Trenton voters head to the polls May 13 to elect a new mayor. Running New Jersey’s capitol city will be a tall order as City Hall is tarnished by the corruption of former Mayor Tony Mack.
Crime is also skyrocketing, Trenton’s high school graduation rate is dismal, and blight hampers creating new jobs. Yesterday we profiled the two front-runner candidates on NewsWorks. Now we report on the other four.
Candidate Paul Perez
Paul Perez is a native Trentonian, and recently moved back. “It’s in my blood, my DNA, I was born here,” said Perez.
After a distinguished career in the military, he retired, and became a division director at the National Science Foundation. He’s never held elected office, and he’s prepared to tackle the race as a political outsider, “If you were part of the system for the past 27 years, then you’re part of the problem, so yes absolutely.” Perez says the next mayor has a big challenge ahead. “It sounds corny, but the city needs a hero, it needs someone who has credibility, who has confidence, who has, is, competent, honest and who has a track record of proven leadership.”
While Trenton’s set a homicide record last year, Perez says setting City Hall’s finances in order must come before hiring back police who were laid off for financial reasons, “Anybody can promise you 50 officers, but how are you going to get them? Uh, we don’t even know how much money we have in City Hall currently, because of the problems we’ve been having, which is one of the things we’ll be doing in our first 90 days, which is conducting a forensic financial review, of what we have available, and where is the money, and then how can we reprioritize that money?”
Fewer than half of Trenton high school seniors graduated last year. Perez calls this abysmal. He wants to add after-school programs, including tutoring. For funding, Perez would look outside of Trenton, “There are a lot of philanthropic people and foundations and other private investors who are always looking for opportunities to give, or give back, uh, for good causes. So we need to create a private/public partnership with those people so that we can bring them back into Trenton, and they can have an opportunity to be part of this rebirth of the city,” said Perez.
Perez says Trenton is stuck in the 20th century, and his remedy is the Trenton Broadband Initiative—his plan to offer reduced-price, high speed internet to residents and businesses, to modernize the city, “You’re going to have the ability to do virtual technologies, you’re going to be able to use mobile apps to conduct business, you don’t necessarily have to be in an office anymore, or within four walls to conduct business, you can do it anywhere.”
While Perez recently returned to Trenton, City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Kathy McBride has spent her life here.
Candidate Kathy McBride
“I’ve lived every parent’s nightmare. My oldest son Kenny was shot and killed here, in the city limits,” said Kathy McBride, who serves as a Councilwoman At-Large.
McBride wants more officers back on the street, and would pay for this by asking a wage “contribution” from state workers, though she’s reluctant to describe it as a wage tax, “There’s over 30-thousand workers come in the city every day, and leave our city without contributing anything at this point, so I believe that wage contribution will bring us millions,” she said.
In addition, McBride would offer police officers a salary bump, as an incentive to have them live in Trenton. To stop the flow of illegal weapons to the city, she would station police at gate-ways into Trenton; on the lookout in particular for cars with New York or southern tags, “I’m not saying to profile anyone, I’m saying to do spot checks and to actually try to stop some of the guns from coming inside the city limits,” said McBride.
McBride believes if crime is taken care of, Trenton will begin to blossom.
Candidate Oliver LeggettOliver “Bucky” Leggett is a former Trenton city councilman, and was deputy mayor under Carmen Armenti decades ago. Retired for about 10 years, Leggett says he feels compelled to run for mayor. “It’s impossible for me to be here, a part of it, truly a Trentonian and not make my contribution. I have to.”
On tackling crime: he says wants more officers on the force, but says thinner ranks are not an excuse for letting crime flourish, “You never have enough, funding doesn’t permit you to have enough. So you have to make sure you have some efficacy in terms of how police operate, not simply in terms of numbers,” said Leggett.
Leggett says top issues on his list as mayor, would be to tackle blight, “People don’t recognize just how much your environment plays into your behavior. Our children walk by these streets every day, and they learn to live with this,” he said. “You don’t let people live in these kinds of environments, knowing in fact you’re creating criminality.”
Leggett says removing blight will lessen crime, and attract new business to Trenton, “You create jobs by creating an environment in the city that people want to live in, you create jobs by creating an environment that people care about.”
Leggett is promising to set a new tone for Trenton that will make outsiders more willing to help the city move forward, “You have to create a sense of leadership that people are going to see, that you’re no-nonsense, that you’re about quality, you’re about getting the job done.”
Candidate Walker Worthy
Walker Worthy currently serves as Mercer County deputy Clerk.
“My family moved out of Trenton when I was young. I came back to Trenton, I believe in Trenton. I could live anywhere in Mercer County, but I chose Trenton,” he said.
Worthy agrees the number one issue facing the city is public safety. However, as mayor, he would not immediately add new officers, “We cannot afford to hire people in the city government. We have to work with what we have.”
Worthy says he would make it a priority to develop a close relationship with the police director, and would reorganize the department, making certain police are deployed to the city’s hot spots. On improving the high school drop-out rate: Worthy says there is a disconnect in the community. He believes if parents become involved in education, students will succeed. “Come to back to school night, come to parent teacher conferences, support your community school,” said Worthy.
If elected mayor, Worthy says he would be the city’s coach, “The mayor has to go door-to-door, and go to the churches, and go to the community, and hold workshops on how to start your children off on the right foot.”
Worthy’s also floated the idea of building a casino along the waterfront, as a way to attract jobs, and increase Trenton’s tax base. But he too, wants to get more out of Trenton’s biggest business: state employees. “We can no longer foot the bill for the 30,000 state workers that come in, that use our services, like our police and fire and emergency management,” he said. “We have got to think of a formula, a payment in lieu of taxes, where the state pays their fair share.”
Worthy says his track record should make it easier to enlist help from Governor Christie and legislators. “The (Mercer) county clerk and I have saved millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money by being efficient and well-managed, and I can be trusted.”
The six candidates vying to write the next chapter in Trenton’s history, post Tony Mack, will square off in the non-partisan election May 13. The winner will take office on July 1.Acting Mayor George Muschal, who took over in February, is not running for mayor. Former Trenton Mayor Tony Mack is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14.