Trenton Orbit’s Michael Ranallo and Bill Kearney embrace the term “watchdogs” as they hold Trenton officials accountable via their popular Facebook group.
Friends Michael Ranallo and Bill Kearney teamed up to fill a newly created void in Trenton when the Facebook group, Fans of The Irresponsible Blogger decided to close down after years of being a public forum based on hard-hitting questions and responses to local political issues. Though the two men may have opposite personalities, they can agree on one thing: they are tired of the chaos in the city and demand change.
It was 2020 when Trenton Orbit was created just days after the aforementioned page was shut down. “Mike and I saw the opportunity and also saw a growing need for a virtual town square in Trenton,” says Kearney who was the one who came up with the page name. “We came up with a few, but Trenton Orbit worked especially well because our page concept is to discuss everything going on around our city, the regular processes of council, the seasonal budget process. Everything in Trenton’s Orbit.”
Ranallo and Kearney go back to message boards, which were in effect long before social networks like Facebook. Their commonality on topics on local municipal activities and working on the 2018 mayoral campaign, was the beginning of their Trenton-centric partnership. Splitting the duties of moderating posts, accepting members, commenting, and providing pertinent local updates, Ranallo and Kearney’s efforts have proven successful. The group’s popularity has significantly grown within the past two years, amassing a following of more than 8,000 members. Seeking change on a government level is one of the reasons why Ranallo decided to run as an At-Large city council candidate in the 2022 general election. Although Ranallo’s hopes of being elected to office didn’t become a reality this recent election, he’s proud of running a clean campaign.
“It means that we are paying attention to everything that’s going on…and encourage others to do the same thing,” explains Ranallo on being dubbed Trenton’s “watchdog”. Keeping people in the small town of Trenton civically engaged, is one of the core functions of Trenton Orbit. The page runners do this by forming relations with various people in the administration to ensure that factual information is delivered as opposed to that of a more sensational nature. “[Residents] appreciate having a place to come to ask for help or information on how to get City Hall to address an issue,” says Kearney. Ranallo echoes that notion, saying “There have been residents that have had issues resolved.” The group is open and available to everyone living in Trenton and catches the attention of those who can actually help. Kearney states, “People appreciate that there’s almost always help on Trenton Orbit. I’m especially glad that city workers, directors and even the mayor can see this page daily. And many offer to help before there is ever a problem. They are always welcome to jump in to help, clarify, correct, explain, or communicate.”