Trenton City Council hopeful Michael Ranallo shares his hopes and plans for the city of Trenton in an interview with N.J. Urban News writer Alexis Collins..

N.J. Urban News: Council President Kathy McBride has vehemently opposed Mayor Gusciora on everything, disputing and pushing back against nearly every initiative, order, or submitted proposal. Why do you think she has an aggressive and rancorous disposition toward him? 

Michael Ranallo: That’s a good question. She wants to run for Mayor, and she’s using that position to make things as difficult as possible for the current Mayor, so no progress is made, and things get tied up. That gives anyone who wants to run against him some things now to run against him on. In that case, you can control a council meeting, what makes the docket, what walk-on resolutions are allowed, and what gets moved and what doesn’t, then you can cause somebody that you might consider a political opponent a great deal of grief. She wants to run for Mayor and uses her position {as President of the Trenton City Council} as a tool to further that effort. 

Trenton City Council Candidate Michael Ranallo (Contributed photo)

N.J. Urban News: Can you please share your opinion about the divisive and idiosyncratic antics of some members of the Trenton City Council amid their efforts to find a permanent replacement for Former Council Member Jerell Blakely in November? Some context: Sonya Wilkins, a former city employee, Trenton Housing Authority commissioner, and a close friend of Council President McBride, was voted to replace Blakely until the end of the year. However, she came under fire and blasted the city’s paper, The Trentonian, for revealing that she was dead broke and had to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy for protection from more than a dozen creditors in 2012, with the case closing in 2017. 

Michael Ranallo: I was following who was going to replace [Former] Councilman Blakely, which was played close to the vest by the council, specifically by President McBride. Nobody knew who would fill that seat. Generally, a list of potential candidates is announced. That was not done for Ms. Wilkins until the evening she was announced. It was like, “here she is, she’s going to fill the seat, and this is the person,” and it was a big surprise to everybody. I don’t know how they made that choice. I don’t know if there were any other candidates in line for it or any other names that had submitted resumes or letters of intent that would have or should have been interviewed for that position.

Speaking to the public airing of her bankruptcy, I think it was unfortunate it was aired that way, but I believe that it is part of how somebody might judge somebody who’s going to be in charge of a $230 million budget. If I’m weighing two people that, for all other purposes, are equal qualification-wise and personality-wise, and they’re exactly 50/50. One has a spotless record, and one has something like that in their background, I have to make the choice that I think is better for the city. I wish the [council member vacancy replacement] process was more public. I wish the council people would use their platforms to educate the public when something like that happens, to say, “Okay, there’s a vacant seat on the council, this is what we need to do, so if you’re interested, please send us a letter of intent or your resume and we’ll consider it.” That was not done.

N.J. Urban News: Like most U.S. cities, Trenton has faced a series of economic challenges, including a loss of industry and residents facing financial hardship. You’ve recently stated that Trenton has two downtowns despite “proclamations for decades of the ‘renaissance’ within our traditional downtown area.” You also questioned the motives and benefits that Trenton is experiencing from massive intervention, monetary investments, and interference by outside agencies in your traditional downtown. Can you please further explain your comments? 

Michael Ranallo: I was comparing the traditional downtown area; we’ll call that the downtown around the statehouse. After visiting, I looked at another downtown across Hamilton Avenue by the new high school. I said it wasn’t a valid apples-to-apples comparison because of the obvious differences; there’s a built-in population density in the Hamilton area versus our statehouse downtown. We have organizations like the TDA [Trenton Downtown Association] in our traditional downtown. They have a million-dollar-a-year operating budget. You have Greater Trenton down there advocating for it and a cluster of nonprofits working in the area. They always use the words “renaissance” and “downtown” together, and I have yet to see that. I think it’s worse than it was when I first moved in; many restaurants have closed, the hotel is gone, [and] the hotel bar is no longer [there]. The state doesn’t promote the state theater downtown as much as it should. I would go to some great shows there when I first moved in.

