Sharks? More Like Guppies!

Picking up on the theme of the other day, I am reminded that back in December I compared the large number of individuals who had already announced or were reportedly thinking about candidacies for Mayor of Trenton in next year’s race as “sharks,” attracted by the blood in the water spilled by the Indicted Occupant of Trenton’s mayoral digs. Back then, it looked like there might have been a real possibility that the IO would resign his office if he were indicted – as he was – on Federal corruption charges. That would have triggered a special election way before the next regularly-scheduled date in May 2014.

Turns out, the IO is still drawing a paycheck, and that’s about all he’s been doing for months in what has become little more than a performance art version of “The Man Who Wasn’t There.”

There are still a number of candidates – five declared challengers plus one Indicted Occupant – and a few others who are rumored to be in the wings. Absent an imminent special election, everyone is laying pretty low, however. There have been two open public candidate forums, including one hosted by the group Trenton Elections on June 12, for which a video recording was produced and available here. There have been, and continue to be, some small-venue meetings and fundraising events. But other than that, we have seen and heard nothing from any of these guys. They’re not acting at all like ravenous sharks. More like timid guppies.

Granted, there are a few websites up and running, and a few Facebook pages. But so far, they contain little more than a few photographs and filler material. Sometimes, literally filler. Click on a tab labeled “The Issues” of Eric Jackson’s website, and you’ll read,

“Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged.”

Fascinating stuff, surely, but I was kind of hoping to see something about the City’s careening crime rates, or its collapsed tax ratables.You know, stuff like that.  Nice logo, though.

I know that it is several months out from the mayoral election, and these guys are looking to raise some money, but there is a lot going on in this town, and if these gentlemen are presenting themselves as the right person to lead Trenton away from four years of Macknado and 20 prior years of illusion, drift and deception, I for one would like to know what they think of the issues as they are developing, and how they would confront them.

Look at the last couple of weeks. We are closing in on a total number of murders already this year that will match the entire year of 2012. How about that, Mr. Jackson?

The Vice Unit of the Trenton Police Department will now be reporting to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, which will involve them on cases and suspects throughout the County. What are the pros and cons of that, Mr. Golden?

The new managers of the Lafayette Yard Hotel tell us that they are looking at far larger amounts of unpaid bills, far smaller numbers of reservations, and a lot more repairs to make at the Hotel than they were led to believe by the former management company. Do you think the place is still worth bailing out, Mr. Hall?

The NJ Commission on Investigation released a report detailing the statewide epidemic of prescription pill abuse, and the links to a booming heroin trade. The report mentioned an investigation that revealed an open-air drugs market operating without any hindrances in downtown Trenton in broad daylight. Is our current policing policy on drugs making any headway, Mr. Perez?

Over the last three years, we have seen running battles between the IO, his Administration, and City Council. Nothing is getting done. Do you think running with an endorsed slate of Council candidates you know you can work with improve things, Mr. Worthy? If so, who might some of those candidates be?

I know that candidates haven’t yet built their campaign organizations, and haven’t raised much money. But, honestly, it doesn’t take much time or money to let people know on a fairly regular basis how you feel about the issues. There are several of us who use blogs and/or forums like Facebook to bloviate frequently (for better or worse) on the news of the day, and occasionally deeper and broader issues. And we’re not even trying to convince people to vote for us!

I think the least you can do starting this summer, since you all are declared candidates after all, is work for our votes. Earn our trust. Convince us of your arguments and your experience. Don’t rely on bland generalities. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Respond to developments as they occur.

The call it “running” for office, after all. Come on. Break a sweat.

Speaking of fundraising, the latest financial disclosures for the quarter ended June 30 were due at the  NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) on July 15. Some, but not all, reports have been posted on the ELEC website. (I figure that not all reports have yet been posted because I dropped off a report for the Trenton Democratic Committee on July 11, and as of this morning it hasn’t been posted.)

The only reports for mayoral candidates that are up are from Mr. Golden and Mr. Jackson. As I’ve been saying it is still early in the race, and I wouldn’t have expected much activity yet for either of these gentlemen, who conventional wisdom this summer says are the two strongest candidates, on either the income side or the expense side.

Mr. Golden’s report reflects my prediction, showing no activity in the second quarter of activity. UPDATED: It was pointed out to me, by Jim Carlucci, that Mr. Golden’s report dated July 15 is actually an amendment to his previously filed report for the First Quarter of 2013. It is not a Q2 report. That may have been filed on time, and is waiting to be posted by ELEC. But I don’t know that as of today, 7/20.

But Mr. Jackson’s report is unexpected. Not only has he not reported any financial activity up until now, even though he has been an announced candidate for several months, and an unannounced one for months before that. Mr. Jackson on July 15 filed what’s known as a Form A-1. This form  is a sworn statement in which the candidate officially certifies that his campaign will raise and spend no more than a total amount of $4,500. For the entire campaign.

Really, Mr. Jackson? Your whole race for Mayor of Trenton will cost no more than Forty Five Hundred Dollars? Do you expect us to believe that?

