Some Ideas to Transform Trenton

Crowdsourcing ideas to treat our capital city of Trenton the way its people deserve. I like it. Promoted by Rosi.

New Jersey is a tough place. A tough place to make a living. A tough place for politics. And most of all, a tough place for urbanites. I love this state, its history and potential, but I’m not going to lie to you. New Jersey’s cities are in horrendous shape. Newark, Paterson, Camden and our own state capital, Trenton, are ravaged by crime, poverty and deteriorating infrastructure. In the interest of honesty, we really should change the saying on that famous bridge into Trenton to: Trenton Rots While Jersey Trots.

And it is Trenton in particular that I want to focus on here. The city was once a gem of the Garden State, with neat, brick row houses standing aside historic streets. Bold architecture stood out in marble state buildings while the Golden Dome of the Statehouse dominated all. Its high school – now basically condemned – had its own gallant neoclassical facade attesting to its civic importance.  

Today our capital city is a national embarrassment, and it’s all our fault. Trenton has become symbolic of everything that is wrong with the state and its government. It makes no sense that a geographically small city of 85,000 souls could reach its present state without cowardly neglect. Just blocks away from the Capitol Complex on State Street are neighborhoods inundated with violence and joblessness. Young adults, many clearly in some kind of mental and physical distress, stroll about at all hours, wandering. Former storefronts deteriorate and rot. Even the city’s once-proud Transit Center is, from the point of view of this experienced educator and long-time Jersey resident, damn scary.  

With our governor wrapped up in a scandal of his own making and a Legislature that seems to be more concerned with passing laws protecting pigs in crates, things continue to deteriorate. We need to do something. Now. Below are five suggestions, I’ll call them the “Five Points of Trenton,” that might put the city on a path to improvement; but I’m going to be honest with you. It’s going to cost money. I know that many of my readers, particularly Republicans, don’t want to hear that. But cities are collective, organic enterprises. They don’t just function by themselves; they need civic encouragement and support. The City is one of humanity’s greatest inventions, a place of energy and synergy and potential opportunity. We need to act quickly and creatively to save our capital city.

1. Stop Charging for Public Transportation within Trenton
– Many European cities are now experimenting with this idea, and Washington D.C. is considering it as well. Free or very low cost public transit gets the right people moving by getting them to work, to school and to the marketplace. Movement makes a city safer and livelier. Additionally, add more bus lines – and make the busses blaze with color – to further empower and connect the capital

2. Refashion the Police – Double the police force in Trenton, and get more cops out on the beat. Make the police a real and active presence for the city, its residents, workers and visitors. Get cops out of their zooming cars and back on the sidewalks of our living neighborhoods. Increase the pay of Trenton’s cops as well, which will result in a larger pool of more ambitious and qualified applicants.

3. Sales Tax Reform – Parts of Trenton are currently an “Urban Empowerment Zone,” where customers pay a 3.5 percent sales tax. Originally, this plan was aimed at increasing commerce in the city. It isn’t working – not like it should. Reduce the sales tax again in Trenton to 1 percent for most purchases.

4. Legalize and Tax Marijuana – We need to admit that the so-called “War on Drugs,” particularly the war on pot, is a war on young minority men. Let’s get the focus of Trenton’s cops off petty drugs and onto the real criminals. Legalize and regulate pot sales, tax purchases 30 percent and devote such purchases to the City’s coffers.

5. Establish Free Municipal WiFi – Trenton is relatively small and geographically compact; it’s just a few square miles. Invest a small amount of money in creating the first state capital with free, wireless Internet for all. Light the place up like a billboard with superfast web connections to increase the city’s competitiveness, help its students connect with knowledge and its poor connect with opportunity. Then publicize the effort through snappy advertising campaigns, showing the nation and the world that Trenton is back and ready for the 21st century. Call it what you want: Cyber-Trenton, Trenton Connects-The World Projects (I’m trying here!), whatever…you get the picture

Of course friends, more might be needed. But you’ve got to give me some credit – and help – here. What do you think? Are these five points a good start, or a bunch of nonsense? Can we turn our capital city around?


Comments (3)

  1. deciminyan

    We need to incentive small and medium-size businesses to set up shop in Trenton. These incentives should be offered to companies OUTSIDE of New Jersey. It makes no sense to do what the Christie administration did and subsidize moves within New Jersey. Free training should be offered to Trenton residents who may need it to qualify for technology or office jobs.

    And as far as public transportation is concerned, it should be free everywhere. That would reduce pollution and help the economy. We subsidize roads, why not public transportation? Just keep it out of the hands of the Port Authority.

  2. Jeff Gardner

    Fascinating idea. Ever since being hooked on the free bus routes at Rutgers, I’ve always wondered if this was fiscally doable. How much revenue is generated by bus fares within Trenton, and what is the offsetting cost (in dollars/time) of the collection process? Once we have those answers, it would be easier to decide if that makes sense (for Trenton or NJ Transit or wherever).

  3. Jeff Gardner

    I’m shocked that there is no state capital with free municipal WiFi. (There are NJ cities with it, no? Hoboken? Princeton? The aforesaid New Brunswick?)


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *