These individuals were not at the downtown eatery just for the food or the ambiance, the purpose of their gathering was to show the people of Trenton what they are made of as the city's mayoral election quickly approaches next year.
Two candidates appeared at the question and answer session in person: former Trenton police director Jim Golden and businessman Paul Perez. Patrick Hall, a local entrepreneur was not physically located at the downtown eatery, he participated in the talk via video conference.
This discussion was organized by citizens Scott Miller and Jacque Howard, who launched Trenton Elections on Facebook to help Trentonians learn more about the candidates.
Golden, Perez and Hall answered questions that were solicited on the Trenton Elections Facebook page and supplied by residents.
During the 2 hour Q & A session, the mayoral candidates were asked things like:
What do you want Trenton to be known for?
What qualifies you to manage a 200 million dollar budget? What experience do you have?
What executive experience do you have? Were you successful? How many people have you managed?
What are your plans to be more transparent?
With regard to transparency, former police chief Jim Golden said that directors need to be present at council meetings. He also mentioned that he wants to make sure taxpayers have access to a power-point presentation that would come directly from the city's directors that would outline their proposals for improving the city.
Businessman Paul Perez said that he would create a system of oversight so that people are held accountable because "City Hall is dysfunctional". He went on to say that "it shouldn't be a surprise that we need money at the last minute".
Hall went on to say that he would bring in qualified people to address the transparency issue. He said that he believed in zero-based budgeting and that "just because you got $14 million dollars last year does not mean you will get it again this year".
The question that was running through a number of people's mind was what are these candidates going to do about crime or public safety day one if they are elected since news reports indicate 18 homicides this year so far.
Former Police Chief Jim Golden said that we need to deploy officers where and when they are needed most.
Patrick Hall said that we need more lighting and surveillance while Paul Perez said that he would look at violence reduction plans that were successful in other cities.
Indeed, as the city of Trenton awaits next year's mayoral election, I think these sorts of forums are very much needed. These forums engage and encourage others to take part in the political process, something that is desperately needed today where there is so much apathy, ignorance, and cynicism toward our elected officials and the overall political process. Its like what Trentonian blogger Michael Walker said. In one of his blog posts, he states that "Trentonians won't start paying attention to the mayoral candidates until early next year". Sadly enough, I think Walker's comments are correct, but I think that's all the more reason why we need to do things to encourage and foster a well-informed citizenry that is active in the political process.
With a well informed citizenry, democracy can flourish and help make our elected officials accountable for their actions. The question becomes: how do we engage and encourage others to be a part of the process, I say we need more community forums to talk about these things, and I plan to help make that possible through blogs like this and through forums in the community.
Click below for video access to some of the debate or discussion: