Five ways you can become civically engaged

By Phineas Hogan

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To a pessimistic eye, it seems we are living in a constant state of crisis. We are bombarded with news of mass shootings, rising prices, restrictions of rights, and the infuriating inactivity of our government to combat these problems. Beyond that, we see and experience similar issues on a local level, which can be equally, if not more depleting. These problems may feel existential, with no way to control the troubling state of our community, but that is not true.

Each of us has the power and responsibility to make an impact in our communities. This may not require a big time commitment, or for a lot of effort to be expended. There are varying ways to get your voice heard, and it is of utmost importance for all of us to amplify them. That is how we can change Trenton for the better, in the present, and for the future. Here are five ways that can be done:


Activists have spent decades, some even sacrificing their lives, to ensure every person has the right to vote, regardless of race, gender, or any other dividing factor. Voting is the backbone of our governmental system, the heart and soul of our democracy. It is the pathway to make the changes we want to see in our community, and it is our right and responsibility as citizens of this country.

In the 2018 general election, voters within the municipality of Trenton casted 9,058 ballots out of the almost 40,000 who were registered. Moreover, in a city of over 90,000 people, under half of eligible residents are registered to vote. This is a major problem in our community, and the lack of voting is hindering our voices within local politics. If you want to see real change in our city, you must vote.

You can register to vote online if you are 17 or older, with the requisites a valid ID or a social security number. There are numerous ways to vote, including voting by mail, early in-person voting, or voting in-person on election day at a local polling station. The next general election for mayor and city council members is on November 8.

You can also apply to be a poll worker if you are interested in contributing to this essential government process. You can earn $21.43 per hour on early in-person voting days, and $300 on Election Day. Anyone can apply if they are at least 16 years of age, registered to vote (if you are old enough to be registered), a United States citizen, and a resident of New Jersey. More information, as well as the application, can be found here.

Know Your Representatives, and Demand More From Them

The Trenton City Council consists of seven members, each of whom serve four-year terms. Of the seven, three are elected at-large throughout the city, while the remaining four represent each of the established wards; North, South, East, and West. These are the people who decide whether to address a problem or not, amend pieces of legislation, and conduct meetings. Basically, they control the actions, or inactions, of the city government. And they work for you!

If you have any questions about them and what they stand for, ask them. If you notice a problem in your community that hasn’t been addressed, let them know. If you are dissatisfied with their work and want more to be done, speak your mind. You pay their salary, you control their influence, and you give them their jobs. Do not be afraid to demand more of the politicians who are supposed to work for your best interest. The names and contact information of the city council members can be found here.

Learn about the candidates

The upcoming general election, on November 8, will decide who will be the next mayor of Trenton, as well as the next city council members. This election is crucial for the direction of the city moving forward, and you have the power to steer it by voting.

What issues are you most passionate about? Do you want to see more, or less, police presence in your community? Do you want to see more small businesses downtown? What are your opinions about gun control? It is important to inform yourself on who the candidates are, what their goals are for the city, and how they plan to achieve them, so you can choose who you feel can address the problems you may have with our city the best. The Trenton Journal has covered some of the candidates for the upcoming election, which you can find here.

Over the last four years, there has been major dysfunction within the Trenton City Council and its relationship with the mayor. November 8th is an opportunity to uproot some of those voices, and create a new culture within our city government. It is important for you to vote, and be the catalyst for the changes you want to see.

Trenton's city council chamber

Attend a city council meeting

Attending city council meetings is an excellent way to inform yourself of the agenda of the city council, gain perspective on how some of the members behave and work together, and voice your own opinion on the issues being presented. These meetings occur at City Hall on varying dates, and you can attend either virtually or in person. More information about city council meetings and how to attend can be found here.

Engage in conversation

In order for a community to change, people must work together, and an integral part of that is discourse. Talk to your friends and family about problems they see in the city. Have discussions with people supporting the same candidates as you, or some who hold differing opinions. These conversations can help you mold your own opinions, and gain alternative perspectives on the issues you care about.

In addition to in-person discourse, there are social media groups such as the Trenton Orbit where you can hear about local news and what other residents are saying about it. Through education, discourse, and voting, you have the power to become the change you want to see in your community. It is just a matter of if you choose to or not. We challenge you to accept that opportunity, and join the movement to make Trenton a better place.

Trenton Journal Survey

Dear community member,

Trenton Journal – a local news outlet covering Trenton – would like to learn more about your information needs so that we may better serve you.

Please click the link below to access a survey about what kinds of local news you want.

The survey is anonymous and should take less than 15 minutes. Forty people who complete the survey will be chosen at random to receive a $25 Amazon gift code.

On behalf of the entire Trenton Journal team, we sincerely thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.

Kenneth Miles


Trenton Journal

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