At-Large Council Candidate Responses

There are ten candidates for three at-large city council positions. In alphabetical order, they are T. “Missy” Balmir, Alex Bethea, Christine Donahue, Darren “Freedom” Green, Phyllis Holly-Ward, Juan Martinez, Kathy McBride, Ernest Perez, Jr., Donelle M. Presha and Algernon Ward. 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-at-Large be reflected in your service on the Council? What do you see as the critical responsibilities and duties for Council Members-at-Large? 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

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?

Balmir – Question 1: The role of City Council is to work with the Mayor to advance a shared vision for how the Trenton will be successful in the areas economic development, education and culture. It is also essential that City Council engage the community by providing transparency in government and soliciting feedback regarding decisions that impact residents, directly. This is achievable by opening up the budget process to scrutiny by taxpayers, forging partnerships to identify lasting solutions to improve Trenton’s struggling schools and ensure the district provides safe, quality educational opportunities; supporting community-oriented economic development ensuring the city and its residents, benefit from more than just bricks and mortar.

Bethea – Question 1: As an educator in our Trenton Public Schools for 35 years and presently a vice principal at Joyce Kilmer Elementary School, I believe that to advance economic, educational and cultural successes of our City we must better educate our youth, starting at their early ages. We must inspire our youth to have an interest in learning. We must begin teaching economics at an early age. Also we must help our youth to appreciate our cultural diversity. Though budgetary constraints and revenue increases are essential, especially considering our immediate economic circumstances, in our capitalistic and technologically driven society, education remains pivotal to our economic and cultural success as a city.
Though our Board of Education administers our public schools, it is vital that inside and outside of Council meetings, Council advocates for real improvement in our schools.

Donahue – Question 1: The role of the city council is to act as advocates for public opinion within the city and to effect and promote change, growth and development. In a Faulkner Act Municipality, the council acts as advisors to the Mayor’s office and lobbyists for the community. The At Large Councilpersons are responsible for promoting and evaluating policies in council and the effect that those policies would have on the well being of the city.

Green – Question 1: I will touch the City as an Ambassador never taking for granted that any area doesn’t need my attention. For in truly accessing the needs in these areas we cannot allow for “gray areas” to exist, where there is uncertainty and the lack of effort and complacency. My approach has always been “hands on” and that is what’s missing in our small yet potentially great city. A simple analysis of where we are, and where we need to be, clearly shows that where there is no leadership and direction, the people and city suffer immeasurably. Working with the new council and mayor I will be at the forefront of making sure we are all working, living and sacrificing to make Trenton the Capital City the world will want to see, visit and emulate.

Holly-Ward – Question 1: The City of Trenton needs a Council who will work as the “checks and balances” of the City administration. Gone are the days of Trenton City Council acting only as a voting body to approve or deny contracts, ordinances, resolutions or any other City business. Trenton’s newest Council members will have to take an active role in their communities to gain a better understanding of community matters. The City Council has to build a respectful, yet professional partnership with the administration in order to explore and locate public and private resources that will put our economic, educational, and cultural activity base back on the course to long term recovery.

Martinez – Question 1: In order for the City Council, which is part time, to be a true legislative body with investigative powers it will need to allocate resources to hire staff to assist it be a co-equal branch or more equal branch of government. Currently City Council can only act as a rubber stamp to the administration. This does not serve the interest of the public. Unfortunately, establishing the City Council into a true legislative body with investigative powers at this time of severe economic and budgetary problems is not realistic.
However, the City Council despite its limitations must advocate aggressively on behalf of the hopes and dreams of the citizens. As a member of City Council I plan to do no less.

McBride – Question 1: No response received.

Perez – Question 1: To assure that all investors that come to the City, see a City that is friendly and sensitive to the ploy of investors. Education should be a high priority, with council supporting the agenda of the School Board. I would support an elected board, to give the power of educating our children to the people of the city, not the Mayor. The cultural environment, of the City, should always be promoted by all employees of the City, as a special on the menu at a good restaurant would.

Presha – Question 1: As for councils role in advancing Trenton economically, this is where city council has to step up and outside of its normal legislative role and into one where were actively (HANDS ON) seeking new and innovative economic developmental polices and opportunities. We can accomplish this by researching new industries and ideas that could fit our soon to be established economic model for development. Within our educational system I feel my role is to hold all stakeholders accountable including the parents and students at all times and publicly, and to expect improvements; but at the same time, giving viable solutions to those problems along with the assistance and input of our community. In regards to the cultural success of our City, I will always stand in support and help to market those things that speak and expose others to our rich culture and history.

Ward – Question 1: Before the budget is approved, each councilperson should satisfy themselves that the budget reflects the priorities identified by the citizens of Trenton.
They should also be willing to take those steps that would support a vibrant business community, by keeping taxes and fees in check and establishing a reasonable system of regulations.
Beyond a high quality school system, council members should appreciate that education extends beyond the school house and into the community by engaging parents and supporting educationally oriented community based programs.
A city council person should able to recognize Trenton’s history and culture as the under-developed resources that they are.

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Question 2

2. How will your role as a Council Member-at-Large be reflected in your service on the Council? What do you see as the critical responsibilities and duties for Council Members-at-Large?

