Reed Gusciora defeated Paul Perez to become mayor of Trenton, eking out a margin of victory of just 355 votes (52 percent) in an election in which just 22 percent of eligible voters participated. He was sworn in on July 1.
Gusciora, the city’s first openly gay mayor, was an assemblyman representing the 15th district and also served as municipal prosecutor for several towns in Mercer County. He has lived in Trenton since 2011, when redistricting forced him to move from Princeton to stay in his district.
The new mayor will make himself available to the business community on Monday, July 16, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Yankee Club at Trenton Thunder Stadium, when he participates in a meet-and-greet hosted by the MidJersey Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit www.midjerseychamber.org.
Reed Gusciora, 58, is a Democrat who has served in the New Jersey General Assembly since 1996, representing the 15th Legislative District, which includes portions of Mercer and Hunterdon Counties, including the Capital City of Trenton.
So, who is Reed Gusciora, what does Gusciora stand for, and what are his plans for managing the city? The Trenton Downtowner researched this question in an article published before the election and excerpted below.
An election-related site states that his “father, Walter, worked at the Department of Health in Trenton, and the city was an integral part of Reed’s childhood. As a teen attending Jamesburg Public Schools, he regularly worked with his family’s company, Aardvark Pest Control, conducting clean ups on East State Street, and spent time visiting Trenton’s famous restaurants with his father.”
As his website notes, “Gusciora received a B.A. from the Catholic University of America in politics and international relations, and was awarded a J.D. in 1988 from the Seton Hall University School of Law. Formerly, Gusciora worked as a congressional aide” to Oklahoma Democrat Michael Lynn Synar.
The election website says that Gusciora was campaign manager to Mercer County Freeholder and later Princeton mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund and an attorney at Stark and Stark. His LinkedIn page lists him as the owner of Law Office of W. Reed Gusciora. The “W” stands for Walter.
His campaign-related website adds, “Currently, he works as a municipal prosecutor in Princeton, Lawrenceville, and Hopewell boroughs, and as a professor at the College of New Jersey. Reed moved to Trenton from Princeton in 2011 because he believed in the city’s potential, drawing on his childhood experiences.”
A Times of Trenton article in 2011, however, says he was one of the three lawmakers “thrown into unfamiliar political territory when the state adopted a new legislative district map and had “just closed on his Princeton home on three weeks ago, (and) has put it back on the market and today signed a lease for an apartment in Trenton.” In 2013 he purchased a home on Renfew Avenue.
As the election website notes, “Gusciora has been Deputy Majority Leader since 2008, and was the Assembly’s Assistant Minority Leader from 1998-2001. Gusciora has served as the chair of the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development, Assembly Environment and Solid Waste, and Assembly Regulatory Oversight, Federal Relations, and Reform committees. He also sits on the Governor’s Advisory Council, and is a board member of the Mercer ARC.”
Saying that Gusciora has been “a strong voice advocating for the development and revitalization of Trenton for more than two decades,” the website claims “he led the effort to prevent construction of the Martin Luther King Elementary School on top of a hazardous waste dumping site. His efforts were instrumental in securing funding to rebuild the dilapidated Trenton Central High School from the Christie Administration, and he organized the opposition against Christie’s recent effort to redevelop State Office Buildings in Downtown Trenton.
Gusciora has also consistently promoted economic development by encouraging the growth of new industries, such as electronic waste recycling and recreational marijuana, and encouraging new business and real estate development in the city.”
He also introduced legislation to help provide state loans to artists living in cities and an arrangement to help the sale of historic urban taverns and restaurants by providing a liquor license.
Public safety: Gusciora’s website notes: “Restoring public trust in our police force is critical to the safety of Trenton’s citizens. My administration will develop practices to integrate officers into the communities they serve, so that citizens and the city can cooperate to improve public safety.” The site then outlines the following approach: increase accountability and oversight, dedicate additional resources to fighting crime, and develop and implement community policing practices.
Education: Gusciora says the schools in New Jersey’s densest urban centers need active attention to improve academic achievement and points to a known situation: “Over 75 percent of Trenton third graders are below state proficiency standards. Education necessitates immediate and constant action. We cannot allow our city schools to fall further behind. We need to make a change.”
He then lists three areas: Full-day programs “for students aged five to eight will give children the foundation and opportunity to excel in their academic pursuits, reinvigorate public schools and limit charter expansion, and expand vocational education options in Trenton.”
Economic Development: Gusciora says the Trenton residents have already investigated time and resources in planning for several project, including the Capital Park, Trenton250, the current Creek2Canal Creative District, and that he intends to use these “vital tools” to guide economic development efforts and “press for the recognition that our plans must guide all of the players active in our city. That includes private developers as well as county and state. He also says the city’s parking authority, downtown association, and water works will “be expected to develop strategic plans that align with and reinforce our city plans.”
Gusciora also called the downtown hotel and the former Mercer Medical Center “potential economic engines for our city.”
Other plans include diversifying the city economy by maintaining and expanding existing businesses, creating a business environment to attract and nurture small companies, and attracting mid-sized and large firms.
Other steps to improve quality of life and city responsiveness include: The establishment of a phone system to allow for reporting of complaints, a dedicated vocational school for Trenton, increased options at Mercer County Community College to help students and residents train necessary for line city jobs; and making sure inspectors, meter attendants, public works employees do their jobs “raising revenues, cleaning our streets, and filling in our potholes.”
Trenton Water Works: Declaring he does not intend to sell or privatize it (as former Mayor Palmer had proposed), Gusciora says he plans to address the problems that have become state headlines by establishing of a caucus of mayors of the surrounding municipalities that use the service and to promote dialogue and collaboration, addressing current and future staffing needs (including developing an education-training program), addressing regulation compliance, and exploring methods of using the resource for economic value (such as employing solar panels to cover the reservoir).
Legalized Marijuana: Gusciora website says he would ensure that Trenton would take advantage of opportunities as marijuana becomes legal and “position the city to attract industries that can take advantage of our unique assets.”
In a Trenton Times article, Gusciora said legalization would remedy “one of the greatest, most entrenched social injustices of our time.”