North Ward Council Candidate Responses

NORTH WARD COUNCIL CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRES

There are five candidates for the North Ward city council position. In alphabetical order, they are Divine Allah, Marge Caldwell-Wilson, Dr. Marvin W. Ford, Roland Laird and Dennis Vereen.  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

[back to top]

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?

Allah – Question 1: The initial investigation should be done with the residents of the North Ward. I would conduct an extensive analysis of the economic, educational, and cultural stability of the community and assess their needs and aspirations. Although the North Ward is home to the downtown district, most of North Ward is wallowing in poverty and dilapidated housing. As your next North Ward Councilman, I would continue my work to provide activities and programs to “raise the frequency” and awareness of ALL North Ward residents. It is not until this process is in motion that we can begin any viable kind of revitalization. When the community is not educated to the advances of the economy, i.e. new businesses, a disconnect is formed between the residents and merchants. This leads to robbery, vandalism, and loitering in and around these new businesses. Education and culture, the premise to a throbbing community, must exist first.

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 1: When elected, I will establish a Community Advisory Council made up of one representative in each of the North Ward’s 11 districts, sort of a community cabinet.

A monthly meeting schedule will occur for each representative to review their district concerns. I will arrange for a guest speaker to highlight that month’s key issue. Monthly issues might include mortgage mediation/foreclosure prevention; prisoner re-entry; energy assistance; senior services; food security; health care; affordable housing; jobs/job training; area crime statistics and prevention, as well as city council updates.

On a seasonal level, I would like to adopt a plan I call Trenton Helps beginning January of 2011. Trenton Helps will be a collaboration of professionals in the fields of health care, employment, housing, education, and crime prevention. I envision Trenton Helps as a traveling triage. Trenton Helps will be a one-stop-shop providing direct assistance to North Ward residents.

Ford – Question 1: City Council members play an integral role in advancing the economic, educational and cultural success of Trenton. It should always search for creative opportunities to advance Trenton’s success. Like many other urban cities is facing a financial crisis. The structural budget deficit, declining State financial aid, low property tax revenues, mortgage foreclosures, sky rocketing unemployment claims and increasing demands for services are huge challenges that must be addressed. From an economic standpoint, currently, Trenton has approximately 3,000 abandoned properties on the books. Selling these properties could instantly add millions dollars to the budget. Additionally, an enormous amount of money could be raised as a result of aggressively advertising Trenton’s historical/cultural significance. Educationally, Trenton’s Public School education system needs to be overhauled.  As a Doctor of Education and leader of a state ran learning organization, I have practical experience developing policies and creating systems designed to increase process efficiencies.  As a [truncated at 150 words]

Laird – Question 1: A City Councilperson is the people’s representative in the government. Representation means being attuned to the activities, aspirations and obstacles that are part of the citizens’ daily lives.  In the realm of economics, education and culture a City Councilperson can help by delivering hard resources to each of those sectors. These resources can come from outside of the city or from within the city. For example, a few years back a grant program I co-founded needed a way to take recipient Trenton students to a college summer program in Providence, RI. After asking around I was put in touch with somebody at Shiloh Baptist Church which provided us both a bus and a driver. This was an example of making a connection so Trentonians can help one another. I believe the Councilperson’s role is to make those connections for his or her constituents.

Vereen – Question 1: No response received.

[back to top]

Question 2

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?

Allah – Question 2: My work as a young, committed, and passionate activist has led me to do work within ALL the wards of Trenton over the last 15 years. Living in North Trenton for 37 years, I walk and live with the experiences of the community. As your next North Ward Councilman, I believe my critical responsibilities and duties are to be accessible, attentive, and accountable to the needs and aspirations of the North Ward residents. Historically, Council members were those that looked, dressed, and said what the community wanted to hear, knowing that they could not deliver on said promises. We need a complete, constructive CHANGE, and, again, as your next Council member I embody that CHANGE. I also believe that a Council member should be a visionary, having foresight to plan and create tangible programs for the youth, families, seniors, and all those committed for mutual progress of the North Ward.

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 2: My main responsibility as a Council member is to conduct the day to day business of the city. I believe in open government, accountable to the community it serves

The other major responsibility of a Council member is to provide constituent services to ward residents.

