At-Large Trenton Councilwoman Phyllis Holly-Ward is right.
Zach Chester should step down from his position as Trenton Council President following his meltdown last Thursday night.
This is an easy call.
As observed by witnesses and publicly seen and felt by the at-large councilwoman, Chester’s behavior is appalling and unacceptable.
His refusal to date to apologize publicly other than in the impersonal, antiseptic realm of Facebook, not to mention his inability to return media phone calls to explain his part in this ugly incident further attest to his tone deafness and lack of fitness for the crucial chair he now occupies.
Not just from its local representatives but from all levels of government, Trenton desperately needs help. Like most urban areas in the country and certainly in this embattled state, our capital city is a city in crisis. A walk down West State Street reveals too many people suffering the apparent effects of poverty, drug addiction and mental illness – and that’s what one sees in broad daylight downtown.
We do not discount the high tensions that accompany governance of Trenton. Nor do we mean to dismiss what might be Chester’s good works while in office. But when an elected official in a position of leadership loses self-control and allegedly causes bodily injury to a colleague – in this case a woman – that individual has stepped over a line of public trust. Her critics pointed to a picture of the councilwoman at the track on her Facebook page the day after the meeting, but a colleague told PolitickerNJ that Holly-Ward showed her a sizable bruise on her leg caused, she said, when Chester rammed her between a chair and the dais.
Now Chester’s not talking, retreating to the safety net of his own Facebook page to summon a canned statement and promising to speak at a Sept. 4th meeting.
In the meantime, Holly-Ward went to the podium yesterday fearing the consequences of speaking out against the council president. She expressed fear because Chester, to put it bluntly, is a bully. He has run meetings in autocratic fashion, refusing to civilly engage in dialogue the three elected officials on the dais who routinely question his actions.
Last Thursday he showed that when he doesn’t get his way by shouting, he gets physical.
We’re past the point of having to wait to hear from Zach Chester on his own time.
This is the people’s time.
Government is a frustrating process. It’s overbearing, irritating and infuriating and yes, frequently heartbreaking. But the hallowed chamber of debate among citizen lawmakers dissolves the moment a leader resorts to violent behavior as a substitute for the democratic instrumentation bestowed on him by the people.
It goes without saying that no one – and certainly no woman – in public office should feel threatened or suffer physical pain because of a colleague’s momentary distress. Things are bad enough out there.
Zach Chester, do the right thing as Holly-Ward said and step down from your council presidency for the good of Trenton.