Balmir – Question 2: The role of the At Large member of Council is to balance the unique needs and characteristics of each ward and its respective community when reviewing a particular initiative or program. When I am on Council I will take very seriously my role as the elected voice of residents and work tirelessly to resolve constituent concerns and quality of life issues. In partnership with Ward Council members I will identify policies that address systemic problems that are ward based and citywide.

Bethea – Question 2: Critical responsibilities include:
• To learn the concerns of our City’s residents and advocate for their best interest.
• To make recommendations to our Mayor that enhance quality of life for our residents.
• To serve as a check and balance for our Mayor and through him, for his administration.
• To hold our Mayor accountable for submitting equitable and citizen beneficial requests (appointments, budgets, ordinances) to the Council for approval, and to responsibly approve or disapprove our Mayor’s requests with our citizenry’s best interest and our City’s available resources as a top priority.

Donahue – Question 2: The critical responsibility of the At Large Councilperson is to promote fair and balanced policies that support economic development in Trenton. At Large Council members are tasked with continually evaluating the effect of council decisions on the city as a whole. The duties include participation in the political process to insure fairness, serving on boards and commissions, reaching out to citizens to listen to their concerns and to take action when it is appropriate.

Green – Question 2: As an At Large Councilperson my role and responsibility is to bring the citywide constituents desires, concerns, and perspectives to council for overall discussion and resolution. As I have traveled through the 4 wards, they are like 4 “islands” with different issues, concerns and needs. Thus I will be “hands on” with each ward representative to develop overall plans and direction to assist constituents in their respective wards. Personal accountability, responsibility, “hands on” leadership and attention to our constituents needs and desires will be the way we begin to collectively heal and rebuild our beloved city.

Holly-Ward – Question 2: My role as a Council-at-Large member will reflect my areas of expertise; for many years, I have been a community organizer who educates, empowers and uplifts the community through community cleanup efforts, starting civic groups, educating parents on how to get involved with their children activities and more. Presently, the deficit in the City budget has placed Trenton in dire straits. Every decision that the City Council makes on July 1st after 12 p.m. is critical. It is most important that all members of City Council remember that they are mediators between the administration and the taxpayers of Trenton and ultimately, the success of Trenton’s future is contingent upon our investigative and decision making processes.

Martinez – Question 2: For most of my adult life I have worked in the community to improve the quality of life of residents of Trenton. I believe one of the best ways to serve God is to help others, especially those who can least help themselves.
As a member of Council I want to create a new Trenton. A Trenton that people are to be proud to say they live in and where crime and poverty are artifacts of the past. I want to create a Trenton where a child before falling to sleep not only dream but believes they can become the President of IBM, Bank of America, and the President of United States of America. A Trenton where men and women walk and none are afraid and where all God’s children live in harmony fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream. As a member of Council my goal is to help create such a Trenton.

McBride – Question 2: No response received.

Perez – Question 2: As a Councilman at-Large, I will be not only visible throughout the City, but I will, also, represent all the people with in the City. I will partner with the Ward Council people to enrich and ensure all wards are prosperous.

Presha – Question 2: Part of my role will be reflected in my serving of the people, they for one will see me. I will be responsive to their needs. The improvements in the attitudes of our citizens and increased parental involvement in education will be tangible and a reflection of my role. The reduction in crime and increase in graduation rates and test scores will be the reflection of my role as a council member. The trust between the community and the government will be a reflection of my role. Police/Citizen relationship improvement will show my leadership.
The critical responsibilities of the council are to make sure the administration puts together fiscally sound budgets. To make sure our City is running as efficiently as possible meaning highest quality services as possible without draining our resources dry preventing the need for increased property taxes and layoffs. To make sure sound public policies are in [truncated at 150 words]

Ward – Question 2: The first priority of the city council is the approval, adoption and implementation of a financially sound city budget.
A good councilperson should represent the interests of their constituents in all city council deliberations when decisions that affect them are made.
An effective councilperson would actively seek the input of the people of Trenton and include them in the decision making process at every opportunity.
A councilperson should act as an advocate for the businesses located in the city.
City council should assure a quality education for all of Trenton’s children through their influence on the Board of School Estimate where a councilperson sits to provide oversight to the school system.
A city council person should act as a promoter of Trenton’s history and culture.

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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?

Balmir – Question 3: In these difficult fiscal times, it is going to take exceptionally skilled Cabinet members who are able to think “outside of the box” and draw on vast experience to move the City of Trenton forward. Part of Council’s role in addition to voting for potential appointees, is to evaluate and closely vet their qualifications. I will not support candidates who are not qualified for the positions they are seeking. Council must send a message to the Mayor and taxpayers that there is no place, nor budget to support incapable employees. I also pledge to be transparent with the community about why I am voting for or against a potential appointee.

Bethea – Question 3: Our City’s Department heads have significant impact on the safety and well being of our citizenry. It is the Council’s critical responsibility to do an effective job of vetting any department head recommendation that is submitted for Council approval. Upon approval and appointment Council should monitor the performance of appointees, as well as to hold appointees accountable through our Mayor.