When you go down to the other end of our traditional downtown, you have the CURE [Insurance] Arena, that’s purposely underutilized. Why hasn’t it improved with all the hands-on on our traditional downtown? Are we continually stuck in that mode of planning and studies and papers and hiring firms to do consulting…that [it] goes in a big circle and nothing ever gets done? We can’t even manage to repair and restore the historic roads that are downtown. 

N.J. Urban News: How will you make things better for Trenton if you are elected to the city council?

Michael Ranallo: I’ll leave the personality at the door. I know I’m working with six other people and may have to get a majority of them to see something my way, so we can all vote together on things that are good for the city. We don’t have that right now. We have six council people divided. It’s] evident that they don’t have the city’s best interests at heart. They have other self-interests. The biggest thing I can do to move the city forward would be to improve the perceptions and attitudes of the city council right now. Leave the personality at the door, come in, see the bigger picture, and work with six other people in a professional and congenial way so that a year into the new term of our city council, the outside world is looking in and going “wow, what an improvement! This council is so much better.” When that happens, you get organizations like the DCA [New Jersey Department of Community Affairs], who control everything in Trenton. 

Suppose they loosen the strings a little bit and allow us to be more self-guided and self-sufficient when they see the administration and the council can work together and not be an embarrassment and not need state oversight. It’s so tense here. People have come to expect bickering and yelling, among council members, and seeing embarrassing articles in the paper. If you eliminate that, that’s a significant first step. I would like to see a rotating council president versus one that’s been in there for four years because everyone needs that kind of experience. 

N.J. Urban News: Where do you see Trenton in 5-10 years?

Michael Ranallo: In 10 years, I would like to see Trenton without state oversight. I would love to see Trenton completely independent and functioning like a regular municipality. In five years, I would like to see the reputation from the previous council repaired, and people [looking] at us with some sense of normalcy and not weariness of “when’s the next scandal coming out? When’s the next embarrassing headline going to come out?” I’d love to see headlines online {N.J. Urban News} and in the Trentonian about how we’re doing better rather than the latest crazy council person incident because it’s embarrassing and hurts our reputation. It’ll take at least five years to repair the damage from the current council. They’ve created such a mess that we’re behind progress right now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I totally agree with you. Since the original formation of the city going back to when it was the Capital, Being the largest city in the state, & A good sized county. WE should be setting the example for the entire state. After all we have the most history in the STATE of NEW JERSEY. Other towns around Trenton are laughing at us calling us incompetent & childish LEADERS. No one from this current council should hold a single office in the STATE until they sit back take a GOOD HARD look into the MIRROR & check their ANGER, PERSONALITY & PREJUDICES at the DOOR. I don’t think those on council have every passed a single grade school class, there actions speak LOUDER then any words coming from there mouth. The current Mayor has done his hardest to combat the current councils deterioration of the city residents SAFETY, HEALTH & WELL BEING. With Monkey Pox & Covid-19 on the rebound. Schools open in a week or two. This council needs to stop using their heads as rectal thermometers, hold the special council meeting & get on with the city AFFAIRS. IF YOU WANT TO RUN FOR MAYOR YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN WORKING WITH THE CURRENT MAYOR. As I see it your all BIGHT & No ACTION. The city of TRENTON could have been one of the top cities in NJ to have had ZERO No out breaks of Covid-19. We have one of the best Health departments in the state. Now with Monkey Pox are we going to set the example by having no out breaks or are we going to top the state with out breaks.

  2. I’ve said this before, the TDA should be re-branded as the T.B.A, “Trenton Business Association.” Trenton is too small for business demarcation boundaries, especially with a 1 million+ TDA budget. There are approximately 100 businesses South of The County Administration building to Liberty Street, which is the main thoroughfare leading past Cure Arena into the current “downtown” business district. Until this business district and the business district along Hamilton Avenue mentioned in this article above are included, the current perception and marketing of the “downtown renaissance” will continue to limp along feebly. Trenton is only one town, so it’s time to stop equating “Down” and “Town” together in your nomenclature.

Leave a comment

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