Reinvent Trenton and an article from the Trentonian that mentioned how there possibly could be a ballot put before the city's electorate this November, that would ask voters whether ALL, not some, but ALL, private Trenton small businesses, should be required to pay sick leave for all their employees.
When I first came across this news story, I thought to myself, what the heck are we talking about, this can't be a wise move in the city of Trenton, a place that boasts not of excellent schools and a low crime rate, but rather a failing school system and an unacceptable crime rate. But I said to myself, before I draw my conclusion, I felt the need to step back and reflect on what this ballot question could mean from the perspectives of the different parties involved.
On the one hand, first we have the perspective of the employee of your typical privately owned Trenton-based business. This poor guy or gal may feel like they have been left in the lurch because they have been put in the unfortunate position where they sometimes have to choose between working while sick and paying rent or risk calling out. I mean I can definitely understand that perspective because who really wants to be in a position where you can't afford to get sick, believe, you, me, that stinks! So, it makes complete sense from their perspective to speak up early and often about this important measure. Labor groups and other coalitions like the SEIU, CWA, New Jersey Working Family Alliances and New Jersey Citizen Action have all backed this initiative to ensure that small business employees receive sick pay.
However, if we shift perspectives and look at things from the lens of your average run of the mill business owner, it sounds like these individuals are singing from an entirely different sheet of music. Indeed, mom and pop shops and small business owners alike at the end of the day want to maximize profit and minimize cost, point blank, period. These merchants aim to save money at any cost and may justifiably feel that they are already paying enough in taxes and fees to the city and that should pay City Hall one more red cent. From this perspective, I can't knock these small business owners. I mean, who really wants to pay more taxes and fees?
In a Trentonian article written by Carols Avila, one local business owner, Vincente Barrientos, said "We work with our employees when they need off for health reasons but to impose this law on us in addition to the many other taxes, fees and expenses we have makes it difficult to run a business in this city".
Nevertheless, no matter what way you look at it, this measure has already started to catch wind in other municipalities like Newark and Jersey City as these two localities have both already adopted this measure. On top of this, two states, California and Connecticut have passed laws ensuring workers can earn paid sick days. It is claimed that these local or statewide initiatives will somehow influence or set national policy. The bill in question specifically calls for allowing workers to accumulate an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours that they work.
After reviewing the pros and cons, I still don't think this is a wise move for the city of Trenton. To make small businesses compensate their employees for sick pay seems like the morally right thing to do, YES I get it, but at the same time, it still puts an undue burden on mom and pop shops who then may have to let go of some of their workers or find some other way to make up for the lost revenue that goes toward dishing out the sick pay.
On top of this, the city may without realizing it, push out or drive away existing businesses to other municipalities who do not impose the sick pay requirement. Why should we drive away these businesses that have loyally kept their shops here during some pretty hard times? And in the process, if you look at it, the city may also discourage others from starting new business here with this policy. If we here in the city want to really encourage others to invest here, then we cannot let this bill pass.
Lastly, for those that argue that since other states and municipalities have passed this type of measure why shouldn't Trenton, I say that Trenton is not the same as those other localities. Trenton has its own unique challenges that have to be addressed before we can impose yet another requirement on our small businesses. This is a big reason why it is so important to vote and let our voice be heard on this issue.
As things stand, City Council has voted to suspend consideration of this ordinance for paid sick days. They have instructed the Mercer County Board of Elections to arrange a referendum on the issue in the scheduled election on November 4th. For more details, click here.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Dear Mayor Eric Jackson,
I know you are new in office but I am requesting that you do what you can to please reopen the shuttered city libraries that were closed since August of 2010. Now don't get me wrong, I do recognize that the Main Branch on Academy Street has made some great progress since the other locations have been closed.
All one has to do is take a quick look inside the Main Branch nowadays to see how they have added newer equipment, a DVD dispenser, and a larger variety of E-books (much to my delight). Along with this, I have also seen the library's strategic plan that lays out a blueprint for opening two satellite libraries within one year. Now on the surface that sounds fine and dandy, but I must say that this time-frame is far too long. (For more on the Library's strategic plan, you can always click here).
Indeed, I hate to be that proverbial fly in the ointment that always seems to find something wrong even in our best laid plans, but indeed on this occasion, I must. As I myself am a product of the free public library system, I feel the need to speak up early and often about this important issue. As a matter of fact, I can say without hesitation, that my life would have turned out completely different were it not for the free public library system.
As a kid, the library was a safe haven for me. It gave me a place to play games, use the computer, interact with like-minded peers, and last but not least, check-out books. Along with this, it encouraged me to read and educate myself more and more. Now years later, I am a PhD candidate at Capella University, but I digress.
Research has shown that libraries, which are simply collections of books and periodicals, add significant value to the community by providing easy access to high quality research content, helping adults upgrade their skills and find jobs, and by playing a significant role in improving childhood literacy, among other things. Bottom line: libraries are a vital part of the community. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Researcher David Giles said, "No other institution, public or private, does a better job of reaching people who have been left behind in today’s economy, have failed to reach their potential in the city’s public school system or who simply need help navigating an increasingly complex world".
Moreover, studies done in New York and Texas both show that there is an economic return on investment for public libraries according to the Illinois Library Association, a library advocacy organization. These are definitely things to consider when allocating funds for our public libraries in the city of Trenton.
So, Mayor Jackson I hope that my plea to have the libraries re-opened doesn't fall on deaf ears and that you will do what you can do to re-open these library branches as I think this will improve things in the city of Trenton.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
To be sure, the last thing Trenton needs right now, is politics as usual. No more corruption. No more pay-to-play politics. We need elected officials that uphold the highest degree of ethical standards. Alas, the city cries out for a new brand of leadership. A brand of leadership that knows how to honestly acknowledge the peaks and valleys we face, but still has a bold and compelling vision to get us to the mountaintop. A brand of leadership with a practical step by step plan to make things better. A brand of leadership that knows how to enlist the help of others. A brand of leadership that solicits the thoughts and ideas of the people to make the overall community better.
I sincerely hope that Eric Jackson and the new council members will demonstrate some of these qualities of leadership. Lord knows we need them to. Yet at the same time, we as everyday citizens have a responsibility to play here. We bear the responsibility of holding our elected officials accountable for their action or inaction on issues that are matter to us. Indeed, we cannot sit idly by while our great yet beleaguered city crumbles. I know its hard to stay involved and engaged in the everyday politics of our city, please believe me, I know, I work two jobs, and go to school, so I hear you. But we as everyday citizens can be leaders in our own right as well. We can set a positive example by simply going to work everyday, taking care of ourselves and our families, voting, reading, staying active, etc. There's no reason we can't be a part of the solution.
I know what you may be thinking, I don't know where to start, but trust me, there is wisdom and truth in the saying that even a thousand mile journey always starts with the first step. My first step may be volunteering, your first step may be mentoring a child. Another's first step may be cleaning up their block once a week. The options are endless, but I hope you get my underlying point which is to say that the choice is yours and mine.