I’m running for mayor to move the city of Trenton in a vastly different direction: forward. For the last 10 years or more, our city has been eroding. With the right leadership, we can turn that around.
This race will be about the past vs. the future. As we look in the rearview mirror, we see decades of failure, thanks to self-centered politicians who were not focused on the issues that matter most to the people of Trenton. Going forward, we need a new leadership strategy that reflects a true partnership with citizens from all segments of our community, working together to solve the biggest issues we face.
This is the first part of my comprehensive plan to move the City of Trenton forward. In it, I cover four major goals and highlight some of the strategies to accomplish them:
Tackle crime with a plan that sets forth realistic goals, for which we will hold ourselves accountable.
Establish a public education system that closes the achievement gap and increases the graduation rate.
Create jobs through a comprehensive economic development plan that increases median incomes.
Reinvent government by establishing a city government that is efficient, accountable and ethical.
We cannot transform Trenton if we continue to be divided by race, poverty and politics. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I believe it takes the voices of four wards, 44 districts and 85,000 people to raise a city up to everything it aspires to be. We must reach outside our city’s borders to engage the entire region in moving Trenton forward. Our creativity is limited only by our imagination, and together we can imagine a better future.
Turning the “Capital City” into a “Safe City” is our number one priority. True public safety will require a multi-layered approach. Our point: the Trenton Police Department will be required to collaborate with regional authorities to devise smarter strategies. By way of example, the recent merger of Trenton’s Vice Unit with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office best reflects this approach. This initiative must be expanded to include state and federal agencies so we can have the resources Trenton needs to get illegal drugs and gangs off our city streets.
Gun violence, in particular, is a major concern for our city. This is an issue that matters to every member of our community. My administration will treat gun violence as a public health issue, understanding that youth violence, in particular, stems from risk factors at home or at school. Law enforcement will work in partnership with health and human services, as well as community organizations, in order to identify factors that lead to crime and solving them.
Our goal is to reduce Trenton’s Crime Index by 40% over the next four years. Here are the actions we will take to get there:
Develop and implement a comprehensive crime reduction and violence prevention plan, with target-specific benchmarks, within the first 60 days of my administration.
Hire 50 additional police officers within one year by working with the police union and other state and local officials as well as business leaders to identify funding sources for the new officers.
Establish neighborhood patrol beats throughout the city, assigning the same officers to those beats on a permanent basis.
Develop a well-trained, highly disciplined special operations unit in the police department for tactical deployment in high crime areas of the city.
Reorganize and strengthen the Citizen Police Advisory Councils (CPACs) in each of the city’s four wards to work in a true partnership with the police department. The CPACs will be trained in the S.A.R.A. problem-solving model (Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment) to identify and solve quality of life problems at the neighborhood level.
Reestablish Trenton’s Youthstat initiative as a prevention and intervention tool aimed at decreasing risk factors that lead to juvenile crime and delinquency
Use the existing Juvenile Conference Committees (JCCs), community-based panels consisting of six to nine volunteers that serve as an extension of the Family Division of Superior Court. Selected cases of minor offenses will be referred to the panel for recommendations to turn around problem behavior.
Create partnerships with organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club to connect as many youth as possible with mentors and caring, supportive adults to help them navigate through difficult situations and find opportunities for success.
Support the NJ Opportunity to Compete Act, aka “Ban the Box,” which will level the playing field for ex-offenders seeking employment opportunities after incarceration. If passed, this legislation could directly impact recidivism rates in Trenton.
Treat violent crime as a public health issue by establishing a multi-jurisdictional collaborative comprised of health, human services, law enforcement and community-based organizations that will identify scientific and evidence-based best practices for reducing violent crime involving youth, particularly in the African-American and Latino communities with the highest incidence of violent crime.
Education is another way of saying opportunity. However, in order for public education to truly work, it’s one opportunity that requires an elaborate partnership between parents, teachers, coaches and administrators. Much like five fingers aren’t strong on their own, they make a fist when you pull them together. Public education is no different. As it stands today, less than 50-percent of our young people are graduating high school. We can – and we must – do better.
Inspiring students to become life learners and take responsibility for their education will become a recurring theme for my administration. Our goal is to close the student achievement gap and increase graduation rates to 75-percent within the next four years.
Here’s our plan:
Create an Education Advisory Board comprised of residents, educators, small businesses and corporations. This board will serve in an advisory capacity to me and my administration as it relates to the improvement of the Trenton public school system. The board will meet with representatives of the advocacy groups of each individual school to share and discuss ideas; it will partner with the superintendent on planned strategies and progress regarding improvement of the school system. I will ensure that those plans, as they progress, will remain easily accessed by any citizen of Trenton.
Develop and coordinate high-quality after school programs and services for children and families, giving children experiences and opportunities for success.