Donahue – Question 3: I feel that it is the role of city council to first and foremost confirm residency of a prospective appointee and then to confirm that the candidates presented to council possess the talents, skills and abilities to carry out the required duties. Finally, the city council should serve as the conscious of the city to insure that the process has been carried out in a fair, open and honest manner which insures that the equity of the city has been used in the best possible manner.

Green – Question 3: All aspects of councils role in the decision making process of investigating, evaluating, and subsequently assisting in the appointing of new directors will be taken seriously. Only the most qualified personnel will be allowed to lead and direct our city workers. We must establish a “culture” where the Mayor, council and directors accept nothing but the best. The trickle down effect will begin to help to elevate the quality of life for our constituents.

Holly-Ward – Question 3: Although City Council is a part-time job, upon being elected, I will be one of the few members who will leave their day job and take on City Council as a full-time job. As a result, I will have the time that is essential to exercise my investigative powers to better evaluate and determine which prospective “department heads” possess the knowledge, qualifications, and leadership which will best suit Trenton’s needs.

Martinez – Question 3: Without the appropriate and necessary investigate resources to do background checks the council is mostly limited to consenting to who the administration present to the council. The council can advise the administration by making suggestions to positions just as the general public can. However, true advice and consent similar to that utilized by the State Senate and the US Senate can not be expected without the investment of resources. Such an investment as worthy as it can not be given considered with the much more important revenue and budgetary problems confronting the city.
What the council can do is have open and honest dialogue with department heads and policy makers as to how things are really going. What is working and what is not. Council members must be responsible and not grandstand, department heads must be forthright and accessible.

McBride – Question 3: No response received.

Perez – Question 3: The appointments by the Mayor should be made based on Education, Experience, Personality, Creativity, and a resident of the City, with a vested interest in the prosperity of the City. Any deviation from these standards will be rejected on my watch.

Presha – Question 3: The role of the council is to test/assure the individuals’ competency, knowledge and understanding of the responsibilities they will be assuming. Also, asking questions to gauge their decision making, creativity and problem solving abilities when it comes to different real world scenarios and situations within their area appointment.

Ward – Question 3: The candidate should be evaluated for their competence in their area of expertise and that the candidate’s selection process has been fair and transparent. If all the other professional criteria were equal, I would demonstrate a “preference” for candidates that are city residents.

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Question 4

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?

Balmir – Question 4: Working well:
Office on Aging
This office works well by providing our senior community with support and recreational activities. Staff is effective at leveraging services through non-profit and other government agencies to ensure that seniors get what they need to live as independently as possible.
Police Department
The work the Police Department is doing with the school district to ensure the safety of our students and reduce truancy is important. The Citizen Police Advisory Councils (CPAC) has helped increase the communication between residents and police.
Needs improving:
Office of Economic Development
I believe the City must adjust its Economic Development strategy to include smaller-scale development. Specifically neighborhood based development of properties owned by the City.
Inspections Department
This Department was heavily impacted by staff reductions and as a result they are not equipped to handle the volume of work. The City should explore the possibility of shared service options for the inspection department.

Bethea – Question 4: Obviously, a newly elected council member must make a careful and detailed evaluation of each of our City’s departments. Likely, all of our departments have some room for improvement. However, our current budgetary constraint leave us no choice but to carefully evaluate both our Administration and Purchasing Departments. Clearly, our service of providing elementary and secondary education must be improved.

Donahue – Question 4: I feel that the two departments that add to the quality of life in Trenton are the Parks and Recreation department and the department of Health specifically Animal Control. The Parks department offers a wide variety of activities; many of which are at no cost. Trenton Animal Control officers are responsive and show a tremendous amount of respect for the health and well being of animals.
The areas that need improvement are the Division of Economic Development and within the Department of Public Works, the bureau of streets and the bureau of curbs and sidewalks. I would like to see these both of these departments have performance benchmarks and report quarterly to the public on progress.

Green – Question 4: Working well:
Office on Aging – This office works well by providing our senior community with support and recreational activities. Staff is effective at leveraging services through non-profit agencies to ensure that seniors get what they need to live as independently as possible.
Police Department – The work the Police Department is doing with the school districts to ensure the safety of our students and reduce truancy is important. The Citizen Police Advisory Councils (CPAC) has helped increase the communication between residents and police.
Needs improving:
Office of Economic Development – I believe the City must adjust its Economic Development strategy to include smaller-scale development. Specifically neighborhood based development of properties owned by the City.
Inspections Department – This Department was heavily impacted by staff reductions and as a result they are not equipped to handle the volume of work. The City should explore the possibility of shared service options for the inspection department.

Holly-Ward – Question 4: I am the only council candidate that currently works inside City Hall. This seems to be a loaded question that is not specific enough for me to give a clear and honest answer. However, I can reply that for the past ten years, I have had the opportunity to work as a Community Relations Specialist for the Mayor’s Office. Working in this position has given me the ability to see the inner workings of our various City departments and understand what’s true and false. I feel that my experience has given me a unique perspective which has made me quite knowledgeable about the structure of Trenton’s City government and how it could and should be used to improve our community’s quality of life.

