Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The morning after

We've pretty much all been there at one time or another.

The pounding head, the ringing ears, the raspy throat, the very unsettled feeling in the stomach.  All the result of overindulgence.

We think a majority of Trenton's voters...or a majority of the nearly 11,000 who actually voted in yesterday's municipal elections are experiencing some of the same symptoms this morning.

With a pitiful, less than 28% voter turnout, all but one of the contests to fill the Mayor and City Council seats appear to be headed for a runoff. 

Only incumbent South Ward Councilman George Muschal has handed his challengers a solid defeat.  The rest, Mayor, three Council At Large*, and the North, East, and West Council seats are headed into a June 15 runoff.

As we called it back in January.  Top three vote getters in the Mayoral race are Tony Mack, Eric Jackson and Manny Segura.  There are only three votes separating Segura from second place finisher Jackson.  No doubt there will be challenges and a very close examination of the provisional ballots, etc. before the results are certified by the city clerk.

In the At-Large race, it appears as though Trenton has chosen an interesting trio as the primary vote getters:  Kathy McBride, Alex Bethea and Phyllis Holly Ward.  McBride is an outspoken anti-violence activist who ran for At-Large in 2002 and again in 2006 where she nearly upset Palmer's plans to keep his slate in office by squeaking out ahead of Cordelia "Dee Dee" Staton in the May election. 

Bethea is a vice principal in one of the city schools, has also run before, and made the 2006 runoff with McBride and Mill Hill resident Jim Carlucci. 

Holly-Ward is a city employee and former head of the Trenton Council of Civic Associations (TCCA).  Her stint as TCCA president launched a monthly column in the Times where she wrote about building community and personal responsibility.  Of the three, Holly-Ward is probably the best qualified candidate.

Should the At-Large race go to a runoff, Juan Martinez, T. "Missy" Balmir, and Darren "Freedom" Green will go up against McBride, Bethea and Holly-Ward.  This is truly sad.

Martinez is a well-known opportunist working in the guise of Community Activist.  He purports to belong to/head up the mythical, all encompassing People for the Revitalization of the South Ward (PROS) organization.  The problem is, no one has ever been able to demonstrate when and where PROS meets; who the membership is other than Juan; provide copies of it's mission statement and/or by-laws, etc.  Juan is probably most remembered for supporting the idiotic "Leewood" plan that would have wiped out some 6 square blocks of Trenton's South Ward through the use of eminent domain in order for Palmer friendly developer could then build new homes to sell back to the very people that had been displaced.  Martinez's reward for his efforts on behalf of Leewood...a cushy $62,000 a year gig with the City School System as a community liaison. Not a good choice for any elected office in our estimation.

Missy Balmir is a former aide to Governor Corzine, a former aide to  Rep. Rush Holt, a former aide to Mayor Doug Palmer and a former member of the Trenton School Board (appointed by Doug Palmer).  In short, she has spent her adult life working with and for the same people who have led Trenton to the mess it is currently in and thinks she can change it for the better.  Doubtful.  And when you look at her campaign finance reports it becomes clear that Balmir is but another party hack put into play by a machine hoping to keep Trenton under it's thumb.  Bad choice.  Really bad choice.

Darren "Freedom" Green seems like an earnest enough fellow.  But where has he been and what has he done prior to running for Council At Large?  Why voters would choose him over obviously more experienced and and qualified candidates this time around is not only puzzling, it is actually disturbing. 

In the three ward races going to a runoff things are just as confusing.

In the North Ward, party insider Marge Caldwell-Wilson will face New Black Panther Party member Divine Allah in the June contest.  Ms. Caldwell-Wilson was removed from the South Ward** council seat in 1998 after some irregularities in absentee ballots were discovered.  Her reward...she was appointed to the County Board of Elections (hire a crook to catch a crook?).  She's flaunted her party connections as if they give her real qualifications to represent the people of the North Ward.  In fact, she has been rather detached from real involvement in the community...including her own neighborhood association, until she decided to run for council.  Note to Marge...union endorsements and glad handing with the former-gov might get you money, but it won't buy you friends.

Mr. Allah, on the other hand is waging a grass roots campaign that includes the retro-act of driving through the neighborhoods shouting through a bullhorn to entice voters to turn out.

This would be a fun contest to watch if we didn't have to make the choice ourselves.

In the East Ward, Joe Harrison and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson will battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate.  Harrison has been an outspoken critic of Doug Palmer's troop of players and the administration's antics. 

