Letter to City Council – 2020

June 19, 2020

Kathy McBride, Council President, At Large
Jerell Blakeley, At Large
Marge Caldwell-Wilson, North Ward
Joseph Harrison, East Ward
George Muschal, South Ward
Santiago Rodriguez, At Large
Robin M. Vaughn, West Ward

Office of the Mayor

RE: Statement to Trenton City Council from the Hiltonia Association

Dear Trenton City Council and Office of the Mayor:

The year 2020 has been challenging for our city and country. We’ve seen unprecedented violence in our streets following the death of George Floyd. Due to the state of emergency and current public health emergency, we’ve lived under quarantine conditions since March.

In the midst of these challenges, we have watched our elected public officials engage in negative political gamesmanship when we need those officials to work together for the public good. Many residents of the West Ward, including those of us in Hiltonia, believed that Councilwoman Robin Vaughn would represent us professionally in addressing Trenton and West Ward issues. Councilwoman Vaughn, however, has chosen to alienate herself by using homophobic, hate- and vulgarity- filled speech against our Mayor. And she directed other insults to elected officials and their family members.

Although her public apologies are a small step in the right direction, Councilwoman Vaughn continues to fail to exhibit true leadership. Our young people organized a peaceful protest two weeks ago following the death of George Floyd, and when Councilwoman Vaughn was asked to speak, rather than using the opportunity to lead and guide through the crisis, she decided to attack elected and non-elected officials here in Trenton and in the County with unsubstantiated accusations and innuendo. This was a missed opportunity to impart wisdom and unity, rather than to sow discontent.

It appears to residents that Trenton is in the grip of a local gang war; people of our city—even children—are being killed and injured on our streets. Rather than looking at ways to help find a solution and communicating those ideas with constituents, Councilwoman Vaughn continues to fight against and disrespect Trenton’s residents.

Our Mayor, including some of his staff, and other City Council members must also show greater discretion regarding their language and tone. In this time of division, violence, and a worldwide pandemic, we need leadership from all members of our local government. It is time for them to heal their political wounds and serve the people.

We hoped that the various calls for Councilwoman Vaughn’s resignation would have encouraged her to step down from City Council. It has become clear that she has no interest in doing so, and her fellow Council members will not sanction her for her language and hatred. We hope that for the remainder of her term she will reflect meaningfully upon past missteps and look to her heart to help lead Trenton and its residents through these dark days.

We expect the following from Councilwoman Vaughn and the rest of our elected officials in Trenton:

  • Cooperation and respect for the offices that you hold and for one another. The office you hold is a privilege, not a right.
  • A long-lasting crackdown on the gang violence in our city, and help from the State to enforce it.
  • Ensuring effective communication regarding Covid-19 testing to groups gathering in Trenton to protest.
  • Working with the community, particularly African American males, to address gun violence, gang violence, and police brutality.
  • Praising those police officers in our community who are protecting and serving our residents effectively.
  • An increased show of compassion for those who are suffering from Covid-19.
  • A renewed focus on entrepreneurship and bringing jobs to Trenton.
  • Ensuring that our water supply is clean and safe.

A positive aspect of this challenging year is that we are at the precipice of a new birth of freedom. It will require leadership from all of us, and particularly from our elected officials. As former President Barack Obama recently articulated: “We’re going to get through these difficult times … then we’re going to have to do it together.” Abraham Lincoln put it this way when he spoke about the role of the government following the great battle at Gettysburg “… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

As our Councilwoman, Ms. Vaughn represents us, the people of the West Ward of Trenton. The Hiltonia Association believes that all residents of Trenton deserve peace, safety, and responsible government. If Councilwoman Vaughn is unable to fulfill her duties, without tearing people down with her words and conduct and sowing division and hatred, we urge her to please step down immediately. If she remains, we implore her to lead, keep her hatred to herself, and govern professionally. The Association will share this statement with allied civic associations as well as with local media as it deems appropriate.

The Hiltonia Association
Trenton, NJ