Martinez – Question 4: I am not prepared to say what departments are performing well and those that are not. However, what I am prepared to offer is a discussion of the role of civil service as perhaps an impediment to providing quality service to the residents of the city. Prior to civil service individuals served at the will of their superiors, and yes there were abuses. However, you also had a quality of service that was directed to providing the best possible service to the residents. If a call from a resident came into city hall about a particular concern that concern was taken care of in a timely matter. I am not certain under civil service that the residents are viewed as importantly as they once were prior to the establishment of civil service. As a member of council I am prepared to have such a discussion and review.

McBride – Question 4: No response received.

Perez – Question 4: I don’t feel any of the departments are functioning well, the worst offenders being the Housing and Inspections Departments. The Housing Department needs to not be a Slumlord, and the City owned houses need to be sold to put them back on the tax rolls. To much time goes by and the houses deteriorate and blight the neighborhoods.
The Inspections Department needs to become a friendly, sensitive place to do business. This is the first impression for those looking to locate and do business with the City.
Poor planning and mismanagement are the biggest obstacles; a complete overhaul in the departments is what is necessary, even if it means replacing personnel.

Presha – Question 4: Currently, I see the Fire and Tax Departments working well. Police and Inspections could use some improvements.
To touch on the two mentioned the Police need to patrol on foot. This at the onset of implementation would equate to reduced crime, improved and established citizen/police relationships, and safer streets. The inspections dept could be improved by the implementation of a “Citizens quality of life commission” with the authority to investigate and enforce all minor quality of life ordinance violations such as (trash in yards, bed bug infestations, rental property licenses, etc). This not only gives some power back to the people of Trenton, but it allows Inspectors to focus on the bigger issues such as closing permits, construction codes, etc. We would also hire back inspectors whom were laid off due to the increased revenue from the of increase fees for permits, building code and quality of life violations.

Ward – Question 4: Working well:
The Trenton Police Department has shown a marked improvement in response time to emergency calls and has as of late, done a much better job with its community outreach efforts.
The Division of Housing Production has won recognition as a national leader in the production of affordable housing units. Through this program, over 1700 units of affordable housing have been started in Trenton since 1991, including new construction, substantial rehabilitation, housing for sale, for rent, and for the city’s special needs population.
Need improvement:
The Department of Inspections is responsible for the abandoned buildings in Trenton. These eyesores have a negative effect on property values and degrade the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods. With thousands of abandoned building existing in Trenton, this department has to take a much more assertive approach to address this ongoing problem. Trenton’s homeowners frequently complain about the abandoned houses in their [truncated at 150 words]

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Question 5

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?

Balmir – Question 5: Considering the fiscal condition of the City, the next Council must be ready to ask the right questions and work with the Mayor to develop thoughtful initiatives. I support reinstituting the City’s Homesteading program, where properties are sold to interested local residents at a price as low as a dollar. Part of the program would involve helping those residents secure mortgage funding through federal programs like the Federal Housing and Urban Development Section 203(k) program, which is a mortgage program specifically targeted for the rehabilitation of single family homes.
Initiatives that reduce spending while meeting the needs of City residents represent the hard work of governing. Changing how the City does business is key to reducing expenditures. Unnecessary “business as usual” costs must be reigned in to show residents that their tax dollars are not wasted.

Bethea – Question 5: Indeed, it is imperative that the Council meet our citizens’ needs and balance our budget; our citizens deserve no less! As a Council member I will attentively assess consultant fees, overtime payments and new purchases and then eliminate nonessential expenditures. Also, I would seek ways to heighten tourist interest to our rich historic and cultural attractions, as well as to attract businesses. These combined actions would begin to reduce our deficit.

Donahue – Question 5: The State, County and Federal government are all major tenants who require services but do not provide ratables. Government offices use all of the city services without providing any of the benefits that a corporation would provide such as Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick or Prudential in Newark. As a council person, I will work on a plan that requires government properties contribute to the tax roles. The State, County and Federal government need to be an advocate for Trenton to attract new companies. I would also work to develop a strategic plan to bring labor intensive companies into Trenton.

Green – Question 5: We have to use the phenomenal pool of talent we have in the City. We must bring our small businesses to the table and access their skills, abilities and resources. As we identify needed contractual work, Trenton contractors and small businesses must be our first priority. Whether it’s rehabilitating abandoned properties, or providing some type of service, we must allow Trentonians to sit and “eat” at the table. Thus we are investing in our constituents who live here and they will invest back into our city. With a strong, assertive council working collectively for the betterment of Trenton we must change the dynamics of our relationship with the state. For too long they have held us in a stranglehold by not paying their fare share, yet they occupy prime real estate in our city. We must demand and make sure they begin to treat us as what we are…the capital.

Holly-Ward – Question 5: I would suggest that City Council take steps to reduce expenditures by carefully reviewing the budget and then removing items that have been proven over the years to be ineffective investments. For example, programs and services that enable people to depend on City government have drained our resources. If we are going to help anyone, they should know that they must also attempt to help themselves. Therefore, there should be incentives and limitations in place so that our services are not abused. Also, because it takes extensive time to review a budget, I would recommend and support a budget review committee made up of various members of the community. These combined efforts would help us to create a balanced budget, while being more transparent with our taxpayers.

