In April 2022 the former Trenton city council penned an ordinance attempting to stifle public criticism of the administration because they did not like public commentary on their poor performance (22-122 RESOLUTION URGING CONGRESS TO REVIEW AND REVISE ALL LAWS RELATING TO THE REGULATION OF SOCIAL MEDIA).
Mayor Reed Gusciora appears to have joined the ranks of those that would stifle or minimize public opinion based solely on the fact that he personally does not like what is being talked about or because it goes against the rose-colored view one must maintain to be validated in Trenton.
Fellow Trenton resident/taxpayer and friend Bill Kearny and I administrate the popular Facebook group “Trenton Orbit”.
Mayor Gusciora’s August 18 2023 opinion piece “A Newer Perspective for Trenton” obliquely referred to our page so we wanted to publicly respond and hopefully, adjust the mayor’s perceptions.
Mayor Gusciora’s opinion is that the group is composed of “grumpy aunts and uncles” and Trenton Orbit is the “my turn to be angry page”. He also recently referred to the group as the “my car hit a pothole; the world is ending” page.
In a city with a 28% poverty rate and a median household income of $39,000, yes – that flat tire caused by continuously potholed and poorly maintained city streets can have dire consequences for some.
The group started as a Trenton government-centric Facebook page but has evolved over the years into a place where Trenton taxpayers and residents can go for advice, civic education, and getting problems solved that are not being solved elsewhere. It is a useful resource for residents in a city with a large vacuum where public assistance, information, and resident services should exist.
The page and its members have assisted fellow residents and taxpayers with getting public information, initiating contact with city hall to solve neighborhood issues, getting parks maintained, trees removed, and connecting people with resources that help. One look at the page will confirm these things and more. Maybe unbeknownst to Mayor Gusciora, many people within his own administration read and monitor the page for resident concerns and offer help based on those posts. I would be willing to bet that the mayor himself reads the page as well – he must because he formed that opinion, yes?
Looking down the first ten posts on the page this morning (August 22, 2023) the topics are:
1. A video and resident concern/complaint of raw sewage leaking from pipes in the street on Hart Avenue.
2. The Trenton Downtown Association installed cameras as part of a neighborhood preservation program grant through the Department of Community Affairs.
3. A post reminding people to license their dogs and the importance of doing this.
4. A post letting people know Cadwalader Heights is a beautiful neighborhood and to consider attending their “Welcome Back to the Neighborhood” house tour,
5. An advertisement for “Shop Trenton Saturday” to support our local businesses.
6. A post from a resident seeking assistance purchasing pet food to provide relief to a relative with Alzheimer’s.
7. An advertisement for a local bike ride.
8. A post regarding the upcoming Art All Day event seeking volunteers.
9. A post about the upcoming city budget and the lack of email correspondence from council on the topic.
10. A post informing that a child was involved in a hit and run.
Hardly the “grumpy aunts and uncles” page.
Not the Trenton Pollyanna page, but not even close to what the mayor personally perceives it as either.
Of course, the administration is fair game and all opinions within the boundaries of the group rules are welcome. Public officials open themselves up to public criticism when they seek these taxpayer funded positions and any elected official that strikes out against people offering opinions and facts needs a realignment of their perceptions.
All topics within the group rules are welcome for discussion.
• A city budget that has yet to be introduced and approved ¾ of the way into the current calendar year.
• The mayor beginning his initial term lying and stating the Memorandum of Understanding that Trenton operates under was lifted.
• The unending instability and turnover of key administration personnel and directors since 2018 (most recently the mayor’s own Chief of Staff had enough and quit).
• The egregious abuse of overtime by Trenton Water Works employees that immediately ceased after being uncovered.
• Police officials that stole taxpayer funds in an overtime scheme and were permitted to quietly resign without so much as an explanation from the administration.
• The closing of a city health center without explanation.
• The lack of notice from Trenton Water Works when residents experience discolored or foul smelling water.
• Celebrating accomplishments before a shovel even hits the ground or contracts are even approved by council (most people celebrate accomplishments at the completion of the project not prior to any timetable or funding).
• State or federal initiatives that are presented as administrative accomplishments.
• Not having a Director of Public Health in a city rife with issues that need to be addressed in that arena (our Director of Parks and Recreation also runs the Health and Human Services department).
• An animal shelter that is an absolute disgrace being used as a political stunt to claim no kill status and then conveniently put on the back burner after the election.
• Campaign promises of “1,000 homes in 1,000 days” that were proven to be a farce.
All of these are reasonable concerns that should be discussed, not filed away with the label “grumpy aunts and uncles”.
The point to all of this being that name calling in an op ed is simply not a good look and disparages people who have the right to call out elected officials’ poor performance even if the elected officials do not like their performance being memorialized on social media.
Instead of name calling – which the mayor endured from the previous council and did not like – the mayor needs to adjust his perceptions of critics as “enemies,” or “malcontents,” or “grumpy aunts and uncles” and understand that residents have endured poor leadership in Trenton for generations and perhaps having that pressure release valve of being able to have somewhere
to go to vent is a necessity. Even better is when that venting leads to a positive outcome and that resident is educated and becomes able to deal with new issues on their own.
Perhaps adopting a “new perspective” is not what is needed.
Perhaps accepting ALL perspectives is.
Bill Kearney and Michael Ranallo are the co-founders of the Trenton Orbit Facebook group page.