Posts Tagged ‘Pat Stewart’
The news of Trenton City activist Pat Stewart’s passing has hit me hard.
It’s difficult to let a friend go, especially one that you’ve stood beside for so long and in so many capacities. I can’t remember exactly when I first came across Pat Stewart. I was new to Trenton’s political scene and Pat seemed to know everybody. Everybody.
But no matter who she was talking to, whether friend or not, she spoke her mind including to me. Pat would not tolerate what she saw as foolishness. And frankly we’ve had more than our fair share of that in Trenton.
The Reinvent Trenton blog owes quite a bit to Pat Stewart. My first foray into real politics was with the Lamberton Historic District Committee over Doug Palmer’s plan to tear down the Kearney homes and replace it with a new government housing project. She couldn’t understand why we’d tear down one housing project which, in her words “was strong enough to withstand a nuclear war” just to build another one. We like to think that our efforts helped defeat that project. Because of that effort we now have very nice market rate (non-government) housing on that site.
Pat, along with that same group, rallied the South Trenton neighborhood in opposition to Leewood Development’s proposal (again with Doug Palmer’s support) to bulldoze 8 square blocks of historic housing stock along Centre Street. Though hers and the group’s efforts over 300 residents showed up at several citizen’s meetings to oppose the project. The opposition was eventually too intense for Palmer and Leewood and they retreated.
With these successes under her belt she encouraged former City Councilman Jim Coston to organize an urban studies book club for residents who wanted to be better educated about revitalization issues. For many of us, this group was our education. We read the literature on urban revitalization and invited guest speakers of national renown to talk with us. It’s an education that led directly to this blog. Pat Stewart was a ring leader of that group.
My affiliation with Pat has continued throughout almost all of my civic endeavors. She was a leader in the Trenton Council of Civic Associations and was vocal with the Trenton Republican committee. She joined me in Fix Trenton’s Budget and Majority for a Better Trenton. She put her hat into the ring in the 2009 Special election for South Ward Council and as everyone with an ounce of familiarity with Trenton politics knows, Pat Stewart was a fixture at City Council.
Pat, who was self-admittedly intimidated by technology, even started her own blog, Lamberton Lilly. She made short and to the point comments about the goings on in Trenton. She had a following.
Pat was everywhere and so much a part of Trenton for me that it I’m sure I will think of her often in the years to come. I know that when our next administration finally crafts a real strategy for Trenton and it includes a real marketing plan for our city, I’ll probably shed a tear and hope that Pat knows that her constant admonition has finally come to pass.
In many ways Reinvent Trenton has been written with Pat in mind. It puts into words the ideas she had in her head. I know this because she constantly encouraged and commented favorably on my articles. I knew I was on the right track if Pat liked the article.
Of course Pat’s influence goes far beyond what I know about personally. She was a leader in the STARS civic association for many years, sat on the Zoning Board and was recently appointed by City Council to sit on the Ethics Commission. These are places of honor in Trenton.
I know that her son Nicholas knows how we all feel about his mom. I also know that the most important thing for a family member to know when a loved one passes is that the loved one will be remembered. Nicholas, that is a certainty.
Trenton needs an ad campaign now like we need another hole in our head.
City activist Pat Stewart has been beating this horse for years. For the love of God, let’s have a product plan first.
Marketing VPs get fired for launching ad campaigns at the wrong time. The right time is around the launch of a new product or product update. Trenton hasn’t updated its product. In fact, we’re not even sure what our product is.
Yet, a marketing campaign is exactly what Mayor Tony Mack has recently suggested.
I’ve written about this before, but basically we need to sort out what we’re trying to sell first. Are we selling abandoned warehouses as Mack suggests in his recent “Ask the Mayor” session. If so, are they saleable? Are titles cleared? What are the brownfield issues remaining? What’s the market for abandoned warehouses? Perhaps we’re selling city-owned houses or infill projects in our nice neighborhoods. Or, perhaps we should promote downtown living.
Mack doesn’t know what we should be selling. Sam Hutchinson doesn’t know. If councilmembers knew, they certainly wouldn’t agree with each other or the Mayor.