As a proud member of organized labor, who recently retired from a career working with families and children in need, I am the only North Ward candidate who will be available to provide constituent services without the conflict of having another full time job.

North Ward residents should not be forced to take a back seat to their representative’s career or personal ambitions.

I always tell people that I am only as strong as the community behind me. That’s why I will use my experience to provide North Ward residents with the constituent services they deserve, and leadership they can trust.

Ford – Question 2: As a result of talking with and listening to residents of the North Ward, I have learned there are four core issues that matters the most to them. The people of the North Ward want to be able to find jobs in their neighborhood, live on safe streets, live in affordable homes and enjoy a higher quality of life. My role as a Council member will be dedicated to making these things a reality for them. There are too many abandoned homes in the North Ward! I will work hard to enforce state and municipal codes that prohibit community blight. Once elected, I will aggressively promote affordable homeownership by transforming abandon/vacant properties into new homes for first time home buyers and growing families.

Most of the North Ward is identified as a targeted Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ). Many businesses located in the North Ward have taken advantage of UEZ benefits [truncated at 150 words]

Laird – Question 2: Constituent service is the lifeblood of the councilperson. Council members must be responsive to the needs of their constituents. This implies that a critical responsibility and duty of the council members is to be connected to their constituents. A council member must be easy to contact and must respond to the requests of their constituents in a timely fashion. The council member should also be a thorough and thoughtful reader of all proposals that are brought to the council.  Finally, the council person must also be prepared when possible to draft legislation that advances the interests of their constituents.

Vereen – Question 2: No response received.

[back to top]

Question 3

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?

Allah – Question 3: A leader is only as good as his council/advice. It is imperative that in my evaluation and voting on department heads and other Mayoral appointees that I elicit the concerns of the North Ward community. In one of my monthly community meetings with the residents, we will evaluate the resumes of the proposed candidates, and I will make my decision based on the council of those concerned residents. Personally, I look for historically legacy, i.e. protracted advocacy and work within local communities, and other personal affects that will make any candidate a good fit for the city of Trenton. Most importantly, I advocate that these appointees live in the city of Trenton and invest in the city in which they will serve.  As a long-time activist in planning and providing activities for youth, families, and seniors, I would expect no less from the Mayor’s appointees hailing from their local communities.

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 3: I think we need to begin by screening all individuals nominated to head departments in Trenton. This would ensure experienced and qualified personnel.

I would hope our new mayor would also rely on input of the City Council when it comes to choosing department heads. Unfortunately “with the advice and consent of Council” it is somewhat of a formality, not a mandate. I believe past City Councils have too often been placed in a position of “take it or leave it” when it came to Mayoral appointments. That is not an effective way of choosing the best candidate for the job. I would like to see the City Council be part of the interviewing process. An open approval process would provide a good footing for the new mayor to start building a solid, trusting relationship with the City Council, and, most importantly, with the people of Trenton.

Ford – Question 3: Advocating for and speaking on behalf of North Ward constituents is the most important duty of the North Ward City Councilman. Helping to maintain a high quality of life for residents is also important. Quality of Life issues takes into consideration the availability and accessibility of human, educational and recreational services. As an elected body, with investigative powers, the critical responsibilities and duties include reviewing the city’s budget, approving appointments, creating services, monitoring outcomes, proposing bills, holding votes and passing laws (codes) to govern the city. The City Council is in need of members who are critical consumers of information. Members must be able to understand the issues, ask tough questions and make informed decisions.

Laird – Question 3: The Council should thoroughly research the background and qualifications of all people the Mayor nominates to head departments. If any council members disagree with the nominations then he/she should bring those concerns to the council for discussion. Only after thorough discussion should the council vote on the Mayor’s appointments and the City Council should not be afraid to utilize its 2/3 veto power to reject any nomination that they deem to be not in the best interests of the city.

Vereen – Question 3: No response received.

[back to top]

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?

Allah – Question 4: One of the two current departments that are working well is Public Works. Eric Jackson has done a wonderful job with the Pavement Management and Pothole Filler programs, which have greatly improved services to residents while reducing the cost of these services. The Fire department has also done a great job with response time and community service.