Martinez – Question 5: I would seek creation of a Capital City District which would be the area that immediately surrounds and includes all state government buildings. The State would be informed that the Capital City District would be its responsibility for its own policing and items like repairs of streets and snow removal. Those police and fire personnel and resources currently allocated to the Capital City District would be transferred to other areas of the city. If the State felt that it needed the use of City police, fire and other such services it would have to pay for it at a fair market rate. Water would be supplied to the District however at a rate more in line that is charged to suburban towns. Emergency medical resources would be made available however such services would be contracted to the District.

McBride – Question 5: No response received.

Perez – Question 5: The State needs to pay their share for day to day services, just like the homeowners pay a rate, so should the State. The Council should push for a privilege to work in the City Tax, for all non-residents working within the City. This would raise the revenue coming into the City, so the City can hire from within the City to improve all department services. By improving all departments we will make a come back. Trenton would become a safe, clean, and friendly place to live and visit.

Presha – Question 5: First I would put a freeze on all police over-time; sell all vacant dilapidated residential properties for a $1 with a 3-4 month timeline for purchasers to get them back on the tax roll. The old way of dealing with this blight obviously hasn’t been effective. Secondly I would increase the property tax on all residential empty lots. Owners usually pay an extremely low property tax which is a disincentive for developing the property. The United States Postal Service is probably the largest government owned and operated business; we should mimic this by having our Public Works Dept go after road paving RFP’s to fund our own city paving projects along with a little revenue for our city coffers. No city department will purchase new vehicles. No more barrowing, if we don’t have it, we don’t spend it. Aggressively attack the long term debt.
These solutions will help to reduce expenditures as well as increasing revenues along, with a more efficiently running city.

Ward – Question 5: To decrease expenditures specifically:
I will closely examine the budget in order to balance it without the $8.7 M from the water deal proceeds and do it WITHOUT LAYING-OFF OF RANK-AND-FILE CITY WORKERS.
1) Postpone $4,462,500 in expenditures from the $16 Million in the proposed capital improvement program.
a) $1,712,500 for construction of a new municipal court building.
b) $2,750,000 for construction of a new public works garage.
2) Suspend all $3.5M in over-time expenditures unless external funds can be identified.
3) Eliminate the vacant positions that are carried in the budget and fill the vacancies with existing city workers who have been laid-off.
4) Postpone the purchase of $400,000 SUV’s for the Police department.
5) Apply stricter over-sight on the reported $6M in expenditures for “consultant fees” in order to eliminate them.
6) Engage our neighboring municipalities in a genuine effort to “regionalize” municipal services.
7) Implement Tuesday 2:00 [truncated at 150 words]

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Question 6

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?

Balmir – Question 6: Marketing Trenton’s history, arts and cultural diversity is a key component to moving the City forward. I will support marking efforts that focus on attracting visitors as well as the City’s current residents.
1. As a member of council I will use the At Large Council platform to celebrate the City’s cultural diversity by sponsoring ward based and city wide cultural celebrations.
2. I will also work with local artists, community groups, and non-profit organizations to identify funding for a City of Trenton Mural Arts Program, similar to the program in the City of Philadelphia. Trenton is blessed with the local talent needed to develop an impactful program that will reflect the diversity of Trenton’s neighborhood and help beautify our blighted areas.
3. I will work with the Trenton School District leadership to develop community arts and culture activities for our youth to showcase their creative talents.

Bethea – Question 6: Our citizenry and our near and distant neighbors would enjoy and learn from our historical, artistic and cultural attractions. I would appreciate discussion with our citizens, TDA and our many civic organizations to identify some new ideas about how to significantly increase our citizens’ and neighbors’ attendance/participation with our historic, artistic and cultural events. I am particularly interested in knowing if neighborhood or civic association may have interest in helping to plan, sponsor or host such events on a routine bases.

Donahue – Question 6: The basis of any successful marketing campaign is effective communication. Trenton is a perfect venue for the Arts, Music and Cultural activities to blossom. As a council person, I would like to see the city of Trenton develop an Arts, Music and Cultural events calendar website that links through the city website and is also connected to a Tourism website that promotes the city owned Marriott hotel. Once we attract artists to show their work, the city needs to develop a program that encourages artists to work and live in Trenton. It would be possible to promote the work where you live program and develop former commercial sites into artist work live spaces.

Green – Question 6: Each ward is an “island” with dynamic cultural diversity, on council I will promote and celebrate legacy and heritage of each ward. We can deal individually with each ward and then celebrate the whole with citywide events.
Trenton’s rich history must be shared discussed, developed and marketed. With the Washington Crossing, The Barracks, Battle Monument, War Memorial to name a few, there is a rich history that will generate revenue if marketed properly.
I have a few students in my school who are an example of the talent pool that we have here. Artist and designers who can begin to paint projects, murals and pieces to remove some of the horrible blight that exist here.

Holly-Ward – Question 6: The steps that I would take to support and market Trenton’s history, arts, and culture would be to: Develop a committee to research all of Trenton’s most marketable and profitable arts, historical and cultural assets. Encourage community pride by marketing our findings to Trenton residents and neighboring cities to draw in tourism and revenue. Create various tourism packages to make our city more attractive to encourage prospective business owners to move down town.

