Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What is wrong here?

Two blocks.

I walked two blocks of downtown at 6:00 pm. 18:00 hours.

Here's what I saw:

A male standing in a parking lot urinating.

Two men sleeping on separate benches outside of a public building (where, by the way, they seem to spend most of the day, everyday).

A fourth man standing at the corner of the same public building...urinating.

Is it any wonder people don't want to come to Trenton to shop, work or for entertainment (OK, what entertainment? we haven't had a movie theater for decades and the restaurants are closing...but I digress).

When did we accept third world behavior as politically correct for those unfortunate enough to be homeless, mentally ill, or both?

Why is it OK for people to constantly loiter around public buildings? Some panhandle, some outright hustle you for money by opening doors or trying to sell you day old newspapers and we accept this.

Of course by giving money, we encourage this behavior just as by ignoring it we allow it to grow.

Do you see this in our suburbs? No.

Do you see this at "the malls?" No.

Why...because it is not tolerated by the powers that be.

Why do we tolerate it in Trenton? The County Seat. The State Capital. One of the most historic and interesting cities in the country.

And we allow, out of some distorted sense of political correctness, this kind of activity to go on day after day after day.

Anyone who thinks that the (hoped for) new residents of the Broad Street Bank Building will tolerate this is fooling themselves.

Same with the tenants for the proposed Trenton Town Center Development.

Making Trenton more attractive to visitors and residents isn't just about putting a positive spin on crime numbers or touting big marquee development proposals.

It's going to take an concerted effort to clean the streets of litter, debris and unacceptable behavior like public urination, panhandling and perpetual loitering.

It's time that our City Officials, the Courts, the Social Service Agencies, the Police and the People find a legal and humane way to discourage this type of behavior.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Let's Finish What We've Started

Trenton’s model Daylight/Twilight School is being constructed on East Hanover Street opposite the historic Trenton Friends Meeting House. The complex will utilize newly constructed buildings to connect two existing ones. The architecture will tie together in a harmonious way that gives the appearance of an intact city streetscape.

But it’s not just how the complex looks that is so good.

For those not familiar, the Daylight/Twilight school is a “non-traditional” (the term preferred by Principal Bill Tracy) institution that allows individuals to complete their high school education after an “interruption.” The idea is that regardless of the reason for the interruption, the students can take this opportunity to more than just pass a GED (General Education Development) test, but can actually get that High School Diploma. For the most part the returning students, who can range in age from 16 to 60+ are considered highly motivated to successfully complete the program despite the obstacles that life throws in their path.

The new facility will bring together under one roof the courses, faculty and students from the two existing campuses in the West and South Wards respectively. Operating with morning and afternoon sessions each day, the school will accommodate roughly 1000 students per 10 week session. Another 400-500 can be served through the on-line school with testing being conducted at the downtown location.

The proximity to Mercer County Community College’s Kearney campus will hopefully allow students graduating from Daylight/Twilight to seamlessly move into college level courses.

In putting together the Daylight/Twilight school puzzle, various vocational education pieces will be fit into the picture in order to prepare graduates for real jobs in the real world. This is perhaps the most exciting facet of the model school being built.

For some time now activists and advocates have decried the lack of honest to goodness vocational training in our city schools. With no way to prepare the skills needed to succeed in the real world, is it any wonder that so many of our Trenton’s youth forsake their education for the streets. Bringing real job skill development and training into the mix for the students who are returning from their educational hiatus is smart.

Shouldn’t we consider doing the same for traditional high-school students with an eye towards preventing them from leaving the system to begin with?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Going, Going, Gone

Marsilio's Resaurant, a Chambersburg icon for over half a century will be closing later this year. Reportedly catering will be provided from the Roebling Avenue location and a restaurant will open in a hotel in Hamilton, Twp. The owner wants to spend more time with his family and play more golf and tennis.

Michelle Lorie's cheesecakes, another of Trenton's gastronomic landmarks, will be closing in a couple of weeks so the the owners may pursue other interests.

We all know that the food business is one of long hours and success is dependent not just upon excellent product and service, but the fickle tastes of the public. So maybe the time for these two businesses has "passed." Maybe they have traveled the arc of their business lifecycle and change is inevitable.

These are but two examples of longtime, locally owned businesses that the city is losing. Sal de Forte's restaurant closed and moved to Ewing. Tattoni's closed/sold and although Lou has been on hand for a transition period, will most likely reopen elsewhere.

And it's not just restaurants. Trenton Auto Body and Auto Glass abruptly closed up and left town last year. Martha Press's Gallery on Lafayette, after navigating the treacherous initial five year period of any small business closed and relocated to Bordentown.

We, the people of Trenton and our elected representatives need to stop and take a reality check. Are we doing or not doing something(s) that are contributing to the exodus of local businesses from the scene?

Support: do we make every effort to spend our dollars locally or do we chase "bargains" that ultimately cost us more because the money leaves the local economy?

Image: do we take every measure that we can to make sure our properties are neat and tidy and welcoming and that all codes and laws are enforced for the maximum benefit of the majority? Do we deport ourselves in civil, humane and courteous ways that welcome and encourage people to come to Trenton, linger and spend their money here?

Accountability: do we hold ourselves and our public officials accountable for maintaining a safe and orderly city that welcomes visitors and businesses?

Unless we can answer all of those questions in the affirmative, we are going to see more of our treasured businesses withdraw from the city.

Until we can answer all of these questions in the affirmative, we are not doing enough to ensure Trenton's revitalization.