Thursday, July 05, 2007

It Could Be Worse

So the City of Trenton has yet another Director of Housing and Economic Development. Sassa Olessi Montaño was named "acting" Director of Housing and Economic Development by Mayor Palmer last week pending her approval by City Council.

I don't know Ms. Montaño personally or professionally. She may be a very competent person with the best of intentions. But I question the Mayor's choice.

With an extensive background in social services and subsidized housing, is she really the best choice to head up the department charged with not just Housing, but Economic Development as well?

Can her experience running the local YWCA, overseeing programs for Luther Social Ministries, managing a community service program in Princeton serve her, and Trenton as a whole, when it comes to overseeing the redevelopment around the Train Station? What about the inertia bound Full Spectrum Town Center project? How will she apply her experience to the "Mannex" site or the proposed Performa Project across from the arena.

I don't mean to sell the woman short. I've no doubt that she is bright and articulate and well intentioned. But is that enough to survive in City Hall let alone make a meanigful difference in the city's redevelopment?

It hasn't even been a year since we experienced all the ballyhoo surrounding the appointment of Alan J. Greenwald. According to the Mayor's own press release, Mr. Greenwald was noted as "a veteran urban policy and community development specialist." We all had high hopes that Greenwald would be able to get real redevelopment moving in Trenton.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Mr. Greenwald took his expertise and knowledge and left in April, allegedly due to "family problems." Insiders say it was more a case of having his hands tied by the Chief of Staff and the Once and Future Director of Housing and Economic Development, Dennis Gonzalez. Mr. Greenwald couldn't or wasn't allowed to unravel some of the rat's nests Mr. Gonzalez has created during his various tenures in the post. Additionaly, Mr. Greenwald was not given the authority to do his job as he saw fit. Instead, this world class talent was handcuffed and hamstrung at every turn by micromanagement.

So, what hope does Ms. Montaño have of being truly creative and proactive about jump starting redevelopment effots in Trenton? With Chief of Staff Renee Haynes and Assistant Business Adminstrator Dennis Gonzalez standing over her shoulder there is little expectation that anything will change.

Sasa Olessi Montaño will survive just as long as she doesn't overstep her bounds. She can't cross Renee or Dennis or her days will be numbered. The first time crosses either of the two characters above she will be rendered ineffective and ultimately cast aside in favor of a more loyal subject.

No. I don't expect much from Ms. Montaño in her tenure as Housing and Economic Development Director. But it could be worse.

No matter how long she serves in the post, it's that much less time that Mr. Gonzalez holds the "acting" title and wreaks more havoc.

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