Health & Human Services is in need of improvement. There needs to be a more intense, concerted effort to address childhood obesity, poor health and diet, AIDS/STDS, and other health issues that plague the urban community. The department of Recreation, Natural Resources, and Culture has lost its pulse. With the lack of recreational activities, underserved recreational centers, and citywide cultural arts/athletic programs, our youth are truly the beneficiary of poor budgeting and planning. Immediately, this department needs to renovate the city parks, install jungle gyms, and build more theatre and performing arts/recreation centers

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 4: If it is working, it is worth improving. If it is not working, it is not worth funding. There might be a specific program that is working in a department that is not. That is why we need to speak to each department head, go line by line to closely examine what’s working and what’s not. If it is underperforming, we need to find out why. Is the problem insufficient staffing? If so we may need to merge one or more departments.

For starters, I would really like to take a look at the Tax office. I don’t think our current system is a very effective way to evaluate property taxes. This is a department that doesn’t get scrutinized. Another big problem is that the City Clerk’s Office does not have a complete inventory of Trenton businesses, which means they are not collecting all the business taxes that they could.

Ford – Question 4: The Police and Fire departments are currently providing valuable services to city residents. More should be done to celebrate their contributions and honor them for their bravery and personal sacrifices. The two departments that most need to be improved are Inspections and Economic Development. Currently, there is a large inventory of abandoned homes in Trenton in general and the North Ward in particular. Efforts should be made to locate neglectful proper owner and hold them accountable for their actions. If needed improvements are note made to rehabilitate these properties within a reasonable timeframe as allowed by the law; then steps should be taken to acquire these properties and convert them into affordable homes for first time home buyers.  Creating creative revenue generating opportunities should be a high priority. The Economic Development Department should assume a leadership role in this endeavor through writing grants for federal funded programs.

Every department should [truncated at 150 words]

Laird – Question 4: I believe that the Department of Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture and the Department of Health and Human Services are two departments that are working well. They both do important work on shoestring budgets. I believe that the underperforming departments are the Trenton Green Initiative and the Purchasing Department, specifically the Local Business Enterprise program. These underperforming departments should be cutting edge for Trenton because they both have the potential to financially empower Trentonians through energy cooperatives and small business development. Trenton’s small geographic size lends itself to pilot programs in all of these areas and I would spearhead an initiative to connect both departments to action-oriented organizations like the Center for Social Inclusion as well as the Democracy Collaborative especially DC co-founder economist Jessica Gordon Nembhard who has done extensive work around wealth building in underserved communities and communities of color.

Vereen – Question 4: No response received.

[back to top]

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?

Allah – Question 5: Many candidates have tossed around lofty ideas such as putting dilapidated and abandoned properties back on the tax roll, conducting a property tax assessment, reducing the police overtime and consultant fees, increase economic development in relation to hiring local contractors and/or bring in more businesses. All of those are viable options, however, to be honest, as your next North Ward Councilman I will say to the residents that we are facing some difficult times ahead. It is my contention that we have to await the budget cuts by the Christie administration to begin addressing revenue increases and expenditure reductions. Any concrete plans are wishes, at best, and the residents need to know that. I will continue my action plan of listening to the residents about how WE can address the economic ills of the North Ward and together WE can come up with workable solutions.

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 5: We need to balance the budget while addressing the structural deficit. I propose the following steps to increase revenues and reduce expenditures:

  • Since Council positions are part-time, Council members should not receive benefits or participate in the pension program.
  • Temporary 8% pay cut for council and 2% pay cut for anybody making over $100,000 at City Hall, until the budget is stabilized.
  • Increase market rate housing to increase tax revenue.
  • Increase the inspections department’s ability to process projects faster to increase revenue.
  • Sale of city owned lots at auction to both spur development and decrease the budget gap.
  • Offer a 50% amnesty on uncollected tax notes on privately-owned 5+ year delinquent properties if the remaining 50% is paid.
  • Implementation of a more aggressive Vacant Lot Registration Fee program that will both spur development and raise revenue.
  • Explore opportunities with consolidated services.

Ford – Question 5: It is unwise for Trenton to rely on the State to meet the needs of residents. The budget should be brought in lines with Trenton’s financial ability. Any funding received from the State should be viewed as a rainy day fund. Revenue can be increased through the courts as a result of aggressively enforcing City Codes, public nuisance and motor vehicle violations. Services should be evaluated for their effectiveness. While core services should receive continuous funding, ineffective services should be discontinued. Employee related expenses are the larges portion of the budget. We should not be surprised to find out that 60% to 70% of the budget is associated with employee related expenses. It’s time to get back to the basics. Serious consideration should be given to reducing expenditures through service privatization.

