In a world of continual injustice, a few strong individuals choose to fight inequality, violence, and other problems. One of these individuals is Paul Harris Jr. ’07, a political science major at the College.
Harris has dedicated himself to improving life in Trenton. He was inspired to become more active in the community by Stuart Koch, associate professor of political science, whom Harris credits for his guidance. Harris took Koch ’s New Jersey Government class, and the more Harris researched government issues, the more he realized he wanted to improve Trenton and its current condition.
Due to the influence of Koch, Harris spoke to local Councilman Jim Coston. “I said to him that I wanted to run for mayor, and he advised me that that was a grand step, and that I should start small, by attending city council meetings, ” explained Harris.
So, in March of this year, Harris started doing just that. At his first council meeting, Harris brought to the council members’ attention the issue of 23 children who died while under the care of the Division of Youth and Family Services.
After the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled it was legal for citizens to tape public meetings, Harris, in his “first public project for the city of Trenton,” started videotaping all of the council’s meetings. He has taped nearly every meeting he has attended, and posts the videos online on his blog at http://trentonrizing.blogspot.com.
Harris’s new project deals with Trenton housing and inspection issues. He is fighting to ensure that every property in Trenton meets basic standards, at the very least. Once that is accomplished, he will try to get these properties upgraded from there.
“How can we expect any man or woman and their children to enter into the world and be able to exchange in civil manner when they go home to what amounts to substandard conditions? I would be angry at work and school as well if I went home daily to a landlord who was overcharging, and fought me and my family at every chance when we addressed flaws within the physical property. ”
Although he cares about the people and the condition of Trenton, Harris admits, there is another motive for what he does. “There is a 2010 election for the city of Trenton, and it is no secret that I wish to serve on the city council. My general disgust with the state of our social and political culture prompts me to seek the tools used by this system to mold it into something new. And as an individual man, I cannot do it; therefore, I seek to know the people, build their trust, and represent them in matters near to their heart. ”