A marketing campaign can’t market everything. If we’re going to make a pitch we’d better make it for a product that’s ready to be sold. For instance, promoting infill opportunities before we know how we’d take a developer or homeowner through the development process is wasteful and potentially damaging to our reputation as an easy place to develop (of course we don’t actually have that reputation). Another consideration is what are our development priorities? What kind of development gives us the most “bang” for the buck? That analysis has never been done in Trenton and marketing consultants won’t be able to do it for us.
Before launching an expensive marketing campaign, we need to have sorted out the residential market for Trenton. Who’s going to move here? Where do they live now? We have challenges like our crime rate and schools. Are there population segments that don’t care so much about those things? Where would they live in our city?
Before we think about promoting Trenton we need a marketing strategy. Read more about that in the following: Managing the Trenton brand
The first step in a plan to sell Trenton is to figure out what we’re selling and why. This doesn’t have to be a difficult process but when we’re talking about spending precious tax dollars and time we shouldn’t just guess.
Second, just as in business, our pricing needs to be right before we market. Trenton is currently priced too high. Many of our abandoned buildings have negative value and yet the City attempts to sell them for positive prices. It’s no wonder they haven’t sold. Also, our tax rate is the highest in NJ making new development in Trenton a bad idea when compared to neighboring towns with half our tax rate. We need to work out how to make our product’s pricing attractive. Land Value taxes are one answer. Subsidies and abatements are another.
More on how land has negative value in the following: The case for dumping city-owned property
Third, we need to spruce up the product. We can do this by reducing crime in the area of focus. We could clean up a bit. If we’re marketing to population segments likely to appreciate the arts, we could invest in some targeted cultural things. We could also wait until we have a Mayor that’s a little less radioactive.
When you visit Trenton and pick up a paper, all you’ll see are dirty streets, stories about shootings and murders, a recreation department in disarray and a corruption scandal that sought to extort a developer. No amount of marketing is going to overcome these issues. And while we don’t have to eliminate crime or have pristine streets to attract new development, we do have to have made progress and at least have a credible plan on how we’ll improve. The product improvement plan for Trenton doesn’t exist.
Fourth, we need to make sure our operations work. As a customer you hate it when you try to buy something but the store is out of stock, it gets shipped incorrectly, or it’s broken when you receive it. Trenton is like that.
Our Economic Development department isn’t prepared to deal with an influx of developer interest. Our residential and commercial realtors don’t have the city’s marketing plan in mind so they can be part of the solution. There’s not even a promotional web site in place. Our inspections process has never been a positive aspect of developing in Trenton. Would it be useful to have turned that department into a positive instead of a negative before we start attracting new investment? Can the City even transfer property? Properties sold in last year’s auction still haven’t closed.
The bottom line is that before we start attracting interest we need to improve the operations of our city so that our new customers have a positive experience. If you currently live in Trenton and have dealings with the city, you know we’re a long way from operational excellence. Companies that run marketing campaigns when their operations are broken make matters worse and pretty soon go out of business.
Advertising is the last step.
To recap, first we must
- Decide what we’re selling and to whom
- Competitively price our city
- Fix the issues that are causing our poor image
- Improve operational proficiency
These aren’t new ideas; and its’ pretty much Management 101.
For more reading on planning for Trenton’s revitalization see of the below articles:
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 »
Political representation of Trenton’s South Ward was snatched from the hands of Trenton’s political machine three years ago by a smart and energetic Baptist minister. Reverend Coston was well educated, well read and well …. basically a decent guy.
Coston did much to initiate the Ward’s political renaissance through his efforts in organizing opposition to two ill-considered government funded housing projects in 2004. HUD’s Hope VI would have replaced the old Kearny homes project with another one and Leewood Village would have bulldozed 8 blocks of the South Ward in order to make room for subsidized fake colonial townhouses. Coston became president of the Lamberton Historic District Committee (LHDC) which hosted meetings that regularly drew 300 residents to the protests.
I bring up this bit of South Ward history to point to both what’s needed and what’s lacking in the crop of candidates hoping to fill Coston’s now vacated council spot. Read the rest of this entry »