Posts Tagged ‘Election’

The State of Trenton – by the numbers

July 2012

Now that Mayor Mack’s future has become uncertain, to say the least, contenders are being bandied about.  I plan to be even tougher with this new crop of candidates than I was in 2010.  I’m tired of empty suits with empty ideas and empty promises fulfilling their ego at the people of Trenton’s expense.  I can’t afford it anymore.

This article is meant to establish a starting point for the candidates.  It represents our state as a city.  The candidates will do well to express their plans in terms of goals for each of these areas.

Reasonable people agree that the only way to achieve a goal is to set one.  Thus the conventional wisdom of “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there”.

With this wisdom in mind, Fix Trenton’s Budget and Majority for a Better Trenton have identified five areas in which the City of Trenton should manage to measurable goals.

They are

  • Crime Index reduction
  • Population growth
  • School success
  • Average Income increase, and
  • Economic success (as measured by ratable)

Most Trentonians would agree that if we did better in these five areas our lives would be better.  However, try getting a politician to commit to a real goal for school success or average income.  It’s never happened, at least not in Trenton and definitely not in Mayor Mack’s biennial report on the state of the city.

Imagine if instead of listing the number of grants we applied for, the Mayor reported on his plan to increase ratables by 10% to $2.1B or decrease our Crime Index from 3400 to 2000.  You didn’t hear that because setting goals commits a politician to producing results and quite frankly, producing results is difficult.

That doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t have goals for our city and that we can’t force political action both at the ballot box and otherwise that will help us achieve them.

This report is meant to provide a status report on these five important measures thus setting the stage for efforts planned later in the year to set citizen goals for ourselves.

The current statistics are presented in order of importance.  Notice that our most important goals are those that improve the economic health of the city.  We can’t fix anything in Trenton unless we have a healthy economy.

Economic Success: D

In 2011 Trenton’s tax base,  that is, the value of property on which we can charge a property tax, was $2,009,731,470.  In 2012 it has declined to $1,961,049,170.  This represents a 2.4% loss in ratable for the city.

The implications of this statistic are large.  Our property tax rate will have to go up, again, in order to make up the difference.  It means our economy is getting worse instead of better and most importantly, it means that our policies meant to stimulate economic growth are not working.

We can never have a lower tax rate or afford to spend more money on parks, police and streets unless our ratables go up.

Average Income: F

Trenton’s Median Household  Income is $36,601; which stands in stark contrast to NJ’s Median household income which is almost double that of Trenton’s, $69,811.

Income levels are very important to the health of a city as they determine how much money residents will spend, which in turn, determines the attractiveness of our city to retailers and to entertainment producers.  While NJ’s household income is double that of Trenton’s, per capita retail spending is three times our rate.  This means that retail spending falls off disproportionately to income.

Making Trenton attractive to retail and entertainment business is important as the presence of those amenities make the city attractive to new residents.

School Success:  F

The Trenton school district’s 2011 graduation rate was 47.7%.  This means that over half of the students who entered 9th grade in 2007 graduated in 2011.

There is no world in which this is healthy.  While it can be argued that fixing the schools isn’t a pre-requisite for revitalizing the city, after all the easiest target market for new residents are the millions of people without kids, failing schools don’t help.

With 50% of our young adult population grossly undereducated, they immediately become a drain on the economic future of our city.  Furthermore, a significant portion of these kids will turn to crime and create both a public health threat to the rest of us and an expense in the form of police, courts and jails.

Moving this graduation rate up to 75% could theoretically halve our crime problem in the long run.

Population Growth :  C

Trenton’s 2010 census numbers report a population of 84,913.  Since 2000 our population has declined .6% while New Jersey’s has grown 4.5%.  Relative to our neighbors, Trenton has become a less desirable place to live.

It will take an influx of new residents to begin the process of rebuilding our tax base.  We have room to grow.  At its peak in the 1920s, Trenton housed 140,000 residents.

Crime: C

Trenton’s crime problems have tracked the national trend downwards over the last decade.  Uniform Crime Reports for 2011 show an increase in Index Crimes from to 3802 from 3744. That’s a 1.5% increase which shows we’re moving in the wrong direction by a bit.


Our city leaders have abdicated their responsibility to set positive goals for the city.  Therefore it’s up to citizens to work together to set their own goals and to exert political force to make those goals stick and to construct a plan to meet them.

Dan’s Candidate picks

I’ve been voting candidates off the island on FaceBook.  This is my advice on the remaining six (including me).

Eric Jackson, Frank Weeden, John Harmon, Keith Hamilton and Annette Lartigue are left on the Island along with me. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Dan serious about being Mayor?

Here’s the thing.  I don’t want to have to be involved in local politics at all.

However, I live in Trenton and own enough property so that high taxes and declining value could be a substantial economic blow.  I am not alone in this precarious situation.  Every home and building owner in Trenton is at risk as our city’s budget comes closer to falling into the financial abyss. Read the rest of this entry »

Trenton Candidates find the Web

In the past, I’ve criticized candidates for having little or no Internet presence.  By the last election cycle in 2006, the Internet had been in wide use for 10 years, and yet only a tiny handful of Trenton’s municipal candidates had web site and many didn’t know how to use e-mail.

In this cycle the situation has improved dramatically. Read the rest of this entry »

The Backlash against “Born and Bred”

Trenton is a boosterish town.  It’s the kind of place where if a visitor said, “My, those buildings look grungy”, his host would say, “Oh no, that’s its patina”.

Ask any Trenton native and they’ll tell you how proud they are of the city, “I’m Trenton Proud”.


We’ve done such a great job running the place that our industry has left town, our education level is among the lowest in the state and we’re on the verge of bankruptcy.  Yea for us! Read the rest of this entry »

Fixing Beautiful Trenton

Last Christmas, I wrote an article about how community spirit is a necessary and present ingredient for Trenton’s revitalization.

Community spirit as an economic engine

Beautiful Trenton is the best example of that spirit to date but there are problems.

Read the rest of this entry »

Property tax rebates lead to higher property taxes

A popular New Jersey Gubernatorial campaign promise this year (and the last campaign as well) is to offer property tax rebates. Voters should think seriously about the wisdom of this. Read the rest of this entry »

The South Ward Council election is no time for politics of the past

Jim Coston was a transformational councilperson for Trenton and the South Ward but with his leaving, the race to fill his spot is wide open. Read the rest of this entry »

The “Reinvent Trenton” Guide to Fixing the Budget

Trenton’s numbers don’t tell a pretty story.  By anyone’s measure it’s currently an unsuccessful city.

  • Trenton has 17.5% unemployment,
  • We have a $20M budget shortfall,
  • We will be bankrupt in 2012
  • We have the highest taxes in NJ
  • We have the 2nd highest crime rate in NJ
  • And, we’re losing population

This is not a good situation. Read the rest of this entry »