Martinez – Question 6: Let’s be real, we need to put our priority in CHECK. We must seriously rethink this whole notion of historical preservation that impedes significant development and growth. Case in point, spending $150 million to renovate Trenton Central High School while our children today and tomorrow will be sitting in city schools with severe lighting, sound and air quality problems is a problem that we need to address.
We need a balance, because sometimes an old building just needs to be torn down. It might not be the most politically correct thing to say, but as a responsible leader, Juan Martinez is going too be honest.
If we are serious about wanting others to visit this city we have to offer something of value and they also have to feel safe about coming here.
Three specific steps:
1) Tear down (where appropriate)
2) Build up
3) Maintain

McBride – Question 6: No response received.

Perez – Question 6: I would work to make our City a safe place to live and visit. I would work towards ensuring the cleanliness of the streets and that they are pot hole free; not only the main entries, but in all neighborhoods. All parks should be clean, well maintained and properly equipped.
City Hall should be the biggest cheerleader and promote all of the Arts, History and Cultural Diversity the City has to offer all year round. Trenton needs to reclaim downtown, for the citizens of this City. Not by evicting the State, but by providing our services and being paid for them.

Presha – Question 6: Have neighborhoods and civic association’s partner for neighborhood cultural days in the individual wards throughout the year. Push for the city to apply for as many art and cultural grants as possible, whether funded from public sources or private foundations. Marketing could be done by a possible ½ hr weekly radio show geared towards the arts, history and culture of our City.

Ward – Question 6: As a councilperson I would act as a promoter of Trenton’s history and culture.
I have already taken a personal role in promoting these latent assets by founding the 6th Regiment United States Colored Troops Reenactors, who participate in Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware, The Battles of Trenton and the events of Patriots Week, all in an effort to help grow Trenton’s tourism industry.
I currently serve on the Board of Directors of The Trenton Historical Society whose mission it is to preserve and protect Trenton’s historical assets.

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Question 7

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?

Balmir – Question 7: Trenton’s strong civic association networks provide an organized and effective tool to engage the broader population in various activities. These groups provide the sense of community needed to maintain and strengthen our neighborhoods and must be supported by Council. As a member of council, I plan to work with the Civic associations to disseminate important information regarding our City. They also serve as a great resource for information and feedback. Some citizen-lead efforts I support are the community clean-ups taking place throughout the City. These activities inspire pride and activism block by block. I also support the beautification efforts that call for bulk purchasing of goods to reduce the cost to residents.

Bethea – Question 7: As President of the NAACP Trenton Branch for the past four years, I have diligently reached across racial and community barriers to enhance diversity throughout our City by soliciting NAACP membership from all races and by the NAACP sponsoring a Freedom Dinner that honored persons of diverse backgrounds for their significant contributions to our City and vicinity.
Mentoring is a proven way to substantially groom youth and young adults into productive citizens. I am eager to have our all of City’s youth and young adults
to have access to a mentor. With our Civic organizations, fraternities and sororities, I would discuss establishing mentoring programs that serve young people within their respective neighborhoods.

Donahue – Question 7: I feel that the keys to civic engagement are encouragement, enfranchisement, and empowerment. As a council member, I would make it a point to be out in the community and attend civic meetings such as the TCCA. I would work with civic groups to continue to enfranchise people throughout the city by encouraging cross pollination of civic groups such as working to bring a CPAC and a PTA meeting together. Finally, I would work to empower civic groups by working with council to institute a new process where citizens could sit down with council members to discuss solutions and to work together to bring about change. I support Director Irving Bradley’s program to create neighborhood jacket patrols. I also feel that the STARS organization initiative to create a community garden should be replicated.

Green – Question 7: Our civic associations are the blueprint for the success and moving our city forward with constituents at the forefront. They take us back to the way things use to be, with familiarity being the order of the day. I would stay in constant communication with these associations as they clean, rehabilitate and elevate the quality of life in their communities. Each block having captains who are informed and vigilant in keeping all of those in their communities informed and engaged. When all constituents are working towards the same goal, we begin to demand accountability and raise our standards. Whether we are focused on lawn maintenance or overall clean up, when a neighborhood “checks and balances” each other, you begin to produce a positive mindset to secure and elevate the quality of life in the community.

Holly-Ward – Question 7: My first action to foster and promote citizen action would be to organize a citywide clean-up and beautification campaign for Trenton. People need to be educated that our excessive litter and debris devalues our neighborhoods and makes our capital city appear unpleasant. I would encourage and financially support any citizen-lead ideas and efforts that are realistic, well planned, and will yield lasting results to keep Trenton clean and beautiful. This would be beneficial to all of us as it would attract businesses and residents, while increasing our tax base.

Martinez – Question 7: I am not aware of any law or ordinance that prevents civic and other organizations in this city from fostering and promote citizen action and goodwill efforts. Most, if not all, have by-laws and mission statements promoting the greater good. As an elected official I can exhort, encourage, write letters and make speeches, but if the members of those organizations have no real desire to do anything substantial nothing will be done. Those organizations and their members are Trenton. It is up to them to make Trenton and this world better. If they fail to do it, it is on them. Seven individuals sitting in council chamber are not going to make a difference if the majority of the residents could care less and would rather complain and whine. This answer may not be politically correct but we need as a society to get beyond the politics of bull shaking.

McBride – Question 7: No response received.

