Thank Goodness for Small Favors

We have a lot of entertainment and drama associated with Trenton politics. That’s for sure. But today, I am deeply thankful that we don’t number among our elected officials or aspiring elected officials anyone like Anthony Weiner. At least, I don’t think we do. And for that, I say Thank Goodness for Small Favors.

In the last few days, we’ve seen a few gratifying examples of communication on current issues from a few of our mayoral candidates. I am grateful for them, and hope that these two occasions can be the start of what will first be a welcome trend, then become Standard Operating Procedure for their campaigns. I hope this becomes so frequent that it won’t be deserving of special comment. But for now, it’s pretty new, so let’s appreciate their effort, and their leadership, shall we?

A Letter to the Editor in this morning’s Trenton Times by James Golden notes the passing over the weekend of the Wilbur section’s long-time champion Dion Clark. Mr. Golden eulogizes Mr. Clark and praises his example of civic work by saying,

A paragon of civic virtue, Mr. Clark relentlessly and passionately pursued his dream of a better community for his beloved Wilbur neighborhood and all of Trenton. He was driven by the inspiration of his vision, and he inspired hope in all of us who came to know him over the years.

It would seem that our potential and capacity as a vital city have been diminished by Mr. Clark’s untimely death. Fortunately, we will mitigate our loss if we embrace and continue to model his legacy of activism and selfless concern for others.

Well said, Mr. Golden.

Eric Jackson released a statement condemning the recent outbreak of serious violence in Trenton by acknowledging the recent death of Qaadir Gurley as the city’s 22nd murder victim of 2013. Sadly, Mr. Jackson’s words must now be read in the context of news of Trenton’s 23rd murder victim, as of last night.

Mr. Jackson’s note was released on Facebook, not his own website. In part, his statement reads,

I am deeply concerned about the possibility of more senseless violence in the wake of the murder of 24-year-old Quaadir Gurley last Sunday in the city’s West Ward. I am calling on our parents and community leaders to talk with your sons, daughters and neighbors about the dire consequences that settling disputes through violence can have on their lives and our city. Everyone has a stake in the health and welfare of Trenton. We must acknowledge and deal with the serious threat of gang violence, not just through law enforcement, but also through conversation and compassion.

Thank you, Mr. Jackson.

I appreciate that both gentlemen were moved by recent events to speak on behalf of themselves, and implicitly of their campaigns, to the citizens of Trenton. I encourage these two, and the other mayoral candidates, to continue this outreach on other matters and concerns as they come to public attention. I look forward to and expect more from them of substance and thoughtful consideration. Over to you, gentlemen.

Speaking of the campaigns, on Monday morning the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) did indeed post several more quarterly financial disclosure reports from several mayoral and City Council candidates.

Several. Not all candidates, and not even all current officeholders. And many of the reports were sadly incomplete. I, for one, am of a mind that the way a candidate runs his or her campaigns, and the conscientious observance – or not – of NJ state election law says a lot about a candidate and the way he or she will conduct themselves during their term of office. Looking at the latest batch of reports posted over the last week reveals some interesting items.

Let’s start with the two gentlemen above. I remarked a few days ago that I found it very surprising that Eric Jackson filed a form with ELEC certifying that his campaign would raise and spend no more than $4500. Well, Mr. Jackson also filed another report on the same day, July 15. This report includes details on the $38,315 he has raised up until the end of June, and the $5350 he has spent to date.

It is still very odd to me that Mr. Jackson filed that other form. I also note that his campaign raised funds and incurred expenses during the 1st Quarter of this year, for which a report should have been filed by April 15. And his campaign has still not closed out his 2010 effort, with an interim report filed ten days before the May 2010 election being the last disclosure of his finances filed for that year.

I am glad to see that Mr. Jackson is starting full and complete disclosure of his current campaign’s finances. His unfinished 2010 business still strikes me as odd.

James Golden also filed a full and complete 2013 2nd Quarter report, disclosing a total of $7100 raised and $4436 spent.

What is interesting to me about both campaign’s reports is that so many of the funds to date come from donors outside the City of Trenton. I suppose this is the stage of the campaign during which friends and family, wherever they are located, are the first sources the candidates reach out to. It’s good to see that at least on this level that people outside this City are willing to donate to those representing Trenton’s political future. We shall see whether our candidates can succeed over the next year in drawing significant support from those within the city of Trenton.

The other campaigns are more of a mixed bag. Patrick Hall filed a complete report (with the exception of a failure to identify the source of abut $48 in loans) showing minimal activity in the second quarter, and total revenue of $4160.

Paul Perez filed a report stating he’d raised $5553, and spent $2352. However, he only identifies $3800 in revenue, and fails to detail any of his expenses. His report, which should contain a full 11 pages, but only 3 were filed.

Walker Worthy’s report indicates his campaign has raised $28,330 to date, second only to Mr. Jackson, and has spent $8439. Using this yardstick, Mr. Worthy’s campaign should be taken seriously.

But his report lacks a great deal of information. Of the $24,065 raised in this quarter, Mr. Worthy identifies only $1400. The sources for the remaining $22,665 remain unstated.

The Indicted Occupant of Trenton’s Mayor’s Office? He hasn’t filed since April of last year. At the time he was spending money freely from his campaign account, while fundraising had dried up. He did stage a fundraising event at the end of June. He was obligated to have disclosed the proceeds and expenses from that event by July 15. But I suppose he’s thinking something like, “Why Start Now?”

Council candidates are, also, a mixed bag. Najee Cunningham and Lee Willie Ingram filed A-1 forms – the same one also filed by Mr. Jackson – stating they would raise and spend no more than $4500. No other challengers have filed yet with ELEC.

Regarding the current sitting council members, only three – Marge Caldwell-Wilson,  Phyllis Holly-Ward, and Verlina Reynolds Jackson – filed their Q2 reports on time. Although Ms. Holly-Ward has pretty consistently filed her quarterly reports on time throughout her term in office, the other two members only started filing last quarter, after almost 3 full years in office. Oops.

A fourth, George Muschal, has filed most of his previous reports (some being accounted under the past 2010 election rather than 2014, oddly) since his election, but has nothing posted as of yet for the most recent deadline.

Alex Bethea has not filed anything since he was elected to Council. Not a thing since before the June 2010 runoff election. And I am not surprised in the least.

As for the remaining Members, Kathy McBride and Zachary Chester, they have filed forms disclosing their campaign banking accounts and Treasurers. But they have failed to submit any required reports since their 2010 elections.

This is in spite of knowing that Ms. McBride is occupying, and presumably paying rent for, a “Constituent Services ” office on North Warren Street. If she has other expenses on her books, and money to pay for them, she hasn’t let on since 2010. In that election, she filed the “$4500 and Under” certification.

At the end of the 2010 election, Mr. Chester had over $11,000 in his bank account, according to his post-election report. But that is the last report Mr. Chester has submitted to ELEC, and the last one available for public review.

This spotty record among our Council members tells a tale. What we have heard from many Council members over the last few years has often been a message of, “We haven’t been able to accomplish anything because we’ve been obstructed by the Mayor, or by each other.” To some extent that may be true.

But I would suggest, once again, that a candidate’s – or office holder’s – record of compliance with the commonly-known and pretty easily-followed ELEC Rules of The Game is a pretty good way to predict how conscientious that person will be to following the rules in office.

Based on that criterion, I would suggest that Mr. Bethea, Ms. McBride and Mr. Chester have a lot of remedial homework to do, and some explanations to give.

If these three can’t handle their own campaign finances properly, can we expect them to do so for Trenton’s?

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