This article was originally published in the August 2018 Trenton Downtowner.
A new chapter of the history of Trenton started on July 1, when Reed Gusciora became the 48th mayor of the capital city. An openly gay former New Jersey Assemblyman, Gusciora opened his term with the following speech delivered in front of Trenton City Hall:
This year, we will recognize the 242nd anniversary of the Battle of Trenton, the turning point of the American Revolution. Today, we gather here to start the first day of a four-year journey in the Battle FOR Trenton. This is a battle for safe and clean streets in our neighborhoods and better education for our children, jobs and economic development for our citizens, peace and security for our seniors. It’s also about bringing back the pride and swagger that the capital city not only requires, but deserves.
Trenton has its challenges and particularly we must acknowledge the tragedy of Art All Night. But we must also address the unease and violence that occurs every day on our streets. Too many complain about the potholes, the litter on corners and alleyways; the lack of recreation and job opportunities for young people; the abandoned and vacant houses; the ability to maintain our own water supply. We have come a long way since John Roebling walked our streets, since factories were fully functioning, or since Babe Ruth blasted three consecutive home runs from our fields.
This last campaign is a battle to return greatness to our capital city; a place where we can feel safe and secure in our homes no matter which neighborhood we call our own. A place that we can set back in motion. A modern city whose leadership will think outside the box and make not only its current citizens place their faith back in government, but a city that we can once again have pride in. The voters and residents of Trenton entrusted me with a great obligation, and one which I am privileged and humbled to accept. But this Battle for Trenton requires all of us.
It also requires hard work and patience. Our challenges did not come about overnight, nor will they be addressed in a week or a month. But each day we can make progress, and in the end we will all look back and see how far we have come. When I campaigned for your votes, I told you that my goal was to lift Trenton together — and I meant every word of that. No one person, no one elected official, can fix the problems that plague our city. No mayor, no council member, can single-handedly release the potential that Trenton has. It takes all of us.
Public safety will be of prime importance. And while we honor the men and women who put their lives on the line every day, the new administration’s goal will be to put more police officers in the neighborhoods. I am pleased to report that Sheriff’s Officer Pedro Medina has agreed to serve as interim police director and that my administration will lead an intensive search for a new police director who will have the respect of the men and women in uniform. Our citizens will be proud that we have reestablished community policing levels as well.
In the coming weeks, I will also work with the new council to reestablish faith in our water system.
Let me say from the outset there will be no privatization of our water supply and the special interests that are watching, can just go away — but we do acknowledge the challenge we have; to ensure that not only Trenton residents, but those from surrounding communities, have access to quality water. In this regard, I will ask the council to change the makeup of our Public Works Department and create a new Department of Water and Sewage. I have asked former West Windsor Mayor Dr. Shing-Fu Hsueh, a retired DEP water quality expert, to lead this effort and ensure that our current Water Department transitions to a fully Trenton run Water Utility.
As for the remaining Public Works, I will ask that the department’s focus be on filling the potholes; cleaning the alleys; creating a new and innovative recycling program — all of which will mean new jobs for our city residents.
I will also work with the Council to make sure we modernize our parking authority; that we replace broken meters with functional ones which will bring in earned revenue to the city. We need to hire additional inspectors to ensure that absentee landlords understand we are serious about maintaining properties, and the quality of life of our residents.
In addition, I will work with the council to also separate the mission of our Department of Housing and Economic Development. There should be a separate department to focus on economic development. I plan on an intensive search to bring a director who will understand the need to recreate our downtown and focus on mixed-use development that will fully incorporate residential, commercial and government housing. We need to ensure that economic development will partner with our educational institutions and create jobs for young residents.
At the end of the day, we need all who want this city to be successful to roll up their sleeves and begin work for a better day for Trenton; a new deal that will result in the advancement of our city’s economic development; in new jobs; in new technology; in new urban planning. We need to create that culture of opportunity that will Lift Trenton, and will result in a city where residents have restored faith and public trust.
And not a better Trenton for a select few, for a privileged few, or a connected few. We need a better Trenton for every single man, woman, and child regardless of color, creed, or religion. We are one city, with one future.
Our community cannot tolerate disunion. Differences aside, we need to come together. During an election, we can forget what we’re fighting for. We need to keep sight of our goals.
Whether you voted for me or not, whether you voted at all this year, or whether you have never voted, I’m asking you to join me today and every day going forward as we lift Trenton together
Thank you, may God bless the Capital City of Trenton, the State of New Jersey, and the United States of America.