As a result of taking these and other steps Trenton will be able to streamline the budget, fund core service, reduce overhead expenditures and increase revenues.

Laird – Question 5: Revenue generation and cost reduction are serious business. After reviewing the city budget as posted on the city’s website I’m wondering why does this year’s proposed budget call for $21M more in appropriations than last year’s budget? I would also like more information on our surpluses and their eligible uses. I believe that we must give sustained, systematic thought in regards to revenues and tax-exempt properties and I have proposed using municipal service fees to collect revenue from non-state, tax-exempt properties in Trenton (which total over 2,000 properties).  I’ve also looked into how other state capital cities deal with its tax-exempt properties.  Last month Albany, NY formed a “Commission on Public-Private Budgetary Cooperation” to examine revenue generation from tax-exempt properties (both state-owned and non-profits) and I believe this commission could be a model for Trenton.

Vereen – Question 5: No response received.

[back to top]

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?

Allah – Question 6: My life’s work has led me to facilitate annual back to school/free school supplies for children, free block parties, free spelling bees and poetry events; all located in the heart of what many people consider crime-ridden territories. I am NOT a politician. I am a concerned citizen with the passion to lead from the vantage point of being connected to the youth. To be more specific, I would advocate that we 1. Create historical markers (sign posts) throughout the North Ward indicating the various events, people and places of historical importance, 2. Create a youth theatre/performing arts collective to develop and highlight the performing and creative talents of our youth, and 3. Continue to provide cultural awareness/education workshops to the families and residents, especially to those that have marginal schooling, which leads to low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, and furthers poverty, crime, and drug abuse.

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 6: Trenton has its own unique identity and cultural diversity, and I fully expect the North Ward’s Community Advisory Council will expand to include a Cultural Advisory Council. We need to bring together experts in the fields of Arts, Finance, History, Education, Business, Healthcare, and Community Development to work with the community in tapping the creative spirit of Trenton. I am committed to continue supporting important cultural institutions and publications such as the Downtowner through the Trenton Downtown Association.

I think we should encourage art shows and bring street fairs like the Heritage Festival back to Trenton. And I would also like to see the programs in the visual arts be made more widely accessible for our children.

History is one of our greatest assets. Trenton was our nation’s first capital, and with cultural and historical tourism is on the rise, we could certainly do more to market our history.

Ford – Question 6: Serious efforts should be made to market Trenton to commuters, baby boomers and history buffs. Our city is strategically located along the northeast corridor. Each day thousands of commuters come through Trenton on their way to New York City and Boston. Trenton should be marketed as an affordable alternative to pricier metro markets. Many senior citizens and empty nesters are downsizing. Steps should be made to survey the needs of this growing population and developing services that appeal to them. The economic successes of tourist hotspots like Williamsburg and Jamestown Virginia should be case studied. There is no reason why Trenton should not be viewed as preferred Revolutionary War tourism destination.  Cultural diversity is perhaps the greatest strength of the North Ward. More can be done to promote cultural capital and foster goodwill across cultural boundaries.

Laird – Question 6: Cultural tourism should be a growth industry in Trenton. African American history is a passion of mine so my first two suggestions are in that area. I would plan a trip for local clergy and hospitality businesses in Trenton to see Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s “Living the Experience” which is a living history production about the Underground Railroad. This gem of an attraction is significantly contributing to the revitalization of urban Lancaster City. I believe Trenton can do the same. Similarly Trenton played a role in the landmark Brown v Board of Education decision. Creating a living history program around that historical moment is just one idea. Finally, Trenton’s central location and compact 7.5 square miles lends itself to housing numerous festivals. This year we lost the Dodge Poetry Festival to Newark, but putting Trenton on the map for those types of events is something I’d work hard to do.

Vereen – Question 6: No response received.

[back to top]

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?