Now, this Form A-1 does provide an out clause. There is language that says that should amounts received and expended exceed $4500, at that time detailed reports will be filed and publicly disclosed for the remainder of the campaign. So Mr. Jackson may have filed this form now fully expecting to be transparent and open at a later time. However, why is he not being transparent and open now?

This strikes me as a very disingenuous and cynical move on Mr. Jackson’s part. Surely he expects his campaign to raise more than $4,500. And surely he knows that we the public realize that. So what is he gaining by filing a sworn statement now that claims he will be running a pauper’s campaign? Is he avoiding the disclosure of unsavory or embarrassing information? Is he hiding something?

This is not the first time that Mr. Jackson is being less than open with his campaign disclosures. He ran for Mayor in 2010, narrowly missing qualifying for the June runoff against the IO. However, his last campaign report with ELEC was filed ten days before the May election. That report disclosed he had spent over $16,500 to the end of March 2010, and still had almost $24,ooo in cash from the total of $45,000 he’d raised. And that was the last we heard of his 2010 campaign.

Mr. Jackson failed to properly close out his 2010 campaign, for which he raised at least $45,000. He is now running for next year’s election, but says he won’t spend more that $4500 to win that race.

He seems to be playing fast and loose with campaign financing disclosure laws, and it’s not at all clear why he is doing so. I took Mr. Jackson to task for his ELEC filings for his last race back in April of this year. In the three months since then, he has not only failed to clean up and close out his 2010 race, but now seems to be setting off on his 2014 campaign by looking like a man with something to hide.

So far he is not, to me anyway, doing much to create an image of fiscal integrity, transparency, and openness, not for a man who seeks our support to replace Tony Mack.

The race for next year is definitely on, by the sole choice of those individuals who have declared to us that they are the right persons to take up the tough work of governing Trenton. We didn’t pull you, kicking and screaming, into the arena after all. At this point, it is not too much to ask that you make an effort to earn our votes.

Talk to us, frequently.

And show us that you will run your campaigns in the same open, transparent honest way that you will run City Hall and Trenton.

We are sick and tired of the same old way things have been done. And we will not tolerate lazy candidates, nor disingenuous, deceptive campaigns.

Time to step up and get it right.

4 comments to Sharks? More Like Guppies!

  • ed w

    kevin, i read your comments eagerly, keep up the good work. i went to the june candidate show and was somewhat disappointed. its still early in the season, let the culling begin.

  • James E.

    I might just be cynical at this point – ugh, so much good will and naivete just gobbled up by this city-hole – but I’m of the opinion that these activities will NOT hurt any of their campaigns.

    Why? Because our IO was ELECTED with much WORSE crap going on. MUCH MUCH WORSE.

    Why? Because the majority of people in this city don’t care about these things. They don’t care about ELECT and “da man’s” rules. They certainly don’t care enough to look it up. They care about logos. They care about smiles on billboards and at photo ops. They care about feeling like someone understands them and listens to them (even if no actual answers are provided). They care about the names/faces of those people they’ve known for decades. This is still a small town – and Mack was elected on being one of Trenton’s “own”. He was a fool and a failure LONG before he took office in this city. That certainly didn’t hurt him on the way in though.

    But we care! Damn right we do – but to what effect? I want this time to be different. I want people to stop and think, “hey… hey, this seems familiar. maybe – just maybe – I should think about this before I vote.” Yet the history of this city has repeatedly beaten down that kind of progressive thinking.

    I continue to be in awe of your passion, Kevin. And yes, I’ll continue to be considerate and deliberate in my political choices (I really don’t have another option), but my hopes just aren’t up. I appreciate you keeping your thoughts open to us, keeping them well informed, and (lately) pretty humorous. It does have an impact. We just need to figure out how to get the rest of this place to start paying attention too.

  • ed w

    Attack of the Killer Guppies, now that’s a title.

    I am a long time trenton resident, but even i am starting to re-evaluate my ties to trenton. i have friends that will not come to trenton for any reason, even though i live in a fairly nice neighborhood. when you have 22 killings, shootings in the hundreds, the negative perceptions of safety are real and not imaginary. there are still hard working people in my community and that is something to city has going for it, but is it enough.

    Political leadership trickles down into the working of government agencies, if the mayor is a crook, than what are his appointees like. how far do the tentacles reach.

    Guppies need to take back control from the sharks.


  • Michael Smith

    Good Afternoon,
    Kevin I always look forward to reading your columns.
    There is a simple reason why mayoral candidates may be skittish in announcing their “political philosophies” and policies in public, Their political rhetoric dry, empty and hollow, slogans are not even relevant.
    All the mayoral candidates political philosophies are of the modern progressive liberal type …..Bottom line. In Trenton there is nothing left to redistribute. Voters will not tolerate another politicians 5 year plan. Not in the schools, City Hall, public utilities, law enforcement, or especially the downtown hotel fiasco.

    A horse A horse my kingdom for a horse—Richard the Third [Shakespeare]