration and the school board to collaborate and coordinate services.  Our children get lost in our miscommunication.  We have wonderful programs that our children and parents do not know about or can not afford to pay.  I do not believe that our Mayor nor its administration would turn a child away because they could not pay.  We have to continue encourage our parents and community to talk to our children and understand the world they live in.  Gangs are real.  It is up to us to protect and provide a safe area for them learn, play and walk home.

Wiggins – Question 7: Each ward has multiple districts, in each district have a male and female representative, cohesiveness can be established, stereotypes can be abolished. By being able to communicate across the city that puts a lot of issues within a database where specific professionals can address issues even in other wards that rebuilds teamwork.

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Question 8
 

Many successful individuals have passed through the Trenton educational system, but we still have low student achievement levels, high dropout rates and a poor community image. What can the City Council do, and more importantly what should the City Council do, to improve our schools and increase the number of students that succeed?

Clark – Question 8: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 8: In addressing our city’s educational needs (our children) I would work with council to foster a stronger relationship with the board of education to strengthen vocation programs within the school system and maximize the use of alternative education / charter schools to increase student achievement. I would also support community centers that provide mentorship, tutoring, college preparation and dynamic programs/seminars to enrich students’ education.

Harrison – Question 8: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 8: The City of Trenton invests approximately 21 million dollars a year into the Trenton Public School System.  When you put your money in the bank you watch your investment closely.  City Council has the responsibility to analyze those tax dollars to make sure they are used appropriately.  What kind of outreach is being conducted to engage more parental involvement?  Parents and teachers have to work together on behalf of the student.  If one is weak the other has to be strong.  We have to hold the parents and administration accountable for educating our children.

Wiggins – Question 8: Provide initiatives that empower by given non-traditional teaching methods in order to deal with the diversity of the educational population in need of being heard, respected and loved. Also listen to ideas of what can be taught whether career or social goals.

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Question 9
 

Civic engagement requires open and honest sharing of information between those elected to serve in government and those who elected them. What will you do to make the City Council more accessible, transparent and responsive to citizens?

Clark – Question 9: No response received.

Dufresne – Question 9: I would work with fellow council members to disclose, on a frequent basis (quarterly), the balance sheet during council meetings and electronically in an appropriate format to create more transparency and accountability.

Harrison – Question 9: No response received.

Reynolds-Jackson – Question 9: I will be a good council member that works hard with my residents by listening, recommending, empathizing, and ensuring I am truly understand what the current opinions and issues are.    People want to be informed and they want to be included in the process.  As your East Ward City Councilwoman, we will have a clear transparent budgeting process in the City of Trenton.  Public service is not a right, but a privilege.  Serving the people of Trenton is an honor that I humbly respect.  Elect me, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson to “Transform our needs into Action!”

Wiggins – Question 9: Creating a citizen toll free number that district reps monitor and document specific concerns, hold resourceful follow-up meetings that address relevant issues of concern. Continue to walk and talk with residents to stay fresh with ward quality of life.

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