Allah – Question 7: Divine Allah has exemplified citizen-led action over the past 15 years. I am an advocate of self-sufficient organizations and as your next North Ward Councilman, I will continue my activism and support of other citizen-led efforts to mobilize their communities in combating crime, blight, poverty, lack of recreational activities, etc. I would be in support of any citizen-led efforts attempting to challenge the liquor store owners, corner stores, restaurants, etc., that allow loitering and the maintenance of a nuisance. The North Ward I envision is one that does not ignore the largely African-American/Latino population. My plan is to continue to support those in cleaning up these communities and incorporate them into the larger plans of economic and housing development, crime prevention, green and solar innovations, the state funding crisis, etc. As Booker T. Washington stated, “together in mutual progress” we can create a better North Ward community.

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 7: If people want to know what I would do on Council, look at what I have done as a private citizen.

My experience began when I organized PAG. We fought hard to stop the proposed garbage incinerator from being built in our ward.

Most recently, I have been working with the Eyes of Trenton Civic Association. EOTCA started in response to the decision to allow a recycling plant to be built in their neighborhood.

Business development is important, but heavy industrial and polluting businesses do not belong in a residential neighborhood.

I helped the neighborhood organize and bring their fight to the Mercer County Freeholders, who hold the power to accept or reject the building of the plant.

I am proud to say that I also facilitated the support of the nearby Polish neighborhood’s assistance in partnering with EOTCA.

I will only be as strong as the community I represent.

Ford – Question 7: As the next North Ward City Councilman I will work hard to bring people together. The North Ward is fortunate to have a large number of socially active residents. There are civic associations located in each of the eleven North Ward districts. All are deeply committed to making the city better. Efforts should be made to cultivate strategic alignments and partnership among the groups to leverage upon areas of expertise and pool precious resources. In my mind’s eye I envision the formation of an area organization that is comprised of representatives from each of the civic associations that are located in the North Ward. The leaders of the various groups would bring their concerns and ideas to the attention of the City Councilman.

Any effort that promotes: affordable homeownership, neighborhood jobs, workforce development through vocational schools, academic achievement, child safety and raise the quality of live for North Ward residents will be supported by me.

Laird – Question 7: The first and most important thing I can do to promote citizen action is to be a Councilman that is visible, accessible, and accountable. By being visible people will see that I’m not just somebody that got their vote and then disappeared; by being accessible people will know that they can contact me and at a minimum get my effort and energy to address their issues; and by seeing that their Councilman is putting in time and energy for them, my belief is that people will feel empowered to redouble their efforts to make Trenton better. I admire the citizen led efforts of Fathers and Men United for a Better Trenton, Trenton Pop Warner Football, and I Am Trenton Community Foundation to name just three.

Vereen – Question 7: No response received.

[back to top]

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?

Allah – Question 8: As the only North Ward Council candidate that has attended Trenton Public Schools, and as one of those youths that have “passed” through the Trenton educational system, I propose we have a complete, constructive CHANGE of the pedagogical method. The first thing we should do is implement the Amistad Bill, a state “mandate” that says every public school, K-12, must teach African-American history. Trenton public schools are currently non-compliant. We should reincorporate the arts/music programs, and strengthen and expand the vocational-technical classes in our schools. This would benefit the largely African-American/Latino student population that is not college bound. Council should assist the school board with creating a more balanced curriculum that reflects both a right brain and left brain student learner. Students need more project based, performance based, and reality-based learning. While test-taking skills are important, today’s students also need the skills to survive poverty, gangs, early parenting, etc.

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 8: We can start by working together with faith based and community organizations, as well as other non-profit groups devoted to helping our children succeed. Community engagement is key to the success of our children. The Council should encourage magnet schools, which generate excitement about a school system among parents and students and improves education

The Council should get involved to match businesses and investors with schools in adopt-a-school programs and the consideration of a plan like the Kalamazoo Promise, a pledge by a group of anonymous donors to pay up to 100 percent of tuition at any of Michigan’s state colleges or universities for graduates of Kalamazoo’s public high schools

After Three programs are widely popular, but not widely available. When we are doing business with large corporations, the City Council must negotiate their financial support of programs like these, as well as seeking to partner with area universities.

Ford – Question 8: Education makes all the difference. Many of our social challenges (poverty and crime for examples) are directly linked to low educational outcomes. At a very young age I discovered that those with a good education lived better and had more freedom than individuals whom were less educated. Children should take ownership of their education. Parents should be held accountable for their child behavior in school. Teacher should be held accountable for classroom management and curriculum delivery and rewarded for outstanding performance. Under performing teachers should be placed on performance improvement. The School Superintendent should report directly to the Mayor and School Board members should be accountable to the City Council and the community. Different schooling models should be deployed and poor performing schools should be privatized.

