By David Cruz
One of the enduring images of New Jersey’s capital city is that of an embattled Mayor Tony Mack, convicted of corruption dating to the earliest days of his administration, forced to resign in disgrace. Job one for the next mayor is to replace that image with something, anything else, because even here, where residents are kind of used to corrupt politicians, enough, they say, is enough.
“What I want to know about these mayors is who’s going to help us restore the ethics?” asked Barbara Nock outside a coffee shop on State Street.
Six people have stepped up to run and today, the frontrunners were throwing and ducking jabs. Eric Jackson, who most see as leading the race, is a former DPW director and ran the water department under Tony Mack. One of his opponents, Jim Golden, a former public safety director under a previous administration, tried to tie Jackson to the Mack days but found his own record questioned by reporters.
“Did Eric Jackson support Tony Mack in the runoff for mayor in 2010? Yes! Did Eric Jackson hold a job in under the Tony Mack administration? Yes! It’s factual,” declared Golden. But when a reporter pointed out that the violent crime rate rose while Golden was police director, Golden got defensive. “It did not rise to the degree that has been spun by my opponents,” he snapped.
Jackson responded by saying that those who connect him to Mack are attempting to distract from talking about real issues, like crime. There’s too much of it. And jobs, there are too few of them.
“I didn’t believe in the value sets the former administration had,” he said. “I didn’t have anything to do with the issues that they had. People who know Eric Jackson know my character, which I stand on,” he said.
Walker Worthy Jr. is the deputy county clerk and the choice of the county political apparatus. He has led the charge against Jackson, highlighting Jackson’s personal financial difficulties, including a bankruptcy, suggesting that those — and Jackson’s support of Mack — equal business as usual.
“I have watched as many others have as corruption just goes through City Hall,” he said. “Without good government and without cleaning the corruption, we cannot move forward in Trenton.”
Trentonian columnist L.A. Parker says this six-person race has boiled down to who can make it into a runoff. “The real goal is to finish second and then talk to other people see if they’ll join your bandwagon but Eric’s leading and that’s why people are attacking Eric Jackson. Walker Worthy attacks Eric Jackson. Jim Golden attacks Eric Jackson,” he said.
There is plenty to be down about in this city. The problems of crime and economic insecurity are deep rooted, but when you talk to enough people you get a genuine sense of hopefulness, that things might someday actually get better. Now all they need is a mayor who can justify their optimism.