Whenever I hear someone say, “I don’t pay attention to politics, politicians disgust me”, I feel sorry for our society and how that person’s parents and teachers have let us all down.
Politics (from Greek politikos ”of, for, or relating to citizens”) as a term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the corporate, academic, and religious segments of society. It consists of “social relations involving authority or power” and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.
Politics isn’t a “bad” word. When people complain about politics, what they’re really complaining about is that some people are simply better at it then they are. And, by definition, if you don’t participate in the political process at all then you’re pretty much at the bottom of the heap.
Nothing is a given in politics. People perceived as powerful don’t have to stay that way. We don’t even have to keep our form of government. Any one person or group of people can wield political power. Case in point are Trenton’s bloggers, just by writing about our political situation we have at least some (albeit modest) political power. In the past two years it’s been individual citizens who have researched and discovered many of the abuses of power in Trenton’s City Hall.
As the Citizen’s Campaign people are fond of pointing out there are many ways to be involved in the political process more than just voting and less than running for elected office.
- You can be a party representative
- You can be a citizen journalist (like me)
- You can be on public board (like I used to be)
- You can be a citizen legislator
- Or, you can call people to action (like I’m doing in this article)
In Trenton we have non-partisan elections. This has good and bad effects on our city. A partisan election with Republicans and Democrats has the potential to weed out bad candidates (which would have been helpful in 2010) but it also has the high likelihood of introducing issues into a local race that have no business being there (i.e. Defense spending or public healthcare ).
The absence of political parties reduces the opportunity for public involvement in the process and weakens the strength of platforms on which the candidates might run. Rather than have candidates embrace ideals embodied by a party (as miss-guided as they might be) we have candidates in Trenton running mainly on personality. We’ve all seen how that’s worked out. I’m not arguing for a two party system in Trenton, rather I’m suggesting that stakeholders organize themselves in order to have a louder and more intelligent voice.
Elections should be about “ideas”, not about “what neighborhood a politician is from” or whether she was “born and bred” in Trenton. Being an ideologue isn’t a bad thing. We need well thought out goals, strategies and plans that are bigger than a single candidate. They should be bigger. The thinking required to revitalize Trenton is beyond any one person.
We need a mechanism to allow the best and brightest to set policy for our city and then to communicate those policies to an engaged public. Such an organization will have a large membership of stakeholders, will communicate with officials and citizens, will serve as watchdogs over our government and importantly will select candidates that espouse the group’s ideals. Its goal should be to make government beholden to the people and not the other way around.
I suggest that The Majority for a Better Trenton is that organization. It is a political group with a mission to build a strong base of support for the strategies and plans that will revitalize our city. If that means we need to change our form of government, then those options are on the table. If it means wielding power to force elected officials to do the right thing, then that’s OK. However, for the first time in Trenton, this group will decide what the “right things” are and why.
The group will create an opportunity for political expression beyond just voting on Election Day.
Being a member
MFABT will require lots of volunteer effort to develop policy, ensure good government and build the organization. However we also want members! Membership is for people who want to have a better opportunity to influence Trenton by better understanding the issues and then by voting on the group’s platform policies and support for candidates. Basic membership is $15 and will go to support the costs required to grow the group (501c4 filing, PO Box, mailings etc.). Members may be called upon to show support for an issue at City Council and be asked to vote on the group’s platform and support for candidates and other big issues at our annual meeting (planned for early 2013). We’ll also call on members to participate in educational sessions and city budget prioritization sessions. Trenton residents, business owners and property owners can be voting members. Basically a member is a Trenton stakeholder who wants to raise their political voice louder than just voting every 4 years.
Being a volunteer
MFABT is creating standing committees to:
- Serve as government Watch-Dogs,
- Improve our political process,
- Develop platform policies,
- Identify future leaders,
- Grow the membership and
- Communicate to the public.
We hope that by virtue of this group being formed out of last year’s recall effort there is harmony among the activists and those that want to be more active to work with us to build a strong political force in Trenton. Volunteering can mean doing mailings on the membership committee, doing OPRA requests for good government or researching an issue for the policy committee. Volunteers will shape this group and help better run our city.
Being a leader
People shy away from leadership. It’s hard and sometimes it takes time. Really though, it only takes time when others don’t do their part. The founding members of this group have already led and invite other leaders in Trenton to join us. MFABT is a unique experiment in political activism and we all hope to look back on our roles with pride years from now.
- We have a facebook group that you can join (look up Majority for a Better Trenton) please do. We post events there and I’m sure discussions will happen.
- Get involved by emailing me @ email@example.com or Keith Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how you want to be involved.
- For now our Treasurer will send invoices for membership dues until we have a web site with e-payments up and running.
- Forward this to others that should be involved.
Voting is the basic level of involvement but it’s not enough. I’d really rather that people who’ve not taken the time to understand the issues and the people running for office, just stay home. You’re abusing your right to vote by not taking it seriously. Votes make a difference and we’re all paying the price here in Trenton. We’ve made bad political choices for a long time in Trenton and now we’re in bad fiscal shape and have a poor quality of life. It’s not the politician’s fault, it’s the voters.
As we form Majority for a Better Trenton it’s inevitable that we’ll have to have meetings. Please feel free to get involved with any of them. We have three meetings coming up:
4/21 – Membership Committee Meeting
1pm @ Trenton Social.
We’ll start the organization process for building an 8500 person membership
4/21 – Policy Committee Meeting
2:20pm @ Trenton Social.
We’ll start sketch out the areas in which we want to have positions.
4/28 – General Meeting
1pm @ Turning Point Methodist Church (15 S. Broad).
We’ll bring everyone up to speed, take membership dues and break back into committee work