By David Cruz
On the day when a federal judge sentenced former Mayor Tony Mack to almost five years in prison for corruption, upstart mayoral candidate Paul Perez found himself the center of attention. The former Army officer and security consultant said Mack’s sentencing should mark a turning point for the city.
“Today is a sad day for the city of Trenton. It really is. Do we want to continue on the same path or do we want to go into this new direction? This direction of promise, this direction of change. This direction where people are engaged, people become part of what’s happening,” Perez said.
Perez is still considered a long shot in this race. His opponent, the better-funded Eric Jackson, held a nine-point lead over Perez on election night but failed to reach the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff, which will now be held on June 10.
“People want a positive change. They want a positive leader who has a great work ethic, who’s gonna bring government back to the people in a way that we haven’t done recently, which is good old customer service, we’re going to get back to the basics and as I’m talking to residents, business owners, legislators across our city, across our state, they want the government to work again in the capital city,” Jackson said.
The campaign for mayor takes place against a backdrop of a city that has seen spasms of violence over the past year, including the shooting of a 9-year-old girl earlier this week and a murder on the very day the state’s attorney general announced a new anti-crime push.
“I’m here to tell the good people of Trenton that, like them, we certainly have had more than enough of gun-toting thugs, who threaten innocent bystanders with violence,” said New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman.
For long-time Trentonians, the crime initiative, the mayoral campaign, even the Mack sentencing, all of it rings hollow in a city where politics and crime often go hand in hand.
“The violence and corruption. I think there’s a lot of corruption going on in the city,” said Michael Edens.
“The crime is just horrendous here. That needs to be the main focus, and especially education for our children,” Doniesha Johnson said.
“Tony Mack will probably have to do his time, ya know. What he did was a federal crime that he got in trouble with. I guess the city of Trenton is glad that he’s leaving and we’ll be starting over with a new mayor pretty soon,” said Jake Creighton.
On a muggy afternoon in this city of 84,000, the vast majority of residents were working, going about their business — purposely or otherwise — mostly oblivious, or indifferent, to the political changes that are taking place around them.
Both sides in this race say they hope that today’s sentencing closes a sad chapter in the history of Trenton. As for the people here, the hope is that on June 10 one of them will be able to help write a new one.