Perez – Question 7: As a Council member, I would involve myself in the local organizations, to be an ambassador for them to Council, so their needs and concerns may be addressed. Example: Park clean-ups; see they have the tools and supplies to accomplish the goals: Nuisance businesses or neighbors; follow through to make sure the proper departments are resolving the issues.

Presha – Question 7: First off I will be in the community, when something is or isn’t happening. Frequent community meetings in the various wards of the City on a monthly basis for me to inform the residents of the importance of citizen action and involvement. And to do the same thing in the schools with the youth, but my conversations with them will consist of more decision making development. As a leader, I have to allow residents the opportunity to vent frustrations, and when they do I will act, I must, its’ my duty, my responsibility, its’ my obligation to those whom have entrusted me with the order to lead, and lead I will.
I would support more recreational activities for the youth of the city. Extended park lighting hours for extended usage with frequent police patrols for safety concerns. Also, I will reach out to the citizens in efforts to crack down [truncated at 150 words]

Ward – Question 7: There is no substitute for being accessible to the people by being out among them. It is a fundamental responsibility of a councilperson to make themselves available to any citizen who seeks their help. I believe the most effective way to address an issue, is to empower and support the citizens’ efforts to complete a task for themselves.
The Feast of Lights, The Puerto Rican Day Parade, The Juneteenth Celebration, Cinco De Mayo, I Am Trenton, Chambersburg Merchants Association, Trenton Downtown Association and Beautiful Trenton are examples of citizen led efforts that illuminate the rich cultural heritage in Trenton and deserve to be supported by a conscientious city councilperson. Beyond their personal participation, a city councilperson should make the city’s resources, which actually belong to all of Trenton’s citizens, available to these active and deserving organizations.

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Question 8

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?

Balmir – Question 8: Council members have a responsibility to do whatever they can to help improve student outcomes because improved student outcomes improves the City. I have been a member of the school board for two years and I’m clear about the challenges we face. Our school system is in need of systemic change at every level. Such change requires a collective will and vision. Unfortunately, the school district has been used as a tool for political finger pointing with little support for the efforts to challenge the status quo. To address this I will advocate for a hybrid School Board structure: 3 members appointed by the Mayor, 3 appointed by Council and 3 elected by the residents. There is no silver bullet that will address all the issues we face but I believe this board structure holds all of the City’s leadership accountable for ensuring that the school district improves.

Bethea – Question 8: Council can strongly advocate for effective means of improvement. Examples:
As an educator in our Trenton Public Schools for 35 years I am confidant that we must do a better job at encouraging our City’s successful high school and college graduates to remain in or return to our City. Then our City must provide these graduates with meaningful employment opportunities so that they can serve as catalysts to encourage our young people to likewise be disciplined and successful.
We must also do a better job at recruiting City employees/residents who have a vested interest to enroll their children in our public schools. Many of our promising students attend school outside of our Trenton School District; these students can effectively motivate their peers to achieve when learning beside them.
We must place more emphasis on our elementary students and provide them with activities that focus on their development of character.

Donahue – Question 8: To improve Trenton School System, you must begin with the Mayor and then the Board of Education. Trenton would be better served with a partially elected BOE. Two appointed seats should be reserved for officers of the PTA. The remaining seats should be reserved for individuals with specific skill sets that can help the board make decisions on infrastructure, technology and curriculum.

Green – Question 8: When I am on council I will work very diligently to bring Mayor, City Council and School Board together. We must change the manner in which we align these entities so that they work together. I support the forming of a Hybrid school with 3 to be appointed by the mayor, 3 appointed by council and 3 elected by the constituents. In this way all 3 are properly represented and held to high standards for the betterment of our children who are the future of this City

Holly-Ward – Question 8: It is time that the City consider establishing an ordinance for elected officials, appointed officials and school board members to support our school system. The ordinance would be very similar to the residency ordinance, which City employees presently operate under. We all have to be accountable. Currently most public top administrators and community leaders, paid by local tax payer’s dollars, take the money and send their children outside of the City. To their defense these are most of the good parents who have the ability and resources to make a difference. They also have the experience and the outlook to succeed. Their presence would bring a much needed since of caring that would help our students and the school system move forward.

Martinez – Question 8: Perhaps, the most important thing that City Council can do to improve the city public education system is to take full and active responsibility to the success or failure of our children. As one of the first legislative actions I will seek will be the passage of an ordinance which adds each member of City Council and the Mayor to serve with the public members of the Trenton Board of Education and held responsible for all decisions and actions of the board. The educational buck will be placed on each and every member of the city’s governing body. Citizens will be able to evaluation our tenure on the board along the improvement or lack of by our public school children. As a member of Council and the Board I would also seek year around schooling for all students. I would also urge for smaller schools and classrooms.

McBride – Question 8: No response received.

Perez – Question 8: The City Council can’t control the drop out rate, but we can focus attention to the problems that contribute to it. A need to lobby for an elected School Board. Demand accountability from the Superintendent, ensuring he holds the staff accountable. Ensure the safe environment of the schools, when a child feels safe, he/she will succeed.

