I thought I'd only have to sign the letter and call it a day.
That's not what happened. I signed the letter of intent to recall the mayor of Trenton and the subsequent effort took over the better part of my life for the next five months. And, to be fair, I contributed a fraction compared to the folks who signed along with me.
Approximately 8,500 Trenton residents signed the petition; more people stopped by to sign and turn in petitions while we were getting ready for our press conference today. Bittersweet. Despite the fact that our cause is supported by the people of Trenton, we didn't meet our goal. I'm incredibly disappointed, and also afraid for what this means for Trenton. I don't believe Tony Mack has the mental wherewithal to comprehend what has happened over the last few months; I don't think he understands that just because he will remain in office (at least he cannot be recalled) does not mean he has won the hearts and minds of the voting public. He does not have our permission to conduct business as he has been.
The Tony Mack Fan Club will say that we were a ragtag band of favor-seeking, sour-grape-eating malcontents, just picking on poor l'il Tony. They'll say we could have spent our time better. The TMFC will probably say we weren't organized enough or didn't work hard enough. But that's not the case, as the picture above shows.
I think some of us at the center of this effort feel we could have done more. Well, I do, anyway. It's only natural. But I also know how many times I heard something like, "I completely support you, but am afraid of retaliation." I have dealt with tyrants and bullies, so on one hand, I understand the fear and confusion. And, on the other, I just look to my fellow signers — such brave individuals!* — and cannot fully understand how people could not take a relatively small risk. I hope Marion Ray doesn't take this the wrong way, but she's not exactly a young woman. Despite her age, she was perhaps the most unstoppable of all of us: she was a signature-gathering machine. Despite the aches, she rubbed her legs down with Ben-Gay and forged on. And on. And on. And on. Aida Wimbush has a full-time job and family (including four kids!), and has the charisma and infectious energy to win over so many of those who held back from signing, and she never slowed down. Craig Shofed and Dave Ponton — both of whom have very recently faced their mortality; both of whom underwent major surgery recently — perhaps have the best understanding of risks in life; they understand priorities. It's because of my affection and admiration for Dave and Craig that I just can't help feeling that the "I'm afraid of retaliation from the Macks," is shit. Pure shit. These two men — one with a new kidney, and the other recuperating from open heart surgery — pushed themselves, often past the point of utter exhaustion. They very literally risked their lives for Trenton. And people were too afraid to sign the petition. Phooey.
I keep looking at my picture of the stacks of signed petitions and feel somewhat better about the efforts so many of us made. Sure, I wish we had more signatures. But I also think it's important to point out that the process to recall an elected official is a difficult one, and in a place like Trenton, where corruption in politics and poverty among the populace is the norm, even holding regular elections is challenging. Attempting a recall is daunting. The committee to recall the mayor was given a list of registered voters in the city by the County Board of Elections; we needed to get 25% of those registered voters to sign the petition. And, in going door-to-door, we learned that so many people have left the city; some of them years ago. I truly believe if the rolls of registered voters were more accurate, our 8,500 signatures would have been more than enough.
So. What's next? I don't know. I suspect Tony's little head will engorge with self-aggrandizement, thinking he has won this battle. He is mistaken. This is just the beginning. And, with his overinflated ego, it's only a matter of time before his next act of stupidity. It's going to catch up with him one way or another.
* I'm turning this into a full-on lovefest. Sorry! I just wanted to point out that in addition to those who signed the letter of intent with me, those who worked closely with the cause are also some of the most wonderful people I've met. Tracey Syphax embodies transformation and personal growth. Darren Freedom Green is just pure decency and compassion, and I might just have to make a Darren Freedom Green Action Figure to keep with me at all times for inspiration. Jo-Carolyn Dent Clark proves that strength and grace belong together. I am so glad I signed that letter of intent. Trenton has some great bones.