Appoint school board members who support the following policy changes:
Tying teacher evaluations to student performance, as the teacher evaluation process must be transparent and significantly based on measured student outcomes, with clear guidelines and standards.
Empowering parents to evaluate schools and teachers by providing data on attendance, student test scores (aggregated for class and school), teacher/principal evaluations and salaries, graduation rates and other relevant information.
Empowering principals to evaluate teacher performance, attracting and developing effective teachers and removing ineffective ones.
Develop, together with the school district, a capital plan to repair and renovate each one of Trenton’s 22 schools over the next 10 years.
Establish a “real job skills” program so that those students who choose not to further their education can have “real opportunities” to enter the workforce after graduating high school. We will build a partnership with the Mercer County Building Trades Council and the Chamber of Commerce, so that students in high school can learn a trade and participate in an apprenticeship program that pays real money while working right here in Trenton.
Insist that the school board and superintendent cite goals and benchmarks to ensure that every student is proficient in reading, writing, and mathematics by the end of third grade, and that all students are ready for algebra by the eighth grade.
Establish a task force representing a cross-section of the community exclusively to increase the high school graduation rate, college admission rate, and college graduation rate.
Part of moving Trenton forward is getting Trenton back to work. Today, Trenton’s unemployment rate is in double-digits, increasingly higher than the state average. What’s more, the city’s median income is through the floor at $36,727 (source: 2012 Census Data). To make matters worse, Trenton is actually losing wealth. The value of property on which we can charge a property tax has dwindled to $1,961,049,170, a 2.4% loss over one year (source: Trenton’s Tax Office).
Our goal is two-fold: to increase the city’s ratable base while simultaneously driving up median incomes. Here’s our plan to do just that:
Execute an economic development plan focusing on the Downtown Investment program and the marketing program.
Revise the tax structure to attract commercial development that invests in the city, fueling the local economy and generating additional revenue for the city.
Operate the Master Plan as an annual process to solicit neighborhood input into marketing and investment opportunities in the city.
Better manage business relations including inspections, licensing and technical assistance. We want to attract businesses to the city but only those that maintain modern standards of cleanliness and safety
Review every process top to bottom, removing redundancies and creating greater efficiencies.
Expand the citizen ticketing system to collect and track a wide variety of issues including streetlights out, potholes, etc., but also suspected landowner violations like dumping and unkempt property, reducing the cost of citing property owners for code violations and help to drive out irresponsible property owners and problem landlords.
Create a formal developer “pitch” process and team that includes key members of the public.
Catalog and maintain an inventory and status of all vacant property in the city. We will include the condition of the property in our prioritization of programs to roll-out development subsidies, vacant property registration fees, stabilization, auctions and homesteading.
Create a capacity to use the NJ Abandoned Property Rehabilitation Act.
The residents of Trenton deserve a city government that works for us – not against us. For that to occur, we must reinvent, rethink and reorganize Trenton’s municipal government.
Under my administration, the-taxpayer-comes-first-mentality will be installed as the new model for customer service. Residents are customers first and we must do a much better job of serving their needs.
Reinventing government isn’t going to be easy. But then again, nothing that truly makes a difference in people’s lives is ever easy.
Here’s our plan to reinvent municipal government:
Reorganize 12 municipal departments down to eight, more closely tying budget to goals, consolidating processes and managing fewer silos, and making the Trenton Water Works its own department.
Create the office of Performance Management and Accountability within the Department of Administration, serving as the lead agency for setting goals and benchmarks that will guide municipal operations, and holding ourselves accountable for achieving them.
Empower the city Ethics Board to investigate old ties to corruption and fraud, and establish a procedure for citizens to report allegations of wrong-doing by city employees.
Appoint a new auditing firm to put in place regular auditing systems for City Hall and make them available to the public.
Lead a zero-based budgeting exercise and process overhaul for all city functions.
Submit a plan to the state that asks for predictable, fair and growth-oriented funding from four sources: Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Act (CMPTRA), Energy Tax Receipts, Payment in lieu of Taxes (PILOT) and Transitional Aid, with the goal of phasing out Transitional Aid.
Introduce “best of breed” IT systems in conjunction with the operational departments that help to improve customer satisfaction and reduce paperwork. We will embrace e-government wherever possible.
Provide analytical support to operational departments, including hiring consultants where appropriate.
Make all public information available to the public through the city web site under the auspices of the City Clerk. This will include budgets, tax records, meeting minutes, expenditures, public communications and other public records. Our goal will be to make OPRA requests a thing of the past in Trenton. Citizens should not have to make special requests for public information.
Implement Priority Based Budgeting (PBB). PBB allows citizens to have direct influence over budget priorities. Citizen Priorities based on professional insight are inherently important! A Budget that is tied to citizens’ future and current needs is the best way to ensure important things are done first.