Election Day is finally around the corner. Over the past few months the Trenton Journal has interviewed several candidates running for office and hosted a series of candidate forums at Shiloh Baptist Church in conjunction with the Trenton Branch NAACP. Most recently, we sat down with Mayor Reed Gusciora as he seeks a second term in office. During his first term, Gusciora advocated for new housing, unfroze millions of dollars in federal funding to move forward redevelopment projects like Patriot Village II, demolished more than 300 homes to reduce blight, and provided no local property tax increases for the last three budget cycles. The Mayor has seen his fair share of setbacks including a record number of murders in the city, contentious battles with city council members, and challenges with the Trenton Water Works department. Recently, Trenton Journal sat down with Mayor Reed Gusciora at his campaign headquarters to find out why he feels Trentonians should give him another term in office to help move Trenton forward.
When was the pivotal moment you decided that you would run for a second term in office?
I had it always in the back of my mind, but it gelled when all the things that we were trying to do just got blocked by [the] council. I kept on saying, “This would be a great job if it wasn't for [the] council." They didn't even want to do the right thing for the city residents. They just wanted to make sure that I would not succeed. So, it just makes you work harder and I was determined to run for a second term. [The administration] doesn't have to be a rubber stamp, but it has to be a cooperative relationship with the mayor. At the end of the day, you all have to focus on what is most important for the residents of the city of Trenton.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement the past four years of your administration?
Well, I think the biggest achievement is in water. We used to regularly get cited for water quality violations by the DEP. The other thing is that when you get promotions in the water or sewer department, it's under these licenses–W1, W2, or W4. We partnered with Mercer County College and are actually holding those certification classes inside the filtration plant. We graduated 22 of our employees who are eligible for promotions and better pay because they're able to get the certifications they need to get promoted. We have made grand slams in economic development. There has been more and more interest from developers to come into the capital city. They see that there are improvements. In spite of all the political bickering, we're still moving the ball forward.
From left mayoral candidate Cherie Garrett, Reverend Charles Boyer, and Mayor Reed Gusciora at Shiloh Baptist Church. Garrett and Gusciora are the only mayoral candidates who have appeared together at forums for the upcoming city election.
Let’s touch on water because that's a hot topic right now with the discovery of Legionella bacteria found in homes serviced by Trenton Water Works. Mayor, is our water safe to drink?
We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we have a quality product. We're still cheaper than American Water or other privatized systems. We hire Trentonians. We make money for the city. It’s something that we wanna keep, but we need to keep on investing and that was so frustrating to work with council. One example is we've replaced in the last four years 10,000 lead service lines. We replaced 10,000 of them [and] we need to replace another 10,000. We put the proposal up before [the] council to begin the next phase. They voted that down. We still have an obligation to replace those lead service lines.
Mayor Reed Gusciora and his campaign team
What can we do to combat the violence that has been so prevalent in the city?
We've got to create alternatives to violence. That's why we spend so much money on recreation. We started a summer camp with the police department and the fire department. We took kids up to the World Trade Center memorial and taught them first aid skills. It made all the difference in the world that a lot of these kids just were not exposed, not only to the fire department, but even to the policing. They were always taught just, you know, stay away from these police and disrespect them. This was an opportunity to humanize both departments where kids now aspire to be one of the two highest paying jobs in the city.
Where did the contention between you and some council members begin? It appears that you've been embroiled in a constant tug-of-war over the years.
I think at some point the political switch turned on where both Robin [Vaughn] and Kathy [McBride] aspired to be mayor. It just became evident in their philosophy that as long as you stop the mayor and he has no accomplishments, then they will be able to step up to the plate. That said, when I first started our federal grant was put on hold by the federal government because there were accounting problem stemming from the Tony Mack administration. The federal government froze our grant funding. Kathy and I rode to Washington one day, because we agreed that this was important for the city of Trenton. We also went down to Baltimore together to see an entrepreneurial non-profit, Conscious Venture Lab where they got young entrepreneurs to make a pitch. So, there were times where Kathy and I worked together. I think a couple of months ago even, she goes, "We used to be friends," and I said, "I think we still are." But once the council meeting started [we] went back to an adversarial relationship. So, it is a shame and I think that the stakes are too high to put politics before public policy and doing what's right for the citizens of Trenton.
If you are elected again for a second term, what are some of the differences we can expect to see in the city?
You're gonna see a completely different city in 10 years and I hope to lay that ground. We're investing in downtown. We're utilizing urban enterprise zone funds and doing a makeover for the entire downtown. We’re gonna have new streets, new curbing, new sidewalks, and new brick work. We want to invest in the neighborhoods [and make sure] all neighborhoods are safe. You're gonna see a completely different kind of North Ward where everybody is treated with respect and it doesn't look like we have to fence people in both for their safety and to keep people out. That's not a way to run a community and I think that's gonna give people a lot more worth.
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