Laird – Question 8: The education of Trenton’s children needs an all hands on deck approach. I believe in a three pronged approach to assist Trenton’s educators, parents, and children. I’d seek to have Harlem Children’s Zone expand to create a program in Trenton like their recent Newark effort. The two fundamental principles of The Zone Project are to help children as early in their lives as possible and to create a critical mass of adults around them who understand what it takes to help children succeed. I’d also seek to buttress existing programs like the NAACP’s ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technological Scientific Olympics) which isn’t currently active in Trenton. Finally, I believe in the power school alumni associations. I would challenge all of Trenton’s college graduates to reconnect with their colleges as many have summer enrichment programs. A goal could be to send 5,000 Trenton students to college summer programs annually.

Vereen – Question 8: No response received.

[back to top]

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?

Allah – Question 9: It is my contention and plan as your next North Ward Councilman to continue to be attentive, accessible, and accountable. As Councilman, I will be a representative of and to the residents of the North Ward. In addition to having monthly meetings with the residents, we should create, strengthen, and empower community action groups that will report to the school district, City Hall administration, and the police department about the concerns, plans, and solutions to issues confronting our community.  The groups would be lead by the people, of which I would be a member, and we would collectively hold everyone accountable. The group’s responsibilities could be expanded to report directly to the schools in their district, with input on hiring of administration/teachers, curriculum reform, athletic and other student programs, parent outreach, etc. Until there is a complete, constructive CHANGE of the system, there will be no CHANGE. IT’S OUR TIME!

Caldwell-Wilson – Question 9: We don’t just need a subtle move towards more openness in government; we need a 180 degree change in direction. Take the Waterworks fiasco. The community had to fight the city for the right to have a voice in the proposed sale. This sort of behind closed doors decision making is unacceptable.

The new City Council must start off by setting clear guidelines to end the past practice of keeping citizens in the dark. I would start by scheduling City Council meetings at a time that is more accommodating to our community. Right now, meetings are scheduled for 5pm. Council members themselves find it difficult to attend at that time.

Trenton government must not just look more accessible and open; it must embrace the active involvement of the community. I will lead by example. The North Ward Community Advisory Council will set the standard, other wards will follow.

Ford – Question 9: I believe knowledge is powerful. Communication, education and participation are the three words that accurately describe my role on the City Council.

Communication: I believe in keep residents informed.  I am in process of creating a blog that will allow residents an opportunity to voice their concerns and communicate with me on a regular basis. I also plan to hold quarterly community meeting where residents can dialog with their City Councilman. Once a month I will walk through districts to talk with residents.

Education: An education citizenry is important. I believe there is a close relationship between not fully understanding the issues and lack of civic engagement. Many residents don’t fully understand the issues and how decisions impact their daily lives.

Participation: City services can be made more accessible by placing some of the routine functions in the community. A logical choice would be to use the new police precincts [truncated at 150 words]

Laird – Question 9: As a Councilperson, I plan to meet with existing North Ward organizations. I also plan to have an open monthly meeting for all North Ward residents and I plan to spend at least one Saturday per month knocking on doors in each district getting feedback about what’s going on in each neighborhood. If from this approach a structure of district leaders or an advisory council emerges organically that will be great but that’s not the goal. My goal is not to engage North Ward residents through more structure but to let people know exactly what I’m working on and what the status is while also getting their feedback about all the things I should be doing. In short my approach to engagement and transparency is to create a consistent, open and honest dialogue about our North Ward issues.

Vereen – Question 9: No response received.

[back to top]

Advertisements

1 comment so far

  1. Dawoud Afrika on

    Who is better suited and best qualified for the position of North Ward City Council than Divine Allah. He has that vibrant energy for change that the people have been looking for. He knows how to reach the youth as well as the elderly citizens in the community. He lends an ear to listen to the concerns of the people. I think he also can be the voice of the people to relay those concerns of the people to city hall, city administration and other elected officials in Trenton. Divine Allah is from and still resides in the North Ward so he is well known and hands on in the streets visible and approachable to all the people. I think that voting for him he can help bring back the unity in the community. My vote is with Divine Allah for Trenton’s North Ward City Council.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: