Former Mayor Lends Insight

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Splashed across headlines around the country not long ago was the news of the conviction of former mayor Tony Mack on bribery, fraud, extortion and money laundering. Now that Trenton has the opportunity to vote in a fresh era under a new mayor, former mayor Douglas Palmer urges voters to base their ballots on full disclosure of track records and transparency.

“Corruption wasn’t an issue in Trenton until Mack,” Palmer said. “Now in order to get moving again, voters need to start looking at candidates’ records of honesty, their transparency or if they have any red flags to keep them out of office.”

Palmer, who served as mayor from 1990 to 2010, said that Trenton has crucial issues like crime, the economy, and education that need a mayor’s focus. Citizens should not have to be burdened with political corruption. The focus should be nourishing small business growth and encouraging students to earn high school degrees and beyond.

The next mayor needs to be elected because they feel a commitment to Trenton, not because he or she wants to hold the coveted title — according to Palmer.

“Mack was mayor for the sake of the title,” Palmer said. “The next mayor needs to mayor because they want to work for the city and make it better.”

Battling an ever-rising homicide and crime rate, and improving education could be remedied by bringing jobs back to Trenton. Palmer explained that the mayor will have to work with both the public and private sectors to improve Trenton’s economy. Through boosting small business and making Trenton a bustling city after dark (after all the state employees go home), this will help reduce crime. Making jobs available will encourage people to not only work in Trenton, but also live there thus improving Trenton quality of life and allowing growth in education and street safety through a fluid economy.

According to Palmer, he admires and praises all the candidates for their willingness to serve Trenton. But Palmer said that every candidate needs to take into account the gravity of the responsibilities that go along with being mayor.

The former mayor reflected on a devastating crime issue he dealt with in 1998. A 15 year-old girl was riding in a car with a known thief. While on patrol, a Trenton police officer encountered the two and was certain the male criminal was going to pull a gun. But instead of waiting to see how the street story would unfold, the officer shot at the recently released convict. It wasn’t the thief who was struck and killed; it was the innocent girl.

“I was devastated,” Palmer said. “It still haunts me today.”

Palmer explained that it is these crimes and issues that the next mayor will have to deal with and experience. The grief of going to an innocent child’s funeral shot by an officer, seeing crying parents in a church pew, answering to the people of Trenton about the murder and then going home at the end of the day to deal with the politics that surround Trenton crime, was much more than just the death of a Trenton neighbor.

“The people of Trenton will blame the mayor for crime,” Palmer said. “I got blamed. Crowds yelled at me. But you have to look for new ways to fix the crime problems.”

In 2000, Palmer appointed the first Civilian Director of the Trenton Police Department as a way to have a more intimate relationship with the community to combat crime. According to Palmer, these type of initiatives remedy the people’s perceptions of trigger happy police, keep students off the streets and out of danger and give peace to residents.

Relying on his 20 years of mayoral and Trenton expertise, Palmer believes that after the political disaster Mack brought to New Jersey’s capital, the next mayor needs to be someone who has worked, and will continue to work, with the people of Trenton on a committed daily basis. Palmer explained that issues from the expected politics of being mayor, but also problems like overnight floods, working with public staff members to have trash trucks run efficiently and to have potholes patched immediately.

According to Palmer, running Trenton is an endless difficult task, but just through running for mayor, the candidates  show how enthusiastic and supportive they are of the city.

“When it comes time to vote, though, it can’t be a popularity contest. The voters need to ask themselves, ‘What are they going to do to help Trenton?’”

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