On a 1987 episode of Oprah, while they were sitting in bed in their pajamas, Maya Angelou shared one of life’s greatest lessons when she said, “When people show you who they are, believe them”. At six-years old, I have never forgotten that moment. It has served me well throughout my life, especially in my professional career as an investigator.
During campaign season, candidates tell us who they are. They hire expensive professional campaign consultants to produce film television commercials and glossy campaign literature telling us who they are. Yard signs with smiling faces proclaim, “Trust Me! I’m One of You!”. Telling us who they are has become a big business. But Maya Angelou told us to believe what people show us, not just what they tell us.
What does the voting record of our members of Trenton’s City Council show us about who they really are?
Let’s take a look at what the actions of several members of our City Council show us about who they are.
Doubling City Council Salaries
By a vote of 3-3, the same City Council that postponed meetings, cancelled meetings, and didn’t show up to meetings, made sure to schedule and attend a meeting to vote on doubling their own salaries. You read that right. Not the 1.7% cost of living increase Council approved for our public employees. These 3 members voted to give themselves a 100% raise.
Perhaps they believed in congratulating themselves for a job well done. After all, Trenton faces a number of public health challenges, including threats to the safety of our first responders and to the health and safety of our seniors, our children, and our most vulnerable residents. Maybe these members of our City Council believe that they did such a great job in addressing these public health concerns that they deserve a 100% raise.
Whatever the reason, they showed us that they believe they deserve a 100% raise.
Trenton Water Crisis
Whether canceling meetings to avoid voting, pointing fingers at the mayor for a crisis they created, or otherwise running away from their responsibilities, members of the Council are running on a record of failure to address Trenton’s greatest public health crisis.
When they’re less concerned with the Trenton Water Crisis and more concerned with their own Personal Pocketbook Crisis, they show us who they are.
When saving our children from lead poisoning isn’t as important as increasing their own personal savings accounts, they show us who they are.
Health Services and Vaccinations
Federal funds would have covered vaccinations against COVID and Monkeypox, but members of the City Council rejected this aid. They blocked us from receiving vaccines that would have protected public health.
When they are more worried about protecting their personal financial health than protecting our most vulnerable from threats to public health, they show us who they are.
Critical Safety Equipment
Trenton is lacking critical breathing and oxygen equipment firefighters need to safely perform their job. The American Rescue Act would have provided funding for this equipment. But the City Council failed to vote to accept funding, abandoning their responsibility to support and protect our own first responders.
When they disregard the first responders who protect the public, but reward themselves for a job well done, they show us who they are.
What would Maya Angelou do?
The record shows that these members of the City Council, who didn’t bother to address issues critical to public health, voted to double their own salaries. They showed us their priorities. They showed us that they are quite satisfied with their job performance, but not satisfied with their current compensation. They showed us that they believe they deserve to be rewarded for a job well done.
Ever since I saw that Oprah episode, I remind myself to act on the wisdom Maya Angelou shared. Maya Angelou taught us what to do when people show us who they are. Believe them. These candidates have shown us who they are. Believe them, and Vote November 8 for healthier and safer Trenton.
And remember me, Jenna Figueroa Kettenburg in Column G, #3 for a better Trenton.
Jenna Figueroa Kettenburg