Ms. Reynolds-Jackson is a zoning board member and....
That is to say, she is a bit of an enigma and there is little information to be found from culling through her NJ ELEC reports.  Come to think of it, the same is true from At-Large candidate Mr. Green.

And both Ms. Reynolds-Jackson and Mr. Green appear in campaign literature with Ms. well as on her website.

Hmmm...we smell a slate with some strange connections.

And then there is the West Ward.  Zachary Chester is running up against Joyce Kersey.  Ms. Kersey, you may remembered, stepped down from her post on the school board where she was an ineffective leader and member.

Mr. Chester waged a quiet, well-funded campaign with all the trappings of a city wide machine: communications director, volunteer coordinator, etc.  He did have that little glitch where he ran afoul of the city's strict Pay-to-Play ordinance (which he and his wife helped pass by referendum in 2006).

To add interest to the run-off election will be the question of whether or not the proposed sale of part of the Trenton Water Works to NJ American Water should go through or not.  (We think not).  Leading up to yesterday's election, most of the candidates above took strong positions against the sale.  A couple (Jackson and Chester specifically) have not been as forthcoming on the issue.  NJ American Water is already pouring (pun intended) resources into the fight to have the sale approved.  Watch closely and see where some of that money lands and how it impacts the candidate's positions in the next four weeks.

And buy some alka seltzer, pepto bismol or maloxx.
*there are some provisional ballots to be looked at and the scrutiny due to come to determine whether Eric Jackson or Manny Segura face Tony Mack in the Mayoral Runoff could actually change the outcome of the At-Large race and make a runoff unnecessary.

**Mill Hill and other areas traditionally part of the South Ward were redistricted into the North Ward in the spring of 2001.  To this day, some feel it was a blatant effort to prevent Ms. Caldwell-Wilson from again challenging then Councilman John Ungrady for the South Ward seat.

Editor's note:  Comments made in the above posting have not set well with some readers. This has been brought to the attention of this site's management and is duly noted.

That said, for those objecting to anything contained above, we submit this snippet from an article written by Tom Hester, Jr. and published in the Times of Trenton on October 3, 1998:
In June, it seemed as though Marge Caldwell-Wilson _ courtesy of her five-vote victory over incumbent John Ungrady in the June runoff election, a victory made possible by a 36-7 absentee ballot advantage _ had become the South Ward's first woman representative. But when Allen Lee, Caldwell-Wilson's former campaign manager, visited the Millhouse Nursing Home just four days before the runoff, he was setting the stage for this Tuesday's unprecedented special election between Caldwell-Wilson and Ungrady for the South Ward council seat.

DURING THAT VISIT, Lee went room-to-room delivering absentee ballots to the nursing home residents.

Two months later, testimony from the residents would help force his candidate from office, marking the first time in city history a judge removed someone from the council and called a special election, which will cost the taxpayers at least $40,000, according to city clerk Anthony Conti.
In short, absentee ballots thrown out; an individual removed from office and a special election held.  That was all we said on the matter.

Regarding the New Black Panther Party, our assumption was that everyone understands that group espouses black separatism, something we do not condone, and thus didn't need to comment further. 


Anne said...

For what its worth, in the general time period of that contested election, I was working with the manager of the MillHouse nursing home. He told me that people were clearly working from the assumption that the nursing home residents who voted were incapable of choosing candidates and fought to have their votes disqualified. He found the whole thing totally offensive since those voters were indeed quite capable of making an informed decision even as they could not readily get to the polls. We have come a long way since then with respect to our view of voting by mail and I think the same circumstances would be viewed quite differently today. The unfortunate result is that to this day, no one tries to work with those voters to assist them in participating in the process.

Change Agent said...

Very nice analysis. The voter apathy problem in a city with so many pressing problems is stunning. Amy candidate that finds the magic key to engaging the voters will be successful in the June 15 runoff. That having been said, I recommend that all candidates abandon their previous approach as the voters were clearly lulled to sleep by the lack of excitement and politics as usual approach.

Keep an eye on American Water and the Absentee Ballot process. There has been a lot of talk about Tony Mack's operatives soliciting Absentees in nursing homes and at Trenton High. The same type of behavior he complained about so vigorously 4 years ago. American Water is going to attempt to bombard the citizenry with one sided adds placed on radio, TV, print media and mailers. Voters need to be vigilant and not be fooled. Why would American Water spend so much money on this campaign if the TWW was not a good money making investment? The money needs to stay in the Trenton budget now and in the future. Voters should overwhelmingly reject the sale!!!