Presha – Question 8: . By stipulating monies given to the school system ONLY be applied directly to STUDENT classroom resources (books, pencils, crayons, scissors, construction paper, etc), outreach programs geared towards increasing parental involvement in children education, and the implementation of the Amistad Bill within our educational curriculum (”Amistad Bill” (A1301) enacted in 2002,but which has not been enforced). And by holding everyone from the Mayor-School Board-Superintendent-principals-teachers, but most importantly PARENTS & STUDENTS ACCOUNTABLE, which consists of doing so publicly. For too long have parents have been able to fly under the accountability radar when the discussions of responsibility within bad educational systems are discussed. Problems don’t get solved by supposed leaders being “politically correct” which means “afraid” to tell parents “yes the school system is responsible in part for the ills, but, the parents you play an even bigger role”. Example, I see too many children going to school without book bags. [truncated at 150 words]

Ward – Question 8: Accountability for performance has to become the hallmark of Trenton’s school system at all professional levels.
Engaging the parents of the students in a more effective collaboration with Educators in the delivery of a quality education requires a greatly increased emphasis.
I’m an advocate of increasing both the length of the school day and the school year with robust after school programs, to improve the chances for more of Trenton’s students to succeed.

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Question 9

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?

Balmir – Question 9: As member of City Council I will make constituent services a top priority. As stated previously, I plan to work with neighborhood civic associations to disseminate information about pending decisions before Council and to solicit feedback. I will also strongly encourage the administration to develop a more user friendly website where residents can access and download information about the City easily, at no cost. Finally and most importantly, I will never forget that I am here to serve the residents of this City. Therefore, I personally plan to be responsive and accessible.

Bethea – Question 9: Council can best serve citizens when there is an open, honest and continually developing dialogue between our citizens and our elected officials. First, improving our citizens’ accessibility may help to enhance such communication.
As before held, Council meetings can be held within schools, rotating location through each ward. Besides, such increased accessibility, perhaps Council can ask their respective constituents via neighborhood and civic associations to make concerted efforts to attend Council meetings, especially those held within their neighborhoods.
I look forward to our City’s newly elected executive and legislative officials bringing an insightful, enthused, vested energy and creative ideas to our City’s government! Hopefully, such energy will spark heightened involvement among our citizens, consequently develop their ongoing willingness to hold our elected officials accountable and a conclude with a cycle of elected officials being eager to be transparent and responsive. I certainly welcome such an exciting communicative cycle!

Donahue – Question 9: When the council works with the public to insure that the interests of the people are taken into account better decisions are made. It is important that City Council listens to public comment before votes are cast on ordinances. When citizens want to address the council concerning a specific issue or project, it would be helpful to have a process to promote a dialogue. I’d like to see the same process as the PARC (Project Application Review Committee) created for citizen led initiatives. Council members could meet with civic groups or individuals to discuss the steps involved in order to bring about a change.

Green – Question 9: When I am on Council I will bring a fresh approach to working to move this city forward. I will continue to be rooted and grounded in the community because that is how leadership creates real change for the people. I will take hands on approach and make sure the constituents in Trenton know that I am representing their interest on Council.

Holly-Ward – Question 9: I would like to engage our residents so that they attend and participate in City Council sessions. I have found that many of our residents are not aware of what City Council does, or even that they can attend City Council meetings. I would like to see the meetings televised, meeting dates advertised in the front of the newspaper instead of the back, in addition to meeting dates being sent in water bills. Trenton has suffered because many times people do not know that they can be heard or what decisions are being made on their behalf. I would make it a priority to engage our community and fill the City Council Chambers for every meeting.

Martinez – Question 9: I feel strongly that it is our responsibility as elected officials to encourage citizen participation. If it is difficult for citizens to come to meetings of council for whatever reason, we must take the council meetings to the citizens. I will seek that council meetings be held in the various wards and neighborhoods of our city at times and places that make it easier for citizens to attend. If during the year when there is no football on Sunday afternoon holding a council meeting at a school or faith based institution after religious services are finished may allow more people to attend a council meeting. Holding council meetings in senior building should also be considered if we truly want to be accessible, transparent and responsive to citizens.

McBride – Question 9: No response received.

Perez – Question 9: I will lobby with others from Council to be transparent, accessible, and responsive to all citizen concerns. A friendly atmosphere at City Hall will help the citizens of the City to feel comfortable bringing their ideas and concerns.

Presha – Question 9: I will be in the community. I am about people development, and so I will inform the citizens as to the reasons, steps and actions taken to get to certain decisions. I will fight to have every single city expenditure posted on our web site, its’ been talked about but never implemented. I will continue to maintain my personal website so that the residents could set up times to meet with me and share any grievances. But I can show the residents better than I could ever tell them.

Ward – Question 9: As a councilperson I would welcome inquiries and input from citizens as an opportunity for collaboration rather than with hostility.
I will pass along all pertinent information to the existing information outlets, websites and civic newsletters as I get it, in order to keep our citizenry fully informed.
I intend to establish a regular event called a “Councilman’s Lunch” where citizens and the press can have a luncheon with their councilman, provided by local restaurants, where they can bring their questions or presentations for discussion with their councilperson outside of the formal city council meeting setting.
I plan to attend as many monthly Civic Association and CPAC meetings as I can, where I can freely interact with the people of Trenton.

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