For the past year I’ve been working pretty hard as a volunteer to support the administration by providing what I hope are responsible processes for engaging the public in designing a fiscal way forward for the city. As part of the Fix Trenton’s Budget Committee, I’ve helped elicit public priorities about the budget, I’ve helped propose a budget process that would lead to more deliberative choices and I’ve helped to put forward new ideas on revenue especially the Land Value Tax. In addition, I’ve respectfully suggested that we take a more pragmatic approach to our support for subsidized housing. These efforts have met with mixed success.
The Fix Trenton’s Budget Committee’s efforts have been mainly targeted at helping the city to be more responsive. However, over the years, I’ve also dedicated this blog to many of the fundamental economic principles that could lead Trenton to revitalization. Many of these ideas are difficult for citizens to get excited about. Most people’s eyes simply glaze over when they read about money.
Certainly my ideas have fallen on deaf ears in both the previous and current administrations and for the most part on both the previous and current city council. Math and fiscal discipline aren’t fun. I get that.
However, allow me to point out another economic truism that should get everybody’s attention.
Civil unrest is bad for business.
The racial intolerance and threatening language that the Recall Mack campaign workers experienced this week from the Mayor’s supporters including his brother, is a sign of a civil unrest in Trenton. It belies an undercurrent of hate that’s been stoked by the Mayor’s supporters that could easily lead to violence.
Rarely do vibrant economies flourish in this kind of atmosphere. Can you imagine a white family wanting to move to Trenton when city workers and the Mayor’s political supporters shout racial epitaphs at their white neighbors? Would black families of good nature come here? Hispanics or Asian? If I had seen this 11 years ago when I was deciding to invest in Trenton I know I would have reconsidered.
With this kind of attitude in City Hall, how will ideas meant to attract investment (some of it from white developers) ever win public support. Anything a white person suggests will be met with suspicion by a populace emboldened by their leadership to think “black first”. We just can’t have that.
It’s difficult for me to feel good about suggesting economic ideas to help the city when I think that my neighbors and perhaps even our city leaders will discount them because I’m white.
Trenton is a difficult situation and it’s going to take the best ideas in this country to fix it. We don’t have the luxury of wallowing in a pit of racial hatred.
In fact, I’ll go further and suggest that one of the key ingredients to reinventing Trenton is for this city to be seen as a bastion of racial harmony. New residents and investors like racial harmony and avoid the kind of hate speech that’s happening in Trenton today.