Alex Bethea's Got Nothing

Since Election Day is now less than five weeks away, I think it’s time to start focusing on the issues, don’t you? Trenton has a lot of problems, big and small, and it’s appropriate now to get an idea of how the candidates intend to deal with them. In fact, it’s important to know what issues they even identify as important, and note the ones they don’t. First up, the candidate with the least to offer, therefore the quickest to dismiss.

On his campaign website, Alex Bethea has a page titled “On the Issues.” Here’s a screengrab:


Let me save you some time this morning. There’s no need to go to this page to look at the details of his Five Point Plan.

There aren’t any. There are no further links out of this page. None.

This is The Plan.

However, there is more! Elsewhere on the website, under “News,” there is a link to a YouTube video, 5 Minutes and 51 seconds in length, wherein Mr. Bethea does discuss his 5-point plan in detail. Well, at least a little more detail. It’s still pretty thin. I’ll summarize his proposals.

Bethea doesn’t actually get to his “Plan” until 2:09 into the video. The first portion of the piece is devoted to personal biography.

Public Safety – At the 2:09 mark, Mr. Bethea tells us he believes in community policing. He promises to deploy officers on street patrol. This will help to narrow the disconnect between the police and the community. He also promises to make it more attractive to police officers to make the city they patrol their home, with a mix of tax incentives and no-interest loans to officers to help them afford to buy homes in Trenton.

Bethea provides no detail as to how he would make this possible. He doesn’t describe how TPD would have to deploy its force in order to put cops on foot patrol. Neither does he offer any estimates to the city of the cost of his “tax incentives” and “no-interest loans.”

This discussion on Public Safety takes all of 1 minute and 5 seconds.

Education – He’s the “Education Candidate,” he starts to tell us at 3:14, due to the years he’s spent with the Trenton School District as a teacher and administrator. He intends to focus on the early student years, from Kindergarten to 3rd Grade. Early on, he promises a “thorough assessment of what each child needs,” adjusting the curriculum accordingly. Here again, he provides no sense of the resources needed to provide individualized student assessments and curricula. He doesn’t describe how his proposals differ from the current status quo, and he doesn’t explain how a Mayor of Trenton can have much influence on schools. The City provides directly only a small portion of the system’s funds. And the only role that a Mayor typically plays is in the appointment of School Board members.

Education is checked off in one minute flat.

Housing and Economic Development – At 4:14, Bethea tackles this huge problem for the city. Bethea’s vision for Development extends only so far as the “thousands and thousands of boarded-up and abandoned houses in our city.” As Mayor, Bethea will “take an aggressive approach to revitalize those houses and get them back on the tax rolls.” Having disposed of that topic in all of 20 seconds, Mr. Bethea assures us that this accomplishment alone will accomplish his next goal.

Property Taxes – The revitalization of these thousands and thousands of homes – no mention or discussion of local businesses or commercial properties crushed by the 2017 reassessment Councilman Bethea endorsed, sorry – will by themselves achieve his goal of “stabilizing” property taxes. He doesn’t explain what he means by “Stabilization.” Keep them at current rates throughout his term? Roll them back? Keep any increases to a minimum? We don’t know, because he devotes only four seconds to this topic.

Employment – Mr. Bethea apparently believes that getting all of those thousands of houses back on the tax rolls will provide a windfall for the city under his Administration, because “at the same time” (4:38 in) that he is “stabilizing” property taxes, he will be able to pay for an ambitious Apprenticeship program for Trenton’s unemployed residents, providing opportunities for training in trades such as Plumbing, Roofing, Carpentry, and Electrics. Again, he provides no details or numbers, which would have been awfully hard to do in the ten seconds he allots for the topic.

And that’s it. Mr. Bethea describes his Five Point Plan in well under three minutes of video. He takes another half-minute to wrap up, characterizing the plan he’s just presented as “aggressive,” which will lead to a return of the “glory days” in Trenton.

There’s not much else to say about this video, and Alex Bethea. I watched and summarized his “Issues” video so you won’t have to.

It’s been long clear from his eight years on Council that Alex Bethea was unprepared for the job. He’s often uninformed about the matters that come before him in Council. I’m not a regular attendee at Council sessions, but there has not been a one that I’ve been sitting in Council Chambers when a lot of time is spent by someone – whether the City Clerk, the Business Administrator or other Administration official, or his Council President – explains in very simple words and concepts the substance of the matter before him.

He has been an ineffective member of City Council for eight years. It’s hard to watch that video knowing that this man has been on the governing body of this city for over 93 months. He’s been involved in eight years of city budgets, contracts, grants, and ordinances, among other things. You don’t see ANY of that in this video.

He has no idea of the issues facing the next Mayor, and clearly has no idea of what kinds of solutions are needed. He has no business being Trenton’s next Mayor. Thankfully, I don’t actually believe that there really is much chance of that happening.

Since running for Mayor ruled out any re-election campaign for his current position, the next Council will definitely not include Alex Bethea. That by itself should vastly improve the effectiveness and productivity of that body no matter who the other six members are.

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